The University of The West Indies (UWI) is a sixty year old multi-campus university serving the Anglophone Caribbean. It is supported by the contributions of fifteen governments which are members or associate members of the Caribbean Community. The University has an enrolment of approximately 40,000 students registered in fourteen faculties. The academic activities of the university are generated and centred primarily in three campuses - Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad & Tobago and Cave Hill in Barbados. Programmes are also offered through smaller centres in the same countries and in each of the twelve other contributing countries. Traditionally, these latter centres have focussed on the offer of non-formal education, pre-university academic and developmental programmes as well as social and cultural activism aimed at the development of human capital. Starting nearly 30 years ago, most of them have also been access points for a limited number of university faculty programmes offered in distance mode through a changing set of technological mechanisms.
Campus-based education has dominated the university's history and its three campuses have been poles of attraction for scholars and scholarship to the significant advantage of the countries where they are located. By contrast, the other twelve countries have not been served as well in relation to their developmental needs. Bothersome aspects of this lower service have been modest intake of students to the university from and in the 12 countries without campuses as well as the limited number and type of programmes that have been offered in distance mode. Additionally, they have had less automatic access to consultancy resources and to the research capacity of the campuses than those countries that are hosts to its campuses. These disadvantages have been exacerbated by recurrent inefficiencies in the management and delivery of programmes in distance mode as well as by the outmoded technology and policies that have supported them.
At different times, the University has sought to address the shortcomings in a variety of ways including the creation of dedicated offices and boards with specific responsibility for the needs of these countries. The most recent of these has been the Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education (BNCCDE) created in 1996. Several years ago, staff in the UWI Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC) began to re-engineer the delivery systems for distance education to improve its efficiency. In the same period, the School of Continuing Studies embarked on an initiative to shift the status of its programmes as well as to add regional and institutional recognition to what had been only local level recognition of qualifications. The third department addressing the issues was the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit (TLIU) which sought to improve the quality of performance and facilitate the acceptability for university purposes of students completing studies in national and community colleges. Collectively then, all three departments under the BNCCDE have been pursuing pathways aimed at overcoming the shortcomings and meeting contemporary demands in the face of growing competition from an increasing number of other providers of tertiary education.
The shortcomings have persisted however. One of the primary reasons for their persistence is that the offices and boards created by the university have not directly controlled the academic, administrative or financial resources that could correct them. The distance programmes have been delivered as off-shoots of primarily campus-generated activities and they and their students have been adversely affected by their adjunct status. Correcting this situation requires that there be an academic authority, independent of campus interests, capable of decisions on the nature of programmes appropriate for the specific clientele. It should be able to manage the delivery of programmes and services in the distributed environment of all contributing countries without managerial reference to the faculties and departments whose responsibilities fall primarily within the three campuses.
During 2005 and 2006, the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit conducted an extensive needs assessment survey which established priorities for tertiary education to meet perceived human resource needs in contributing countries. Parallel with this, the University undertook a major series of consultations in the 12 countries identified as underserved to ascertain their developmental directions and the best response from the UWI to their requirements. UWI also engaged in a major data gathering exercise in the three other contributing countries to garner input for the 2007-2012 strategic plan.
The data from these sources made clear the extent to which there was strong demand for the services of the university among significant communities and special professional and vocational groups in all the contributing countries as well as the degree to which there were unfulfilled needs in countries without campuses. It is against this background that the UWI decided to create a new campus dedicated to the service of the underserved communities in the region. The development is intended to facilitate access to the UWI for the many persons and communities who are unable to participate in the timetabled environment of a conventional campus by virtue of their location or their lifestyles. The initiative changes dramatically access for residents of the twelve contributing countries where the university has small centres rather than full-fledged campuses.
The reason for creating a campus rather than a department, a new office or an administrative layer is that a campus is the highest level of academic, financial and administrative organisation within the University. The statutes and ordinances of the UWI require that a campus have a council, an academic board and a financial committee. Those instruments give the campus autonomy from other campuses while preserving its membership in the academic community. That membership holds the campus within the regulatory framework of the University Council, the Senate, the University Finance and General Purposes Committee, the Board for Undergraduate Studies, the Board for Graduate Studies & Research, and such other governance and quality assurance instruments.
