Two policy documents that have just been added to the Policy Library have the potential to transform and “future proof” learning and teaching at the University of the South Pacific in many ways. These are the Flexible Learning Policy and the Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy.
Transforming pedagogical practices at USP is a major goal of its current Strategic Plan (2013-18). Especially the following specific objectives and their initiatives:
The Flexible Learning Policy provides the perimeters for the adoption and integration of flexible learning and teaching strategies at the University of the South Pacific that are suitably aligned with its learning and teaching policy and its regional and distributed nature.
Its development was a recommendation of a recent review of Centre for Flexible Learning and a requirement of its application for WSCUC accreditation.
The Pro Vice Chancellor of Flexible learning and Director of the Centre for Flexible Learning at USP (Professor Som Naidu who drafted these two policies in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders at USP and abroad points out that…
“Flexibility in learning and teaching is a value principle, much like diversity or equality in education and society more generally. Flexibility in learning and teaching is relevant in any mode of study including campus-based face-to-face education. It is a state of being in which learning and teaching is increasingly freed from the limitations of the time, place and pace of study”.
“And this kind of flexibility does not end there. For learners, flexibility in learning may include choices in relation to entry and exit points, selection of learning activities, assessment tasks and educational resources in return for different kinds of credit and costs. And for the teachers it can involve choices in relation to the allocation of their time and the mode and methods of communication with learners as well as the educational institution”.
The adoption of flexible approaches to learning is central to the ethos and culture of the University of the South Pacific. Its distributed nature required the University to engage in flexible learning and teaching which it has done since its establishment, with the need for flexible approaches to learning and teaching at USP growing in order to open up access to further enrich the educational experience of students beyond its conventional campus-based educational operations.
The Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy provides direction for the adoption and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in order to increase access to, and support high quality teaching and learning at the University of the South Pacific.
PVC Naidu pointed out that “OER are teaching, learning and research resources and materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, used to support education/training/research, which reside in the public domain (PD) or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, reuse, revision, remixing, retention and redistribution by others, with no or limited restrictions”.
“And that University is increasingly looking towards making the adoption and integration of these resources a priority, in order to mitigate the high costs of textbooks and other required educational resources throughout the region…and also to promote equality of access to educational opportunity”.
Both these policy documents have been through rigorous scrutiny, by USP staff and its collaborators at the Commonwealth of Learning, who helped workshop and develop these documents over the past several months.