COVID-19 Watch News

‘Not aligned with student concerns’: UPLB admin to push remote learning in September

How the Sanchez administration will implement such mode of learning still remains unclear.

By Lora Noreen Domingo and Reuben Pio Martinez

Summaries by Mark Ernest Famatigan

Several contentions were raised by concerned students and university-wide and college student councils, such as issues on inclusivity of remote and blended learning, capacity of the university meet the student demands, and special cases like readmission concerns, in the UPLB town hall meeting with the UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA).

In remote learning, students would either use synchronous (work within an allotted time table) or asynchronous (work in one’s own pace) modes of education. On the other hand, blended learning, students would have to attend online classes and less frequently physical sessions. Both modes could feature online (social media platforms or email) and offline (modules) means of teaching.

On the open forum, Sieg Severino of the College of Economics and Management Student Council (CEMSC) stated that while the students recognize the effort of the administration, a lot of the academic plans were clearly not aligned with the concerns of the students, reiterating that majority of students have said that they are not ready for remote learning.

Jainno Bongon of the University Student Council (USC) cited several surveys and consultations conducted by the USC, saying that the resolution is not to proceed with classes as long as there is no mass testing in the country.

It is known that Vice President for Academic Affairs’ Cynthia Rose Bautista announced in the town hall meeting via Zoom the admin’s plans to begin the first semester via remote learning on September 10, with the semester ending on December 17. Additionally, modified semesters would last 14-16 weeks, while midyear courses would last 4-7 weeks.

Bautista issued a memorandum expressing the admin’s intent to proceed the upcoming first and the succeeding semesters through remote learning and blended learning. According to Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Richard Gonzalo, blended learning would only be implemented once the situation improves.

Responding to Bongon’s concern, Bautista said that under remote learning, students would remain at home. “Even if it’s difficult for learning to continue, it is our duty to continue.”

Tanya Gasacao from the College of Engineering and Agro-industrial Technology Student Council (CEATSC) also raised some students’ appeal for an academic freeze, citing a survey that 602 students answered, where 57% answered that they would like to freeze the semester.

“Those who had internet access answered to freeze the semester to empathize with the students who could not access,” Gasacao stated.

When asked by Nico Rastrullo of USC why the admin prioritized having classes instead of an academic freeze, Bautista explained that it is difficult to justify each adjustment they are making to their academic plans to the Board of Regents (BOR).

“Mahihirapan po tayo magsabi ng magfe-freeze ang UP at ang buong gobyerno ay hindi magfe-freeze. Sinabi ko na nahihirapan ako i-justify ang isang simpleng bagay lang. Sa BOR mismo kailangan ko mismo i-explain kung bakit kailangan Setyembre ang pasukan,” Bautista said. “Let us think through that scenario and what the implications of that scenario would be, and maybe we might have to explain why certain scenarios were chosen. I cannot give an answer now. The academic freeze was not thought about.”

Amid the concerns raised about the student body’s unpreparedness for remote learning, Bautista insisted that come pre-registration, the admin themselves will assess the preparedness of the students for remote classes. Departments will also be talking about how classes for major subjects will be conducted.

“The UP system is concerned with the fulfillment of having no student left behind. We will know exactly how it should be after the pre-registration.” Bautista assured the students.

Gasacao asserted that student consultation should have happened in the early stage of planning.

‘Counterproductive,’ ‘token consultation’ 

Charm Maranan, the spokesperson of the National Union of Students in the Philippines Southern Tagalog (NUSP-ST), remarked that the consultation is just a “token” to the students of the UPLB community who requested for a dialogue.

“This consultation seems to be a token consultation because the UP admin is already dead set in having remote learning for A.Y. 2020-2021,” Maranan said. 

The counter productivity of remote learning is also a concern of students. Andrea, a UPLB student, stated that some students might be working or helping their families in the pandemic.

Gonzalo stated that the admin had considered the issues that may arise under a self-paced learning program, such as the socioeconomic instances that would affect learning, and ensuring the rights and freedom of students.

Gonzalo said that the home may not always be a conducive learning environment. “Some students may be in danger at home. We are currently working on means for students to find conducive places for learning.”

In addition, Bautista also suggested coordinating with the LGUs to allow the use of certain spaces where students can work.

When asked about opening the dorms for student use so students could accomplish laboratory experiments on campus, Bautista suggested that the units be moved to the next semester, when the campus is expected to implement blended learning. There would also be programs for faculty members to create virtual laboratories, and workshops to learn more about basic education.

Moreover, Gonzalo said that there will be college-based consultation sessions in the future, so that resolutions that are specific to the needs of every college will be made. This includes adjustments to the course guides and the subjects that students are advised to take under remote learning.

“It is important to hear concerns of the students by college, gather concerns per college so that the resolutions are specific to the needs of every college,” said Gonzalo.

Maranan called on the admin to hold themselves accountable and to have compassion for the students.

“I hope UP will be accountable, otherwise this will be a circus of events. At the end of the day, I know we all want to have quality and accessible education. I’m also speaking for our faculty; even they have limited resources. Sana sa dulo manaig sa atin ang pag-intindi at compassion sa ating mga estudyante.” Maranan said.

Angelo Aurigue of USC also called on the admin to mass approve all appeals for MRR and readmission. In addition to the adverse effects of the lockdown on the students’ mental health, he also brought up the violence experienced by the community in the form of death threats and red tagging, and the lack of action from the admin.

On the needs of the students and faculty

Gonzalo elaborated on the issues that could plague students, including mental health and socioeconomic factors. He also discussed how an increasing digital divide could hinder learners from attaining an ideal form of education, adding that self-paced learning can be monotonous and could lead to incomplete requirements.

According to Gonzalo, in addition to awards and scholarships, which would be modified to cater the needs of the students. 
The first is the Learning Assistance Grants, where students would be helped by the university to gain access to gadgets in stable Internet connection. The second is the Peer Learning Groups and Networks, where students would be involved in peer tutoring through remote learning. The third, the Student Wellness System and Services, would cater to mental health needs. The last, Student Helpdesk and Guidance, would be for students in need of psychological and legal assistance.

Funds for learning devices and subsidies for faculty to purchase gadgets would also be made available, and other platforms would also be sought for students and faculty members to use. One of which is OpenAthens, which has been used by UP Open University before.

Gonzalo explained the admin’s implementation plan, wherein in June 2020, all proposals would be assessed and evaluated. In the following month, there would be the designing and the implementation of the systems, with the consultations of IT experts. [P]

6 comments on “‘Not aligned with student concerns’: UPLB admin to push remote learning in September

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