The University of Guyana (UG) is continuing with its efforts to bring its administration into the 21st century and yesterday held an orientation exercise for the commencement of its 2015 online education programme.

The online education programme is the second to be implemented following the inaugural launch last year, and it is hoped that with its continuation tertiary education would be taken to the “nooks and crannies” of Guyana.

The programmes available are Computing and Information Technology, which is being coordinated by Lenandlar Singh; Mathematics, coordinated by Brian Coppin; Criminology and Psychological Studies, coordinated by Kara Lord; and Environmental Management and Technology, coordinated by Denise Simmons. The entire programme is a collaborative effort between UG and the Ministry of Education.

During the orientation exercise yesterday in the Education Lecture Theatre on UG’s Turkeyen Campus, new UG Registrar, Dr C. Nigel Gravesande, emphasised that online education was the next step in providing quality education to the Guyanese public. Speaking to the group of students who turned out, Gravesande said, “Access in tertiary education becomes a critical element of institutions, both private and public, and if we are to meet Guyana’s development needs – not only for Region Four but all of the Regions – then the University has no choice but to support you in your vision in pursuing a programme using the online and distance education mode.”

He further went on to congratulate the “visionaries” from both UG and the Education Ministry who he said continued to see the necessity of online programmes.

“You have created an enabling environment that will facilitate online and distance education from within bedrooms, from within kitchens, in living rooms…and that will enhance knowledge,” he stressed.

Additionally, he said that Guyana is following a trend that is quickly gaining momentum across the world. Quoting a study, Gravesande said that it is projected that within a few years the number of degrees issued from online programmes will grow significantly.

He further urged local telecommunication providers to ensure that there is an enabling information technology infrastructure that will be “superior to none” to facilitate the teaching/learning process as the online programmes continue. He stressed that slow internet connections undermine the entire purpose of online education.

Meanwhile, Gravesande shared that he received his PhD from an online and distance education programme offered by the University of London, and he went on to advise the present students to take their programmes seriously.

“It required of me a simple Mathematical formula of 90 percent discipline and 10 percent ability,” Gravesande stressed. He continued, “If you don’t have that discipline, please do not waste the scarce resources because it just won’t work…if you don’t have the discipline, forget online and distance education.”

He however did not place the onus on the students only. He also indicated that the university had its part to play by providing the required support systems.

“It is my hope that the University of Guyana will provide the necessary support in infrastructure, library resources…and I hope that the coordinators understand that they have a commitment to the students to be there for them.”

He added that if these expectations are not met, students should willingly approach him with their concerns and issues to bring about the necessary change.

The online and distance education programme was conceptualised to bring online and tertiary education to people who are not served and to make the education process convenient for all.

The students who signed up for the programmes will be privy to the same benefits as those who physically occupy the Turkeyen and Tain campuses. These students will even be issued with student identification cards.

In an interview with Kaieteur News, Programme Director, Bonita Hunter, explained that 165 students have applied so far for the programmes. When asked about the success of the first batch, Hunter indicated that there were a few hiccups.

“Any new programme is like a baby – it would have teething problems. But, we’re working on it,” she said. She said that overall the programmes have been successful. She added that some of the students from last year are in the process of wrapping up their first year so that they can commence their second.

Online students have the added benefit of completing their programmes in double the amount of time as regular students. While an academic year may hold two semesters, online students have the option to complete their courses in four semesters, allowing them to study at their own pace and take breaks if necessary.

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