The Open Campus will have a physical presence in each contributing country. That physical presence [The University is addressing the quality of its physical plant and facilities in University Centres] will permit the offer of services that are more appropriately provided face-to-face. The Campus will function as a network of real and virtual nodes to deliver education and training to anyone with access to Internet facilities. It will deploy the technological and instructional design capabilities of the staff in the present UWI Distance Education Centre to permit the blending of online and face-to-face learning experiences and enrich the social aspects of learning in a collegial environment. It will build on the record and work of the TLIU to facilitate the interaction of the University with other tertiary education institutions and scholars as part of movement towards a seamlessly linked education system for the development of the Caribbean region. The Open Campus will continue and enhance the work that has characterised the School of Continuing Studies in responding to local needs and in fostering social and cultural development.
The Open Campus will be headed by a Principal at the level of Pro-Vice Chancellor and governed by a Campus Council in keeping with the statutes and ordinances of the UWI, adjusted to accommodate its virtual component. The Campus will draw its intellectual sustenance from the entire academic array of the university and, like the existing campuses, will also call upon external resources where necessary. Its organisation will be driven by the functions required for the effective delivery of its programmes of teaching, research and consultancy. Students of the Open Campus will enjoy the same quality of instruction and receive the same qualifications as students in other parts of the University even though the nature of instructional practice might entail differences in the management of their scholarly experience.
The programmes of the Open Campus and its academic operations will be governed by its Academic Board, subject to the overarching authority of the Boards for Undergraduate Studies and for Graduate Studies and Research. Its Finance & General Purposes Committee will fulfil the mandate of Council in the overall affairs of the campus. Similarly, administrative and financial departments particular to the campus will administer the operations, subject to the established reference points of the financial code and the body of UWI administrative practice.
The creation of the campus will be the object of special funding. The operation will be designed for the recovery of costs and the generation of surpluses within a predetermined period. Of necessity, the staff of the Open Campus will be dispersed across the contributing countries with administrative headquarters eventually located in one of the UWI 12 [The term "UWI 12" is contemporary university jargon to refer collectively to the following contributing countries: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, The British Virgin Islands, The Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines] countries, selected on the basis of criteria that can assure the effective and economical operation of the campus.
The Open Campus will be organised and staffed by reference to the functions that will empower it to deliver the University?s programmes. It will proceed in the following manner.
Since many departments and faculties have created online instructional materials within recent years, the Open Campus will start with the advantage of being able to negotiate collaboration within the University to achieve a faster start up and wider scope of programmes than might have been possible otherwise. Additionally, the other campuses will benefit from the enhancement that the Open Campus can bring to the instructional materials they use.
When the intellectual resources for any course or programme cannot be obtained optimally within the UWI, the Open Campus will solicit them elsewhere using similar contractual arrangements. Given this method of operation, the staffing of the Open Campus will not replicate the faculty structure of Cave Hill, Mona and St. Augustine. Instead, it will recruit its specialists by reference to their relevance to curriculum development in the required disciplines, in materials design, design of web-environments for effective instruction and for the management of the staff, e-tutors, students and other clients.
The deliverables of the Open Campus will include the following kinds of programmes.
Continuity in the programmes already available in the UWI is assured. University programmes already on offer through the UWIDEC will continue at least until students in the system complete them (including blended learning courses). Similarly, programmes and courses currently offered by the SCS will continue. In addition, where appropriate, they will be redesigned for delivery in blended learning format. In the short term, the Campus will develop programmes to meet short notice needs of governments and other stakeholders. Already identified in our consultations are new programmes appropriate for the training of public servants as well as programmes for qualifications in the teaching of English and Mathematics.
The creation of a seamless flow of movement through community colleges and national colleges and universities has been an often repeated goal for the development of the tertiary sector. The Open Campus will negotiate responsibility within the university for the management of these relationships and provide a uniform operational interaction with other institutions. It will actively pursue the goal of seamless articulation within the sector and collaborate with other institutions in building programmes that are appropriate for their individual environments.
The campus will promote collaboratively developed research agendas appropriate for the relevant communities. It will foster research and graduate studies in UWI 12 countries. Further, it will monitor needs in the research sector through consultations and stimulate intellectual activity through a variety of mechanisms including in-country conferences.
