Policies on Distance Education and Outreach Activity

1. Issues raised in the CDB Appraisal Report

2. Fundamental options

3. Action or Plans to address issues raised in the Appraisal Report

4. Other Issues

5. Action on Policy Issues specific to Distance Education

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1. Issues raised in the CDB Appraisal Report

In describing the situation at UWI as of the early 1990s, the Appraisal Report (July 1992) adverted to several different types of issue that needed resolution, if outreach activity and distance education were to grow in desirable ways.

Enrolment. There was an overrepresentation of students from the campus countries at all levels, but particularly in higher degree programmes. With over 20% of the population, NCC enrolment had declined from 13.4% in 1960/61 to 5.1% in 1989/90 (higher degrees only 3.2%). Again, in all countries there was overrepresentation of urban dwellers. The Report also observed significant differences in through-put between campus and distance education students in mathematically oriented subjects in Social Sciences, and recommended improved support facilities for such students.

Management of outreach. The Appraisal Report used "outreach" or "extension" to cover all forms of University work offered outside the campuses, as well as continuing professional education, and non-degree offerings in various areas. So it noted the Challenge and UWIDITE schemes, as well as the agreements that had sprung up with different Tertiary Level Institutions (TLI) for the teaching of part or all of a UWI programme at the TLI. Given this broad interpretation, the Report observed a "bewildering array of offices, units and faculties operating with minimal coordination or even knowledge by the University Centre" which were intended to deliver the University's outreach. It observed the lack of relation between the School of Continuing Studies (SCS), the Offices of University Services (OUS), and UWIDITE, all of which impinged on each other's business. And none of these entities was well integrated with the faculties that took primary responsibility, both for professional continuing education and for articulation or franchising relations with TLIs.

At the time of the Appraisal Report, the SCS reported only to Council, and so was virtually invisible to the rest of the University, the OUS Advisory Committee reported to UAC, but rarely met, and UWIDITE reported to no-one. These entities were, as far as the faculties were concerned, peripheral; they did not feature in their forward planning. Engagement in their work was a voluntary and usually paid "extra" for any academic staff involved.

Inadequate information systems. The Report noted "inadequacies in programme planning, communication, uncoordinated record keeping, gaps in services and duplication of efforts"; it also observed "minimal dissemination of information between campuses and NCCs and even on an inter-campus basis". It stressed the inadequacies of data on student registration, especially for the non-credit courses offered by the SCS.

Pedagogy and support for distance education. The Report also noted complaints about teaching style, and acknowledged that this was not confined to distance education, though it might prove more deleterious in that context. It identified a lack of sufficient back-up material for most UWIDITE courses. Finally it reported the various technical problems that obstructed efficient use of the UWIDITE system: bad sound quality, defective instrumentation, and power outages.

Training. Implicit in the structure of the Project was a recognition of the need for extensive training in all aspects of distance education. It was assumed that the then Faculty of Education would be able to play a significant role in sustaining such training activities. At the time of the Appraisal Report, there were no agencies devoted to improving pedagogy in the University. UWIDITE offered occasional training sessions, but could not provide regular technical assistance to those staff who wrote or produced materials for use in DE.

Computerisation. Another aspect of the project involved the expansion of computer facilities for the various sites, with the intention both of incorporating them in a University-wide "intranet" and of allowing them to be used for various educational purposes at each centre. In this connection it is worth stressing that 1992 predated the explosive increase in the use of internationally networked computers for educational and other purposes.

Needs Assessment. The Appraisal Report adverted also to inadequacies in the means the University adopted to plan outreach and distance activities and to discover both the nature of the demand for its services and its own needs for change and adaptation to a constantly changing environment.

In the light of these problems the CDB made a number of requirements for disbursement of the Loan: "the approval of comprehensive policy on distance education and outreach activities, to include the establishment of a centrally coordinated organisational structure and positive steps to implement the same". It advised that consideration be given to the setting up of a Distance Education Unit, and insisted that the Director of Distance Education should report directly to the Board for Distance Education which should be chaired by the Vice-Chancellor or PVC Academic Affairs. It required comprehensive policy positions on distance education and outreach and the formulation of clear "procedures and mechanisms for needs assessment, needs analysis, programme development, admissions, registrations, student support services, development of support materials, programme delivery, accreditation monitoring and evaluation and communication".

