Into a Future of Promise and Hope

Gen Fac Assembly June 2020

[Online ADDU Faculty General Assembly, July 1, 2020.]

Congratulations on your first week of online teaching in all our units!

Only three months ago, we made the decision together to shift from face-to-face (f2f) teaching to go online.  The decision was coerced by the Coronavirus pandemic.  It was based on fidelity to our Vision and Mission.  But it was also based on survival.  If we were to be viable as a multi-level educational institution, affecting not only our students and learners but also our livelihood, we needed to use the technical means necessary to go online.

The shift was awesome.  The adoption of online technology was accepted as a challenge; it awakened many creative juices.  And even though many who were not tech-savvy were truly tested, it saw teachers in all our units, young and old, adapting themselves to the new technology.  Google Classroom, Moodle, and Zoom, long around but erstwhile strangers to most, suddenly became familiar partners in enabling instruction online.  In all the units there was excitement.  Even joy.

First Major University to Shift to Online Education

So after the first week of online education, we can congratulate ourselves for having made the shift.  Online teaching has engendered online learning – with all the amusing accounts of bloopers and gaffes and background images of relatives in various stages of dress and undress, and evidence of auditing dogs and reciting roosters none of whom paid tuition.  We laughed, we smiled, we met one another, we taught, we learned.  With gratitude, we are the first major university in the Philippines to have made the shift online.

Where once we were not sure whether our learners and students and their parents would accept the shift with us, where once we met uncertainty, skepticism, and even protests, we now know that meanwhile, they have.  They accepted that we did not want to wait until August to begin;  they accepted that we did not want to waste valuable time.  So they enrolled.  In the GS, where we initially could not even imagine how online education could take shape we now have  2,664 learners enrolled, in the JHS  1,860, in the SHS 2,971, in the college or undergraduate higher education  6,483, in the graduate school 595, in the College of Law 501.

They enrolled because they trusted we were ready.  They trusted because in many cases you talked to them.  You entered into dialogue with them.  You showed them that online learning, even for the youngest of our learners in K-3, was plausible.  You showed them that in collaboration and partnership this venture could work, this adventure could be life-giving. 

Unprecedented Enrollment Due to Online Platform

But when enrollment began, something unprecedented happened.  And we have come to appreciate that it is significant.  Before, most of our students had come from Davao and various parts of Mindanao.  They were our students because they were willing to come to Davao and join the ranks of students in our Jacinto, Matina, or Bangkal campuses.  But as this enrollment progressed, inquiries, then enrollees, were also coming from other parts of the Philippines: Cabanatuan, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Metro Manila, Leyte, Negros, Capiz, Cebu.   But also from abroad:  Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Cambodia, Viet-Nam, Myanmar, and Thailand.  Some were foreigners, many of them Filipinos working abroad or children of Filipinos working abroad in Doha, Riad, Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and even the United States.  Suddenly we had students and scholars attracted to online education because it was available to them where they were.  I am happy that many of them are our alumni working abroad grateful for the opportunity to continue their studies at ADDU.

Online Education Opens Exciting New Possibilities

Meanwhile, as the once intimidating online educational resources become familiar to our faculty, the possibilities of using these resources in a new normal have become clearer.  At ADDU, the infrastructure for online learning had been introduced nine years ago with the introduction of the Moodle learning platform.  In time, in 2017, Google Suite was introduced into our system with the possibility of using Google Classroom.  But actual use was very limited.  There was little motivation to move away from the familiar  f2f learning.  The Coronavirus pandemic changed that.  All of a sudden, we are now using one or the other, if not both.  We have discovered: Online learning can strengthen the learner to take responsibility for learning in a 21st-century environment.   Online teaching can free the teacher from the doldrums of repetitive teaching from yellowed notes.  Online teaching can empower the teacher to create courseware that makes even complex learning fun.  Online learning can tap into rich sources of instructional material already available online.  In using Moodle some of our teachers are gamifying instruction to explore the depths of anthropology or the heights of aerospace engineering.   They are having fun.  But their students are having fun as well!

