August 15, 2020
by: Mary Joy Saludo
As of March 15, 2020, schools, malls, restaurants and other establishments all over the Philippines closed its doors because of the threat of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has infected thousands (over 269,000) of individuals all over the Philippines and millions (over 29,500,00) all over the world. While everyone remains quarantined indoors, establishments searched for ways to continue their businesses remotely. Fortunately enough, we live in the internet era where communications and transactions can be done online.
Just like that, educational establishments, especially those whose semesters have not ended yet such as AISAT (during its school year 2019-2020), have begun to make use of online learning systems. Asian International School of Aeronautics and Technology (AISAT) decided to use the LMS Schoology as some teachers and students are familiar with the site as they have used it previously in their face-to-face classes. It was difficult for many students to adjust considering their situations ranging from lack of stable internet, issues at home, inability to learn in a non-classroom setting, etc.
Since schools are closed down so abruptly, both teachers and students, were not really prepared for online learning. They all faced many problems with communications and deadlines. Thus, after S.Y. 2019-2020, AISAT and its staff prepared and thought ahead about how online learning would be better done. Instead of Schoology this summer and school year 2020-2021, AISAT opted for Google Classroom instead, a free LMS offered by Google.
They offered an online orientation from August 11 to 14 for students interested in enrolling this year. In the orientation, they explained their plans and online processes on the Google Platforms (such as Google Classroom, Docs, Hangouts, and Meet), and answered the students’ questions. They would also allow students to have their own AISAT Gmail where announcements, class invites, etc. would be sent. This and along with 5TB storage in their google drive, and discounts for Canva, Apple Music, Spotify, and Adobe. Also, organizations within the school such as the RevUp, Altitude, and the student council hold their meetings and activities online as well. Unfortunately, many clubs that may require physical meetups and activities have been inactive for now.
The enrollment process was to simply pay the enrollment fee of ₱5, 000 on the school bank account and fill out an enrollment form on Google Forms. For some physical requirements, such as new enrollees or incoming freshmen, they could submit it in an envelope to the school directly. However, there were several issues during enrollment. Many students, especially those who enrolled late, did not receive their own notice of enrollment or their new AISAT Gmail account details. Due to this influx of enrollees, they have not been able to complete or process the list of students for email issuance and class registration. This was an issue and panic for many because, at the time, we were already nearing August 15, 2020, which is when classes will officially start. Fortunately, the teachers were aware of the students who are not able to enroll or join the classes yet, and instead, most of them seemed to be doing little class orientations and introductions for each student especially the newer ones.
A few days to a week in, most of the students have already received their notices and account details, and classes could officially begin. It took a little adjustment for many students because Google Classroom’s interface and use were very different from Schoology. Despite the orientation, many were very lost using Google applications. Some teachers struggle with students submitting Word files instead of Doc links. They often use the wrong email as well, and many students were invited to their classes, and Hangout group chats late.
Online learning will definitely be a problem for many schools and students. Mike Luz, a former Department of Education (DepEd) undersecretary and the dean of the Center for Development Management stated that the Philippine curriculum tries to teach too much. The number of topics to be studied must be reduced to focus rather on the quality of the material. Students from many schools have a hard time coping with the number of tasks by themselves, and they are more likely to cram the materials and activities rather than master it. Shorter curriculums are said to be better. Teachers will also struggle with online learning as they have to keep adapting and finding alternatives to keep students engaged, and also prepare and maintain the quality of their materials. (Flores, 2020)
In AISAT, the proposed assignment of activities and their deadlines was a good idea. Teachers would upload all lessons (PDF or PPTs, and links to the classroom Meets) and the students would have the whole week to finish it all. Thus, the students would be free during the weekends. However, other than their struggle with Classroom’s interface, many students also struggled with the number of tasks assigned every week. Many students and parents complained.
It was later raised to the program heads that they would lessen the number of activities given in a week especially for JC and first-year students (who have a very packed schedule). It was mostly lessened for the minor subjects for the other year levels.
While malls, restaurants, and churches have already begun to reopen, it might not be the best idea to reopen schools. Malls and restaurants have restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus such as social distanced seats, tables, and lines along with age restrictions. Schools may also have had their temperature checks, alcohol stations, and mandatory facemasks but it is expected that many of the students, especially elementary and preschool, will struggle with maintaining social distancing and hygiene. It will only get more difficult to contain the virus from there.
For now, students and teachers must maintain their empathy and understanding for one another whether it would be a lack of stable internet, lack of money for tuitions, or the busyness of our homes to make education better for both. While AISAT may not be offering modular learning, enrolling this semester is not required. We all must do our best to overcome this pandemic even if it means school will be for a later date. We all hope for this to be over soon.