Working Outside the Square: The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation Distance Education Project at Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, Barbados

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF2 // Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. 34 km long and 23 km wide, it has a population of 275,330 (2001 estimate), 90 per cent of whom are of African descent, and a population density of 622 per sq. km. Education is valued highly, schooling is free, universal and compulsory up to age 16, about 28 per cent of 17 - 24 year olds engage in tertiary study and adult literacy is around 97 per cent. // Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP) is the island s major provider of technical and vocational education and training, catering for 3,500 full- and part-time students a year. Depending upon traditional face-to-face on- and off-campus methods, it cannot meet student demand and yet it faces Governmental, industrial and community expectations of expanding its provision across the nation and region. Open and flexible learning offers itself as a solution. // In 2002, SJPP gained Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation support for a one-year consultancy to help determine needs, develop a strategic and organizational plan, advise on the staffing, resourcing and infrastructure, train staff and conduct pilot programmes in open learning. This paper discusses the processes, outcomes and lessons learned. // The authors who led the planning process adopted the theme, working outside the square . This encapsulated the idea of using multi-disciplinary teams and new methodologies and technologies to move beyond the confines of the classroom and finite expertise and resources of the campus and offering opportunities to those precluded from on-campus study. // In accordance with the approach advocated by Norris and Poulton (1993), the authors undertook both strategic and organizational planning. The strategic planning was essentially concerned with the overall direction of effort and macro issues - the community's educational needs and constraints, the environmental conditions and the institution s relationship to its environment. It yielded information that was wideranging, qualitative, value-laden and political and that suggested alternatives and contingencies. The organizational planning involved examining the advice of local stakeholders, considering the impact of macro issues on micro issues, developing an operational plan (1 year) and tactical plan (3-5 years), and in accordance with Steeples (1988), adopting a systemic, action- and goal-oriented and quantitative approach. The first step was to conduct an environmental scan. Morrison (1991) characterizes environmental scanning as gaining strategic intelligence on changing external needs, trends and patterns and assessing the impact of these on the organization s vision, mission, strengths and weaknesses and strategic directions. //

Caribbean and Americas