Is it possible to make learning meaningful amid a pandemic?

Published April 16, 2021, 1:22 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Undoubtedly, this school year is quite challenging – both for learners and their teachers.

One of the biggest adjustments made by the government to respond to the disruption brought by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country is the shift into distance learning.


With schools still closed, students under the Department of Education (DepEd) have been learning in their homes through multiple learning delivery modalities including modular (printed and offline), online, television and radio-based instruction and blended learning since the school year (SY) 2020-2021 started on Oct. 5.

At the tertiary level, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) instructed universities and colleges to implement flexible learning options to ensure learning continuity.

While students remain relatively safe – assuming that they stay inside their homes at all times – learning under the current set-up becomes a struggle for many.

Some students complain of too much school work while others continue to struggle without the guidance of their teachers or adults who can help them to understand the lessons – especially those who rely on printed self-learning modules (SLMs).

While many students would want to attend online classes, they do not have available gadgets to use and they lack resources to avail of internet services. 

For learners who have gadgets, attending online classes is also a challenge due to unstable internet connection and the additional expenses related to distance learning.

Even the DepEd recognizes the challenges under distance or blended learning. Thus, as early as October last year, it directed the schools to implement #AcademicEase measures to help learners who are “overwhelmed” with the new system of learning.

Given all these challenges, is it still possible to make learning meaningful at this time?

For Educational psychologist Lizamarie Campoamor-Olegario, meaningful learning is still possible if #AcademicEase measures will be adjusted – and implemented – thoroughly.

During the launch of SEQuRe Education Movement’s “THURSDAY HABIT” series on April 15, Olegario explained that many Filipino learners are having a hard time learning because of the “traditional” view when it comes to education.

A faculty member at the University of the Philippines (UP) – College of Education, Olegario shared her experiences and challenges while teaching at a time of a pandemic.

During her presentation, Olegario shared the issues confronting the education sector at this time and how can #AcademicEase measures help students, parents and teachers overcome the challenges amid the pandemic.

Given the limitations in the remote set-up, Olegario underscored the need to provide meaningful learning through “context, collaborate, connect.”

“Let’s tap the students’ context to sustain learning,” Olegario said. “Our examples must be relevant to the learner,” she added.

More than ever, she noted that it is very crucial to “let the students reflect and share how the lesson relates to themselves and to focus on what is realistic and important for a child to learn.”

Olegario also explained the need to “connect to the learners schema” – adding that the language and the experiences of learners and “what the learner know” should be taken into consideration.

She added the “content should be challenging – not too easy nor too difficult.” Amid all the challenges under distance learning, Olegario stressed that “what is basic right now is that students need to feel they are competent.”

In order to achieve this, Olegario underscored the importance of allowing collaboration and social interaction. “Sharing helps in building understanding of concepts,” she said.

Learners, she added, can “apply higher thinking skills” when they are given opportunities to criticize each one another’s ideas, synthesize their ideas and solve problems for one another.

“This builds cooperation, trust and support systems and promotes shared responsibility and sense of belonging,” Olegario added.

To prevent students from getting overwhelmed, Olegario said that “maximum time for engagement” – such as answering modules or watching “DepEd TV” for instance – should be greatly considered.

“Keep it short and simple,” Olegario said. “Screen time should not affect physical activity and face-to-face interactions at home,” she added.

More importantly, Olegario asked schools and teachers to “avoid regurgitating textbook facts and figures.” Instead, they should “focus on clarifying points of confusion or challenging learners to apply concepts.”  

In order to gauge if meaningful learning is taking place, Olegario said that a more effective assessment should also be utilized. 

“Because learning needs to take place outside of the physical classroom, the need for formative assessment is more critical,” she ended.