Gearing for the new normal: PUP opens FlexTel classes amid pandemic

Emy Ruth Gianan, News, CMO, Website, 2020

Sintang Paaralan reopened its gates virtually to more than a thousand students on October 5 to signal the start of the first semester for academic year 2020-2021. The Flexible Technology Learning (FlexTel) approach will be utilized for the semester which allows students with varying internet and gadget capacities to participate and learn.

Separate advisories for students and faculty members were released by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs to ensure that all are given the proper information about the resumption of classes.

Hybrid learning modes

Two modes of learning are available to students: online and offline modes. Students with the capacity to connect to the internet and have access to gadgets such as laptops, smartphones, and/or tablets are placed under the Online Mode. Learning combines synchronous and asynchronous modes. Participation in online video conferencing sessions are highly encouraged but not required.

For those without access to the internet and gadgets, the Offline Mode is offered. In this mode, students will be given learning packets containing different printed modules at the start of the semester. They are expected to complete all the requirements indicated on the modules and submit all these by the end of the semester.

More recently, various private groups have donated pocket wifis and 5G simcards to the University to aid students without enough gadgets for online education. 

Academic breaks

Even with students mostly staying at home, conditions for learning vary. Oftentimes, homes are less conducive for learning compared to the classroom environment. Nonetheless, President Manuel Muhi lauded the students and their parents for their hard work and commitment to learning in his welcome address. He recognized that education under the new normal is difficult and vowed to work harder towards ensuring better education opportunities for the Iskolar ng Bayan.

With the onslaught of four strong typhoons since the start of November, internet connections were unstable. It should also be noted that a large number of PUPians live in areas that recently suffered from the effects of the typhoon. In its commitment to harmonizing education with securing the physical and mental health of their students, academic breaks were instituted.

The initial academic break was enforced from October 31 to November 8 because of Typhoon Quinta and in anticipation of Super Typhoon Rolly. More recently, another two-week break was provided due to the impact of Typhoon Ulysses. Classes will resume on November 28 for undergraduate programs, while the College of Law will begin early on November 22. Students, parents, and other concerned groups welcomed PUP’s action.

Learning in the “new normal”

The coronavirus pandemic has indeed altered human lifestyles, interactions, and relationships. Only a handful of countries were able to reopen schools and universities, but still within the bounds of physical distancing and the use of face masks. The Philippines remains to be on the other end of the spectrum—unable to hold physical classes given the continued rising number of COVID-19 cases and a high infection rate. 

Top medical experts, policy-makers and scientists are also hopeful for the vaccine given that at least three candidates show 90-95% protection from the coronavirus. However, they remain cautious in pinning all hopes to it as we have yet to ensure its availability for all countries, fully monitor how long the immunity would last and assess for possible side effects. Instead, smart policies that ensure effective physical distancing, mask use, and sanitation should be in place to prevent further infections and casualties.

The same could be said for living and learning in the “new normal.” Efforts to ensure that online learning options are not only accessible but equitable and fair should be continuously pursued.###

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