Introduction: Decentralized support system
With the shift towards a blended learning/asynchronous delivery mode in the distance programme of the University of the West Indies, the existing learner support system can no longer meet the needs of learners who must now do a large part of their study online. A key component of the old system is the network of local sites/centres that have performed functions consistent with the conventional distance delivery mode. With the onset of online tutoring, many of these site-based functions are either difficult to perform or no longer apply. Some may argue that, given the web-based management tools that are now available, a decentralized organizational structure may no longer be necessary. While in theory this may be so, current evidence does not completely support this option for the UWI distance student. This paper will therefore examine the factors that seem to suggest a need to retain a visible people-based learner support structure at the local level, at least in the medium term. On the basis of that examination, the paper will make proposals for a revised localized student support system.