By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Despite these trying times brought about by the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Education (DepEd) continues to find ways to help ensure that “education will continue.”
Like other sectors, the education system is bracing for the current and future impact of the COVID-19 in the country, especially in the learning of millions of students.
“Education must continue even in times of crisis, whether it may be a calamity, disaster, emergency, quarantine, or even war,” Secretary Leonor Briones said.
Following this mandate, DepEd’s Office of the Undersecretary for Administration, under the leadership of Undersecretary Alain del Pascua, announced the launching of “DepEd Commons,” an online platform for public school teachers to support distance learning modalities “precisely to continue the delivery of basic education to our children.”
Pascua said DepEd is “silently launching” amid the ongoing enhanced community quarantine of Luzon and more than a week after the class suspensions from the time Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine.
“We have longed for the time when suspension of classes will not in any way obstruct nor delay the education of our school children,” Pascua said. “Whenever we experience typhoons, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and armed siege, we worry about the lost days and opportunities for the next generation’s education.”
DepEd Commons can be accessed at https://commons.deped.gov.ph. Pascua noted that since it is in the initial phase, the DepEd Commons is “not complete nor perfect.”
Pascua said DepEd Commons “still has many limitations” like “contents are not yet that many, evaluation and ranking have not yet been included, separate channels for teachers, parents, students, and officials have not yet been established – but the times calls for its introduction.” Despite this, he noted the the current “circumstances have forced us to make it live.”
Pascua said DepEd Commons was “designed as a direct solution” to give access to online review materials and Open Educational Resources (OERs) during class suspensions and other similar circumstances. “These supplementary online instructional materials will be used as alternative forms in the teaching-learning process which is different from the usual face-to-face encounter.”
From the teachers, for the teachers and learners
OERs in DepEd Commons, Pascua said, are authored by public school teachers who are subject experts, properly cited and acknowledged.
“Teachers can retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute the content by blending it with a learning management system to deliver a distance learning modality,” he explained. Additionally, teachers are also “encouraged to make their own OERs or to improve and customize those that are already uploaded.”
Pascua noted that the use of DepEd Commons and Edmodo – together with other online educational delivery platforms – is “highly encouraged especially in situations where face-to-face instruction is impossible.” He noted, however, that online classes are “given as an option for those who have access to internet and equipment such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers.”
“Those who do not have access to these requirements can opt for paper-based homework and are not required to visit internet cafés for health security, they are closed anyway in quarantined areas,” Pascua said. “Teachers have the discretion to adopt appropriate modalities of instruction provided that they follow strict compliance to the guidelines, policies, and reminders given by DepEd.”
DepEd, Pascua said, acknowledges the “reality of the situation” where DepEd Commons and its OERs are not accessible to all teachers and learners. “Many of our schools still do not have connectivity and access to internet but in this extraordinary situation we find ourselves in, we must walk before we run,” he explained. “We must start somewhere and work our way towards the ideal where all teachers and learners in the country can access such resources.”
Until that time, Pascua noted that “we offer DepEd Commons and OERs to those who can make use of them, as we continue to work for the connectivity of all our schools and offices.”
Pascua said the DepEd Information and Communications Technology Service-Educational Technology Unit (ICTS-ETU) is “ever ready to assist our teachers on OER matters” and can be through [email protected]
Teachers, Pascua added, can search the DepEd Workplace for OER groups that offer exchange of ideas and online capacity building and join the Workplace group “Alternative Learning Platforms.”
Pascua said the materials in DepEd Commons are a “response” to the United Nations Declaration of 2012 in Paris to support the harvesting of and give access to instructional supplementary materials. “There are many challenges we face in ensuring the continuity of education, but one this is for sure, DepEd is steadily moving forward in even in this extremely difficult situation.”