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2. Fundamental options

Before reviewing the University's policy responses to the issues mentioned above, it may be worth spelling out some of the fundamental choices the UWI faced, some of which had already been decided by the time the CDB Loan was approved.

Dual mode or fourth Campus. The Renwick Report (1992) set out perhaps the most fundamental issue as a choice between "dual mode" and some form of autonomous distance education operation - what has often been referred to as a "fourth" campus. Just as each campus was able to propose programmes and arrangements with TLIs (and is now able to decide upon such matters independently of the others, though within general policy guidelines set by the new Board for Undergraduate Studies), so a "fourth" campus for distance education would propose programmes, enter into agreements with other providers, and employ people to carry out its work, either full-time or as part-time consultants from one or other of the campuses (or other TLIs). This would centralize planning for distance education, and permit perhaps greater flexibility than some campus-based faculties would be willing to countenance. But Renwick et al. recommended against this option on the ground that it would forego the opportunities for mutual enrichment of the on- and off-campus programmes. It might also open the door to a belief that the distance education programme was of lesser stature than the on-campus one. "Dual mode" was intended to assure the world that neither modality was superior; neither would be given preferential treatment.

Programmes and course materials. An issue whose resolution flows fairly directly from the preceding is that of the origins of typical courses and course materials. A "fourth" campus could easily decide to franchise courses from elsewhere. A dual mode university will instead produce distance education versions of its own courses and programmes. This will not prevent it utilizing appropriate materials from elsewhere (as with the Agriculture MSc and Wye's material, or some of the Preliminary Year Science materials), but the typical course will be "home-grown", just as for on-campus work.

Academic Staff in dual mode. Another issue, not directly raised by the Appraisal Report, but of considerable importance in the implementation of the UWI/CDB Project, concerns the natural consequence of "dual mode" that distance education work becomes an integral part of staff workloads. Most of the other "outreach" activities the Appraisal Report considered are offered on a "cost recovery" basis beyond the range of "normal duties" (the Continuing Education Programme in Agricultural Technology (CEPAT); SCS "interest" and non-degree courses), or at least the UWI staff involved receive some sort of compensation for their involvement. At the time of the writing of the Appraisal Report, UWIDITE functioned similarly: in most cases staff involved in teaching, examining, or preparing materials received an honorarium. Renwick et al. recommended that we should not continue in this way (v. p. 81), but should rather make distance education work an integral part of normal duties. This obviously has a very considerable impact on the planning of workloads, not just at a campus but across campuses (at a time when cross-campus integration is being minimised by the implementation of the Report on Governance). It has further consequences on the procedures for assessment of staff, which have taken a very long time to percolate through the system.

Dual mode in non-academic areas. A further aspect that has not perhaps been seen as clearly as it might have been by the campuses is the fact that "dual mode" is not restricted to the academic arena. Distance education students (and similarly those in TLIs pursuing franchised courses or programmes) are not the administrative responsibility of a fourth campus in any shape or form, but of the three campus registries and bursaries. Just as the allocation of academic staff time must make room for the variety of distance education activities (as also of those involved in monitoring franchised courses), so must provision be made for registrarial, bursarial, examination, and information services, and the sharing of such data among relevant parties.

Priorities in the delivery of DE. One other fundamental issue concerns the modalities to be given prominence in distance education. The existence of an elaborate telecommunications network, and the advocacy of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor responsible for its creation, meant that the UWI was committed to the further development of this sort of system. Most of the CDB Loan was devoted to upgrading this technology, either directly or through provision of more space to house it. The Renwick Report, and the Educational Planner provided by a CDB Grant, urged that greater attention be given to print material; more recent initiatives, such as those funded by the Lomé IV Cariforum Project, have given prominence to the Internet, whose importance was not anticipated at the time of the Appraisal Report. One beneficial result is that the University has now the basic resources needed to provide genuinely multi-media distance learning, using audio and video-conferencing, e-mail and the Internet, as well as more traditional print formats. Since each medium has its costs, awkward decisions of which to prefer may sometimes be necessary, but we are now able to consider complementarities of a kind impossible if we had been restricted to one medium.