Blended Learning

For me, therefore, it appears clear that online education – online teaching and online learning – is in ADDU to stay.  Together we have crossed a Rubicon.  Even should the coronavirus one day be finally overcome, we are not looking to a future of going back to just f2f learning.  For all of us, even when our campuses are repopulated anew with students and teachers, online learning will continue to be utilized with f2f instruction in delivering all of our courses more efficiently or more interestingly.  In this sense, the norm of instruction for the future will be blended learning, a blending of f2f instruction with online learning.

Fully Online Learning Towards an AdD Open University

At the same time, an array of courses will be made available that are fully online.  They will be made available because their content allows that with appropriate technology they can be delivered without f2f instruction.  This array of courses will constitute the Ateneo de Davao Open University.  Considering our VM, it would bring our education to people desirous of ADDU education, but who cannot come to Davao.  But it will also bring our education to the peripheries, to where our OFWs are, to the indigenous peoples of Thailand and Myanmar, to Lumad of Mindanao, to the BARMM and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.   It will bring distant persons within reach and your inner desire to teach.

Meanwhile, both blended learning and fully-online learning would be appropriate for lifelong learning in the 21st century.  In the global world, theorists of education have been telling us this for a long time.  At ADDU, we are now beginning to experience this.

An ADDU Brand of Online Courseware

This way into the future would also position ADDU to help the nation’s educators with its own brand of online courseware.  Courseware brings everything that you used to do when preparing and teaching a class: lesson plans or syllabi, books, required readings, assigned activities, etc. and puts it all in software that contains the educational content, instruction, and instructional strategies to be accessed by students through a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Our ADDU brand of courseware, combining synchronous and asynchronous learning, must define the essential role of the online teacher, incorporate the importance of experience, reflection, decision, action and evaluation in every course, and the general intention of forming the humane human being in his or her relationship with God and with society.  It must support a strong individual learner but lead that individual to appropriate socialization, the joy of learning from others and the equal joy of contributing to others’ learning.  It must support the development of ADDU sui generis leaders.  This distinctive brand of online courseware, like an excellent wine, must develop over time, with success and ongoing improvement in its enjoyment.  In the end, developed through teachers, instructional designers and learners at ADDU, its taste, its flavor, its bouquet will be undeniably ADDU. 

Consequent Challenges:  Instructional and Institutional

In the hope that you agree with me that this is the direction we would want to take together into the future, the development of online courses, the development of excellent courseware, the development of expertise in using online instructional technology, and the development of university expertise in instructional design to help our professors and teachers develop their valued content, all become a central instructional challenge for the university.

It is however not just an instructional challenge, it is a whole-university challenge to make its various systems, its University Information Technology Office (UITO) with its Management Information System (MIS) and its Technical Services Office (TSO), its administrative structures, its formative services, its library resources, support this development of online educational expertise in an emerging blended-learning and open university.

ADDU Center for Educational Research and Advocacy (ACERA)

Unto this end, we have already organized the ADDU Center for Educational Research and Advocacy (ACERA) through our School of Education and have for now missioned it to help the university in the development of its online education.  Led by Dr. Marleonie Bauyot the ACERA, but with the expertise of the education specialists of our School of Education, we will conduct research and craft interventions to support and evaluate online education at ADDU.  It has already come out with a “Guide to Contribute to the Shift to Online Education at ADDU” and a valuable essay on why face-to-face teaching cannot just be transported into online learning platforms.

In this context, today we wish to announce two important administrative changes in our University.

Assistant to the AVP for Online Education

The first is my appointment of Fr. Ulysses “Ogie” Cabayao, S.J. as Asst. to the AVP for Online Education.  Along with his formal training in Management Information Systems, Fr. Ogie will use his long experience as a teacher using online educational technology in instructing both high-school and higher-education students, as well as his experience as a student going through blended learning at the Australian National University, to help faculty who have formulated their Online Instructional Development Plan now to further develop their courseware. He will pay special attention to faculty who are not tech-savvy.  He will help develop user-friendly templates to gradually improve the culture of online instruction at ADDU.  But he will also explore with faculty – especially with those who are creative, innovative, and adventurous – developing courseware that explores the limits of learning management systems like Moodle.  In his AB anthropology course Fr. Ogie is the “Game Master” who takes his students on a fun-filled adventure that is as enjoyable as didactically powerful.

