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The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) hosted its 16th annual Quality Assurance in Higher Education Week during the week of March 8-12, 2021, under the theme, “Assuring Quality in Online Delivery for Higher Education.” The guest presenter at the workshop was Professor Romeela Mohee, Commissioner of Higher Education in Mauritius, (formerly at the Commonwealth of Learning) who brought to focus the importance of strong, effective and strategic leadership for successful online teaching and learning. Due to the COVID 19 Pandemic and the government’s restrictions on gatherings, this year’s event was done via virtual presentations.

The 2021 Quality Assurance in Higher Education Week of activities placed the UCJ’s Distance Education standards at the centre of the discussions, deliberations and engagements between presenters and participants provided guidance and support in improving the online teaching and learning process in higher education institutions. Presenters will share emerging best practices in the delivery of online education and training. The consultation with higher education leaders explored some of the challenges they face in the delivery of online education and training and shared distinctive opportunities. These consultations ensured that the participants’ understanding were sharpened and that there will be greater awareness to handle the challenges of online teaching and learning, taking into consideration curriculum design and delivery, learner engagement and assessment and capacity building.
The UCJ recognised the need for improved stakeholder relations and acknowledged that this can only be successfully achieved by continually improving its robust public education effort. Hence the week of activities was used as an opportunity to inform and educate institutional and administrative leaders, Board representatives, senior faculty members, curriculum development specialists, online learning specialists, HR Managers, Financial Officers, Quality Assurance Officers and Registrars of institutions over a three day period by means of consultations, workshop and seminar. Over 629 participants attended the three days of activities.


Day 1

Credential Assessment Webinar

The UCJ conducted a webinar for Registrars, Deputy Registrars and persons in administrative roles in higher education institutions, who are responsible for preparing and maintaining academic record of students. This marks the first day of activities for QAW 2021 under the theme “Improving Quality in Student Academic Records.” This seminar covered issues relating to the preparation of academic transcripts by higher education institutions, with the objective of encouraging the implementation of sending/receiving E-transcript, also to improve the quality of transcripts prepared by higher learning institutions in Jamaica. Ms Jeniffer Bartley of the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) gave an update of how her institution is using the eTransfer modality. Two presenters from overseas were instrumental in charting the way forward along with our own Dr Angela Penny.

  1. James Feigert, Registrar of Saddleback College and Chair of SPEEDE Committee. An experienced student services professional who has held leadership positions in a higher education institutions in the areas of Residential Life, Student Affairs, Registrar's Office, and Admissions. His expertise lies in Enrolment Management, Student Information System testing. Electronic Data Exchange (PDF, XML, EDI) of student records, knowledge of FERPA regulations, student records management, document security and delivery. He spoke extensively on eTranscript and the different modalities of transfer.
  2. Doug Holmes, E-transcript Manager for The Ontario Universities' Application Centre in Canada (OUAC). He is a software developer and Manager, eTranscripts. He was part of the original team which developed OUAC's EDI-based postsecondary transcript exchange system and also augmented that system for PESC XML transcripts (both high school and postsecondary). He spoke on how electronic data exchange assists and enables student credit and credential transferability.
  3. Dr Angela Penny, Senior Research and Development Officer, UCJ. She highlighted fraudulent practises, common errors and omissions found in transcripts and tips to improve quality in transcript preparation. Over 135 participants registered for this webinar.


Day 2

Leadership Workshop

The Keynote speaker for the Leadership workshop was Professor Romeela Mohee, Commissioner of Higher Education in Mauritius, (formerly at the Commonwealth of Learning) a seasoned practitioner in online teaching and learning at both the leadership and functional levels, shared her experiences, and recommendations to assist in strengthening the management system across institutions. She brought into focus the importance of strong, effective and strategic leadership for successful online teaching and learning.
The day’s activities were chaired by Dr Garth Anderson, Council Member. A short opening ceremony was held in which Professor Errol Morrison, Chairman UCJ brought greetings. Ms Dorrett Campbell, Deputy Chief Education Officer MOEYI also brought greetings while Mrs Althea Heron, Executive Director gave the welcome. The day’s activities started with a Plenary session on Leadership and Governance in the delivery of Online Teaching and Learning. The session consisted mainly of Presidents, Principals, Vice Principals; Chief Academic Officers, Deans, Senior Faculty members, Senior Leaders, Senior Managers and Quality Assurance Managers.
The Consultation with HEI Leaders was also one of the main highlights for the day. It allowed leaders of institutions to listen to and share experiences relevant to the leadership of the online teaching and learning process. The following institutions were asked to share their experiences, Bethel Bible College, Excelsior Community College and the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Mrs Karen Gayle gave an overview of the standards being revised and developed, also of the committees that she is currently working with. After the consultation with the HEI Leaders, Dr Jeanette Bartley-Bryan, Chair Distance Education Standards Committee, gave a summary of the day’s proceedings and the proposed next steps. The day ended with a virtual awards ceremony.


Virtual Awards Ceremony

A virtual awards presentation of institutions that were granted registration, institutional accreditation, or had programmes accredited or re-accredited for the FY 2020-2021 was part of the day’s activity. Over 228 participants attended this session.


Day 3

Workshop with Higher Education Institutions

The day’s activity also started with a brief opening. Mr Philmore McCarthy, Council Member, chaired the proceedings. Mrs Althea Heron, Executive Director welcomed the participants while professor Brendan Bain, Vice Chairman, UCJ gave remarks. Mrs Karen Gayle, Senior Standards Officer gave an overview of the Standards for Distance Education and the objectives for the day. The focus of this workshop was the UCJ’s Distance Learning Standards Framework: Awareness and Response. The Target groups consisted of: Lecturers, Heads of Departments, QA Officers, Information Technologists, Human Resource Managers; Online/Distance Learning Coordinators.
The Chairperson of the UCJ’s Distance Education Standards Committee along with other members led the day’s session. Presentations covering the areas listed were made.

  1. Understanding Online Learning Environment: Coming to terms with the online teaching and learning environment. (Any time –Any place) Dr Schontal Moore
  2. Assessment in Online Learning Environments. Benefits and challenges of conducting online assessments with guidelines for practice. Dr Mairette Newman
  3. Quality Assurance Requirements for Curriculum Reform/Design, Engagement. An examination of the standards criteria for curriculum design and learner engagement. Mrs Sandra Bloomfield/Mrs Avery Thompson
  4. Quality Assurance Requirements for Resource Capacity-Building/Support Services. Policy Framework for Institutional Readiness – addressing the Digital Divide. Mrs Gennette Clacken/Mrs Erica Simmons

After the conclusion of the first session, the attendees were placed in Break-out/concurrent sessions where they discussed issues raised in the presentations given earlier. The break out rooms and the presenters are listed below:

Concurrent Workshops

  1. Curriculum Design & Delivery, Presenter – Dr Schantal Moore;
  2. Learner Engagement, Achievement and Assessment, Presenters – Dr Avery Thompson/Dr Mairette Newman;
  3. Training & Development & Human Capacity Building, Presenters – Ms Gennette Clacken/Mrs Ritwa Smith;
  4. Learner Support Services, Presenter – Mrs Sandra Bloomfield;
  5. Technology, Presenter – Mrs Erica Simmons;
  6. Research & Development, Presenter – Dr Eraldine Williams-Shakespeare.

Following the concurrent workshops a representative of each group reported on the deliberations. Summary of the proceedings and proposed next steps, along with the roles of individuals, institutions and the Ministry were outlined by Dr J. Bartley-Bryan.
Information gathered from the sessions will be incorporated in the Standards for Distance Education (Revised). Over 266 participants attended this session.