Mr Balaji Baradhazhvar, Chief Executive Officer of Crystal Delta and Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President after the MOU signing.
The University of the South Pacific’s Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL) launched USP Global, a University initiative through which a number of programmes will be offered online to a global audience.
These include courses in areas such as Pacific Island Studies, Oceanography and Climate Science.
USP Global provides alternative learning opportunities and pathways to a global audience including first time learners and lifelong learners for just-in-time learning, learning on demand and micro credentialing from a reputable and digitally-enhanced institution with a strong track record of educational provision for transformative learning experiences for a variety of learners and learning contexts.
The launch of this initiative has involved partnering with Crystal Delta, an Australia-based enterprise that has a track record of working on expanding similar educational opportunities with open, flexible and technology-enhanced learning from K-12 through to higher education, workplace and life-long learning for high profile Universities in Australia.
To formalise this partnership with Crystal Delta, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed during the launch on 12 November 2018 at the Laucala Campus.
In signing the MOU, Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President, said that he hoped that this launch will be a major turning point for the University, in its approach to providing flexible learning, and increasing its global profile by attracting international students and promoting cutting edge analytics for the University.
Professor Chandra added that the 50th Anniversary has given the University a wonderful opportunity to launch this initiative, as he acknowledged the overall support of the Vice-Chancellor of RMIT University, Professor Martin Bean, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RMIT Online, Ms Helen Souness, who attended the launch at USP.
In making his remarks, Professor Chandra reflected on the history of flexible learning at USP and how the University has reached remote countries like Tokelau and Cook Islands during the University’s early years.
“At that time we actually became a global leader in developing systems that would allow the University to promote access and to promote flexible delivery in the language and conception of that time,” Professor Chandra said.
Furthermore, he noted that over the years, the University made significant headway in the direction of flexible learning pedagogies in terms of what it had set out to do in the area of flexible learning and by October this year, the University had converted about one third of its offerings to be fully online.
Professor Chandra is confident that with the team from CFL led by Professor Som Naidu, Pro Vice-Chancellor CFL and Director of Flexible Learning, with the leadership and support by Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Services, and the support and encouragement of Professor Pal Ahluwalia, incoming Vice-Chancellor and President, this venture will be very successful and it will also open new opportunities in learning and teaching for the University.
Professor Naidu said that through the launch of USP Global, the University is strengthening a trajectory that it has always been on, its engagement through various forms of open, flexible and distance learning. This has been aptly captured by the Morris Report, the need for USP to “carry university studies to towns and villages throughout the Region, and to promote understanding of, and affection for the University in people of distant areas.”
Talking about openness, Professor Naidu said that the concept of “openness” is not new to this University. It comprises several key dimensions:
First, it evokes the idea of open access. This is about inclusive and equal access to educational opportunity for, all without barriers such as entry qualifications and ability to pay;
Second, the concept promotes the idea of open learning which refers to the facility of being able to study at anytime, anywhere and at any pace regardless of one’s conditions; and
Third, the concept involves the practice of open scholarship. This has to do with the release of educational resources under an open license which permits access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others at no cost to the user.
Engagement in these kinds of open educational practices is crucial, not just for Pacific Islanders but for all such communities, if we were to achieve freedom, justice and equality for all. And for this University, a serious and systemic engagement with open and flexible approaches to learning and teaching, both on and off campus is not an option, but a necessity.
“So this launch is not entirely new, it is an extension of what we have been doing for a very long time,” Professor Naidu stated.
Mr Balaji Baradhazhvar, CEO of Crystal Delta said that they see this partnership as the key element in the Company’s longer term Asia-Pacific Strategy, adding that they are committed to USP and the broader region in a number of ways.
Mr Baradhazhvar informed that the subject matter specialists of Crystal Delta will work closely with USP team to share both parties’ shared values, goals and objectives are achieved, some of which include: to enhance USP’s recognised brand and learning and research reputation locally, regionally and globally; and to transform and evolve its business and delivery models to better align with current and emerging trends.
He talked about one of the initiatives that Crystal Delta is working onwith USP, is the Open Learning Club which will utilise deep analytics and machine learning to assist USP to move beyond current approaches to student progression, risk management and completion, and move towards providing more authentic understanding of learners’ success.
USP Global can be accessed on https://learn.uspglobal.usp.ac.fj/
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