University Council of Jamaica changes policy for overseas online programmes
Overseas institutions offering online programmes will now be required to have their programmes assessed by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) against local standards for recognition in Jamaica.
This comes as a result of a UCJ review of its policy on distance learning online programmes delivered 100 per cent online.
Dr Yvonnette Marshall, executive director of the UCJ, said: "The review came about as a result of increasing concerns about the quality of some online programmes currently being offered and whether they are comparable in standards to those offered in the conventional face-to-face setting."
Online programmes being offered by overseas institutions are governed by UCJ guidelines for the recognition of transnational education qualifications, which should be read in conjunction with the UCJ's standards for distance education.
Maxine Henry-Wilson, chief executive and commissioner of the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission, has noted that the recognition of transnational educational qualifications has become an imperative that is being spearheaded by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
"One of the current initiatives is that UNESCO is trying to formalise what is called a recognition agreement, that is, where countries recognise the awards of other countries, but here they are also providing support to make sure they are equivalent so that an award offered elsewhere is equivalent to an award offered locally, and the value of having UNESCO ... is that they also can help you to locate these persons to do the due diligence, and they have methods and methodologies that are tried and proven," she explained to The Gleaner.
One of the major concerns with online programmes is identification of the entities offering the degrees and whether they are approved to do so. According to Henry-Wilson, Jamaica's participation in UNESCO's agreements and conventions will allow it to access the international organisation's mechanism for policing online programmes.
With UCJ's change in policy, use of UNESCO's mechanisms to verify online programmes will be ramped up.
According to Marshall, "The UCJ's mandate as an external quality assurance agency means that it must develop, communicate, and use a set of standards for distance education to ensure that quality is preserved and ensure that such programmes are viewed as comparable to those in institutions where instruction is offered face-to-face."
"The UCJ holds distance education programmes to the same high standards as those delivered by face-to-face modality" she said.