‘Click’ your way to a world-class education

We just received a piece of good news we couldn’t wait to share with our readers, concerning the future of education in the Cayman Islands.

The University of the West Indies Open Campus, located on Grand Cayman, is accepting students for summer courses in subjects that include computer literacy, computer support, management skills and basic English. Classes are free to students who are 60 years of age or older. Look for a UWI ad in Monday’s newspaper for more information.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a “brand new” program. UWI has been operating in Cayman for years and has about 60 registered students pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and about 20 more enrolled in continuing education courses.
“So what’s so great about that?” you may ask.

“Hope,” we respond.

What we find exciting is that here in Cayman is an educational institution leveraging technology in order to disseminate practical knowledge that can be applied at work and home. Campus head Robert Geofroy tells us his students “attend” most classes online — not watching pre-taped videos, but participating in real-time lectures streamed live using teleconferencing software. When courses do require physical meetings, UWI has its brick-and-mortar building on the University College of the Cayman Islands campus.

After hearing about UWI’s adoption of common-sense innovations, we were feeling optimistic enough — then Mr. Geofroy clued us in to a separate initiative from the UWI system that presents a valuable opportunity to an exceptional Caymanian student.
UWI is offering a postgraduate scholarship to one national from each of the 13 jurisdictions it serves, including Cayman. The proposal is for the scholarship recipients to spend at least one year on a residential campus, then spend another three years or so doing research leading to PhD degrees in “areas of relevance to the particular needs of their country,” according to a UWI memo.

Flipping through the UWI PhD programs, we spotted many areas suited to Cayman: business administration, computer science, economics, education, governance, government, law, marine sciences, teacher education, urban and regional planning — to name just a few.

The application period is now open. For Caymanians seeking educational achievement, the brass ring is right there for the taking.

The nearness of the prize is also true in a broader context, not just for Caymanians or UWI students, but for anyone in the world who has access to the Internet. More knowledge is available now to more people at a lower cost with greater ease of access than at any time in human history. And the online education movement has barely begun.

In August, the Compass editorial board opined about the inestimable possibilities that “MOOCs” — Massive Open Online Courses — present for the people in Cayman. MOOC providers such as Coursera, edX and Udacity offer free and paid classes taught by professors from the world’s most renowned universities, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, and many others.

Last year, it was estimated that the three providers alone had combined enrollment figures of 6 million students. Astounding!

The future of pedagogy is at hand, and Cayman’s Ministry of Education would be wise to dedicate at least one official to exploring low- or no-cost online learning and implementing it throughout Cayman’s schools.

May we suggest first calling up Harvard, a leader of the MOOC revolution and home to one of the world’s best schools of education, and offering up Cayman’s classrooms as their laboratories for innovation?

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