For a university that constantly brags about maintaining its place in university rankings, AdDU seems to be running behind as many schools and colleges in Davao City, even in the Philippines, have slowly reverted back into a face-to-face setting.
In a recent memorandum, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) stated that higher education institutions (HEIs) must deliver their programs through onsite or hybrid learning modalities for the second semester of the academic year 2022-2023. Fully online classes are now prohibited.
However, in the case of our university, although it allows the hybrid instruction through the Hybrid Implementation Strategy using a FLEXible modality (HISFlex), online modalities are still present (READ: AdDU pursues HISFlex, online modality amid CHED announcement). Up until this semester, the face-to-face classes still do not follow equal footing for all the programs, where some courses are still classified as blended and online. In fact, most courses are still pursuing a fully online set-up. Some students are only required to go to the campus to take their onsite examinations but still have their classes online, which will not only bruise the standard of learning, but also cause hassle to the students’ time and money whenever they have to travel to school.
Additionally, it was only three days before the start of the second semester that the Office of the Acadamic Vice President announced that they would retain the same system they enforced in the first semester of the academic year with no details on whether the maximum number of students allowed in the school will increase. While this step is an effort of ‘safe transition,’ it has already been overdue for the university to keep on pushing its hybrid modality when they are totally capable of pursuing full face-to-face classes.
The ‘safe transitioning’ era from online to face-to-face classes has already been accomplished and observed in the first semester, hence the common expectation is for the university to already pursue full face-to-face classes. In fact, school events (e.g., Fiesta 2022) have catered to hundreds of students in the school grounds successfully and even regularly. Those who have fully online classes even take their classes on campus and utilize the facilities of the campus.
Still, there is a benefit of the doubt for the university as the CHED directive was also released late considering AdDU’s school calendar. However, this situation still does not banish the calls for accountability and quality education of the students who only wish to bolster their education and acquire hands-on experience in the four corners of the classrooms. During the SAMAHAN Town Hall on HISFlex and Return to Campus Protocol last July, it was brought up during the open forum that the reviewing of the kind of set-up that the university has will be done every three years instead of per semester. Waiting for years before implementing changes despite the shift in circumstances happening rapidly will affect not just the performance of the university but also the learning curve of students. The university had all the time during the first semester and even semestral break to prepare for maximum capacity onsite classes but we were left with broad directives and uncertainty of experiencing the full extent of campus life.
The promise of a return to face-to-face classes has been given to the students since March, and yet a lot of Ateneans are still stuck in the online modality, with lessened interaction with their professors and classmates. While more and more courses are already entering “blended” methods in the second semester, the idea of online classes with onsite assessments do not qualify as a blended mode of learning since all discussions were done online. It is unfair on the part of the students when the type of learning they obtained does not match their assessments, especially that there is a clear disparity between the quality of onsite and online modalities. Lessons taught through online methods are not always easily applied to onsite settings.
The university needs to intensify their efforts in heeding to the calls of the students for face-to-face classes, considering that its current instruction strategy impels a trade-off in the students’ quality of learning. With the education crisis in the country, a top university must be in the leading-edge. They must be the first ones to call for urgency and respond to the ongoing education crisis worsened by the pandemic.
We are calling upon the administration to take a second look at this semester’s set-up and reassess on whether we can open more face-to-face classes for all courses, not just limited to onsite assessments but also classroom discussions and activities for all. The university is big enough to handle most students, and it is just to open more classrooms for everyone to use for their classes. Soon, we look forward to a campus filled with more students and a campus life that consists of more person-to-person interaction and less exposure to the screen.