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3. Action or Plans to address issues raised in the Appraisal Report

In this section we shall return to the issues set out in section 1 and describe what the University has done and is doing to address them. As a preliminary, two major developments are worth noting: the wholesale restructuring of the University Centre, advocated in the Chancellor's Report on Governance and implemented as from 1996 - this abolished many of the entities and arrangements the Appraisal Report had referred to but was itself guided by many of the same concerns; and the formulation in 1997 of a five-year Strategic Plan for the University to supersede the earlier 10-year plan of 1990. Subsequently, and as a supplement to the campus and campus-country focus of this Strategic Plan, the Office of the Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education has begun work on a strategic plan specifically for outreach to the non-campus countries. Consequently some issues are waiting upon the final formulation and endorsement of this plan for outreach.

Enrolment. The main focus of the Appraisal Report was on NCC enrolments. Here the picture has remained bleak, though with some signs of slow improvement. Enrolments in UWI programmes in the TLIs have continued to increase, as has the number of such programmes. (The Appraisal Report projected registrations in 1996/97 of 92 in BSc and BA degrees in TLIs; in 1997/98 we actually find 168; but numbers for the BEd are lower than projected, 42 rather than 96.) The developments anticipated in the Appraisal Report with respect to Dominica and Grenada have not materialized, while several TLIs have moved in the direction of offering Associate Degrees that can be articulated with UWI programmes and provide advanced placement, rather than trying to take over level 1 UWI programmes in their entirety. But it is also true that with the creation of a special TLI Unit (to be described below) there has been an increase in the number of TLIs approaching the UWI for some sort of articulation and also of efforts to catalyse such discussions between the TLIs and the relevant faculties (e.g., with respect to nursing, engineering and agriculture). New arrangements will come on stream in 1998/99 for colleges in Cayman, Bahamas, BVI, and St Kitts. Level II courses in Social Sciences are now offered in Antigua and St Lucia.

At the level of official policy, the University's Strategic Plan embodies the notion of the University and the TLIs as hub and spokes: it bespeaks the University's wish for TLIs to become constituent colleges within an integrated regional system. Whatever the formal routes taken, it certainly envisages the continuing growth of this aspect of the University's work, which will go some way to providing the NCCs with a much greater cohort of university-trained persons, in keeping with CARICOM declarations on human resource development.

However, the major route for increased NCC enrolment has always been the expanded distance education programme itself. The introduction of that programme in 1997/98 has indeed seen an improvement in NCC enrolments and a qualitative leap in the quality of learning support provided. Thus, taking by far the major area, Social Sciences, in 1995/96 we enrolled 1350 students in distance education with little support material; in 1997/98 we have enrolled 1573 with the upgraded self-instructional materials. Of those 1573, 701 are from the NCCs (all 1997/98 figures are provisional but indicate lower bounds and rough proportions). At the postgraduate level, the CEPAT MSc in Agricultural Diversification enrolled 50 students from campus countries in 1997/98, and 28 from the NCCs.

It must be recognized that this increase in absolute numbers may not do much to redress the proportional underrepresentation of the NCCs, since large numbers of distance education students will continue to come from the campus countries, as the figures above indicate. But it does something: in 1996/97 there were 30 NCC postgraduates registered at St Augustine, and 37 in the CEPAT programme. As the Appraisal Report itself recognized, the problem is compounded by the cost of living, by policies on employment of non-nationals, and by the lack of scholarships at UWI, as well as by matters over which the University may have some control.

The issue of underrepresentation of rural students is addressed in the DEC's commitment to the predominance of print in learning support materials. Teleconferencing as was used by UWIDITE requires regular attendance at the University Centre; print-based material can be used whenever and wherever the student wishes.

The particular issue of the apparent lack of mathematical skills among NCC Social Science students has not been addressed directly. The Distance Education Centre has, however, begun discussions with the Departments of Mathematics on producing a set of modules for "service" courses in mathematics.

It has been widely recognized that a serious obstacle to the growth of tertiary education in the region is the chronic weakness of the secondary school systems. A consequence is that many persons, innately well able to profit from tertiary education, are held back by the lack of required qualifications. One approach which has already borne fruit in the campus countries is for the SCS to offer "access" courses, primarily 'A' level or CXC programmes but also some of the other courses recognized as equivalent by the University for matriculation purposes. The new Director of the SCS is keen to extend the provision of similar access courses in the NCCs.