A More User-friendly UITO

When I first came to ADDU more than nine years ago, I remember students lining up in various lines sometimes for three days in order to enroll.  It was Fr. Denny Toledo who changed that.  Over the past eight years Fr. Toledo integrated the Management Information Systems (MIS), the Technical Services Office (TSO), and the Information Technology Training Services Office (ITTSO) into the University Information Technology Office (UITO).  Under its service to university academics, he has overseen the development through the MIS of the Student Information Services (SIS), the Academic Information Services (AIS) for teachers, and the Academic Information Management System (AIMS) for academic administrators.  Already in 2011, he introduced Moodle to our system;  in 2017  he admitted the Google Suite to the system.  He has given much attention to the security of our integrated IT System, including its well-guarded user portal.  The University will always be grateful to Fr. Denny for this outstanding contribution to its IT infrastructure.  Without this contribution, we would not be able to be holding online classes today.

Considering our current challenge to help all our teachers develop excellent courseware for online education in the ADDU way, I have personally thanked Fr. Denny for his many years of service as UITO director.  I ask that we all thank and honor him for his invaluable contribution to the University.

But today I am replacing him with Fr. Carlos “Charlie” Cenzon, S.J., whose doctoral work focused on instructional technology and the attitude of teachers to technology.

With the appointments of Fr. Charlie and Fr. Ogie to their new positions,  the services of the IT Training Services Office (ITTSO), heretofore led by Ms. Ma Theresa Quindoy, can now be retired.  Its training services to external clients can now be replaced by ADD-ALL; its training services to groups within the university can be taken over by the Asst. to the AVP for Online Education.  We thank Ms. Quindoy for her services to the ITTSO since its inception.   But with the retirement of the ITTSO, she is now freed to render valuable instructional service to Computer Science, especially in the wake of Fr. Charlie now being assigned full-time to UITO.

With these changes, I expect that the interphase between the UITO and the Office of the AVP will become stronger.  The AVP with the Deans and the unit heads must care for the content of instruction, the achievement of government-set minimum standards, the vertical articulation of our instructional services, the integration of our formational interventions with our instructional interventions, the development of the Atenean even online into the sui generis leader that we envision.   Unto the attainment of these ends, the AVP and the unit heads must find in the UITO easy and ready support.

As important as this is, I also expect that the interphase between the UITO and with our individual teachers become more user friendly.  Under Fr. Charlie I expect that the sometimes intimidating technology locked in the UITO and its many systems be unlocked and made more easily available and more easily exploitable to our teachers who need to create creditable courseware or bring them to excellence.

Under Fr. Charlie, the character of the UITO as a service organization should be more felt in the University  –  to the ultimate advantage of our students and learners.  I hope that as we have become a virtual community online the UITO provides the technical environment where that virtual community of service is supported and fostered in service.   This being the goal, all should be able to feel they can come into easy dialogue with the UITO in order to be able to benefit from its service for the service of others.  Through the service of the UITO, all should be able to befriend the technology that allows them to serve better, and all should feel the technology wishes to befriend them.

To where God leads us:  yes!

Together, we are doing something new.  We are responding to a health emergency in our environment that despite the physical distancing has brought us closer together in shared effort and shared accomplishment in our educational mission.  Everyday in our online live-streamed Mass we have prayed that administrators, faculty, staff, and students at ADDU come together to make our online learning successful.  I believe God is answering our prayer, blessing our efforts, and opening new doors to us for greater service.  That greater service would now mean that we continue to be able to come together not just to survive but to thrive, to laugh at our gaffes and mistakes, forgive ourselves and one another our shortcomings, learn humbly from what we are doing, open ourselves to doing what we are doing better, and step gamely together into a future of promise and hope – because this is where God seems to be leading us, and because f2f with God we are willing to say yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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