The UWI’s Single Virtual University Space Launches Pilot

From left to right: Cynthia Meggoe-Ebanks, Education Technologist, Office of The University CIO;Pauline Francis-Cobley, University Programme Coordinator, Single Virtual University Space; Brigitte Collins, University Chief Information Officer (CIO), and Professor Brian Meeks, Head of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES)

Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 24, 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.

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