Future Proofing Higher Education in the Pacific with Open and Flexible Learning
AbstractAffordable access to higher education is a major challenge for small Pacific island nations. The University of the South Pacific which is owned and governed by twelve island nations in this region plays a special role in meeting this challenge. In its fiftieth year, a few recent developments at USP provide a useful case study for how this challenge can be addressed to provide affordable access to educational opportunity for residents of twelve Pacific Island nations in various stages of development.
The island nations served by the University of the South Pacific are spread over 33 million square kilometers of the Pacific, with several official languages and many more indigenous languages, and use seven distinct currencies. As USP celebrates its fiftieth year in 2018, it has embarked upon two specific initiatives that will enable the university to map out a pathway for the future of education for the next generation and within the context of current and new strategies for the design and implementation of meaningful education throughout the member nations.
These initiatives are the development of a flexible learning policy and an Open Education Resources policy. Taking pages from the fields of Technology, Education (Learning and Teaching), and Design, these two USP policies seek to “future proof” the university for the next generation and others after that. Being future proofed means being able to stand the test of time in the face of changing contexts and challenges. University policies are most effective when they are designed to withstand and accommodate prospective changes in the educational landscape. These policies reflect agreed-upon principles that will withstand social and political changes. This paper is a commentary on the content of these policy initiatives around flexible learning and open education practices, their values and principles.
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