The University of Goroka had experienced many developmental changes in the recent past. Among its many challenging developments, one major structural change made was when its status changed from a conventional University to a Dual Mode University. This happened when the University established the Institute of Distance and Flexible Learning (IDFL) in 2010 as an alternate pathway for offering tertiary education through the distance mode. IDFL is conceived as a vehicle to bring University education to the masses in both rural and remote Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Region.
However, at its embryonic stage, the Institute faced inherent challenges causing moderate growth in terms of program development and expansion. Leadership in the Institute also changed with the exit of the former Executive Director and appointment of myself as a new Executive Director in 2013.
In 2013, the institute’s role and purpose in the university was made prominent with an Operational Plan developed to give new direction and become proactive towards its growth and expansion. These include new proposal for programs and Regional Campus/Study Centre initiatives and were approved by the Academic Senate.
Currently the Bachelor of Education in School Management is one of the two programs on offer through the distance mode. The Bachelor of Education in School Management program targets teachers and business graduates with a minimum of diploma and would have some extensive experiences in the training industry. This program is aimed at equipping Education and School Administrators, senior teachers and those who aspire to be administrators of schools and Institutions in the future.
The other program that is offered targets school leaver applicants to UOG who get rejected due to low GPA. This program is offered to students to upgrade their marks for re-entry into UOG and other Institutions.
New programs approved by the Senate in 2013 and are to be developed in priority order include Generic Foundation Courses, Diploma in Agriculture Extension, Diploma in Accounting, Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality and Post Graduate Diploma in Education.
So far we have strategic alliances with many Provincial Governments and Private Institutions by establishing Regional Campuses and Study Centres throughout PNG and overseas. To date, we have three regional campuses located in Mt Hagen, National Capital District and Honiara in Solomon Islands. We also have many Study Centres including Simbu Study Centre, which is official with an MOA signed with the Simbu Provincial Government. Other Study Centre in operation but yet to be official with an MOA includes Southern Highlands, Morobe, Madang, Enga, Oro, Maprik District and Rigo District.
Through vigorous marketing and awareness, we increased our enrolments to a little over one thousand. With further expansion throughout PNG, we anticipate a bigger increase in enrolment in both programs currently on offer. Our target for 2017 is for enrolments to exceed two thousand.
IDFL organised the first ever graduation in Solomon Islands in 2015 and for the first time also it brought UOG graduations out to the provinces and country thereafter. We graduated our pioneer students in 2016 in Mt Hagen, Honiara and UOG. The second batch of IDFL students will graduate at the same locations this year. IDFL’s graduates will reach between two to three hundred students by this year.
Like all organism, IDFL has its share of challenges. One of the major challenges we are facing is funding of our IDFL programs. Constant funding is needed to maintain IDFL’s development momentum and sustain its growth trend. The other challenge is the need to increase the programs it needs to offer to the public. Until the schools in the University promptly offload programs to IDFL, this challenge will still remain.
We would like to consolidate our current development initiatives and also work with the schools to increase programs to be offered through the DFL. We will embark on the prospect of opening a campus in Vanuatu to provide opportunities for the Melanesian people of Vanuatu to access tertiary education from PNG.
Executive Director - Institute of Distance and Flexible Learning