Another approach which is yet to be properly considered concerns the opening up of access to non-traditional students. The University has already approved an entry route for "mature" students, but it has yet to properly institutionalize it. There is also a question whether it should also place less emphasis on matriculation requirements for "regular" students. One aspect of the decision to put distance education on the same footing as on-campus work was a clear decision to keep matriculation requirements the same for both. In the light of the aim not to let distance education appear the lesser programme, it is unlikely that any such opening up of access will be restricted to distance education. If it happens at all, it can be expected to be a general decision for both modalities.

Management of outreach. Here it is useful to distinguish two phases in the University's response to the problems outlined by the Report.

The first phase, limited to distance education, began in July 1992 when the University Academic Committee decided that the University should become dual mode. This historic decision deserves full documentation:

  • UAC heard from the Chairman that the University had to give urgent consideration to the recommendations proposed by the Office of Planning and Programming, particularly in the context of the University's application to the CDB for a loan for Distance Education which would allow access to the University by all the Contributing Countries. He said that one of the loan conditions was that the University should formulate outreach activities, including the establishment of a centrally coordinated organizational structure and the initiation of positive steps to implement the policy. He went on to say that the recommendations before UAC were based on a report prepared for the University by the Commonwealth of Learning.

    UAC agreed on the following:

    that the development of Distance Education should be integral to UWI so that it becomes a significant and important area in the delivery of the University's programmes;

    that Distance Education programmes and facilities should be incorporated into the integrated institutional structure, special attention being paid to the role of the Libraries;

    that a Board of Distance Education be established comprising Pro-Vice-Chancellors (one of whom shall be Chairman), Deans and other senior academic and administrative staff;

    that a Director of Distance Education be appointed (at professorial level) who would have responsibility for administration and coordination of distance education programmes, for curriculum development and for the planning and production of learning materials;

    that Deputy Deans should be appointed in each Faculty and at each campus with designated Faculty responsibility for Distance Education and Regional Outreach;

    that Campus Coordinators of Distance Education be appointed under the overall direction of the Director of Distance Education.

    With regard to section (v) above, UAC agreed that Faculties should take action rightaway. [UAC Minutes of meeting of 15th July, 1992]

  • It must be emphasized that, while the University was in effect adopting the main recommendations contained in the Renwick Report, it was fully aware of the conclusions reached in the CDB Appraisal Report.

    All of these decisions were not implemented immediately but, by the academic year 1993/94, the Board for Distance Education was functioning and Deputy Deans for Outreach had been appointed in most faculties. It was the Board for Distance Education (BDE) which, working with the Distance Education Planner, served to deal with some of the amorphousness noted earlier, at least as far as distance education was concerned. UWIDITE was eventually integrated into the Distance Education Centre (DEC), functionally and in budgetary terms. The DEC had the capacity, for the first time, to assist faculties in planning programmes and their detailed implementation. The Training Committee brought together the Faculty of Education, the campus Staff Development Committees, and an entity like CARIMAC which has a particular interest in distance education matters.

    While the BDE spoke to distance education, it did not attempt to deal with other aspects of outreach. Here, in the second phase, the University has been guided by the Chancellor's Review of Governance. That retained overall responsibility for the University and its policies in the hands of the Vice-Chancellor, exercised through three Central Boards: the Board for Undergraduate Studies, the Board for Graduate Studies and Research, and the Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education (BNCCDE), each chaired by a PVC. Many details of implementation have now been devolved to campuses. In particular, outreach and distance education activities pursued in the campus countries are the concern both of the three campus Principals and of the BNCCDE.

    Policy for the University's outreach and distance education work rests with the BNCCDE. The academic aspects of these activities remain the responsibility of faculties and of the other two Boards.

    The BNCCDE directly supervises three units concerned with outreach broadly understood: the Distance Education Centre (DEC); the School of Continuing Studies (SCS), and the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit (TLIU). Through representation by campus Principals and representatives of Academic Boards, the BNCCDE also permits consultation and co-ordination of the outreach activity pursued directly by the faculties, especially the professional faculties and schools. Bringing all these concerns under the one roof of the Board, and giving that Board a conspicuous place in the life of the University Centre, represents a determined effort to bring order to what the Appraisal Report had seen as the chaos and confusion of the University's outreach activities.

