Access to technology and the internet...
Availability of online resources...
Appropriate forms of communication and learning channels...
Assessment strategies on the new normal...
These are just some of the many challenges faced by both the students and administration as the academic year 2020 - 2021 officially opened on August 24, 2020.
Like the rest of the nation, and probably similar to many countries in the world, this academic year is unlike any other. For this school year, the country’s educational institutions are forced to do an abrupt and massive mass migration towards digitalized instructions.
The reason? A microscopic organism, ten times smaller than a single grain of sand, demanded that we do so.
In fairness to the virus, it had been years, decades even, when the move to online learning started. But COVID-19 made happen in a few months a task that we are doing for years now.
That’s actually a feat. A testament on what we can accomplish when we are given a compelling reason to work together to achieve a common goal.
The advantage of the current set-up doesn’t end there. Since the massive move to digital learning and the huge percentage drop on the use of mass transportation, the Earth had now “room to breathe” and had started to “heal” because of the huge depletion of CO2.
Companies that adopted the skeletal work system and work from home scheme began to realize the viability of the practice. And the people, in general, had what they wanted the most - more time.
As lovely as these advantages though, the economic havoc brought about by this pandemic is something we should take serious lessons from.
Even the educational system was not exempted from the struggle.
However, understanding the mandate that we have a responsibility to produce a literate generation and make the best out of what is given to us, schools started to shift online and made plans on how to continue the academic instruction in the new normal.
There was very little time for preparation though, and the resources to do this enormous task was so meager, the mass migration to digital instruction was a desperate scramble that even until now, teachers and students are still struggling to adjust.
NONESCOST and its students are not exempted from this huge disadvantage.
This leads us to these important questions…
How are the College and its students faring on this new academic challenge?
Can we ever sustain, if not improve, the quality of education we are delivering using online, modular, or hybrid media?
What are the measures being implemented to ensure that the students and teachers, the main players in this scheme, have the support and resources they need for instruction?
This article explores the answers to those questions and more.
UNDERSTANDING THE ACADEMIC PROCESS
In a sit-down interview with the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Dr. Samson Lausa, he detailed how the College had prepared for the start of the virtual opening of classes for SY 2020 - 2021.
“Months before we officially opened, we conducted a profiling survey amongst our students asking them what kind of flexible learning modalities do they want to avail, “ Dr. Lausa explained.
“From there, we had identified 3 modalities: modular, pure, and the blended/ hybrid (combination of both) medium of instruction.
Aside from that, the class advisers also conducted profiling of the learning preferences of their students. This is to make sure that we got the data correctly and our survey reaches as many number of students possible.
The data we had gathered on the surveys were used as a benchmark for our Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) for school year 2020 - 2021.
We made sure that the LCP also is partial to the safety of the faculty so we also embrace alternative work arrangement measures according to the local IATF guidelines.
For the modules, nagpa profile pa gid ta if they want printed or soft copy along with the distribution and retrieval preferences.
We also updated the course syllabi, particularly the TLAs (Teaching and Learning Activities) in the new normal.
All these and more are the steps we have taken to ensure that the College, along with its faculty and students, will continue to move forward and do its job of educating the Negrosanons despite the pandemic.
Our foundation for the creation and implementation of our new normal instructional policies has always been the data and feedback we had gathered from our students and teachers.
All our policies are also duly monitored and approved by the CHED.”
The Office of the Curriculum and Instructional Materials Development (CIMD) also released policies and guidelines to make sure that the teaching and learning plan for the first semester of the SY 2020 - 2021 is in pursuant to the current guidelines of the virtual opening.
“We made important additions to the syllabus,” explains Dr. Ma. Janet Geroso, LPT, CIMD Director.
“We made sure that the Teaching and Learning Activities (TLAs) and forms of assessment jibe with the learning mode done at home, whether that’s online, offline, or a combination of both.
We also required status reports from the Deans. These reports were about the percentages of students they have reached out and were distributed modules as the classes start. We expect them to reach out 100% of the students per class.
We also tasked them to take note of the challenges the students face on this new normal scheme especially the factors that facilitated in and, or hindered them from participating in online classes - if there are any.
The only thing that remains though is the grading system. What changed is the way we conduct our lessons, our activities, the frequency of meeting with our students, the deliverables, and the ways to assess students’ learning.
Honestly, our biggest challenge right now is to make sure that the students are learning from the modules. To me, what is important is that students develop independent learning, so they can learn on their own, but to have an assurance that they can demonstrate the competencies expected of them, I always practice rationalization after a lesson in the module is done.
My take is that this is the perfect time to believe in our students; trust our students. Trust that they will be honest in their work. Trust that they are doing the hard work, the heavy lifting in learning their lessons because eventually if they take things for granted they would be the ones to suffer in the end because they didn’t learn anything.
We are also doing our best on the distribution and retrieval of modules. We are currently coordinating with the City Governments with regards to the distribution and retrieval of the same.
Despite these efforts, the implementation is still not a walk in the park - for both the administration and the students.
“Our struggles are pretty much the same to the struggles of everyone else taking part in this virtual academic year,” shares Dr. Alberto Silva, Dean of the College of Fisheries.
We struggle with implementing the new guidelines for teaching and learning for our faculty and students given the challenges of time, distance, and accessibility to a proper communication channel.
Our students struggle with their lessons because a number of them do not have gadgets that allow them to access modules, lessons, and other resources easily.
This pandemic also added to the economic burden on the families of our students who belong to the working class. Because of the restrictions implemented in every city, their livelihood was affected which also hindered their ability to provide for their children’s educational needs.”
