When a small group of Cayman students sits down for a lecture in linear algebra next month, it will be a milestone in the history of higher education in the Cayman Islands.
The students will be in a classroom at the University College of the Cayman Islands, while their classmates and the lecturer will be in Pennsylvania.
The course is the first joint venture in a new partnership between UCCI and West Chester University which will ultimately enable students in Cayman to take virtually any course offered at the U.S. institution.
UCCI president Roy Bodden said the partnership could lead to joint degrees being issued in certain courses, as well as student exchanges.
He said it would massively expand the number of degree programs and post-graduate programs that could be offered in Cayman. Initially, the partnership will focus on courses in mathematical finance, actuarial science, social work and hospitality.
As a result of the partnership, it will eventually be possible for students to train to become high school teachers on island – something that has not been possible before.
“This is really a coup,” said Mr. Bodden. “This is the model for the future of higher education internationally and it is good that we are in at the start of it.”
The university currently has two “polycam” rooms, which enable video conferencing, and plans to add at least two more across its campuses.
“Students will be able to sit in classrooms in Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman and participate in lectures at West Chester,” Mr. Bodden said.
He said the partnership also bolstered the academic credibility of the organization.
“Certainly, it puts UCCI in a favorable position. If UCCI didn’t bring anything to the table, then West Chester would not have been so quick to partner with us,” he added.
West Chester students will also have the opportunity to take courses offered at UCCI as part of their degree programs. Mr. Bodden said hospitality and financial services courses with work experience components were likely to be an attraction for exchange students. He said Cayman’s students would have the option to take part in work experience-based programs in Pennsylvania as well.
He added that it was a significant financial advantage for Caymanian students to pay UCCI’s lower fees but have access to courses at West Chester.
Tracey Hargrave, a mathematics lecturer at UCCI, said the immediate effect would be to enhance the options for the most advanced students. UCCI typically needs 10 students to enroll to make a course financially viable. Accessing West Chester courses through video conferencing removes that impediment.
“We have a small number of students interested in higher level math courses and it has been cost prohibitive to offer them until now,” she said.
Kwabena Asamoah, department chair for computer science and engineering, said students could have the option of accessing West Chester’s IT security certification, which is accredited by the NSA, from next term.
A large delegation of lecturers and administrators from UCCI, including President Bodden and Chief Financial Officer Ansel Tempral, visited the West Chester campus last month to discuss exchange initiatives.
Mr. Bodden said the partnership extended to administrative support and guidance on fundraising.