    The SCS remains largely unchanged, as a regional entity responsible for a variety of non-credit courses, and as responsible for most of the sites used by the teleconferencing facilities of the DEC.

    The TLIU currently has a presence at Cave Hill and Mona. It has a mandate to facilitate articulation between regional tertiary level institutions (TLIs) and the University, and to assist TLIs in the upgrading of their resources. This mandate reflects a narrowing of the broad developmental aims of the previous Offices of University Services.

    The DEC is a unified entity with a presence on all three campuses, and a Director based at Cave Hill. Each campus unit has a campus co-ordinator for distance education. It is responsible for the telecommunications system and computer network used for DE, a system that now embraces the three campuses, several other sites in the campus countries, and sites in all of the NCCs. It will administer, on behalf of the University and campus administrations, the videoconferencing capacity that will soon be acquired. The DEC is also responsible for the design, production, and distribution of all DE learning resources. Its specialised staff include instructional designers, curriculum development specialists, editors, graphic artists, and specialists in other instructional formats such as the Internet. It also has a post of Student Advisor, and will soon create a post for Research and Evaluation. The University, since 1993/94, has greatly increased its provision for distance education, with the budget moving from J$23.5 million in 1993/94 to J$143 million in 1998/99.

    As was noted earlier, "outreach" is a particularly capacious term; the new restructuring has not given control over all aspects to the one Board, nor is it desirable that it should. The professional faculties or schools are the natural home for professional continuing education; while some of this work will involve the DEC, the SCS, or the TLIs, much will not, and there is no particular reason to try to organize it as if it did. What is needed, and what the Board offers, is a platform for the exchange of ideas and plans between the faculties, campuses, and the specialised outreach units under the Board, so that duplication is avoided and emerging needs are attended to.

    Inadequate information systems. The new Governance structure has in one way made this problem more difficult (by further divestment to the campuses and a splitting of the University Centre's committees) but in another has provided one possible mechanism to overcome it: the increased executive power of the Deans. Deans have traditionally been intended to serve as transmitters of information up and down the University, but until the new structure they have not generally had the resources in time and staffing to function effectively. Their new status may help to overcome this chronic problem, and one not restricted to the outreach and distance education aspect of our affairs. Another almost accidental step towards the solution of this issue arises from the slow but sure implementation of computer connectivity across the campuses, a matter explicitly addressed in the IADB Loan.

    With respect to registration and other data, again things are moving very slowly, but there is a commitment to a new Student Information System that is intended to be shared across the region. An issue here, however, is the apparent unwillingness to recognise that dual mode stretches to administrative as well as academic matters. Discussions are currently in train on the shape of the University Planning Office after the Governance Report's restructuring; they will address some of the problems of lack of comparability across campuses in the way data are reported.

    The SCS is also moving to improve its internal data collection.

    Pedagogy and support for distance education. On the matter of pedagogy in general, the University has endorsed and implemented several measures aimed at its improvement. Teaching staff are regularly assessed, and teaching is now explicitly considered in the Assessment and Promotions system. There are Instructional Development Units at each campus, with a mandate to provide workshops and individualised help where necessary. The DEC, in conjunction with the IDUs, has produced a training manual that deals with both modalities. There are plans in the School of Education for a Diploma addressed to teaching at tertiary level, and the DEC, in conjunction with the School of Education and other agencies, has already mounted a Certificate in Adult Education.

    As far as support material for distance education is concerned, the new programme has devoted much time and effort to the production of high-quality print materials, including readers. Materials development for other courses has stressed the range of media that might be used, where appropriate.

    The DEC has a policy of peer review for such materials, using staff from other campuses and other institutions. What has so far proven difficult is to wean staff away from a proprietary towards a team approach to the production of written and other materials.

    The technical improvements to the teleconferencing network are outside the scope of this paper, but they clearly address one crucial failing of the present system.

