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Mapúa to offer two learning delivery modes for A.Y. 2020-21

In preparation for both eventualities – the approval or disapproval of face-to-face classes – due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Mapúa University (MU) will be offering two learning delivery modes, fully online and blended learning, to all incoming and existing students for Academic Year 2020 - 2021.

Pursuing online education 

As the forerunner of digital education in the Philippines, the University shall continue to offer the fully online learning mode, officially termed as Digital Choice, for the current academic year. With this learning mode option, the learning engagement will be online and offline with synchronous and asynchronous sessions. The Cardinal EDGE, the University’s learning management system, will be the main learning platform but additional online resources will also be used to satisfy all learning objectives. 

Mapúa President and CEO Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea indicated that the features of a fully online mode include the integration of microcredentials, convenience, learning analytics, and e-learning materials and different databases such as Cengage and Wiley Plus as well as the possible subscription to Mc-Graw-Hill Education in the future. 

He added that there is a lot more to be done with the University’s online education. “We have the lead and that is what we plan to do, to maintain the lead, to deploy more and more technology, to deploy more and more expertise in continuously improving our online system, but we recognize also the distinct advantages of face-to-face [classes],” Dr. Vea stated.

As a response to the improvement of laboratory courses conducted online, schools and departments are also using various online practices to cope with the learning outcomes. The University is also planning to purchase more simulation software to address these needs.

Blending online and face-to-face classes

“That is why our preferred mode, and I said so in my letter to the community, is actually  [a] blended learning mode where you take the best of face-to-face, the best of online, bring them together and you’ll have a superior system of education,” Dr. Vea remarked on the offering of blended learning mode.

In the blended learning mode or flipped learning, students have a combination of face-to-face and online delivery of learning outcomes. As mentioned in Dr. Vea’s response to the Central Student Council’s concerns regarding this academic year, the ““16 days online / 5 days face-to-face” (16-5) alternating cycle for classes shall be observed” for the blended learning mode. 

In this mode, face-to-face classes will be utilized for learning sessions, teacher-guided practice, and projects, while the remaining learning outcomes will be accomplished online. Moreover, he also assured that the University is very flexible in the delivery of education.

During flipped classes, there will be a strict implementation of the health and safety protocols, such as social and physical distancing with shifting face-to-face schedules and reduced class size. Dr. Vea shared that they already have a checklist of the things needed to be done in order to ensure the safety of both faculty members and students during blended learning mode on both campuses while waiting for the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) regarding face-to-face classes.

Other concerns

As for school fees, the Mapúa President said that the laboratory and other fees have been discounted while the tuition itself would essentially remain the same between fully online and blended learning mode. 

“Tuition is actually payment for teaching, payment for the teachers. That is what tuition actually means. In this situation, our teachers will also be the one teaching online so what we pay them will be the same rate,” Dr. Vea added. 

Regardless, students who have chosen the Digital Choice can finish the quarter on a fully online learning mode. If they want to change to flipped learning, they may do so after one quarter if circumstances allow them to.

Adjusting to the new normal

In an effort to minimize further transmission of the virus amid the new normal, the University will be upholding stricter measures for the safety of the students and employees. With this, it is planning to adopt a one-way flow plan for hallways and usually crowded areas to control on-foot traffic on campus. Moreover, it will introduce modified classroom setups to limit the movement of the students in the hallways.

As for the modified classroom setup, a physical barrier between the faculty member and students will be arranged. The capacity of students present in one classroom would also be reduced to allow one to two meters distance between each student. With this, a combination of students under fully online mode and blended learning mode would also be possible under one section.  To cater to students who cannot join face-to-face classes, classrooms will be connected via teleconferencing or video conferencing so they can participate in the discussions held on campus. 

When adjusting to this new normal setup, the administration’s decision to test students and employees for COVID-19 is still under discussion. Dr. Vea emphasized that this is largely based on testing capacity but is possible to be randomized among the student body and faculty if ever it is implemented. 

Dr. Vea also discussed plans for mass gatherings, ceremonies, and seminars on campus, and emphasized that it will be put on hold as per strict government guidelines. “We will have to, at the very minimum, follow government guidelines but we can be stricter about it if we think it is necessary,” he noted.

According to the recent guidelines for the 1st Quarter of the current academic year, the implementation of the blended learning mode will depend on the regulation and guidelines of the Commission on Higher Education alongside national and local government policies. Last August 5 – close to the end of the previous term – following the government’s reimplementation of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in some areas of Mega Manila, the University suspended the holding of blended classes for the 1st Quarter. Whether that suspension gets lifted or not because of the recent transition to a General Community Quarantine (GCQ) remains to be seen. 

“What is of paramount importance to us is the health and safety of everyone, especially the students, so we will follow strictly the Department of Health and CHED protocols on COVID-19. And maybe, even exceed these protocols for sure safety.” Dr. Vea assured.

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