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UPLB profs share struggles of shifting to online learning

UPLB professors revealed that they are ‘struggling to adjust.’

In their first virtual national council meeting last August 12, 2020, the All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU) called for the UP administration to guarantee their constituents a safe and enabling learning environment. 

Karapatan [ang] mag-petisyon sa administrasyon na tiyakin o garantiyahan ang pagkakaroon ng ligtas at mapagkalingang kalagayan sa paggawa at pag-aaral ngayong panahon ng pandemya. Tungkulin at pananagutan ito ng pamantasan sa lahat ng REPS, guro, administrative staff at mag-aaral,” the AUPAEU said in a facebook post.

They also appealed for a comprehensive and long-term plan for the UP community that would help the system adjust to the new academic year.

Work-from-home setup

With schools in the Philippines set to physically reopen only at the discovery of a vaccine COVID-19 vaccine, school administrations have eyed to push through education via remote or online learning.

Despite this, lack of funding and digital access, among others, posed a huge challenge, with many households having no access to the Internet or a computer essential, both imperative for remote learning. Teachers likewise worry that they might not be ready to execute the new learning method when time comes.

Instructor I Jethro Pugal of the Department of Humanities (DHum) shared his sentiments regarding this. He emphasized the many adjustments brought about by the work-from-home setup, from preparing learning materials to having a conducive workplace.

“Struggling to adjust, tulad ng marami sa’tin. Relatively swerte dahil may trabaho pa, pero malaki ang effect ng WFH (work-from-home setup), lalo sa pag-blur ng line between work and home. Hindi lahat may maayos na space sa bahay para mag-serve as office,“ Pugal said.

Pugal added that the difficulty on copyright and distribution of learning materials to students.

“Isa din sa pinakamalaki naming problem ay copyright at distribution ng academic materials for students. Wala kaming access sa physical library ng Elbi dahil nga nasa bahay, and it’s not as if may remote services ang [photocopying centers] na inaasahan natin before para makatulong sa distribution.”

Meanwhile, a faculty member of the Department of Social Sciences (DSS), who requested to not be named, shared that faculties are constantly attending webinars and workshops related to online learning to cater possible scenarios of the new environment. The said department was said to have been trying to hire more teachers for probable demands in General Education (GE) subjects.

Hindi rin mawawala ang concern sa equipment and connectivity, though the university is offering laptop loans. Trying to adapt pa rin, especially that we are also conducting researches or writing for publications, doing extension services which are also online na, and a lot of us are taking up our graduate classes,” he said.

DHum Instructor IV Jaime Rafael Ledesma stressed how the coming remote learning style of instruction feels uncomfortable, disadvantageous and less interactive yet has to be considered due to the danger brought by the virus.

“Hindi angkop ang maraming kurso sa ganitong set-up. Iba pa din ang face-to-face na klase in terms of classroom interaction at maraming mga estudyante at maging mga guro din na walang stable internet connection sa tahanan. Kapag nasa tahanan ka, marami ding ibang bagay na pumupukaw ng atensyon mo maliban sa trabaho o pag-aaral.”

On course packs

Last June 19, the UPLB administration announced the need for the development of ‘course packs’ to be done by faculty members. These course packs, consisting of all necessary activities, exercises and discussions, are said to be delivered to financially-challenged students  unable to attend synchronous discussions. By these, students will still have a hold of the general discussion related to the course subject enrolled.

With the faculty getting to know the hows of developing one, difficulties arise.

Pugal said on this matter, “Grabe ang effort ng teachers na may kasanayan dito para lang ituro siya sa amin na wala. Sinisikap namin tapusin yung course packs on time, pero mahirap pagkasyahin ang oras at resources na meron ka.”

AUPAEU, with regards to developing course packs, said that most of the faculties meet almost the same problem.

To aid them, UP faculty members from different constituent universities and disciplines, spearheaded by the Office of the Faculty Regent held an online consultation on course pack preparation this coming Monday, Aug 24 via Zoom.

On salary pay

Due to the work-from-home setup, faculties also experienced issues regarding the processing of necessary paperwork to earn wages. However, most of the faculty staff said that the admin has been financially-supportive to the academic employees and that additional financial assistance due to the pandemic has been provided.

Non-tenured faculties, on the other hand, experienced most of the delay due to the limited manpower in the admin needed for their paperworks to be processed, which were in-line with the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs’ (OVPAA) Joint Memorandum No. 2020-01. Academic employees who are up for renewal of appointments also experienced the same struggle.

Nakakatanggap naman sa dapat. May ilan lang na naging affected dahil sa delays sa paperwork. Yung delays naman, partly din dahil sa pagbalik to MECQ ng Laguna nitong nakaraan.” Pugal said.

Moreover, the AUPAEU – LB believed that the difficulty in establishing communication with the offices in the university was due to the pandemic.

May mga pagkakataon na kailangang tumawag pero walang contact na provided maliban sa telepono. Hindi naman lahat ng households ay mayroon nito.”

The union already called the office regarding this, and have said that the office is already taking action. 

The new normal of learning

AUPAEU-LB, as a labor union addressing the issues affecting academic employees in UP, said that they will continue to call for an ideal working and learning space in the university for its directly-affected constituents.

Mas mahabang preparasyon pa para sa pagsisimula ng klase. I-equip ang mga teacher at kawani ng sapat na skills at infrastructures. Palakasin ang serbisyong pangkalusugan at buksan ang kampus para sa ligtas na pagpapahayag ng kalagayan ng ating lipunan,” the union said. 

Meanwhile, students of the UP community assert that the majority are not confident enough to pursue a remote learning system, acknowledging that some will be left behind. Based on surveys distributed across the UP system, at least 5,600 students are expected to not be able to keep up with remote learning excluding those who were unable to answer due to location and connection issues. 
Together with the UP Office of the Student Regent, the UP community launched a petition calling to postpone classes this coming semester scheduled on September 10. [P]

Photo by Omar Havana via CNN Philippines

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