    Training. In this area, much has been achieved by way of actual training of all categories of staff involved in distance education (for which see the Training Consultant's reports), and in terms of policy recognition for the continuation of such training for the foreseeable future. The DEC intends to be the main source for such training from its own expertise, and it has already produced some self-instructional manuals for administrators and local tutors; but it has and will continue to work along with other sources in the University (the School of Education, the Instructional Development Units, those persons already trained in the different faculties, and by no means least, the voluntary groups of teachers interested in newer approaches to pedagogy). Its Training Committee has not yet functioned, as originally envisaged, to co-ordinate DE training with staff development more generally, but as the DEC is able to chart the field of future training needs it is expected that the Training Committee will provide such a wider perspective.

    Computerisation. Here the main point is perhaps to stress the importance of recognising changing potentialities. When the Loan was contemplated, no one could have predicted even the current appearance of the internet, nor perhaps the range of material available on CD-ROM. These are aspects of the use of computers in all kinds of education that are likely to increase dramatically in the next few years. The computer provision being made under the Loan (and the related IADB Loan) will allow us to exploit them, even if they were not anticipated when the Loan was agreed.

    Needs Assessment. The UWI/CDB Loan involved a Needs Assessment exercise. The DEC is to create a post of Research and Evaluation officer which will permit it to conduct such exercises on a regular basis, in collaboration with the Office of the BNCCDE which has its own Research Officer, and whatever resources are finally allocated to the University Centre's Planning Unit. In the meantime, the BDE and BNCCDE have been responsible for various missions to the NCCs, especially now in relation to the strategic plan for outreach, that tap needs for outreach and distance education in general. That strategic plan itself will address the question of how best the University can continue to monitor its clientele in the NCCs.

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    4. Other Issues

    Non-credit programmes. The Loan expected a considerable increase in the non-credit work of the SCS. To some extent this has happened, though reliable figures are still difficult to come by. But it remains largely a campus-country phenomenon. The review of the SCS undertaken during 1996/97 has focussed on ways in which NCCs can access more of these programmes, either by offering them in distance modality, or through some other means. But the issue is complicated by the fact that more and more TLIs are interested in developing programmes of these sorts. It behoves the University not to compete with the national colleges, so it is increasingly important for the SCS to work out a way to encourage broadly based planning of all post-secondary educational activity in the different countries.

    The internal review of the SCS is leading to a commitment to deliver new programmes and to extend the coverage of some existing ones. There has also been an approach from the Commonwealth Secretariat to manage a Diploma in Community and Youth Development by distance education that the SCS expects to undertake.

    These matters will obviously play a conspicuous role in the strategic plan for outreach being prepared in the Office of the BNCCDE.

    Fees and financing distance education. It has been decided to continue the practice of letting the on-campus students effectively subsidize the distance education operation, through its incorporation in the Centre budget. Recurrent costs of the DEC are then spread among all the on-campus students, when these are charged to sponsoring governments and pay fees. Fees specifically charged to distance education students have been set at a rate close to that used for on-campus students (20% of economic costs). The income from these students will, in the initial period, go directly to the DEC to fund the development of new course materials and other costs not yet incorporated into recurrent budgets.

    An alternative here would have been to treat distance education students exactly on par with on-campus students, charging them a fee and charging their respective governments for them. But given that the NCCs put severe limits on the number of students they sponsor, it was judged that such a policy would directly undermine the intention of increasing NCC participation.

    A necessary element in calculating fees is an accurate estimate of costs. Work is progressing in this area, with more transparent systems for dealing with costs in the non-campus sites. The other major issue here is to get planning of DE courses properly integrated into faculty planning so that its full costs there can be adequately recognized and covered.

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    5. Action on Policy Issues specific to Distance Education

    In the latest Strategic Plan, as in the earlier Development Plan, the University has made distance education central to the pursuit of its mission, as a way in particular of expanding access to potential students who are disadvantaged because of geography, employment, or domestic situation. It expects that a significant proportion of the anticipated annual increase in FTEs will come through the distance education modality, and it also intends that distance education will provide a means for it to address many of the continuing education and specialist training needs of the region, in collaboration with governments and other agencies, in the most cost-effective manner. The contribution of distance education to the fulfilment of this latest Plan was most fully set out in the DEC's Strategic Plan, August 1996-July 2001, presented to the Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education in September 1996.

    A. Policy making


    Policy on distance education is made by BNCCDE inside parameters set by the University Council and the Strategy Committee. The initiative for policy articulation and change rests with the DEC and the Office of the Board, while implementation of policy is the business of the DEC under the general supervision of the PVC for NCC/DE. The academic aspects of these activities remain the responsibility of faculties and of the other two Boards.

