Only 20% of state universities, colleges ready for online

MANILA, Philippines — Only 20 percent of state universities and colleges (SUCs) are equipped to conduct online classes next school year, said Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) chair Prospero de Vera III.

In a radio interview on Monday, De Vera said CHEd would work double time over the next three months to train teachers, assist SUCs as they create learning management systems and look into the connectivity in schools, but conceded the work ahead would be “very challenging.”

“Our higher education institutions are not ready,” De Vera said. “Only 20 percent of SUCs have learning management systems that allow a shift to flexible learning, including online learning.”

CHEd has essentially abandoned the return to normalcy in colleges and universities should classes open as scheduled in August and instead focused on equipping schools to adjust to entirely new ways of teaching.

Until students can be vaccinated en masse against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), De Vera said flexible learning would be the new normal for the roughly 2.5 million students currently enrolled in higher education institutions.

He added, however, that this did not mean entirely online classes.

“Flexible learning doesn’t mean no more learning inside the university,” De Vera said. “[It] is a learning system where you adjust the learning process based on the pace of the students, the location of the students, the structure of the learning system.”

This meant a kind of hybrid structure where online classes would be supplemented with periodic in-person meetings, one-on-one consultations with faculty members and take-home readings.

In-person classes, however, will be radically different. Social distancing will need to be implemented, so class sizes would be reduced or students might attend classes in batches.

“You’ll have to decongest by creating other systems by which the students can continue learning outside the classroom. This is already being done,” De Vera said. “The challenge is we have to do it in a massive scale, that is the difficult problem we have.”

While the Department of Education grapples with when to open classes for the 28 million students in the K-12 system, CHEd has more space for adaptability. Its recommendation to the Interagency Task Force in charge of the COVID-19 response was a “rolling opening of classes.” INQ

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