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Gearing up for Online Education

By: Marianne Lois M. Boncolmo and Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

Mapúa University has been incorporating online learning tools to students for a while now to satisfy the learning objectives of each course both offsite and within the campus. However, the shift to a fully online mode of education, thanks to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic meant that the University has to lean more on said tools – whether open-sourced or licensed – for both synchronous and asynchronous meetings. 

When asked about the importance of remotely continuing learning despite these unfortunate times, Engr. Mary Christine A. Tomas, Director of Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) – Digital, shared that both students and faculty can still maximize the technologies available and move forward with the regular course content, however challenging.  

CTL carefully handles the catalogue of applications to use, promote, and offer to students and faculty to benefit the entire Mapúan community. Before buying full licenses and signing contracts, they first try out these tools to note individual features, strengths, and limitations. They also ask for the deans’ opinions on certain products, as well as suggestions for alternatives and other relevant software for their respective departments. 

Engr. Tomas hopes to promote the use of these online learning tools to the students by approaching the faculty members first. “Present it to the teacher, make them appreciate it, and then from there, they use it and [when]  they want to use it in their class, it would be easy for us to make the students use that as well,” she said.

As of now, with the help of CTL’s strict selection, the University’s educational artillery is comprised of online meeting applications, supplementary programs and simulators for laboratory activities, and digital resources – all necessary for gearing up for online education amid the ongoing pandemic.

For online meetings

One of the primary differences between face-to-face and online classes is that the former entails the physical presence of the instructor and students. On the other hand, there is physical separation among people in the latter, but various platforms bridge the gap and allow learners and educators to communicate at the comfort of their homes. 

Mapúa mainly uses Cardinal Edge, a learning management system (LSM) powered by Blackboard, as its main online platform. Within it lies Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, which is used for conducting classes that can be recorded and uploaded to Panopto – an online video platform. This enables students who missed certain sessions to catch up, or in preparation for exams. Cardinal Edge also allows instructors to manage course content, carry out course activities, and disseminate announcements as part of asynchronous learning.    

Zoom and Microsoft Teams are used as well for live meetings. Teams provides a more professional approach to educational communication and syncs with all other Office 365 tools (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, and OneDrive) of the student users via Cardinal Mail accounts. It also boasts a more robust messaging system, especially for group chats, compared to Blackboard. 

For laboratory sessions, PE, and NSTP classes

Since laboratories are unavailable for use, certain departments tap onto software and simulators for students to satisfy laboratory outcomes at home. 

The use of MATLAB, a programming language by MathWorks, is used in tackling mathematical problems. Meanwhile, LTSpice, Proteus Professional, Logisim, and Multisim are mainly used as simulators for experiments by the School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering (EECE). For programming and computer-related exercises, GitHub, Jupyter Notebook, Visual Studio, Virtual Box, and Dev-C++ are utilized.

Designs and drafts are created through software offered by Autodesk, while Primavera is used for project management. Adobe applications are heavily utilized in media-related programs.    

Whereas for Physical Education (PE) classes, students are required to follow the exercise routines given and upload their video output on YouTube, while National Service Training Program (NSTP) classes are conducted through the different features on Cardinal Edge.

For boosting learning

Aside from the tools and applications used for specific activities during online learning, additional electronic references under the Mapúa E-Text Infinity Solution (METIS) are also present. METIS allows access to thousands of e-books on VitalSource Bridge Bookshelf, and is often used together with Wiley and Cengage resources that are usually made available in math and science-related courses.

Other resource libraries and databases, such as EBSCO eBooks, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Institution of Engineering and Technology Digital Library, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Xplore, and ScienceDirect can be accessed through the Mapúa Library’s website.

According to Engr. Ericson D. Dimaunahan, Director of CTL – Outcomes-Based Education, the mobility and accessibility of these tools are huge advantages. As such, he encourages the faculty members and students to take advantage of these online learning resources.  

He also emphasized that creativity of the instructors on the delivery of classes and the utilization of these resources are also important to continue quality education. “Right now, it boils down again on continuing the delivery of quality education to the students and making sure that students will be safe since they stay at home while also delivering the classes,” he added.

Learning remotely is arguably more difficult compared to onsite learning, but these tools and resources enable professors and students to continue the learning process. Choosing, investing, and providing access to these are the University’s way of staying true to its promise of providing quality education – while at the same time keeping everyone safe from COVID-19.

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