    Function of DEC

    The DEC is largely responsible for the administration of distance education, both the technological aspect as well as the delivery of courses through various other media. It facilitates departments and faculties at all stages of the planning and production of courses and programmes, hosts cross-campus meetings, and provides a variety of specialist services. It also identifies training needs

    B. Financing of DE

    Funding regime

    The original UWIDITE operation was financed by external donors. As it became institutionalised, its financial resources were found mostly in the University Centre, though with considerable additional input from the Mona campus (reflecting to some extent the long-standing union of Mona and Centre finances). It has been agreed on the one hand to make the budgetary provisions for DE more transparent, and on the other to retain, for the time being, the DEC's incorporation into the Centre budget. As the campuses incorporate "dual mode" into their planning and budgeting, it is expected that budgetary resources earmarked for DE will be more prominent in campus budgets as well. Provisions already exist in some faculty budgets, and some administrative posts are financed by the campuses.

    Allocation of Tuition Fee Income

    The University has agreed that income from tuition fees (up to Bds$1.2 million) for DE shall, for 1997/98 and the next two years initially, be ploughed back into the DEC to cover various costs, such as local tutoring, distribution costs, production of print materials, etc., that have not yet been included explicitly as line items in DE budgets (and in many cases would have been extremely difficult to estimate in advance of the newly expanded and qualitatively different programme).

    C. Relationship of Faculties and DEC

    Faculty responsibility for programmes

    In adopting the dual mode rather than a "fourth campus" approach, the University clearly gave responsibility for the academic quality of DE programmes to the existing campus faculties. The DEC can, on the basis of market research, recommend that a particular programme might be well received; NCC governments can request particular programmes; but in the end the relevant Faculty has to agree and to implement it.

    Where disciplinary areas are found at more than one campus, this entails dialogue between the units on different campuses, so that programmes can be regarded as "University" rather than restricted to one campus. The DEC has a responsibility to initiate and sustain this dialogue. There may then be consequences for faculty regulations and procedures which are being worked through in conjunction with the other relevant Boards (usually BUS). It is perhaps worth noting that this aspect of the DE programme does not fit well with the devolution of academic authority in many respects to the campuses.

    The BDE in 1994 agreed that courses in DE should be parallel with those on campus. There is then no special evaluation of the level or worth of DE courses as compared to on-campus versions of the same course. Faculties take responsibility for their quality in the same way as they do for on-campus offerings.

    A further consequence of the "dual mode" decision is that work in DE is part of normal duties, to be planned, budgeted and allocated along with other duties. This applies not merely to academic teaching staff, but equally to campus administrations. The University has asked that contracts for new staff should make explicit mention of these types of duty. Given the enormity of the "culture change" required, the University has agreed to transitional arrangements, whereby departments are compensated for the use of staff or individuals are contracted on a consultancy basis to produce materials, whose production had not been budgeted in the existing work of the faculty.

    It has further been agreed that work in DE should count in the regular Assessment and Promotion exercises, in the same way as other teaching does. The University is still in the process of refining its mechanisms for the assessment of teaching, and discussions have not yet been completed on the details of the criteria for different levels. But it has been universally agreed that faculties should be asked to make detailed recommendations on how particular tasks should be weighted in this exercise, and it is confidently expected that they will give considerable weight to the tasks associated with DE.

    Training for DE

    The BDE set up a Training Committee, inherited by the DEC. The University has acknowledged the need for continuing training in DE for all categories of staff. The DEC has undertaken to provide most of this training, working with the new Instructional Development Units, the Schools of Education, and other groups with relevant expertise. Funds will be needed to develop the skills that the DEC identifies as in need of development - there is a noticeable dearth of local expertise in many of its specialities.

    Arrangements for course and materials development

    When it is decided to produce a DE course or programme, a team, with cross-campus representation wherever possible, is identified to work collaboratively on the curriculum. Individuals may then be identified to develop courses or modules, which will be peer-reviewed by members of the team and often by other reviewers from within the University or outside. Other instructional materials (tapes, computer programmes, etc.) may also be developed. In all cases, the DEC provides specialist assistance and ensures that the requisite cross-campus discussions take place.

