""Learning institutions must holistically embrace the changes, rethink the design process, choose content that best corresponds with students’ needs, and collaborate with the key stakeholders""
by Aisa Q. Hipolito
With the start of a new academic year, government and learning institutions were deep in preparation for the new normal of the country’s education sector — transitioning to a blended and distant learning approach amid the ongoing health crisis.
While the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education’s call to shift teaching modalities is still met with apprehension, the adoption of a blended learning delivery mode should be seen as more than a temporary safety measure. In an ever-changing global environment, such as our current one disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions must remain adaptive and resilient to continuously enable the learners of today for the needs of the future workplace. This entails embracing new teaching modalities such as that of blended learning.
Over the years, we have witnessed how advances in technology and globalization have transformed how we learn and work. It brought on new jobs that required a new set of higher cognitive skills — collaboration, flexibility, and innovation — also known as 21st century learning skills.
To foster such skills, the academe had to adopt innovative learning tools, such as Microsoft software and Google systems, and introduce new ICT-enhanced curricula and learning content to redefine the classroom experience. Meanwhile, government implemented the K-12 curriculum along with these programs to prepare our learners in meeting the demands of the global workforce.
Now, in today’s school environment, majority of our students belong to the generation who have unlimited access to information and digital technologies on a daily basis to stay connected or gain technical skills. Learning, at the same time, now involves linking production skills to knowledge-based industries and puts greater emphasis on project-based learning and field experience.
This tells us that the technology and the necessary know-how for blended learning has been present for many years now. In fact, the paradigm shift is not new as many institutions in the country have implemented some form of blended learning. Studies have shown it works, yet there has been no compelling reason for the entire academe to embrace it — until now.
Optimizing technology to deliver education
Prior to the pandemic, our experience at STI Education has taught us that embracing innovation and new technologies was imperative in staying educationally relevant and in enabling academic continuity. When we saw the increasing prevalence of digital media among our students, it paved the way for the integration of traditional classroom methods and e-learning tools that we now know as blended learning.
For more than five years, STI has implemented the use of an eLearning Management System (eLMS) to facilitate classes where students can experience studying with a blended learning approach. We have seen how it amplified the learning experience of our students. At the same time, it bridged the connection between them and teachers even outside the campus.
Thus, when the pandemic brought forth school closures, we implemented an educational framework built on our existing e-learning methods, while taking into consideration our students’ current learning needs amid the ongoing health crisis.
STI’s ONline and ONsite Education or the ONE STI Learning Model is our solution on how to bring back classes and how to make education more engaging, accessible, and most importantly safe. It employed the main use of our eLMS, combined with face-to-face online instruction, to foster a dynamic learning experience that will achieve the desired learning outcomes.
On the eLMS, our teachers can hold classes and upload modules, video lectures, educational motion graphics, and other learning materials that students can access, stream or download safely from home. Assessments in addition to online quizzes and timed tests, will also be done through the use of polls, online surveys or by video submission and chat.
The social aspect of learning is not lost as students are encouraged to collaborate with their classmates with the various tools available for them. Teachers are only a click away to guide learners in navigate the new normal of learning. Knowing the students’ different home lives, we are engaging in a partnership with the parents or guardians to ensure that the process of shifting to this learning mode will be seamless.
We also made sure that all students were equipped with the necessary tools to learn productively and efficiently by partnering with PLDT Enterprise to provide them a free SMART GIGA Study Plan, a SIM card with a 35GB monthly data plan.
Aligning with STI’s founding mandate of producing college-ready and life-ready graduates, the model will fully enable our students to continue their studies, move up to the next level, graduate, and seek eventual employment even during the pandemic.
The future of learning
We can only speak from our experience at STI, but as the pandemic has taught us, there is no “one size fits all” solution but it is with these limitations that innovation can be born. For educational institutions, blended learning offers the ability to do things differently but still meet the evolving needs of a 21st century learner.
However, for it to work, learning institutions must holistically embrace the changes, rethink the design process, choose content that best corresponds with students’ needs, and collaborate with the key stakeholders in various aspects. That is the future of education, after all, one that adapts to its environment and centers around preparing learners for the global market.
Aisa Q. Hipolito is the Vice President for Academics of STI Education Services Group, Inc. She is an established member of the academe with over ten years of experience in developing programs and curricula for STI. Implementing its ONE STI Learning Model, STI will be formally opening its 2020 – 2021 academic school year on August 27 for Senior High School and on September 1 for Tertiary Level. Not new to innovations in education, STI has long introduced new teaching modalities, such as blended learning, that sought to redefine the classroom experience. It continues to introduce new online learning approaches that combine technology and various educational tools to equip its student with the needed 21st century skills to help thrive in the world today.