Distance Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean: Survival of the Fit-Test

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Corporate Author
Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF1 // In order to increase access to higher education, respond to changing global factors and facilitate the pursuit of its mission to unlock the potential of the peoples of the region, the University of the West Indies (UWI, for short) decided to become a dual mode institution in 1992. By implication, students are now able to access courses/programmes on- or off-campus, and, therefore, the delivery of programmes at a distance becomes an integral part of the university. However, the manner in which distance education seems to have been conceived at the university under consideration poses formidable problems for implementation. Though most of these perceived problems are not insurmountable, they do hamper the developmental process. Consequently, at every operational stage, ad hocism prevails, as efforts and resources are expended on managing crisis and making quick-fix decisions. A fundamental rethinking, therefore, is imperative for the university to accomplish its cherished goal of meeting the higher educational needs of the region. The prevailing lackadaisical approach to distance education, if continued, will reduce distance education to a mere oliticoacademic hype in the Caribbean. One way of salvaging the impending disaster is to put proper mechanisms in place for staff development. The paper, however, does not purport to look into the whole gamut of staff development activities for various categories of personnel starting from the topmanagement to part-time academics and non-academics. Nor does it deal with the levels of, and formats for, staff development, including content, techniques, etc. Nevertheless, the paper suggests a broad framework of reference for orienting the academic staff in developing curricula for distance education. To provide a meaningful context for the discussion, the paper starts with an outline of the emergence of distance education in the Commonwealth Caribbean. //

Caribbean and Americas