Principal's Report - Open Campus

Dr Luz Longsworth

Dr Luz Longsworth

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Open Campus

The Open Campus, while undoubtedly affected by the region's economic challenges and extreme weather events, remains resilient and valuable as it opens doors to life-changing learning.

The Campus continues to serve and positively impact the lives of its students and constituents throughout the Caribbean and beyond and we are extremely proud of our service to those who otherwise may not have had easy access to higher education.

The 2016/2017 academic year was a year of remarkable transitions for our Campus. We undertook our most ambitious technological project in our history with the transition to the Banner Student System, which was done within the project timeline and within the budget. The staff of the Campus sacrificed much to complete this transition, which, while not without its challenges, was done with tremendous sensitivity to ensuring that the students were minimally affected. In addition to this, the 2012–2017 Strategic Plan moved seamlessly towards the 2017–2022 Triple A Strategy, and the Campus once again worked in teams to develop the strategic initiatives which will drive the achievement of the vision of “Revitalising Caribbean Development” over the next five years.

Central to the rolling out of The University of the West Indies' new Strategic Plan 2017–2022, the Triple A Strategy – Access, Alignment and Agility, the Campus forged ahead with its plans to assist in the revitalisation of the Caribbean's economic growth and development, leading to improved well-being of the people of the Caribbean. The Campus was therefore committed to, inter alia, strategic initiatives such as strengthening student access, success and support as well as strengthening teaching and learning programmes.

The Open Campus participated fully in the process of developing its strategic initiatives within the framework of The UWI Triple A Strategic Plan. In March 2017, the Campus Strategic Planning team met with Pro Vice-Chancellor of Planning, Professor Densil Williams and the team from the University Office of Planning for a workshop to discuss the overall process of planning and monitoring the Campus' execution of its initiatives. A virtual Town Hall meeting was also held with Professor Williams and his team to discuss the strategic initiatives, with over 200 staff members from across the region participating in the interactive session.

The Campus finalised five strategic initiatives as indicated below:

  • Flexible Teaching and Learning
  • Continuing and Professional Education
  • Student Success
  • Innovation Centres
  • Staff Morale and Engagement

The growth in our Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) programmes was identified as one of the conduits for increased access to the Campus' many programmes and services. In support of the drive for continuous learning, retooling and increasing skills of persons in industry across the region, new CPE programmes of six months' duration were developed and launched. There have also been increases in the offering of undergraduate and graduate programmes, including the introduction of the Campus' first doctoral programmes: Doctor of Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Doctor of Educational Leadership in Education Systems and Schools. These doctoral programmes were ground- breaking initiatives of the Campus and have been very well received by both internal and external stakeholders.

the Spirit of Resilience

Pro Vice- Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Open Campus,
Dr. Luz Longsworth, travelled to Dominica to support staff and students after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Pro Vice- Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Open Campus, Dr. Luz Longsworth, travelled to Dominica to support staff and students after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Antigua/Barbuda Antigua/Barbuda
Dominica Dominica

The Campus also continued work on positioning its core values - student friendly, agile, enabling, accessible and respectful - within The UWI Triple A Strategic Plan.

Under the "Access" pillar, the Open Campus is mandated to take The UWI to the world and it is prepared to and proficient in achieving the required results. A major thrust is for greater and more affordable access to higher education in the Caribbean region. We are therefore committed to partnering with sister campuses and sharing our expertise in the use of online technologies to assist them in achieving this first pillar.

Under "Alignment" the Campus will be focusing on aligning its presence in each country with economic drivers. One such initiative is the creation of strategically placed Centres of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

For "Agility" it is pivotal to the Campus' success to develop robust systems that will better serve our students, both administratively and academically. The Campus has been exploring the use of predictive and adaptive analytics to enable the tracking and predicting of students' performance through digital data traces. This platform would enable the Campus to evaluate results and tailor appropriate interventions to increase student academic performance. It would also enable us to design unique change management strategies to facilitate successful operational and performance outcomes. The Campus will also focus on Goal AG4 of the Strategic Plan—Foster a Creative, Caring, Accountable, Motivated, Professional (CAMP) Team—to build an engaged and even more committed team.

Improvements in operational processes were realised in the 2016/2017 academic year with the launch of the new Banner Enterprise Resource Planning Student Management System My UWI, My Open Campus. This system, which was fully funded by the Global Affairs Canada – Strengthening Distance Education in the Caribbean (GAC-SDEC) project, was developed to streamline all of the Campus' online administrative and academic processes in key areas such as student management, finance, teaching and learning and data management. The system is set to improve access, action response and support for student services, as well as increase productivity and student management across the distributed environment of the Open Campus.

Virtual Town Hall Meetings, on-going staff and student training and training videos uploaded to the Campus' website were some of the successful campaigns used to sensitise and prepare stakeholders for the implementation of Banner, and the transition, while not without the expected challenges, was successfully completed in June 2017.