The idea of a virtual campus postdated the creation of the University of the West Indies.˙ Consequently, there are many provisions in the statutes and ordinances that can only apply if a campus is a fixed place of learning or research as designated by stated ordinances. The Open Campus will not be confined to a single geographical location and therefore some of the provisions in the governing instruments will have to be adjusted to accommodate both its virtual reality and its presence in all contributing countries. The Campus Councils of the three existing campuses of the UWI favour the country of location of the campus in that the majority of the membership comes from the same country. Since the Open Campus will not be geographically constrained in the same way, the submissions for the composition of its Council aim at broader representation of the interests of contributing countries across the region.
At the operational level, the Open Campus will not replicate the disciplinarily based faculty structure of the conventional faculties in the established campuses. Instead, its organisational structure will flow from the grouping of the functions that it is to perform. This difference will have reflexes in its governance structure and the statutes and ordinances that will govern it will be sensitive to the differences.
The Open Campus Working group has submitted to the Implementation Committee of the Chancellor's Task Force a document proposing a composition for the Campus Council. The proposal respects the spirit of Statute 29 that the composition should include representation from governments of contributing countries, students, the academic board of the campus, alumni, officials of the Open Campus and of other campuses, the association of tertiary level institutions, staff at the professorial and non-professorial level as well as members of civil society. The details of its composition will be further defined when the nature and number of its academic and professional departments are determined. In general, common sense adjustments to the statutes and ordinances will determine the details of the Council [A Draft Statute has now been submitted to the University Council].
The Academic Board of the Open Campus will be the same kind of forum and exercise the same authority as other academic boards. Its composition will differ from that provided in Ordinance 28 for reasons similar to those that make the composition of the Council different.˙ In addition, the fact that the campus will be organised along functional lines rather than disciplinary lines requires adjustment in the membership of the academic board.
Like the other statutes and ordinances, Ordinance 25 sets out a composition for the Campus F&GP Committees that is based on campuses being identified with a specific country. The adjustments that will be necessary are of the same order as those for the Council and the Academic Board.
The established campuses of the UWI have an operational structure that involves two types of departments - those based on a disciplinary platform (e.g. history, biochemistry, law) and those based on a functional platform (e.g. bursary, student services). At the operational level, the Open Campus will not replicate the disciplinarily based faculty structure of the conventional faculties in the established campuses. The Campus will not create a second faculty of law or a fourth faculty of social sciences. Instead, its organisational structure will flow from the grouping of the functions that it is to perform in delivering the teaching, research, consulting and developmental capacity of the total university to its students, client states and other clientele. Its staffing will be biased towards the professional end of the academic scale, towards the technical skills of instructional design and delivery and the administrative cadres required for efficient operation.
The departmental structure of the Open Campus is under discussion and is subject to the advice of consultants. Thus far, the planning work group has considered the intricacies of the functions that the entire campus will be performing and has recognised the need to cluster the Campus functions under divisions [The term "division" is a temporary term that embraces department, unit or office and is not a final proposal] such as the following.
The academic work of the campus will include the offer of university qualifications ranging from pre-bachelor's to higher degree programmes. It will also include pre-university preparation in subject areas where there is significant deficiency in the output of successful students from the secondary school systems of the host region. In the first instance, the Open Campus will continue the offer of UWI programmes that are already established for distance delivery. However, the recent surveys conducted by the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit have provided significant information on the human resource needs of the countries surveyed. In addition, the data gathered in the Country Consultations and in the stakeholder encounters supporting the strategic planning process have exposed critical areas of training and education that will guide the shape of its academic work.
The same data identified the demand in all UWI 12 countries for the development of a research culture that would foster research on developmental issues, a capacity for collaboration and a willingness to recognise and mobilise skills that are pertinent to the resolution of problems. The engagement of the Open Campus in postgraduate work will be aimed not merely at the production of persons certified at the higher degree level but at the cultivation and deployment of research competence in countries where we have not had major campuses. Strong partnership with other tertiary level institutions, technical agencies in each country and with resident scholars will drive the research programme of the Campus. Further, the campus plans to collaborate with the Board for Graduate Studies and Research and the embryonic university consulting company to ensure that the agenda of the University is closely linked to needs expressed in the UWI 12 countries especially.
