DepEd Sarangani innovates with new learning system to reach hinterlands

Published July 18, 2020, 8:42 AM

by Keith Bacongco

DAVAO CITY – As the Department of Education (DepEd) gears up for the resumption of classes next month, the School Division of Sarangani Province has come up with an innovation to reach out to students in the hinterlands. 

A mother assists her daughter in using a tablet in Sitio Kmaging, Daay Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province. ( Photo by: Ariel C. Lalisan / DepEd Sarangani)

Dubbed “Learning Resources on Wifi Hub for Expanded e-Learning in Sarangani”, or LR on WHEeLS, the project aims to expand the reach of e-learning to far-flung villages, particularly those outside of the service coverage of major telecommunications companies and internet service providers. 

Dr. Donna Panes, chief of Curriculum Implementation Division, told Manila Bulletin that the project was an original concept of the DepEd Sarangani Division. 

Panes explained that, instead of delivering the printed modules to the homes of students, the Sarangani Division converted the modules into downloadable electronic versions through an intranet network. 

Unlike the internet access, LR on WHEeLS WiFi will not give users access to social media sites, the briefer read. 

It added that the data on LR on WHEeLS are stored locally in the computer that is used as server and its data cannot be accessed by another LR on WHEeLS set up in another location. 

The teachers will serve as administrators of the intranet kit, said Panes, adding that assigned teachers will stay in the community to assist the learners in using the gadgets.    

Based on the Learner Connectivity Inventory of the DepEd Sarangani Division, Panes said there are 126,364 enrollees from kindergarten to senior high school. 

But due to topographic locations, only 66,666 learners could be catered to the LR on WHEeLS across the towns of Alabel, Glan, Kiamba, Maaisam, Maitum, Malapatan and Malungon in Sarangani province. 

Of the 66,666 learners, only 24,835 have gadgets, according to Panes.  “And we are looking for sponsors to provide gadgets for the remaining learners.”

She bared that about 70 percent of these students was situated in the hinterland area. The division has 320 schools in the province, 180 of these serve indigenous peoples’ communities, the DepEd official added. 

Morever, Panes said that there were some communities that could not yet avail of the intranet kit and they will be using the printed modules. “There’s about five percent of our learners who will be using radio-based instruction.”

While about 20 percent of the learners, particular those in the town centers, may access the modules through the internet, she said. 

“We prioritized these far-flung areas because it is impractical to transport printed modules. Some of these areas are only reachable by foot or riding horses. Also, these areas still don’t have cellphone signals,” Panes explained over the phone. 

The learners may access the learning modules from the intranet servers that will be installed in the communities. The intranet network has a coverage of up to one-kilometer radius. 

Panes added that each intranet kit costs almost P49,000, while the application was a free open source software. 

Each intranet kit can accommodate up to 250 learners. 

“There’s a kit that could accommodate up to 1,500 learners, but it is quite expensive,” she added.

However, Panes admitted that there will still be challenges in implementing this concept such as the lack of electricity in the hinterlands. 

She added that as of July 17, DepEd Sarangani has prepared 50 intranet kits of the 295 intranet kits needed to be able to cover all the communities. 

Panes said the DepEd Sarangani was knocking on the hearts of some kind-hearted individuals or organizations to sponsor not just intranet kits, but also gadgets, especially for the indigenous peoples’ communities.