The University of the South Pacific (USP) has launched Semester Zero, a one-of-a-kind initiative and a first-of-its-kind programme, for its provisional and potential first-year students to learn more about the University and get a "feel" of university life.

The initiative is the outcome of a collaboration between the Commonwealth of Learning Sponsorship (COL) and the USP's Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL), concretising the University's vision of an online orientation programme for its students. Commencing January 24, future USP students will have the opportunity to experience what tertiary education is like for the next six weeks.

In her welcome address, Director CFL, Dr Rajni Chand said in the past, Orientation programmes at USP used to be a flurry of activity on all of the University's campuses.

This year, according to Dr Chand, things may be a little different because students may not travel to the Laucala Campus for their studies.

"However, these obstacles should not prevent them from receiving the much-needed orientation, nurturing, and support. It should not prevent them from learning about the University and its learning and teaching environment, as well as its various campuses, services, and facilities, which is why Semester Zero was created," she said.

She explained that the COL-sponsored Moodle page would allow students to experience tertiary learning from the safety and comfort of their own homes while also providing remedial, confidence building, and familiarity with university study—an orientation experience that they may not get this year if the pandemic continues.

USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia stated it was an honour to see Semester Zero come to fruition enabling students to experience the unique university life.

"This programme is significantly different. We have created an online learning platform that will not only provide all of the necessary information about USP, but will also provide additional introductory literacy, numeracy, and digital skills through games, quizzes, notes, and study guides," he added.

"We must think creatively in order to ensure that our people are connected but also to provide meaningful transitions to all of our prospective students, regardless of their location. The past year has been turbulent, owing in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption that has resulted from it."

He thanked the entire team for their hard work and dedication.

Vice-President of COL, Dr Venkataraman Balaji, was proud of USP’s vision in ensuring that no student was left out especially in a stressful situation.

"We have a pandemic that is raging all over the place; we have the cyclone season, which is bad enough, and then we had this most unexpected event, the volcanic eruption in Tonga. As a result, we want to make certain that your voice is heard. We want to make certain that your priorities are understood and addressed. We want to make sure that your needs are met as soon as possible," he emphasised.

Dr Balaji went on to say they were delighted to collaborate with USP and looked forward to working more closely in the future.

Commonwealth of Learning Adviser: Technology Enabled Learning, Dr Nantha Kumar Subramaniam said it was an excellent and innovative approach in ensuring the learners received uninterrupted methods during this pandemic.

The Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Jito Vanualailai demonstrated the Semester Zero page.

It is a handy tool for potential students to learn ahead of time. It contains all of the necessary components and there are no longer any constraints for students,” Professor Vanualailai added.

Students from Fiji who have been offered provisional admission are invited to go to the Moodle page URL provided in their provisional offer letter, enrol in the free programme, and enjoy the next six weeks as they wait for USP to formally begin.

Students who have not yet submitted their provisional application may do so on the following link

Regional students with a confirmed offer letter are eligible to enrol in the programme.

The launch video can be accessed on the following link:

Source: USP Media