The unexpected turn of events brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, introduced challenges in the education sector. This unexpected shift forced the UP Cebu community as a whole to adjust towards remote and asynchronous learning. In the middle of the first ever semester of remote learning implementation, the College of Science held a two day Kumustahay event to gather feedback from the faculty and the parents of students.
On the first day, the faculty of College of Science attended the event. They shared the difficulties adjusting to a completely different course delivery. One of the points shared by the faculty was the incredible amount of preparation that needed to be completed at the start of the semester. The preparations of course packs had a lot of challenges. Faculty were forced to tread unfamiliar territory such as learning management systems, video production and editing. The difficulties of these challenges mixed with the stress due to the disruption of work-life balance put a considerable amount of mental stress in the faculty.
The resource person for the event shared some insights in handling the stress caused by the sudden adjustments of remote learning. One of the key points suggested was to properly set boundaries, between work and personal life. She suggested ways such as dedicated spaces at home specifically for work and for personal life. Ms. Saturinas also discussed setting boundaries with communicating to students by responding to non-emergency communication during class hours.
The faculty also expressed their frustrations due to the admitted inferiority of remote delivery compared to face to face delivery. Some courses were more affected than the others. Courses that came with laboratories, lost the intimacy of conducting hands-on exercises. Feedback systems that used to be very accessible in the shared environment of the university, became less convenient due to the limitations of remote communication. Whether or not the materials are reached and are absorbed by the students is not easy to monitor remotely. The faculty express their concern over these uncertainties.
The faculty also share the shift in mindset towards increased leniency and understanding on the matters of deadlines, requirements, grades, and completion. These difficulties go both ways, even more challenging in the side of students.
On the second day, the kumustahay was attended by student’s parents, administrators and year level advisers. One of the sentiments generally shared by the parents was their preference towards online and remote learning over face-to-face delivery while a vaccine is still unavailable.
Parents expressed their concerns on the challenges of remote learning. They expressed that the barrier for entry for this set-up is indeed high for most families. They expressed that they are having a hard time adjusting to online learning. This adjustment is challenging by itself during normal times, with the pandemic, its much worse.
These challenges led parents to start considering filing for leave of absence, but they worry that filing for LOA will end up indefinitely delaying their children’s education since their is still no assurance for vaccine availability. They appreciate the support promised by UP Kaagapay for example. But it’s past the middle of the semester and assistance is yet to arrive. Another additional stress that families worry about are gadgets and internet connection malfunctioning due to heavy use. When this happens they are unable to replace them on short notice.
Another general sentiment observed by the parents was how their children were interested in learning but frustrated due to the stress of the set-up. Students are spending more time in front of screens, leaving them sleep deprived. They end up staying late because the connection is faster late at night or during dawn. The parents observe that students are no longer prioritizing learning but are instead optimizing their time to comply for requirements. One of the requests shared by the parents was to lessen the workload. The first years are especially having a difficult time due to the combination of remote learning and UP education adjustments.
The parents expressed suggestions to the teachers to help their children in this adjustment period. The wanted to promote, more student-teacher interactions, such as more synchronous consultations, more follow-up, and continuous feedback. They also express the need for more counseling through professionals. Although UP conducts group guidance sessions for students, they suggest to make these sessions more regular.
The process of adjusting towards remote learning is indeed difficult. This is a sentiment shared by everyone affected. Through events like these, UP Cebu is determined to refine its implementation of remote learning delivery. The pandemic has brought upon challenges that has affected everyone. We have to remind ourselves that the struggles we feel are the same struggles everyone feels. The only way to get through these trying times is through mutual understanding, support and kindness.