In these challenging times, new financial strategies are increasingly important and the Campus set about building capacity and increasing efficiency in its operations in the 2016/2017 academic year. Strategies adopted by the Campus for alternative revenue generation included income source diversification through strategic collaborations and partnerships and creating operational efficiencies in human, physical and technological resources. The Business Development Unit has been working steadfastly in growing strategic partnerships with industry, governments and non-governmental organisations. One such example is that on August 11, 2016, The UWI Open Campus and the General Secretariat of the Organisation of American States (OAS) through the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which symbolises the commitment of both parties to implement the project "Expanding the Socioeconomic Potential of Cultural Heritage in the Caribbean." Out of this partnership two graduate courses on Museum Management were offered by the Open Campus. Such partnerships and collaborations were instrumental in increasing income generation, offsetting some operational expenses, adding to the outreach efforts of the Campus, and increasing the visibility of the University, and we look forward to continuing existing partnerships and creating new ones in the future.

Financially, while there remains a gap in government contributions, the Campus' pre-eminent goal was one of increasing financial inflows while simultaneously tightly controlling costs. Such activities included upgrading facilities with the installation of new equipment and technology to reduce utility costs and to conserve energy.

Discussions with IBM Canada

A team from IBM Canada's Higher Education division, accompanied by their local counterparts, visited with members of the Open Campus in February 2017. The team presented a range of services that they could offer to the Open Campus. Of particular interest to the Open Campus were the following:

  • Use of the Watson system to provide student support services such as the 24 hour helpdesk
  • Access to Data Analytics courses that could be adapted for use in the Open Campus
  • Possible collaboration with IBM and Industry to develop Collaborative Innovation Centres which would serve as Centres for Data Collection and Analysis

Two representatives of the Open Campus, Professor Julie Meeks, Deputy Principal, and Dr. Ngoni Chipere, Planning and Development Officer, participated in a Data Science Expo at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada in April 2017. We are now well advanced in formulating a regional project that will bring state of the art technology training to our youth through this collaboration with IBM Canada and Carleton University. The leadership and staff of the Open Campus extend gratitude to our institutional partners for their continued kind donations and financial support and the confidence they have in our brand.

Mid-Cycle Accreditation Review

The Campus received the final report from the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC) and was again heartened by its content. The Campus satisfied the requirements for continued accreditation for the remainder of the accreditation cycle (2016-2019). The summary of the final report stated, inter alia, that:

  • The Open Campus has made significant progress since accreditation. There has been excellent progress on both the recommendations of the accreditation report and on the tasks identified by the Campus itself in the course of its self- evaluation. Where action is still in progress there are clear plans and timelines for completion.
  • There is a strong culture of continual improvement. Quality assurance and programme approval systems remain broadly as they were at the time of accreditation. This pattern of stable systems improving over time, and evolving to meet changing needs, is a characteristic of a mature institution.
  • Many of the systems used by the Open Campus are systems of the University as a whole; this is likely to become more pronounced as the University proceeds with its ‘One University' integration strategy.

The Open Campus expresses gratitude for the Barbados Accreditation Council's continued support and confidence in the Campus' operations.

Appointment of Chairman, Open Campus Council

The University Council approved the appointment of Ambassador Dr. June Soomer as the new Chairman of the Open Campus Council at its annual meeting on April 27, 2017, held at the Cave Hill Campus. Ambassador Soomer assumes this post after the untimely passing of former Chairman, Sir K. Dwight Venner, in December 2016. Ambassador Soomer is charged to formally guide the strategic, financial and administrative affairs of the Open Campus within the University's new strategic direction, regional priorities and global initiatives.

Plans for the Future

The leadership and staff of the Campus extend heartiest thanks to Dr. Lennox Honychurch, who was appointed Acting Chairman of the Open Campus Council, for his stellar performance of duties during the transitional period.

At the end of the academic year 2016/2017 the Campus was justly proud of its achievements despite the financial challenges which had affected government contributions and student tuition fee payments. However, it was the heart-breaking devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria that slowed down our plans to accelerate growth in Semester 1 of 2017/2018, as we grappled with the near total destruction of our site in Dominica and the near crippling of our operations in Anguilla and Tortola, with students, staff and sites in St. Kitts, Turks and Caicos and St. Maarten being negatively affected.

The word "Resilience", however, fully captures the spirit of our people and we have begun to rebuild and regroup to continue to support our students' learning experience. Without a doubt our major challenge for the future is to ensure that all our sites are made climate resilient as we face the fact that we are in a region vulnerable to extreme weather systems such as hurricanes. We are therefore deliberately targeting site maintenance and the rebuilding of our Dominica site as priorities for the 2017/2018 year to ensure that we are prepared for the challenges which climate change may bring to the region.

The Open Campus is also very excited about the growing number of partnerships with regional and international organisations to design new and innovative programmes for Continuing and Professional Education. As a key strategic initiative, the Campus will be enhancing its structure in order to capitalise on the growing demand for CPE, both in blended and fully online modalities.

Starting from the 2017 academic year the Campus has begun preparing for a major international marketing thrust and has identified key programmes and courses to target the international market. In order to ensure that international students receive similar student service and care to those students who live near physical sites, the Registry has established a Virtual International Students Office (VISO), which will ensure that students applying and studying with us from outside of the region will have an excellent experience.

As we celebrate The UWI's 70th Anniversary and the Open Campus' 10th year of establishment as a full campus, we take the opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and recommit to providing the best educational experience for all our students and stakeholders. As we move into this new phase of our existence we are proud of our growth and resilience through many storms, living up to our motto of being “A campus for the times and a campus for the future”. As ever, our goal is to continue to open doors to life changing experiences for students, both within the region and without, for many years to come.