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RECAP: Changes in the Mapúan system amidst the pandemic

Article by: Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo, Goven M. Barrera, and Cariza Joyce G. Lidasan

Graphics by: Clark Vincent P. Constantino

In response to the drastic global impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Mapúa University (MU) has implemented changes in its education system such as the modification of learning modes, delivery of courses, as well as new policies regarding the Dean’s List, President’s List, and academic scholarship over the past year. Other changes included stricter guidelines on academic integrity and the proposal of new fees for the next academic year.

Shift to fully online learning

In accordance with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s announcement on March 9, 2020 to mitigate the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the University initially suspended face-to-face classes from March 10 to 14 then to March 22. MU then decided to conduct all classes online until the end of the third quarter for college and until April 30 for senior high school students, following the month-long suspension of classes in Metro Manila until April 12.

With the sudden shift to virtual learning, the “Can Pass; Cannot Fail” policy was implemented in consideration of students adversely affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Fulfilling all course requirements merits a numerical grade, while failing to do so earns one an In-Progress (IP) which can be converted to a 3.00 or better within two quarters upon completion of deliverables.

MU then announced the rebates and discounts on the laboratory and miscellaneous fees by the end of the term. Students were entitled to a 15% rebate and 7.5% discount on the laboratory and miscellaneous fees for the third quarter, then 20% and 15% respectively for the succeeding term. Granted, both rebate implementations excluded Coursera and METIS fees.

Additionally, no students were removed from their programs due to academic status thanks to the “Can Pass; Cannot Fail” policy for the entire school year.

In preparation for both eventualities – the approval or disapproval of face-to-face classes – due to the worsening pandemic, the University planned to offer blended learning alongside the fully online mode to all incoming and existing students for A.Y. 2020-2021. However, the extension of the ECQ in Metro Manila meant the cancellation of the blended mode.

Regardless, fully online Bachelor of Science degrees were offered for students who started their program of study online.

Implementation of the modular system

Come the first quarter of AY. 2020-2021, the modular system, or the granular delivery of courses, replaced the “Can Pass; Cannot Fail” policy for Batch 2018 and succeeding batches. In it, three-unit lecture courses were divided into three modules whereas four-unit and two-unit lecture courses – as well as one-unit laboratory courses – were split into two modules. A module grade was given at the end of every module and a course grade was computed based on the average of the module grades.

One of the benefits of the modular system mentioned by Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Bonifacio T. Doma Jr. in a Google Meet interview on August 18 was the “multiple opportunities to pass each module and the subject itself.”

Students need to pass at least one module to pass the course. Not reaching the passing grade for a module leads to an IP module grade, which can be converted to a 3.00 through a completion module. Failing said module then means that a remedial module must be taken on the succeeding term. However, students unable to fulfill the course requirements due to medical or emergency reasons will receive an Incomplete (I) grade instead.

Thesis, On-the-Job Training, Seminars, Plant Visits, National Service Training Program, and Correlation courses were not modularized.

Platform shifts and stricter proctoring

By the second quarter, instructors proctored online examinations through recorded Zoom sessions as per memo to minimize the violations of the academic integrity policy. Students were required to turn on their cameras during exams and those who could not comply weren’t allowed to take the exam. Those who violated the academic integrity policy – sending and receiving questionnaires, using another student’s MyMapúa, Coursera, and Blackboard account, et al. – were given either a module grade of 5.00 or failed on the course. The recorded Zoom sessions were also admissible in the Office of the Prefect of Discipline. 

Online lectures have also shifted in this quarter from Blackboard Collaborate to either Microsoft Teams or Zoom, due to its limited capabilities in being a platform for online classes. 

A quarter later, stricter monitoring of online examinations through ManyCam and other proctoring software was implemented. 

Limited scholarship slots and proposed fee increases

On November 25, 2020, the admin announced new policies on Dean’s List and President’s List awards as well as academic scholarships starting the third quarter of A.Y. 2020-2021. Specifically, slots for academic scholarships had been limited per program and granted based on the top spots in the Dean’s List and President’s List, regardless of batch. 

The move was lightened by January 4, 2021 when the scholarships were to be granted based on the top spots per batch of each program. In addition, only students who in the President’s List with a Quarterly Weighted Average (QWA) of 1.75 to 1.51 were given half academic scholarship whereas those with a QWA of 1.50 or higher were given full academic scholarship.

Last January 22, a consultation meeting about the proposed new fees for the current academic year was held with the student body. Included in the proposal were the 50% increase on the Mapúa E-Text Infinity Solutions and an across-the-board increase of 1.25%. Director for Office of Student Affairs Prof. Dante J. Sauquillo said during the meeting that the new fees were “to update and improve the delivery of education and facilities” of the University. 

Vice President and Assistant Treasurer Ms. Marina B. Bayag also noted that “[The University has] been increasing the salaries and wages of [the] faculty [and] employees, but [the University had] not been increasing our tuition fees since 2014.” 

So, I think this is just about time to increase the tuition fee so as to help us cope with the current increases in the inflation rate,” the VP and Assistant Treasurer added. 

In an interview with Ms. Bayag last March 26, the proposed new fees have been finalized but are pending for approval from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). She also clarified that the increase on the fees are intended only for Batch 2018 students and onwards, and at the same time assured that the administration will be informing the student body once the proposal has been approved by CHED.

Student body representation

Central Student Council (CSC) President BJ Deogenes R. Tadiwan commended the University’s readiness in transitioning to an online delivery of courses. “We have a Blackboard online portal that can be used for online classes, which was used when there were class suspensions due to typhoons, and other calamities,” he stated. 

Although the University’s responded to the pandemic immediately, said response also needed improvement. According to Tadiwan, lapses littered the communication between the CSC and the administration concerning the modular system, laboratory software and activities, and other changes.

In response to the modular system, Tadiwan mentioned that he prefers the old education system since there is a disparity among the adaptability of the students and the professors, as well as their access to the needed resources to comply with academic requirements. He noted that the modular system has become one of the burdens faced by the student community upon implementation. 

It was implemented quickly and thus the student body had little to no time in adjusting to a new system,” the CSC President commented. 

Both the administration and CSC seem to stand on the same ground about academic integrity as Tadiwan highlighted the necessity of upholding the academic integrity policy – especially during online examinations, as some students have become dependent on their classmates and friends. The CSC President also suggested the mandatory use of the LockDown Browser to mitigate academic dishonesty. 

Tadiwan also commented on the new policies about academic scholarship. He said that it “depleted the spirits of the students” as well as their motivation to reach a target QWA every term-end. 

With regards to the proposed tuition increase, Tadiwan said it is untimely, for most families have not yet recovered from the drastic effects of the pandemic. 

Finally, the CSC President suggested student representation in top-level decision-making. “As one the shareholders of the university, we also have the rights to voice out our opinions especially [if] we are the one who will experience this ‘new guidelines/system,’” he emphasized.

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