With the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) drastically changing the landscape of the country, and the subsequent announcement of Metro Manila being put under Enhanced Community Quarantine, the University’s Academics Council (AC) decided to suspend online learning from March 18 to 24, allotting time to evaluate the situation at hand.
During this week-long pause, the University Student Government (USG) disseminated a survey to collect students’ feedback on the use of AnimoSpace and “effective student learning”. Obtaining 2,801 responses from across all colleges, the online form found students sharing problems encountered such as network connectivity issues, late announcements, heavy workloads with short deadlines, and unfamiliarity with the platform. It was from this data that the USG proposed to prolong the suspension of online classes to April 14, limit online learning activities, and push back deadlines until classes resume.
However, a careful review of the survey itself shows that students were neither asked if they were amenable to USG’s proposal, nor if they were willing to have the term extended until May 9 should online learning be completely suspended; there was also no attempt made to discern the students’ living situation that could contribute to challenges faced. The questions asked by the USG were also too broad and unclear to provide them insight on more specific concerns, such as multimedia projects, laboratory classes, practicum requirements, and thesis defenses.
Nevertheless, upon presentation to the AC, a verdict was reached: online learning—not classes—could resume starting March 25, with an additional option of having such activities completely halted until April 14, instead resulting in make-up classes that would span from April 20 to May 9. These options remained subject to discussion and agreement between the faculty and their respective class.
Perhaps this was aggravated by how the USG phrased the advisory in lieu of the Help Desk Announcement, unfortunately stirring confusion. What the University’s guidelines stated as a leniency to not yet comply with requirements, specifically for students dealing with difficult circumstances, was instead conveyed as something entirely non-mandatory: any student was free to opt out of submitting requirements and skip online sessions, without any repercussions. Stated this way, the burden of education came to rest solely on the faculty—who are also affected by the pandemic and are under no obligation to spoon-feed adults in higher education institutions—yet were expected to keep uploading learning materials that students were supposedly not required to study. The same advisory also gave the impression that any slight inconvenience like a paper or a graded activity would be enough basis for filing a grievance complaint against a faculty member.
In reality, the options to proceed with online learning and to pursue make-up classes both warrant the same requirements—the very requirements expected for course completion since the beginning of the term. Even if online classes were to be discontinued, those same requirements would simply be moved, and crammed, to the term-extension period. Any student, in fact, can still choose to ignore posted materials, without stifling others from working on these requirements ahead of time.
Perceived as inconvenient, such a situation should never provide grounds for disrespectfully demanding a “free pass” branded as being inclusive toward the less privileged. Nor should it be a reason to push for a blanket policy that impedes on others willing to make-do with the current setup who, in their own contexts, find that these options work, and in some cases, may even be more conducive for them.
This is not to discount the struggles that other students do experience—unstable internet, family emergencies, or inconsiderate workloads. However, the asynchronous learning activities already account for this, as students do not necessarily have a set study schedule given the current state of the country.
Even if the class selected the online-only option, individuals with circumstances that prevent compliance through online means still have until May 9 to fulfill their requirements. Being unable to do so would merit a deferral—a chance to receive quality education by retaking the course without having a failing grade—for those with valid concerns. At the same time, any relevant concern could be aired through proper channels instead of being visibly condescending toward other students or faculty members.
There is no certainty as to how the pandemic situation will progress, but to keep vouching for delays and postponements for everyone accomplishes nothing. Rather, it only pushes back the inevitable: the term will have to end, whether the outcome involves considering all the delineated requirements or deferring to a time when there is less pressure and a supposed more conducive environment for learning.
In these trying and confusing times, it is evident that everyone will have to make certain sacrifices—some maybe a little, others a lot more. It may seem easier to simply tag along with a perceived majority, in hopes of getting a short-term benefit over making a small sacrifice.
The flexibility offered by the new guidelines appeared to have been lost on many. The reasonable decision is one that is often difficult to make, moreso when long-term considerations come into play amid this time of uncertainty. Refusing to adjust and accomplish something over nothing, despite having the capacity to, may only mean remaining ill-equipped and further disadvantaged should the circumstances worsen or another unusual and inconvenient situation arise.
The Editorial Board issued a statement of apology on March 27 at 6 am, for the article’s content and tone that made the piece dismissive, unsympathetic, and distasteful toward students’ struggles amid the pandemic. The full statement can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/149678604759/posts/10157766689384760/?sfnsn=mo.