Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa, Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology
Best Practice Focus Area/s
Strategy; Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management; Operations
13 August 2020
This is a GBPR Entry
In response to the provisions of CMO No. 4 Series of 2020, supporting RA 7722 and RA 11469, Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa, Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology (DEBESMSCAT) came up with its mechanism of Flexible Learning (FL) Implementation and Management to adapt to the present educational needs of Masbatenyo students. The FL of DEBESMSCAT considered the varied needs of its continuing students and first-year students who cannot attend face-to-face classes due to the raging pandemic. It also considered the delivery of service of its personnel as mandated by the supervising and regulatory agencies and, more importantly, the adherence to the health protocols required by the IATF.
Background and Problem
Like any other educational institution in and out of the country, the pandemic threatened to hamper the delivery of higher and graduate education instruction of DEBESMSCAT. Therefore, the administration has to innovate or find novel ways to evade the worst scenario of suspending classes to avoid compromising the students’ future. The Masbatenyo students, like any other Filipinos, consider education as an avenue to lift their families economically; hence, finishing schooling is crucial to them. Banking on the practices of highly developed countries and the recommendation of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), DEBESMSCAT had to embrace a significant change in its delivery of instruction through FL.
As of the moment, FL is the best and safest way to provide continuous or unhampered delivery of DEBESMSCAT’s instruction mandate to Masbatenyos during this time of pandemic and beyond. The need to shell out an amount from its budget and source financial assistance from granting agencies to implement an FL system is now of utmost consideration for DEBESMSCAT. The need to shell out an amount from its budget and source financial assistance from granting agencies to implement an FL system is now of utmost consideration for DEBESMSCAT. However, while DEBESMSCAT was able to take advantage of the modest budget spared by the government and is raring to go full steam, the need to look at the situation of the students and the community college serves as another important consideration.
Solution and Impact
The FL technology utilized by DEBESMSCAT using Macalde’s Webinar presentation dated 22 May 2020 is classified under the Medium Level Technology category. This category is characterized in terms of available devices, mainly consisting of mobile phones. Furthermore, the internet connection under this category is rated as slow (40 Mbps in DEBESMSCAT and 4G connections in selected towns of Masbate province), and the level of digital literacy of the students are primarily advanced, while the faculty and DEBESMSCAT employee’s level is classified as a mix of advanced and proficient. The learning approach is macro and microlearning, or a mix of online and offline activities. After a thorough analysis of the prevailing situation, DEBESMSCAT implemented a version of FL that it believes is tailored to the needs of its personnel, students, and stakeholders. This FL solution is anchored on the Theory of Change that encourages individuals to reflect on personal aims and plans, discuss them with others, and make them explicit. Using Noble’s (2019) work as a reference, DEBESMSCAT has already/is currently taking the following steps:
- Conduct of situation analysis to determine the affordances, predicaments, and needs of the students and the faculty and personnel of the institution;
- Identification of the target group of people in the organization who have the technological and pedagogical know-how in FL implementation;
- Determination of the outcomes of FL once the decision to implement it has been given;
- Determination of the possible impact of FL on the academic and personal activities of the students and the DEBESMSCAT personnel;
- Planning of activities for the pre-implementation and implementation stage;
- Consideration of change mechanisms that involved mind setting of faculty and personnel and the students on the good attributes and even the downsides of FL;
- Sequencing wherein the faculty, personnel, and students’ responses and activities related to FL implementation is recorded for analysis and decision making;
- Creation of the theory of change diagram for the institution;
- Identification of stakeholders and “enabling factors” for the continued implementation of FL; and
- Formulation of assumptions in terms of delivery and impact of the FL system.
As of this writing, DEBESMSCAT is currently in the sixth step. The succeeding steps could later provide learnings and experiences that could further improve the institution’s FL delivery. The institution sees the present mechanism it implemented as contributory to the ultimate goal of the Philippine government to stand once again and even stronger under its battle cry “We Heal as One.”
Referring to the identified steps related to the Theory of Change, the DEBESMSCAT has already conducted, as the first milestone, a situation analysis that involved the determination of the category of the level of technology in the province of Masbate, which was found to be in the Medium Level Category. Upon determining the institution’s category, the administration tapped faculty members with experience in distance education and specialization in information technology. This was when the administration formed its LMS Project task force composed of a Team Leader and a coordinator from each of the six colleges and the graduate school. This was the second milestone of the FL program of the institution.
For the third milestone, possible outcomes were determined by the faculty based on the prescribed course outcomes and the college outcomes. The administration also supervised the relevance of the identified products to the institutional outcomes. This is to ensure that each level is working towards attaining the institutional results despite the major change that the pandemic brought to the delivery of the instruction mandate of DEBESMSCAT. The fourth milestone involved determining the possible impact of FL on the academic and personal activities of the students and the DEBESMSCAT personnel. In the series of meetings conducted by the administration, the academic and administrative councils, the dean, and department chairs, several issues such as access to ICT, unstable electric services, and the dire financial situation of the students, faculty, and student readiness to FL were raised.
For the fifth milestone, the LMS Coordinators were tasked to cascade the training to all faculty members. Concurrent to the conduct of the training is the completion of the crafting of course modules by each faculty that is designed to cover one month of lessons. These modules were immediately uploaded on the LMS, at the same time, printed for distribution to the students. The second milestone of the flexible learning program was reached after the successful distribution of printed modules to students who requested a copy due to poor internet connectivity and the successful interaction of the students with good internet connectivity to the DEBESMSCAT LMS. Per coordinator reports, some faculty were already able to conduct a course forum, give LMS-based assignments, and conduct LMS-based quizzes and other graded student activities. Alongside this milestone is the approval to implement the LMS Use Policy of DEBESMSCAT. More innovations are expected from the faculty and the students in the coming months and towards the end of the first semester.