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Distance Learning, Critical for University of The Bahamas System

As The University of The Bahamas becomes a reality, distance education will emerge as a natural mechanism to extend access to tertiary education throughout The Bahamas, according to College of The Bahamas President Dr. Rodney D. Smith

The college, President Smith revealed, is developing a policy to make its distance learning platform more robust.

“The College of The Bahamas is challenged with providing quality education to students from the northern Bahamas to students in the far south of the country. It is simply not possible to put a building on each island and cay. The answer to providing students with borderless access to education is through comprehensive distance education offerings,” Dr. Smith announced at the recent National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce held at the Meliá Resort on Cable Beach.

“We are currently working on a revised policy of open and distance learning that will allow students throughout all islands, with a secure and reliable Internet connection, to study for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education degrees and certifications.”

This was one of the innovations in higher learning to which Dr. Smith referred during his address on “Ideas and Innovation: Making The Bahamas A More Competitive Jurisdiction”.

As the leadership of the college prepares the institution to transition into a university, it continues to explore opportunities to make higher learning accessible throughout the country and the region.

Making courses for degree programmes and continuing education certificates available via the Internet is a priority, so is developing specific academic programmes suitable for each island, according to the COB president.

“Learning materials can be delivered through print, online, radio, TV, podcast or any other format other than face-to-face interaction. We will also be flipping the classroom by using recorded lectures or other learning content that will be delivered to learners at home. Usually content is delivered in class time and applied work is done for homework. With flipping, students will come to class and apply the knowledge they have learned under the guidance of a teacher,” he said.

More technology in the classroom is innovative, President Smith said, particularly if it is used appropriately and effectively.

He also advised of plans to open an e-bookstore to ensure that students across the proposed University of The Bahamas System are supplied with textbooks and other resources online.

The College Council and the college’s senior administration are seeking to create a world-class educational system with a strong and viable University of The Bahamas at its core.
For instance, there are plans to increase the percentage of faculty with terminal degrees, to expand academic programmes to meet the needs of a growing economy and to expand research initiatives. Another critical priority is making the institution financially viable.

“Currently tuition pays for small percentage of what it costs to educate our students. We must find ways to create non-tuition revenue sources and this means that we must become less dependent on government funding and become more entrepreneurial if we are to build the kind of university that will attract and retain both national and international students,” President Smith said.

“We must stop burying our heads in the sand and start facing the reality that large sums of funding will be needed annually to build and maintain a successful university. At the end of the day, however, the benefits will be such that for a country as small as The Bahamas we can significantly improve on the number of individuals with higher education degrees.”

In many ways, this will come to be one of the measurements of the success of the University of The Bahamas.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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