The Open Campus inherits the 60-year record of the School of Continuing Studies (formerly the Department of Extramural Studies) in the field of public education, adult education, continuing education, and cultural and social development. The Open Campus will continue to foster those areas of work in all contributing countries. It will also offer formal qualifications in adult and continuing education to accelerate the pace of development across the region.
The programme development process in the Open Campus will not be faculty-driven as on the present campuses. Programmes will be developed to meet the needs of students, societies and employers and prepared for online and blended learning delivery with constant collaboration with the other campuses to expand access to materials already developed by these campuses as well as to obtain the expertise they have. In respect of the "distance" component of its work, the Open Campus will adopt a modular matrix approach to programme development. In this approach, maximum efficiency and economies of scale are obtained by "re-using" course/modules in many programmes. This outlook views a programme as comprising courses or parts of courses selected from a database or matrix of courses, modules and other learning objects. From such a matrix, it is possible to rapidly construct programmes in response to the changing higher education environment. The Open Campus will therefore provide education that is:
The matriculation provisions of the UWI include a remarkably wide range of qualifications obtainable through secondary schooling in the Caribbean, Commonwealth education systems, North American systems as well as a number of other internationally recognised systems. They also include provision for eligibility of mature students with working and life experiences which prepare them for tertiary education. This provision also includes the possibility of provisional registration for students lacking the usual academic qualifications. The Open Campus of the UWI will adhere to these approved matriculation provisions and give particular attention to mature students in its recruitment.
The principle of simplicity and user-friendliness will dominate the administration systems and on-line interfaces for students. For example, for the time being courses and programmes will have fixed starting dates. However, applications and admissions will be year round. The Open Campus will use a totally integrated custom-built Management Information System to manage its courses, students, staff and finances. This will facilitate input of information by the distributed [The term "distributed" is being used to refer to the fact that our staff and students are dispersed across our region of concern and not in a single place or country. Such a circumstances poses special challenges for management and for fair access and our systems are being designed precisely for that circumstance] group of information-owners and permit appropriately approved access by a distributed group of stakeholders.
To meet these needs, the MIS is being custom-built and comprises the following components: Student Management System (SMS), Country/Site Information System (CSIS), Human Resource Management System (HRMS), Learning Management System (LMS), Financial Management System (FMS), and Website Management System (WMS).
All the components "talk" to one another. For example, the WMS automatically populates web pages on the Open Campus website with information extracted from the other databases. This means that each student will enjoy an individualised portal which will provide, for instance, a list of the courses in which the student is enrolled, enabling the student to click on a course to obtain the contact details for the coordinator and tutor, their assignment results, etc. Similarly, the WMS will create individualised staff and country/site portals.
Wherever possible, existing systems - either proprietary or open source - are being used for the components of the Open Campus MIS, e.g., "Moodle" (an open source product) is being modified for use as the Open Campus Learning Management System (LMS). On the other hand, the Open Campus SMS is being purpose built. It allows data entry and management, as well as the generation of reports, from any Internet access point. The system is robust, resistant to tampering, easy to use and completely adapted to the environment in which the open campus will be operating.
The success of education in the Open Campus requires extensive electronic access for students to a variety of materials including books, journals and similar periodicals. The Open Campus will secure this by establishing partnerships with other institutions and organisations that have extensive collections. Within the UWI itself, the campus will work towards easy interface among student access points and the main university libraries themselves. The staff will be appropriately trained and arrangements established for the continuous maintenance and upgrade of the virtual libraries. Given the condition of libraries in UWI 12 countries, policies on access will be adjusted to accommodate users other than students of the UWI. Operational policies will be sensitive to the copyright and intellectual property issues of dispersed access and wider user groups. The budgetary implications of the technology for the virtual libraries are under careful consideration. Equally important are cost benefit analyses of virtual operations and real holdings, including the improvement of physical infrastructure that is required. The curriculum materials cycle will include research, development, production, distribution, delivery and evaluation. The Open Campus will draw its course writers and editors from internal and external sources. The development of curriculum and materials will be harmonized with other job functions where university staff are the writers. Where necessary, training will be provided to writers to ensure competence in preparing multi-media˙materials. Provision will be made for peer-review of materials before programme delivery. Cost will be a main determinant of the nature of the materials produced as well as of the method of distribution. Production will be guided by pre-determined templates and guidelines. Self-printing on demand will be an option for students. Distribution using web delivery will be fully exploited after full study of the relative costs and benefits of centralised vs. decentralised material production and distribution. The relationship between smooth distribution processes and adequate writing time will be a primary planning element in course design. In respect of course delivery, open-source software will be used as far as possible to ensure cost effectiveness. Appropriate learning management systems will be matched with a blend of delivery methods that will assure maximum return for investment and quality of instruction. In respect of e-tutors and course coordinators, clear policies for performance, monitoring and assessment will be articulated and implemented. Similarly, guidelines and policies for online course assessment and examination for students will be formulated.
