Learning Under The New Normal: From A State University Student’s Perspective
Prior to the full opening of classes few days ago for elementary, secondary (K12), and technical related studies under the Department of Education (DepEd) and some local colleges and state universities under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), there were clamors/sentiments from both teachers and students for a temporary freeze in the academic term classes for various reasons, e.g., until vaccine for COVID-19 virus is available, among others. In view however of the importance of the continuity of learning, the administration in charge of the education sector did not heed the said calls to suspend classes on all levels and instead saw the need to pursue the reopening of classes, no matter what. It was found out that based on the number of enrollees, there were apparently more students much eager to go back to school than those who sought for academic freeze. As such, public schools have finally opened up its doors to millions of students via online and/or flexible/blended (digital and non-digital) learning methods on October 5th this year. Note that many private educational institutions, specifically those with adequate learning capabilities and resources, have already started classes even much earlier than August (June and July) while others in September amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it is true and based on education experts’ views that students learn much better in school (face to face) with the teachers and students interacting with each other, sending them back to school during this pandemic time may not be advisable and prudent. It is noted that schools and other related venues (e.g. dormitories, libraries, gyms, etc.) pose as breeding grounds for spreading infectious diseases.
However, it is also true that studying via online and other flexible learning modalities have many downsides, especially for teachers and students in areas where internet connectivity is slow and where some of the students have poor learning environment (lack of study space in their homes, lack of funds to acquire good hardware and software) for their studies. Both teachers and students continue to encounter challenges but with hard work, patience and determination to teach/learn from what is readily available, they will still be able to withstand challenges and achieve the objective of education – for teachers to impart knowledge and for students to learn from it and improve further.
Let’s take the case of Cameron, a 3rd year IT student in one of the state universities in the Philippines who candidly shared her thoughts to My Useful Tips on how these learning methods would affect her day to day study habits during this period of pandemic.
MUTC: I understand you earlier sympathized with some of your classmates/schoolmates and the concerns of some students about their preference for the Government to consider first the proposal for an academic freeze before opening the classes amid the pandemic.
Cameron: That’s correct. I thought having a temporary break from school would be the best solution for everyone especially with the presence of Covid-19 virus. Students are facing uncertainty in these difficult and trying times. Many of them have no stable internet connection in using laptop or any device needed online. Even though there is another option which is the printed modules that can be used offline, students themselves in other universities have to pay for these materials. So, they are struggling very hard to cope with this new situation. Furthermore, many parents have lost their jobs and income during this Covid-19 pandemic because of the temporary closures of different kinds of business. Not all students have the privileges to acquire all the necessary materials and devices. That is the reason why I shared and sympathized with their concerns.
MUTC: But still you enrolled and registered for this academic school year? What triggered you to do it?
Cameron: There was no other choice but to enroll since the DepEd and CHED have already decided to open the classes. I don’t want to be trailing behind my classmates. I thought both parents and students should accept and respect it. I share the view that education should be accessible to everyone, because education is a right and not a privilege. But I’m still hoping and praying that our School will find solutions to help other students who have limited resources. Because no matter what happens, I believe no student should be left behind.
MUTC: How did you find the new normal way of learning via online or the flexible learning method? What was your initial reaction? How did you feel?
Cameron: It was different from what we’ve been used to. I was excited at first because it’s a new thing but I find it super challenging and I’m still adjusting to it. So far, doing well.
MUTC: What learning/instructional platform most of your professors/teachers are using now?
Cameron: Well, we’re meeting online using Google Meet and Google Classroom. Recorded videos and other learning materials are given to us and we are expected to study it on our own. There are other printed learning materials as well but as earlier mentioned, some students are facing difficulties on this for lack of resources. My professors/teachers are still exploring other possible options that would be best for all of us.
MUTC: Can you cite some good sides or advantages of this kind of learning method? If so, how and why?
Cameron: As far as expenses are concerned, hopefully, I can save more,not just in terms of money but time as well. I won’t be staying in a dormitory anymore, I won’t be buying meals and related expenses, plus I won’t be spending for the daily transportation fares from our house going to and from school. That would be an advantage, so far.
Also, on study habits, I felt I have more time for school related matters now. I am able to maximize my time since this kind of learning method involves reading and research. As students, we are expected to be responsible in our tasks and assignments so as to meet the deadlines of submission.
MUTC: What can you advise to your fellow students and classmates?
Cameron: There are no shortcuts in successfully achieving our goals or dreams, so we should accept all the struggles and challenges in life. We should have a lot of patience on it, trust the process and keep moving forward no matter how difficult it is. This pandemic is giving us no choice but to accept this new way of learning. Even though there’ll be no longer deep conversations with my classmates/friends during break time and giving each other hugs during tough times, we’ll still be in touch online, to motivate and uplift each other. We must continue despite how challenging our current situation is. Much better, let’s use our time productively. While there has been a big change in our student lives, our goals should not change. In my case, my goal to be an academic scholar and a dean’s lister have not changed, and I will strive to achieve it. And hopefully soon with the help of God, everything will be back to normal.
Hey guys, feel free to jot few lines in here regarding your experience of learning under the new normal. Wishing you success in your studies y’all!