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J-TEC Warns Of Questionable Online Degree Programmes

Published:Tuesday | December 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC) has raised fresh concerns about what it says is an increasing number of questionable entities offering online degree programmes in Jamaica.

Commissioner and chief executive officer of J-TEC, Maxine Henry-Wilson, has asked that persons pursuing online programmes conduct the proper due diligence to ensure their legitimacy.

This comes against the background of the University Council of Jamaica's (UCJ) change in policy regarding online programmes.

Overseas institutions offering online programmes will now be required to have their programmes assessed by the UCJ against local standards.

The J-TEC commissioner has said that persons should, "take your award to the UCJ or J-TEC to let them determine the value of your award and to see whether there are any gaps.

"What we have been saying to persons who enquire of us is (that) before you sign up or register for any programme, do the checks ...; make sure that the institution from which you are attempting to obtain an award is a recognised institution," she said.

Verify institutions' claims

Other due diligence that needs to be done relates to the evaluation of the courses and verification of the claims made by the institution.

According to Henry-Wilson, concerns about online programmes have to do with issues of quality, curriculum and hours of delivery.

"One of the questions that arise is what is the source, where are they coming from? Anybody can put up an online programme with all kinds of claimed credentials, but you really have to check them. You don't actually have the physical contact so you have to make sure that the persons delivering the programme, the faculty, are at the level that you would require of persons teaching face-to-face," she said.

Henry-Wilson added that, "there are issues relating to standards and quality - issues around all aspects. Issues relating to curriculum, issues relating to the hours of delivery because a credit hour has a particular value so the hours of delivery have to be consistent with the requirements of your framework, and there are other issues relating to just who are these people. They may be overseas or they may be local so you really have to check out the bona fides of these people, the bona fides of the award that is given that it is consistent with awards of a similar nature."

"These become issues of concern as we are sometimes not able to find the people who are delivering these programmes," she said.