Although the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges for higher education, it has also highlighted and inaugurated research, infrastructure and practices related to the use of information and communication technologies. (TIC). Often difficult events drive innovation and this is the case in the Philippine higher education sector.
It has invested in innovative approaches, including the Smart Campus initiative, promoting and institutionalizing flexible learning and integrating virtual mobility and the delivery of courses and programs into its strategy to improve the internationalization of higher education. Filipino.
Edtech initiatives due to COVID-19
In 2020, under the Bayanihan Law 2 – a law passed allocating and / or realigning funds to address challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic – three billion Philippine pesos (approximately $ 60 million) has been allocated the digital transformation of state universities and colleges and the development of smart campuses through investments in ICT infrastructure and the acquisition of learning management systems and other equipment to implement a flexible learning delivery.
The pandemic has forced higher education institutions to shift from traditional delivery to online or flexible delivery of higher education courses.
Surprisingly, despite the infrastructure, capacity and human resource challenges in most higher education institutions in the Philippines, the learning curve was only short and most faculty, students and researchers fell short. adapted to the new reality of hybrid or fully digital teaching and learning and a more online research environment.
The Higher Education Commission (CHED) has advocated for flexible learning – allowing flexibility of time, place and audience with or without the use of technology.
CHED, in collaboration with other agencies and universities, carried out capacity building activities (in particular regarding ICT skills and competences and the use of edtech) and established PHL CHED Connect to promote and provide the ” access to higher education course materials useful for teaching. , learning and research.
In September 2020, CHED released guidelines on implementing flexible learning to complement the results-based teaching and learning approach of the Philippine higher education sector.
In addition, CHED’s Expert Group on Internationalization of Philippine Higher Education is currently reviewing and revising its internationalization policies and strategies to integrate virtual mobility and course and program delivery and other innovative approaches. to address the challenges associated with internationalization which have been highlighted as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Challenges for the future
While edtech-related initiatives triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are partially addressing the sudden shift from traditional higher education to digital higher education, there are issues and challenges that need to be reconsidered, in particular in terms of access, equity, relevance, quality and governance.
As noted, the Philippine government’s Smart Campus initiative targets state universities and colleges. However, as of the 2019-2020 academic year, 1,729 of the 2,396 Philippine higher education institutions – including satellite campuses of state universities and colleges – are private institutions and are therefore not included in the study. Smart Campus initiative.
These private higher education institutions will need to find funding to upgrade their infrastructure and capacities in order to continue to improve the offer of higher education courses and programs and research in what is perhaps a growing environment. hybrid higher education during and during the post-pandemic era.
Internet connectivity, infrastructure issues, and the ability of teachers and researchers to engage and deliver quality courses and programs as well as conduct research are also challenges. Only a select group of Philippine higher education institutions have started to use digital technology and integrate digital pedagogies into the design, delivery and assessment of courses and programs at their respective institutions.
The interim measure of giving lectures, attending conferences and publishing research online was necessary due to the sudden need to shift to an online and / or hybrid delivery approach. However, the resulting learning, knowledge exchange and even published research tend to be more quantitative than qualitative.
Giving lectures online, attending online courses offered by internationally renowned universities, and publishing in international (but questionable) journals may or may not improve teaching capacity, knowledge sharing and most importantly student learning. .
In fact, the shift to digital teaching and learning, especially through non-online or open universities, is likely to have reduced learning capacity, given that the majority of higher education institutions Filipinos who were ready to integrate the appropriate educational structures, lack the capacity to offer quality higher education courses or programs in a digital or blended learning environment.
Students – especially disadvantaged students and those from non-urban areas – face significant challenges that go beyond financial issues, internet connectivity and literacy, and the time it takes to adjust to a career. sudden change in learning environment and approach to teaching.
It is clear that the failure to include appropriate digital pedagogies in the design and delivery of courses and programs reduces the quality of the teaching and learning process, especially for disadvantaged students.
Finally, although not immediately perceived, the transition to a digital or hybrid teaching and learning environment will have implications for the governance of higher education, particularly in terms of quality assurance, relevance or questions of schooling.
These implications will need to be renegotiated between CHED, as the Philippine higher education regulator, professional regulators, higher education stakeholders, including students, and higher education institutions. , especially from the private sector.
On a more positive note, creativity and innovation, including in the higher education sector, involve facing challenges, especially if the sector is suddenly forced to evolve its traditional models towards more models. innovative.
However, capacity building, infrastructure development and mainstreaming of what has been absorbed as a result of a steep learning curve requires time, government support – especially incentives for the construction sector. private higher education – increased advocacy and redesigned quality assurance and recognition policies to ensure accessible and equitable policies. , relevant quality learning in Philippine higher education.
Roger Y Chao Jr is Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Higher Education Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia; Member of the Expert Group of the Commission on Higher Education on the Internationalization of Philippine Higher Education and consultant for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Office for Education. He holds a PhD from City University of Hong Kong, a European Masters in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management from the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University and a Masters in Education (Mathematics) from the University of the Philippines. Dr Chao has researched and published significantly on the regionalization and internationalization of higher education, higher education policies, comparative and international education, teacher training, sociology of education and more recently the education of refugees.