With a bowl of steamy pancit canton, I dutifully fixed my eyes to the rectangular glowing device housing the presentation currently displayed on the screen. All the while, the device looped outside the shell of my ears delivered an enthusiastic voice in sync to the slide on display. The gears inside my brain were continuously twisting and turning, trying to keep up with the lessons they were currently following.
Hours went by, and I realized I’ve written messy scribbles too many, and produced calculations on coffee-stained sheets. Still, I have hours left to go before all of my virtual classes end; and the soft lull of the electric fan beside me would have to keep me company.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world and life as we know it, the routine of students like me ceased to be normal. With quarantines in effect, classes in all year levels were called off. In their place, online classes were launched and since then, students and teachers alike had to shift their perspective and had to learn how to swim in untested waters—quite immediately.
As the university steered towards this new course, viewed to be drastically different from the typical face-to-face classes, the newly implemented online learning did have its own gains. For one, students and teachers alike could considerably save money from the regular fare expenses; the money from which can be used to buy necessities instead. Time, too, is no longer as restricted as per normal classes, allowing the participants to resolve and organize their schedule for themselves.
Waging internal battles
Before becoming an online student, however, a learner is either a daughter, son, and or a sibling first. He or she is equally responsible for performing duties at home, at the same time managing his or her studies on his or her own pace. With the current situation, it cannot be helped if the two different roles overlap or are switched very quickly.
When asked how the overlapping and or switching of roles has affected her studies, incoming third year BS – Accountancy student, Perry Cruda, explained that the length of time it takes her to view a recorded session is longer than the length of the video itself.
“Ang mga 1 hour na discussion sa replay kay mahuman nako mga 1 day kay pirmi rako ma-distract kay suguon ko or tawagon ko,” she exclaimed.
With this in mind, the students can’t help but be both – a student and a family member; one whose chores could intersect with virtual classes. Learners like me could very well attend their classes in the comfort of our own homes, but we are not fully exempted from the chores specifically or spontaneously assigned. Because while classes may be ongoing, the fact that some students have to cook rice for dinner or tend to their siblings is a reality that can’t simply be put aside.
In addition, not all students have a nook exclusive for themselves. Some might be fortunate and comfortable enough while taking their online education, but others might not be so. I, for one, am lucky to be left undisturbed when taking my classes. But could I say the same for my fellow students? Probably not. Studded with frail internet connection, makeshift learning spaces, and the inevitable noise, these do not exactly make the home conducive for learning.
Learning adjustment for students
Affected by the current implementation of virtual classes, Julie Engbino, an incoming third year BS-Accountancy student from Pantukan, Davao del Norte, describes her experience to be significantly different from the face-to-face classes. While she initially considered online classes to be advantageous because she need not travel to Davao City to attend her classes, her current online education has considerably affected her studies.
“Lisod siya na naga yawyaw lang ang teacher tapos naga discuss siya’g solution. Lahi rajud siya if kanang makita nimo sa board ang solution gud. Although gina flash man sa screens namo ang solution kay gina picturan man sa teachers ang solution nila, lahi rajud ang pagsulat sa board, kanang habang on going ang pagsolve kay naga solve pud ka, dili kay kanang nakita na nimo ang end answer,” she explained.
Further, in this type of system where students would have to study by themselves, self-discipline is tested and formed.
“Need jud ug self-discipline sa online classes because ikaw man gud magbuot. Wala nag require ang teachers na mag attend sa video conferencing, dili maka impose ang teacher na kailangan jud mag submit ang students sa requirements kay wala man siyay bearing sa final grade, ang formative assessments dili pud recorded, so it’s all up to you kung himuon nimo and if tarungon nimo imong output,” Engbino added.
Online pedagogy barriers
As the start of the summer classes was fast approaching, learning materials were gradually posted on different online platforms and test runs were initiated to gauge the quality of online lectures. Despite these preparations, Dr. Belinda S. Villegas, CPA, CrFA, who is currently teaching Governance, Ethics, Risk Management and Internal Control under the Accountancy program this summer, believes that online teaching is still proving to be rather tough and challenging.
“It’s really different especially that during the presentation all of you though present are mute and I can’t see your faces,” she expressed.
“As a teacher, I am a believer in personalized education where the students are the center of learning. Yes, I do love to interact with my students – to see them eye to eye, watch their facial expressions and reactions, and to encourage their participation. But this time I just had to believe that although this may not be possible because of the ‘new normal’ the students continue to desire and want to learn, that is, the learner desires to gain knowledge, not because they have paid for it,” she added.
The manner of preparing and utilizing innovative online-learning instructional materials is also being put to the test. In Dr. Villegas’s case, encouraging participation among her students was the most viable approach in order to produce optimal learning outcomes.
“…Before the start of the lecture proper, I ask a volunteer from some team to share their output to the rest of the class. Moreover, if you noticed I also call some students to read or explain some concepts or sections of the slides to be more interactive. Although remote learning is not the ideal one, yet, if the student are properly guided, empowered and motivated, they can ‘think out of the box’…,” she said.
“Indeed, am impressed and amazed [with] the team’s output—an epitome that true learning goes beyond the classroom setting.”
Experiences about the currently implemented online classes are undeniably diverse. May it be positive or a negative one, all have amassed to one truth: online classes, being a luxury not everyone can afford, cannot be expected to run smoothly and flawlessly, especially during the early stages.
This urgency to pave the path towards online learning has made the road crooked for some students who, given their current situation, don’t have the monetary and material means to build and establish an ideal learning environment.
At the end of the day, it would not be fair to claim that online learning is entirely hassle-free because, even with some technical assistance, students also have to struggle with separating their lives at home and in school. Unfortunately, in most cases, these two worlds are starkly different from one another.
Given that not every student comes from an affluent family that is able to cater to their needs and not everyone is fortunate enough to be left undisturbed in the midst of their classes, some students find themselves helpless in the face of a great desire to continue education in the midst of a disruptive pandemic.