The Open Campus is developing its own IT infrastructure based on well considered decisions about its hardware, software, and other equipment taking account of function, compatibility with systems that must relate to it and cost from the point of view of the university, the students and other stake-holders. Protection of UWI's intellectual property from piracy and illicit use are major considerations. The choice of technologies is sensitive to disparities of technological development in the Caribbean region and the continued under-provisions for access to ICTs in many areas. Skills and competence in staff and students will be assured by adequate provision of training. Where necessary, the work processes that are traditional to the UWI will be re-engineered to suit the demands of the Open Campus and the ICT mechanisms it adopts. The staffing of the Campus reflects its bias towards the use of technology in delivery.
Technology will be integrated into all aspects of the operation of the Campus - management systems, modes of delivery, etc. Deployment will be rapid to assure coherent application across the board. The financing and budgetary provisions will take account of the technology requirements including the pace of obsolescence; the nature of the physical plant will be made appropriate to its efficiency. The Campus will ensure that its technology is fast, reliable, and user-friendly. It will ensure that services are well distributed even though control is centralised.
The Open Campus will continue the existing types of partnerships that have characterised the sector. The current list includes the following:
However, it will undertake appropriate review of their efficacy, efficiency and cost-benefit for the UWI in order to improve their place in the institution?s portfolio.
Beyond this, the Open Campus will engage in other types of partnerships such as:
Such partnerships will involve agencies and institutions such as
The Open Campus will take up the full responsibility within the UWI for these partnerships. It will be the locus for negotiating and managing franchises and articulations.˙ It will establish a framework for the smooth and efficient administration of this array of relationships. It will formulate proper policies and guidelines before entering into such agreements with other institutions in order to ensure their viability and sustainability.
The Open Campus will engage in two broad types of research: research intended for planning, programme determination and evaluation as well as research directed at the resolution of issues relevant to the countries and communities that it aims to serve. In respect of the latter, it will collaborate closely with scholars in the relevant environments and in the other campuses of the University of the West Indies.
Over several years, the University?s Centre and Campus budgets have included provision for the outreach sector in the form of the Office of the Board for Non-Campus Countries and Distance Education, the School of Continuing Studies, the Tertiary Level Institutions Unit and the UWI Distance Education Centre. The staffing across the region amounts to just over 300 posts. Given the institutional commitment, the Open Campus will negotiate this allocation as seed money for its development.
The initiation and operational establishment of the Open Campus will be the subject of special funding from interested funding agencies. Although the principle of cost recovery will guide the budgetary process, in the short-term, it will be necessary to provide supporting funds in order to identify market needs and ensure that the supporting population is convinced of the developmental importance of the enterprise. These costs can be amortized over a longer term when cost recovery can become a more critical driver of the evolution and work of the campus.
It is envisaged that the University Centres will have to be transformed in a variety of ways to be efficient homes for many of the activities that they will have to accommodate.
Consideration is being given to a disaggregated fee structure that would allow students to pay only for delivery services that they need as individuals. So for example, students who do not need to use university computers or connectivity might pay a different fee from those who do. Access might be obtained at a place of work or through a community facility. The costs of access to library services such as on-line catalogues and reference services will have to be factored into the structure of the budget even though some of these services already reside within campus libraries and reference services. Pricing will also include the management of students accessing services through non-university facilities.