The educational set up in all levels (primary, secondary, tertiary) was mostly conducted through the classroom set up where teachers and students came together. The majority of the learning happened within the four walls of the classroom: teachers did their lectures and knowledge sharing, and students listened and interacted with their teachers and classmates. There were out-of-classroom activities and assignments given by teachers to students, but invariably – most things were centered in the classroom – the focal point of the educational process.
By just one stroke of an event – the COVID pandemic, this particular set up has become inapplicable – at least for the time being. Because students are not allowed to go out of their homes during the quarantine, all of them cannot go through the classroom experience they have been so used to. In the Philippines, classes normally start in June of every year. It has now been pushed back to start in October to give the educational system time to adjust and adopt their teaching modalities where the classroom is not part of the equation. And that is indeed a daunting challenge no one foresaw happening.
The concept of distance education or distance learning has been around for a while. It basically consisted of students who are not physically present in the classroom and are usually involved in correspondence courses. Before the advent, wide reach, and acceptance of the Web, most of the printed learning materials were sent to the offsite students for them to study, mostly in a self-guided or self-directed setup. It was more applicable to older and mature students. They can muster the discipline of going through the learning materials on their own without the direct presence and guidance of teachers.
With the advent of the Web and the internet, distance learning has evolved to online learning. This modality now makes use of the various internet resources and media as well as learning management systems specifically built to support the learning process. It is more flexible, adaptable, and effective than the original distance learning set up since students, wherever they are, can participate in the learning process as long as they have internet access.
For the longest time, however, school systems did not embrace online learning openly for various reasons. People are creatures of habit. The classroom has always been there for teachers and students to use, so why go into unchartered territory? Besides, there has always been an argument about why the traditional classroom is more effective than online classrooms. There was also the practical problem of internet access, which in our neck of the woods is still a significant issue as well ownership of gadgets – desktop, laptop, tablets, and cell phones, to allow learners to participate in an online learning set up.
But given the limitations that the school system is facing right now during the quarantine, there is no choice but to adapt and embrace the online learning modality so the students can continue to be engaged in the learning process through school systems. There is such a very short learning curve for government regulators, administrators, teachers, other school personnel, parents and student to latch on into the system. As we adapt and practice, we evolve at the same time keeping in mind the things that will work and changing the things that will not.
Areas where internet connectivity, as well as the absence of electronic gadget ownership, may find it hard to have fully online classes. The schools will most likely make use of self-guided materials for students. There have been discussions on how to tap the medium of television and radio to deliver instruction, which is a doable idea.
The educational system right now needs assistance from all sectors to address gaps in resources – particularly electronic gadgets and web-based resources. The process and business of learning are much too important to leave to the current stakeholders.
An African proverb said that it takes a village to raise a child. That means the whole community should engage and interact with the children for the children to have a meaningful experience of learning and growth.
Dr. Berino is an Associate Professional Lecturer with the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. He can be reached at [email protected].
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.