A Pilot to Mapúa’s Flight into the Digital Age, and Beyond

Published January 28, 2022, 4:25 PM

by Art Samaniego

At the turn of the century, when the Yuchengco Group of Companies had acquired Mapúa University, the leading engineering education institution in the country started implementing plans and measures to improve and innovate its education and expand its reach to Filipino learners.  

In 2002, Mapúa has pioneered the quarter system or Quarterm in the Philippines and immediately opened its extension campus in Makati, which houses the School of Information Technology and the E. T. Yuchengco School of Business and Management. A year later, it has been granted full autonomous status by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for its high-quality education and also started offering consultancy services through Mapúa TechServ.

Only three years after being named as Mapúa’s third president, Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea has revealed himself as an educator who believes in and fully embraces technology as a vital tool in advancing the institution, including its faculty and students, into the Digital Age. “At Mapúa, we believe that we should transform our students to be able to successfully live and work in a world that is global, knowledge based, and technology driven.”

Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea

In a fast-changing world driven by even faster advancements in industry and technology, innovation and digitalization for Mapúa, under Dr. Vea, have been imperative and relentless. For an institution to stand unfazed through time, he believes that it has to have a forward-looking vision and the will to implement changes for continuous improvement of the quality of its systems and processes. “There should really be no end to this effort as the world around us is continuously evolving, giving rise to new types of jobs and job qualifications, businesses and organizations that will force us to define new program educational outcomes or improve on the existing ones. We want our students, after they have graduated, to be ready for the world that is waiting for them.”

In 2017, Dr. Vea beamed with pride as Mapua’s School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering opened the first Mapúa DROID Conference. DROID is a term picked by Dr. Vea for “Digital, Research-Driven, Outcomes-based, and International Domain” summarizing the Institute’s response to globalization and to the explosion of knowledge.

International plant visits are part of Mapúa’s curriculum to provide students with relevant academic experiences that match the theoretical knowledge learned inside the classroom.

“DROID stands for what Mapúa intends to fully become in the future,” Dr. Vea said. “It encapsulates our strategic objective, which emanates from our vision to join the ranks of the world’s best universities and our mission to transmit, generate, and apply knowledge.”

Dr. Vea is seeing the fruits of his “digital learning” vision, including a highlight in 2018 when Mapúa was recognized as one of the best universities in Asia. For the first time, the University entered the QS Asia Top 500 University Rankings, landing on 401-450 bracket for 2019. “Our entry to the Asia University Rankings is one of the major achievements in the past years. This and our continuous commitment to accreditation under international criteria are among our steps in delivering quality education and research, which is attuned to the global and digital age and which is dedicated to the betterment of the people and the planet.” 

Mapúan exchange students at Kumoh National Institute of Technology, South Korea bagged the bronze medal in the Unmanned Vehicle Collaboration Mission Challenge category of the 2018 R-BIZ (Robot-Business, Idea, and Zest) Challenge, for their robot car, Altino.

Also in 2019, Mapúa University has been shortlisted in the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards Asia 2019’s Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year category. The University is the only higher education institution (HEI) from the Philippines that made it to the list of the said category for its teaching and learning strategies known as Digital Day and Digital Rush. THE is a global organization that helps higher education deliver transformational teaching, research, and innovation. 

Mapúa’s Phil-Lidar 1 project is a breakthrough in 2014 in the University’s pursuit for high-impact research. The project aims to help prepare and manage flood-prone communities.

Mapúa implemented Digital Days to deliver synchronous online lectures to about 2,300 students in about 100 classes in 2017, then launched the Mapúa Digital Academics, its online academic platform with the University offering the Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering (MEP-IE), the Philippines’ first fully online engineering graduate program. Mapúa followed it up with Digital Rush, a set of online courses offered to undergraduate students scheduled during the morning and afternoon rush hours to help students avoid traffic.

The Times Higher Education Awards celebrate the achievements of universities in the UK and have become widely recognized as the “Oscars of higher education” and, in 2019, decided to recognize the best efforts for academic excellence of Asian universities by launching its first THE Awards Asia, with nearly 80 participating universities from 21 countries. 

Mapúa contributes to the global effort of generating new knowledge through its research efforts. Students are provided opportunities to conduct research at the Yuchengco Innovation Center, which houses state-of-the-art laboratories and research hubs.

The Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year category recognizes the technology-driven teaching-learning methods of various institutions in Asia. Mapúa University, as the Philippines’ premier engineering and technological university, was cited for implementing significant efforts to impart knowledge to its students through its established and growing digital platforms and resources for education.

“In general, aside from improving the teaching-learning process, we are changing the way we communicate with our students and the way the administration transacts with them so that we are attuned to the digital times,” said Dr. Vea who also approved the establishment of the Mapúa ÚOx or Ubiquitous Online Experience to offer asynchronous fully online graduate and undergraduate programs that allow students to learn at their own pace and space.  

Mapúa international programs’ collaborative form of learning guarantees a fun learning experience for students, allowing them to explore their chosen field in a different perspective.

The Digital Day, Digital Rush, and Mapúa ÚOx proved to be very useful when COVID 19 struck the world. The digital capabilities that Mapúa intended to build initially for class-suspending events and day-to-day convenience of students have made it resilient in the time of pandemic, which disrupted face-to-face classes.

There is no rest for Dr. Vea and Mapúa University. As the university continues to move forward into the future, it remains passionately committed to its vision, implementing its extensive development plans to further refine teaching and learning for a better student experience.

Virtual lecture as alternative to on-campus discussion is a product of Mapúa’s early move to digitalize its instructions and has been a trend even before the pandemic started.

“We shall continue steadily moving towards the realization of our vision of being among the best universities in the world, especially in the sphere of digital education. We will continue to employ powerful and suitable tools to achieve our objective, which is the full attainment of learning outcomes. With our eyes set on our goals, we will continue moving forward and reach more exciting milestones.”

 
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