Monday 21 September, 2020

COVID-19: UTech seeks to address incomplete practical training

With a student population over 11,000, UTech offers over 100 programmes at certificate, diploma and degree levels, with an emphasis on work-based learning.

With a student population over 11,000, UTech offers over 100 programmes at certificate, diploma and degree levels, with an emphasis on work-based learning.

The University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) is working to find solutions for students who need to complete or continue training through practicums, workplace experience or hands-on practice, supervised by their tutors.

Classes at the St Andrew-based school is now mainly online after face-to-face sessions were suspended because of the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19)

With a student population over 11,000, UTech offers over 100 programmes at certificate, diploma and degree levels, with an emphasis on work-based learning.

Information attributed to Professor Colin Gyles, Acting President is that, for the most part, lecturers had almost completed the practical requirements by the time of the university officially discontinued face-to-face engagement.

For those students whose practicums remain outstanding, he said: “Alternative modalities will be utilised in finalising the acquisition of required competencies and assessing them.”

Professor Gyles, asked how UTech plans to solve the issue of technical and practical modules that cannot be administered over the internet, Gyles said alternative modalities for delivery and assessment of modules are being utilised.

He noted: “Some clinicals and practicals will be deferred until face-to-face modality returns”.

“In the case of finalising students, they may be allowed to continue and complete certain clinicals, where these can be accommodated in the clinical environments, example medical technologist, who will require PPEs to complete their modules, will proceed, as this would be the same environment in which they will operate shortly, as employees, on completion of these clinicals.

Questioned as to whether a portion of school fees would be refunded, given that face-to-face expectations have not been met, the acting principal said none will be refunded as costs remain the same.

“There are alternative modalities being utilised for the lectures and it should be understood that there are costs associated with these, as would be the case for face-to-face delivery and assessment.”

The university is looking, however, at the possibility of returning some portion of hall fees already paid. Most students have returned home from the campus.

With regards to the need for work experience, Gyles said this will have to wait until classes resume, but others may be able to secure this.

Gyles said that co-operative education students may not be able to do the work experience portion of the course due to the present social distancing protocol prescribed by the government; such cases will be deferred.  But, where other employers are able to facilitate, these will continue.

The school head said currently the schedule for online classes remain the same as it is on the official timetable, to avoid clashes and inconvenience to students.

UTech is also exploring the issue of offering summer programmes at a reduced cost.

“The University is exploring the matter, inclusive of seeking additional support from the government and other sources in respect of a possible reduction of fees for the Summer,” it was noted.

A facility fee of $8,000 which was charged for Semester 2 on accounts with outstanding balances has been removed/waived, along with some other fees for late registration at the school.

The university, meanwhile, says no student account will be blocked at the end of Semester 2, 2019/20 for outstanding fees.

Students will also be given an additional three months until the end of July 2020 to settle outstanding fees with conditions applicable.

It was noted that students on an approved payment plan, which they are actively servicing, may be offered extensions and new registration opportunities, “provided they meet certain pre-determined criteria.”

The school said it is also awaiting further guidance from the Government of Jamaica, based on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic, regarding the social distancing, work-from-home and other protocols before it seeks to reopen physical offices for regular face-to-face delivery of services.

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