Mon | Jan 18, 2021

NCU to strengthen hybrid learning

Published:Monday | November 23, 2020 | 12:09 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
The entrance to the NCU campus in Mandeville. As as result of COVID-19, the univer sity is making efforts to strengthen hybrid learning.
The entrance to the NCU campus in Mandeville. As as result of COVID-19, the univer sity is making efforts to strengthen hybrid learning.

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

Northern Caribbean University (NCU) is ready to push its strategic plan for hybrid learning that will extend its global reach.

Director of Corporate Communication, Marketing and Public Relation at the institution, Byron Buckley, said the institution uses learning management system Aeorion; however, the need for increased online learning has strengthened its resolve in meeting the demand of the current market.

“We are fully online, all while addressing the issues some of the students have with connectivity.” Buckley said. “The only exception we have now are for international students with special cases and for those persons who have to come in during the days to complete labs that cannot be done online, those who have no device and need to use our computer labs, as well as those who need to connect to the Wi-Fi, and that’s a small number.”

He said the hybrid delivery will foster a blended approach; however, there will be programmes offered online in full.

“I don’t see us going back fully to face-to-face [classes], going forward it will definitely be a blended approach. We already have a distance education unit, and the strategic thinking is that more and more, we will bring our main programmes on to distance education … . We are offering a hybrid service medium term to long term,” he said, adding: “If someone does not want to step a foot through our door but complete a programme we offer, they should be able to do so.”

MOVED ONLINE

Since the pandemic, all major and a few minor courses, and graduation, which is slated for December, have moved online.

“Because we have a media arm, we were really able to pivot and host most of our functions virtually. It has not been a struggle for us. But we will now have to redirect our resources to increase our bandwidth, improve our infrastructure to ensure that online learning and remote working is sustainable.”

Plagued by surmounting financial challenges in the past, Buckley said the institution, despite the economic crisis compounded by the pandemic, has managed to maintain a standard enrolment number with the help of its Alumni Federation.

“For fall 2020, we had 3,418 students registering, and for the same period in 2019 we had 3,546. We had a little over 30 new students deferring their offer to next semester.The NCU Alumni Federation went on a fundraising drive for the COVID-19 scholarship fund and the main activity for that scholarship drive was mediathon. At the end of the fundraiser, they raised over US$300,000, and with a significant part of this fund we were able to grant over 100 returning students scholarships.”

Buckley said the university also took a decision to place a moratorium on tuition increases, but had to increase lab fees that are affected by the fluctuating foreign exchange rates.

“I think we are in a good place, strategically. hundred years ago, the institution, the world and Jamaica were in a pandemic, the Spanish flu, and now 100 years later we are in a pandemic. NCU survived then and it will survive this one.”