    Arrangements for course delivery

    For each course actually offered by DE, a course co-ordinator is identified by the department(s) responsible. This person is responsible for briefing local tutors and for determining how teleconferences for the course shall be employed. The course co-ordinator is responsible also for producing whatever examination papers or other forms of assessment are to be employed, and for making appropriate arrangements for having them marked, in accordance with general University regulations.

    Examinations and notification of results

    Examinations and assessment of DE courses fall under the general University regulations. The implementation of these regulations is, as with all other examinations, in the hands of the campus registries. In the NCCs, Resident Tutors have an overall responsibility for the proper conduct of all University examinations (including those in programmes franchised to TLIs).

    As with on-campus examinations, the campus registries are responsible for the notification of results.

    Quality Review

    The Board for Undergraduate Studies (and the Board for Graduate Studies) have been given formal responsibility for quality audit and assurance for all University programmes at undergraduate or graduate levels. They are then responsible for these matters as they affect distance education programmes. The DEC itself, however, has decided to put in place a set of procedures and mechanisms for the regular monitoring of its programmes, both technically and in terms of pedagogy and general delivery.

    Intellectual Property

    The DEC adheres to internationally accepted standards in the observance of copyright for material produced by other people or organisations. As far as materials produced by UWI staff or students, it is governed by the Regulations on Intellectual Property promulgated by the University in February 1998. A committee has been set up by the University to deal with specific issues that may arise. The basic position is that work produced for the DEC is the property of the University. The University may agree to some allocation of any surpluses on sales of this material to the individuals producing it or to their departments or faculties. Where the University pays an individual to produce particular materials, the contract shall specify the disposition of rights in the material so produced.

    D. Nature of DE pedagogy

    Self-instructional material

    The fundamental resource for DE are self-instructional materials, usually print, but in some cases computer-based web-pages. Typically the self-instructional material is accompanied by a Reader. There may be other course guides, and there are some general guides to DE learning. In addition to print or computer material, there may in some cases be audio or video tapes. It is possible that home project kits may be used in courses of a type the DEC has not yet had to consider implementing.

    Local tutors

    Where possible, self-instructional materials are supplemented by local tutors. The DEC has produced an extensive guidebook on the tasks such local tutors may be expected to perform. Local tutors are appointed on the advice of the faculties concerned, and may, in accordance with general University regulations, also be appointed as examiners. Their duties are specified by the campus course co-ordinator for each course.

    Course co-ordinators

    As noted above, campus appointed course co-ordinators are responsible for the academic aspects of each offering of a particular course.


    DE courses may involve students and/or local tutors in attendance at teleconferencing or videoconferencing sessions.

    E. Role of Site Co-ordinators

    Each DEC site shall have someone to serve as site co-ordinator. At NCC University Centres, the Resident Tutor supervises the person performing the duties of site co-ordinator.

    The site co-ordinator is the first point of contact for students pursuing DE courses. The site co-ordinator's duties are to:

    F. Student Issues


    DE students are full students of the University. Matriculation requirements for DE versions of regular University programmes are the same as for on-campus programmes.

    Movement between DE and face-to-face modality

    Students are able to move between DE and face-to-face modalities. Faculties have been instructed to ensure that their regulations put no obstacles in the way of such movement. Just as in the case of students moving between campuses or faculties, such movement (where continuation in the previous mode is possible) is not automatic but dependent on space and other resources at the receiving end.

    Student support system

    The University has recognized the special need of DE students for extensive and responsive student support systems. The Deputy University Registrar has been given special responsibilities for DE students. The DEC has a post of Student Advisor, and all site co-ordinators are given training in orienting students and giving assistance and information.

    G. Library

    University Appointments Committee agreed in February 1998 that the University Librarian should have formal responsibility for the libraries in the NCC University Centres. This entails responsibility also for the provision of training for those persons employed to administer them. The Strategic Plan for Outreach will look at the general question of the relationship between these University Centre Libraries and those in local TLIs or other public libraries in the NCCs.

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    Office of the Board for NCCs & DE

    April 21st, 1998; HTML prepared June 9th, 1998, editorial revisions November 2nd, 1998.

    URL http://www.uwichill.edu.bb/bnccde/docs/depolicy.html

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