By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
Due to the uncertainty of the current health crisis, faculty members of the University of the Philippines (UP) on Monday appealed to the school’s administration to end the semester now as the situation can no longer be “business-as-usual.”
The UP Office of the Faculty Regent in a statement pointed out that the global pandemic has made other major universities in the Philippines and abroad decide to end their semesters, “while making sure that well-crafted and forward-looking policies guarantee that they can pick up where they left off and that the manifold rights of their students, teachers and staff are safeguarded and not disregarded.”
UP System officials were expected to discuss the future of the school’s semester in a meeting today (April 13).
A survey on “online teaching readiness,” which was conducted by the Office of the Faculty Regent and received 1,852 responses from its UP faculty members, found that 91.8 percent have access to devices adequate for conducting online classes, while 5.4 percent said they do not have any at all.
With regard to satisfactory internet access, 59.9 percent answered that they currently have a stable, reasonably fast and reliable internet connection, while 22.7 percent admitted to not having such access at the present time.
The rest were undecided on the quality of their internet connectivity.
The survey also found that 38.2 percent of faculty members were confident in their ability to migrate their syllabi and teaching materials to online teaching formats “within a short period” of time while 33.8 percent expressed their lack of confidence about the same.
A similar trend can be observed in the number of respondents who expressed their “psychological and emotional preparedness” at the present time of the COVID-19 crisis to transition to online teaching during this semester adding up to a total percentage of 39.8 percent of respondents.
Meanwhile, 33.8 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that they were psychologically and emotionally prepared to transition to online modes of teaching, considering the life-threatening conditions they will likely to face daily.
The UP Office of the Faculty Regent noted that while it is true that many respondents expressed their emotional and psychological preparedness to transition to online teaching modes this semester, “it should be kept in mind that among these were 66 respondents (3.5 percent) who also admitted that they did not actually have access to a stable and reasonably fast internet connection.”
“Likewise, 58 respondents (3.1 percent) who answered positively about their emotional and psychological preparedness also expressed that they lacked confidence in making a quick transition to online teaching modes,” it added.
Meanwhile, 191 respondents (10.3 percent) agreed that they had adequate internet connectivity but disagreed or strongly disagreed that they felt emotionally or psychologically prepared to transition this semester to online teaching modes.
Moreover, 75 respondents (4 percent) agreed or strongly agreed about their confidence in transitioning to online modes but either disagreed or strongly disagreed that they were emotionally or psychologically prepared to do so.
One hundred (5.3 percent) respondents also admitted to not having adequate equipment to be able to hold online learning activities while 94 (5.0 percent) respondents did not consider themselves to possess the necessary familiarity with technology to accomplish the task quickly enough.
“Given these faculty concerns, the UP Administration should look ensure an orderly, consistent and fair implementation of any long-term transition to online educational modes by looking into ensuring adequate internet connectivity for faculty members; provision of laptops and other devices with the necessary specs in the pursuit of teaching in the new mode; sufficient training and skills development in online educational techniques; assistance for faculty members with limited computer literacy; and an adequate window of time for undertaking the necessary preparations for the transition,” the UP Office of the Faculty Regent said.
The survey also found other major concerns such as the time needed for training and for the transition itself, identifying the best software and learning platforms, uniform university protocols and standards for distance education, and the incompatibility between distance or remote learning and the format of their subjects.
“Many faculty members found no personal obstacles to transitioning to online education but were quite aware and apprehensive that many of their students did not have access to the internet and were even lacking the necessary laptops and devices to participate in online classes,” the Office said.
“It must also be said that a major concern which kept popping up is the psychological and emotional preparedness of both students and faculty members to transition to online education in the midst of the pandemic which has generated so much anxiety, fear and uncertainty for each individual, their families and loved ones, and the nation as a whole,” it added.
“The fact that a third of the faculty members surveyed cannot find it in themselves to immediately transition to online education, regardless of technical knowledge and access to infrastructure, cannot be minimized. This, combined with the fact that a great number of students will probably not be able to join online classes because of a lack of means suggests that the transition, if it pushes through, may quite likely exacerbate already existing material inequalities,” it further noted.