This insight is seconded by Philamer Pedrina, Head, AB English Language Studies Program. According to him “this pandemic made many schools and HEIs rethink the way they teach and interact with students. New perspectives regarding a change in the face-to-face activities, social isolation, and reformulation of activities result in a transition towards alternative learning. Being a department head of the program, I was challenged by the implementation of the academic year among faculty members and students.
Internet connection is one of the biggest challenges that we are experiencing in the delivery of the lessons since most of the students do not have consistent and reliable access to it. This results to the digital divide.
Another challenge is the students’ participation and interest in the class. Since we are implementing flexible learning, students’ workload is larger than that of regular classes.
Teachers also need to have a paradigm shift in this new scenario. Teachers need to improve their knowledge, competency, change of attitude particularly with the use of technology.
NONESCOST is hard at work finding a solution to keep learning alive and continue the delivery of quality education. Everyone is struggling, yes, but education must continue.”
THE FACULTY ARE NOT SPARED….
Carrying the brunt of adjustment is the institution’s faculty, who not only have to overhaul their syllabus and subject materials but they also need to figure out how to deliver their instruction via the internet.
Among the faculty, a number admits that they are not “techy” enough to maximize the use of tools and softwares for digital instruction, which is an additional struggle in the current set up. Just like Inst. Arlene Esmena of the College of Education. She calls the current new normal as
“...abnormal, because we are doing things that we are not used to doing at normal times. I know and I understand that it’s for the protection of everyone. But when it comes to the use of technology, it’s uncomfortable for me because I’m not adept in using it. But I have no choice.
There was a time when I did a video chat with my students, the connection always loads and our voices become choppy. I ended my video chat immediately. I connect with my students mostly via messenger now because it’s the easiest and fastest way for me to give instruction. But of course, we couldn’t talk synchronously even in there. Others have good internet reception while others need to go to certain places in their area to find a good internet connection.
I can and will endure this setup. But it’s still different when we meet students face to face, personally.”
And just as we think that the faculty who has good internet at home may have a good time in this new normal work scheme - we were proven wrong. Inst. Edsel Oplas of the College of Criminology gives his thoughts about this misconception:
“...I have a wired internet connection at home but sometimes it’s still fluctuating probably because a lot of people are using it. It makes me think, if I struggle despite the fact that I have a wired internet connection, I can only imagine the situation of the people who rely on phone data.”
WE PLOUGH THROUGH
Despite these reports though, Dr. Renante A. Egcas, President of NONESCOST, explains why the College opened its school year despite calls from other stakeholders to delay the opening of the academic year until the virus is vanquished.
“The opening of classes in SUCs, like NONESCOST, follows certain directives from the CHED as the oversight agency. While every HEI is given the discretion to delay its opening based on readiness, it must not go beyond what is provided in the law (last week of August).”
Jason James Bibangco, a third-year College student taking up BS Criminology shares his experiences in the new normal academic year…
“This ‘new normal’ mode of learning... brought struggles in my family’s finances. As a student, the internet connection, as well as time management, is a big challenge. Time management because even if we’re at home, it doesn’t mean that we can dedicate all the time in the day to online classes because we still have household chores and other responsibilities to fulfill.”
Marielle Martin, a third-year BSIT student also feels the same way
“There’s a bunch of struggles I’m facing in the new mode of instructions. First, I don’t have the right tools to cope with online classes. Second, we can’t afford and don’t have a good internet connection - which is the most important thing if you’re a student right now. Lastly, I’m not used to this mode of learning which makes it even harder for me to learn and absorb knowledge.”
To say that this situation has severely disrupted the normal flow of situation from the main players of this set-up - the students. They are the ones who are really struggling.
...BUT MANY OF THEM STILL REMAINS POSITIVE
“It’s really difficult,” says Jemina Ann Villanueva, a third year BSBA student taking Finance. “Not all students have access to the internet and some cannot afford to buy load all the time. But for the sake of continuous learning and education, with the support of our parents, I can say we are doing our best to adjust on this new normal mode of instruction and is prepared to embrace the possibilities to come.
I believe even in the midst of the pandemic, Filipinos still value education. We still look for ways to sustain and support this mode of learning.”
Other students also appreciate the obvious advantage of the current set-up.
“My Mom says this mode is cheaper,” says Joelevie Gelardez of BSED English 3A. “I don’t have to spend money monthly paying for the boarding house and the amount of money I spend on cellphone load is cheaper compared to the amount of money I spend on transportation and other expenses in the traditional way of classes.”
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR US? FINAL THOUGHTS…
It’s been almost 9 months since the virus wreaked havoc in our country and at this point, everyone is already craving for the things to go back the way they were before - especially those involved in the educational sector.
The only way to make that fervent wish of ours come true though is if the virus dies out or a vaccine is created - whichever comes first.
But what if there will be no vaccine?
Or the virus just refuses to go away?
“Well,” answers Mr. Jayson dela Fuente, newly elected NONESCOST Faculty President, “this is our new normal now and we just have to get used to it.”
Which leads us to an answer to this question,
“Should we stop and wait until the virus dies out to resume academic activities?”
Quick and honest answer? No.
Because, as pointed out above, what if the virus never goes away?
We cannot allow a microorganism to curse a nation to illiteracy.
We cannot stop just because we are scared.
We are humans and we are wired that way.
Yes, things may be a struggle now. But like everything else, it’s only difficult at the start. We should take refuge in the fact that the people on the academe are doing their very best to make ends meet and provide the best solution to the teachers and the students.
It’s a struggle. But Filipinos are world-famous for being resilient.
We wouldn’t let a mere virus stop us from reaching our dreams…
Rvie Santillan. 9/25/2020
Tags: college news