CFL Launches two books on Flexible Learning to commemorate USP’s 50th Anniversary
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Mr Winston Thompson, USP Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council during his address at the launch.
On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of The University of the South Pacific (USP), the Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL) officially launched two (2) books on Flexible Learning at the University’s Laucala Campus on 30 August 2018.
The books titled, “Fifty years of Flexible Learning at The University of the South Pacific” and “Flexible Learning Footprints” were officially launched by Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council.
The former book is an account of the development and growth of flexible learning at USP while the latter is a collection of reflections of students, teachers and administrators at USP on their experience with open and flexible learning.
Professor Som Naidu, Pro Vice-Chancellor Flexible Learning, and Director of CFL reminded everyone that a founding vision of the University was to be present in the villages and communities of the member countries and the books document that effort made by USP in reaching out to these communities.
Professor Naidu added that in helping to minimise the high cost of educational resources in the region, the University is also seeking to develop open textbooks, which are available to students and staff to use for free and adapt to suit their needs.
Apart from the two 50th Anniversary commemorative (2) books, CFL also launched eight (8) open textbooks at the event.
USP, Professor Naidu mentioned has a track record of developing course materials and readings and distributing these to students throughout its regional campuses. As part of that agenda, the University has supported the development of open textbooks.
“The eight (8) Open textbooks launched today are a sign of many more to come,” Professor Naidu said.
He thanked Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Services, authors of the books, editors, development team and designers at CFL for supporting the production of these books.
He also expressed his deep appreciation to the author of one of the books (Fifty years of Flexible Learning at The University of the South Pacific), Colin Latchem who passed away very unexpectedly in July this year without seeing his work published and recognised this way.
Professor Naidu talked about the life of late Professor Latchem, who was a former President of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia and a friend of USP.
His professional activities included roles as Associate Editor of the journal Distance Education, membership of Editorial Board of Education and Self-Development and editor of the Springebriefs book series on open and distance learning.
Professor Naidu invited everyone to read the books and get a better understanding of the record of open, flexible and distance learning at USP and many of its achievements in reaching out to the people of the Pacific for educational purposes.
Mr Thompson acknowledged the opportunity to officially launch the books, adding that it is good to connect with the academic side of the University, apart from working with the governance and administrative branch.
After listening to the stories about Open Education at USP, Mr Thompson remarked that technology has now transformed into how universities conduct their business in terms of teaching and learning.
Professor Som Naidu, Pro Vice-Chancellor Flexible Learning and Director of CFL, Professor Geoffery Crisp, Guest Speaker at Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Forum, Mr Winston Thompson, USP Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, and Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Services.
He added that over the years, technology has brought many changes, such as the availability of internet in regional countries and the exponential growth that is taking place in how technology is reflecting everything in the world today and not just education.
“I am told that when 5G connectivity comes into mainstream in a couple of years’ time, this will revolutionise how one can interact and communicate,” Mr Thompson commented.
While acknowledging the development of these textbooks as open resources, he remembered how when he was undertaking his tertiary studies back in the days, things were very different compared to the greater accessibility to resources that are now in place due to revolution in technology.
He congratulated Professor Naidu and his team for their initiative in producing these open textbooks, and for everyone’s contribution towards the two (2) major publications celebrating fifty (50) years of flexible learning at USP, and looked forward to further publications along these lines in future.
Mr Deepak Bhartu, Open Education Design Architect at CFL, introduced the eight (8) Open Textbooks which were written by former and current academic staff of the University.
He informed that in 2017, USP made available around FJD132, 000 as part of the Open Education Resources (OER) Grant Scheme to encourage staff to engage in the development, adoption and integration of OER in their teaching.
Out of a total of twenty four (24) projects, ten (10) of them were focussed on the production of Open textbooks, of which eight (8) were launched by Mr Thompson, which included:
Introduction to Statistics – by Professor M G M Khan;
Financial Reports for Non-Reporting Entities – by Ms Sheemal Prasad;
Pasifika C++ - by Dr Aidan Delaney;
Simply Visual Basic – by Dr Dinesh Kumar;
Industrial and Employment Relations – by Professor Anand Chand;
Basic Statistics: A Step by Step Approach – by Dr Dinesh Rao;
Lab Manual for Simply Visual Basic – Dr Dinesh Kumar;
Macroeconomic Analysis – By Dr Rup Singh; and
Event Operations – by Ms Parijata Moeava.
In March this year, as part of the Open Education Week, CFL launched the Open Education Repository, which hosts these Open textbooks (https://orep.usp.ac.fj/edu-sharing/components/oer).
While introducing the open textbooks, Mr Bhartu remarked that teachers from Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) in particular have found these open textbooks especially useful as many of the commercial textbooks they use are unsuited for their skills based courses and programmes.
He added that teachers and authors liked the opportunities afforded by open textbooks and open educational resources more generally.
These affordances included not only free access but an opportunity to have students engage with the development of subject matter content as opposed to being mere consumers of knowledge created by others.
This comprises a radical shift in learning and teaching and one that is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, both in developed and developing contexts.
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