Meeting Digital Students in a digital age

CXC Improves Cyberspace Presence

By Cleveland Sam

Question
Where is the best place to meet people?

ANSWER
Wherever they congregate.

The young and the young at heart among us may even add, “duh, like that is so obvious” And where do the young and young at heart congregate? Not at the village market; not at the community centre and not at the play park either. ‘They meet in cyberspace; on the social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Hype web sites and blogs.

WWW.CXC.ORG
The good news is that CXC is meeting young people there too. On 10 May, with two taps on the URL www.cxc.org by Ondre Harper of Harrison College and Leslie-Anne Greenidge of St Michael School, the Council launched its new and improved third generation web site with more interactivity. But more than that, seven days later, on 17 May, the Council signalled its seriousness about its presence in cyberspace, when Jamaican Simone Pasmore joined the staff as CXC’s first full-time Webmaster.

Students, teachers and CXC staff attending the launch of the new CXC website

Dr Didacus Jules, Registrar of CXC often comments that, “one of the challenges for education in the Caribbean is that we are teaching digital children in an analogue classroom.”
He believes that with CXC’s multiple presence in cyberspace, CXC has moved one step closer to bridging the digital divide which exists between the education system and young learners.

Speaking at the web site launch, Dr Jules explained that today’s web user is a digital native with expectations of multisensory, multimodal interactions. As such, the new website features videos – linked to CXC’s YouTube channel, slideshows of students’ artwork in the virtual art gallery, a media centre, a CXC store, the Registrar’s Blog, forum and e-polling among other features.

“It represents a major leap forward in our drive to make CXC an IT-intelligent organization. By this I mean an organization that utilizes and leverages information and computer technology to work more efficiently, deliver better and faster service to its clientele and provide the means for its clientele to self-fulfil their needs.”

While the site improves tremendously on its predecessor’s visual appearance, Dr Jules noted that the site is much more than good looks and fast loads.

“This website will be in a permanent state of evolution as we intend to continually improve, upgrade and enhance its features,” the elated Registrar explained. “As you post questions, our database of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will grow and we will eventually be able to provide answers on everything you ever wanted to ask about CXC.”

Dr Jules added that the look and feel of the site heralds the new substantive CXC. A CXC that is more service-oriented and more committed to maintaining and raising standards while improving performance and more receptive and responsive to the needs of the Caribbean public that it serves.

SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
But the new cutting edge web site is one of the pillars in the CXC cyberspace architecture. With the fulltime webmaster on staff, CXC now has significant presence on the social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

These sites have placed the Council at the heart of where the conversation is taking place among one of its most important constituents-students. As a result, CXC is better able to respond to the needs of this target audience in a timely manner. Issues and concerns raised by users of the sites are addressed within a 24-hour period. The civil unrest in Jamaica in May was a good test of how powerful a tool, Facebook is for gauging feedback. Numerous candidates vented their feelings about having to write examinations during the unrest and what it could do to their performance.

The first week in August also saw a great surge in activity on the Facebook site and on the forum on www.cxc.org. Most users had one question: “When are results coming out?”

On CXC’s Twitter site, visitors can follow what is happening with CXC in real time; what events are taking place, where and who are the main actors.

Referring to CXC’s social networking presence, Dr Jules said, “The synergy of these three channels of communication and service will enable us to extend the reach of CXC and market our examinations and services in ways that we never thought possible and at virtually no cost to the organisation.”

LIVE STREAMING
On 23 June, the Council raised the bar on its use of social media networks to reach its audiences. The Council in conjunction with the National Council of Parent Teacher Associations hosted the second of two town hall meetings at the Alexandra School in St Peter, Barbados. The meeting was streamed live on the Internet using the social media site U-Stream. This initial broadcast was very encouraging as the response from viewers was positive. The Council will be using this medium to broadcast future events, thus bringing its events at the mouse click of its stakeholders.

BENEFITS TO STAKEHOLDERS
Speaking at the launch of the website on behalf of stakeholders, Mr Winston Crichlow, President of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, said with the new website and other computer technologies, CXC has transformed the way it does business.

“Communicating with teachers and schools has now become easier and more efficient,” the Principal of Harrison College said. “Previously, in the paper-based system, a great deal of time was wasted in schools having to send personnel to CXC Headquarters in order to obtain SBA assessment forms, Order of Merit forms, manuals for principals and syllabuses. These items can now be downloaded online saving valuable time and resources.”

Mr Crichlow, who sits on the School Examinations Committee and the Final Awards Committee of CXC, noted that in addition, schools are now able to keep up-to-date and informed as they have access to a CXC online calendar of events including deadlines for the submission of various assessment records, current fee structures, grading schemes and examination timetables.

“To my mind, an innovative gem has been the Online Registration System of students for examinations,” Mr Crichlow told the audience at the launch. “Understandably, this new registration system has had a few teething problems, but it has proven to be vastly superior to the earlier paper-based system.” The school administrator noted that as schools in the Caribbean grapple with the challenges of improving achievement levels in CXC examinations, “the new website certainly adds an exciting experience for all stakeholders.”

The exciting experience which he referred to on the new website includes access to past paper booklets, availability of Schools Reports, the soon-to-be-available of 24-hour online tuition in conjunction with Notesmaster, and links to CXC social networking sites such as Face book, Twitter and You Tube.
(Reprinted from CXC Examiner Vol 8 No.2 October 2010)

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