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The UWI’s Single Virtual University Space Launches Pilot

For Release Upon Receipt - Friday, September 20, 2013

The University of the West Indies (The UWI) welcomes students to its Single Virtual University Space (SVUS), an initiative of Vice Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris. Through the SVUS, The UWI is answering the call of regional governments for increased access to UWI’s programmes.  Through technology and resource sharing among the campuses, The UWI is managing to do just that.

According to Pauline Francis-Cobley, UWI’s SVUS Programme Co-ordinator, “SVUS is neither a type of technology nor a technological platform. It is a mode of operation that is enabled by technology, which redefines the way in which The UWI will deliver service to the region and the world. It is facilitated via technologies such as video conferencing, web conferencing and web-based learning management systems.” 

The SVUS enhances the role of the UWI Open Campus in extending UWI programmes to underserved communities across the region. With its presence in all 16 English-speaking Caribbean countries, the Open Campus will be the conduit through which services and programmes from the residential campuses are extended to these locations.

Plans to implement the SVUS are underway. Various technological and organizational transformations throughout The University are laying the foundation for the SVUS.  A key step in the implementation process took place in the Mona Campus with the launch of the first SVUS pilot, the MSc. in Development Studies offered by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES). 

The MSc. programme is currently being delivered to students at the Mona campus by a team of experts from across three of the four UWI campuses – Cave Hill, Mona, and St. Augustine. Previously, lecturers had to travel to Jamaica to deliver the lectures but, in addition to being cost-prohibitive, students had limited interaction with the non-resident lecturers after their departure.

Collaborative efforts between the Head of SALISES, Professor Brian Meeks and the University Chief Information Officer, Brigitte Collins, led to the installation of a state-of-the-art videoconferencing facility at SALISES by a team from The UWI CIO’s office and Mona IT Services (MITS).  The solution offers the students a flexible learning environment in that, they can opt to attend lectures in the videoconferencing room with their peers, or they can attend sessions without having to physically visit the campus. Software can be installed on their computers which will allow them to join the live sessions from their computers.

To further enhance the student experience, a web conferencing system will also be used by the remote lecturers to provide virtual office hours for the students. Students will now be able to meet and interact with their remote lecturers in a similar manner to their face-to-face lecturers.

This pilot will be evaluated with a view to extending the programme to students located on the other campuses, as well as in the non-campus territories in the future. A number of other SVUS pilot programmes are also due to come on stream in the 2013/2014 academic year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why a Single Virtual University Space?

·         To make it easy for students located anywhere in the world and particularly the Caribbean to access the best teaching/learning resources on any campus of The UWI

·         To create a more “connected” university through increased collaboration and resource sharing among the 4 campuses

It is a response to the call from regional governments for increased access to UWI’s programmes, particularly for the underserved communities of the region through technology and resource sharing among the campuses, UWI is increasing access to programmes in a more equitable pattern.

Is the SVUS a type of technology?

SVUS is neither a type of technology nor a technological platform.

It is a mode of operation that is enabled by technology which redefines the way in which The UWI delivers service to the region and the world.

This is facilitated through the use of technologies such as video conferencing, web conferencing or web-based learning management systems. 

 

How is it different from the Open Campus?

The SVUS enhances the role of the Open Campus in extending UWI programmes to underserved communities. With its presence in all 16 English-speaking Caribbean countries, the Open Campus will be the conduit through which services and programmes from the residential campuses are extended to these locations.

Who benefits from the SVUS?

Everyone:

Students have access to a more flexible learning environment and can access UWI courses offered by any of its 4 campuses from any location.

Staff has cross-campus collaboration and resource-sharing.

The UWI has increased capacity, a more connected university, streamlined operations and reduced costs.

Ultimately, the biggest benefactors are the peoples of the Caribbean region.

What technologies are available for Online/Distance Teaching?

The following technologies are currently available throughout The University. New technologies will be added as they emerge.

·         Web conferencing tools (Blackboard Collaborate)

·         Videoconferencing (facilities available on all 4 campuses and at some Open Campus sites)

·         Live Streaming (specific lecture rooms on all campuses are being equipped with lecture capture systems)

·         Web-based or blended delivery via the Open Campus’ learning management system.

Can anyone register for a cross-campus course via the SVUS?

Once fully implemented, the SVUS will allow any student registered at any of the 4 UWI campuses to access courses offered on any campus, subject to approval by the relevant Faculties. A new and improved technological environment will allow for seamless access to courses on any campus.

What will it cost to register for a cross-campus course?

Once a student is registered in a UWI programme he/she will be able to take approved courses from any campus at no additional cost. If the student does not receive approval from the relevant faculties, he/she might be required to pay for the course.

Can an Open Campus student register for a course offered by a residential campus?

Students registered in fully online/blended programmes in the Open Campus can access courses from any of the residential campuses in the same manner, and subject to the same terms as any other student of The UWI.

For further information:

Pauline Francis-Cobley

University Programme Coordinator

E: pauline.cobley@open.uwi.edu

T: 1 246-417-4563 x (3)4563










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