Colombia's UNINORTE receives support and advice from the UOC's eLearn Center for its project to take more of its processes online, seeking to make quality online higher education available to more people in Colombia
The Universidad del Norte (UNINORTE), based in Colombia's Caribbean region, is a higher education institution that, in the fifty years since it was founded, has established itself as one of Colombia's top universities, with high quality learning programmes and research. It is currently one of the few universities in the country to have achieved high quality accreditation.
The links between UNINORTE and the UOC span many years and numerous different collaborations, with both institutions belonging to the Inter-University Development Centre (CINDA), an organization comprised of Latin America's top universities. The UOC has now teamed up with the Colombian university once again to offer support and advice on its project to make moves online.
UNINORTE is looking to develop quality online programmes in order to reach new student demographics and extend its geographical scope, and thereby also increase the social impact of higher education, all of which are objectives outlined in its Development Plan 2018-2022. In the words of the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence (CEDU) at UNINORTE, Fadia Khouri-Saavedra, "It is an ambitious project which has enabled us to contemplate and rethink the way things are done at our university, both currently and in the future."
The UOC's eLearn Center, under the leadership of Lluís Pastor, started working on the project a few months ago, with the aim of providing UNINORTE with the support and tools required to build a strong foundation for the launch of its online higher education project. Pastor said: "The most interesting thing about our work is seeing the way in which we are able to help define the new model and how the UNINORTE teams are developing the next step towards building the university they want: a university that responds to the new challenges posed by the knowledge society. They're taking learning processes online and digitizing the organization to move towards that goal."
For UNINORTE, "The fundamental reason we approached the UOC is because we recognized it as a university with a vision that chimed with ours; we want to promote and establish the student learning experience as a central focus of our educational model."
What support has UNINORTE received from the UOC during this process?
A specialist team from the UOC's eLearn Center spent a week at UNINORTE's Barranquilla campus, organizing a range of different teaching activities for its executive, academic and management personnel in which they were encouraged to reflect on the form their online university model should take and aspects to be considered in order to initiate the process.
The director of Educational Model Transfer at the eLearn Center, Mildred Guinart, outlined the focus of the different teaching activities carried out as being "always based on the reality of the institution: its mission, its vision, its long-term objectives […]. The aim was to facilitate combined and comparative reflection on the different players involved in the virtualization process in order to reach a consensus for establishing the core strategic areas and operational elements in relation to the implementation of an online model across all areas: teaching, organization and services."
In parallel, the UOC is also collaborating with other Latin American universities to provide support related to the process of developing new programmes or bringing them online. In all cases the goal is to deliver quality higher education on a global scale with accredited online systems, providing students with the competencies and knowledge needed for their careers.
The social impact of quality online higher education
The aim of the United Nation's SDG4, set out in its 2030 Agenda, is to ensure equal access to education, including university education, for all. As such, the UOC is working on various fronts to open up access to quality higher education. This includes providing support to university systems and universities in different countries to help roll out models that ensure educational quality in online systems.
UNINORTE's Fadia Khouri-Saavedra had this to say: "Online education has immense potential for delivering quality education to people who would otherwise be unable to access it."