Students can now expect adjustments from both the University and the student body as classes are set to gradually return to classrooms after two years of confinement within digital screens due to the pandemic.
So far, part of the University’s preparation for a wider implementation of face-to-face learning in Term 1 of Academic Year (AY) 2022-2023 are hybrid learning—a mix of online and in-person classes—and pure online learning (POL). Both options will require students and faculty to adapt in order to keep up with the demands of the term.
Meanwhile, efforts of the University Student Government (USG) is also discussing their plans for #BalikDLSU, with USG President Giorgina Escoto emphasizing that their primary concern is the health and safety of students.
After two academic years spent online, the hybrid mode of learning is indeed a refresher for Lasallians. University Provost Dr. Robert Roleda says that to prepare faculty and staff for a “half online and half face-to-face” setup, they are trained to conduct HyFlex classes, which are considered “concurrent classrooms”.
“They will be doing face-to-face and, at the same time, online [learning]. That’s a bit more challenging, so we have training for HyFlex [classes],” he explains.
In a Help Desk Announcement last May, the provost explains such a hybrid setup in detail, wherein basic and major courses are to be delivered on a 50-50 hybrid mode and each college has their corresponding schedule days from Monday to Saturday on when to conduct face-to-face classes. The University break will also be “temporarily moved” to every Wednesday afternoon.
Roleda also shares that although the University has been on top of its preparations, the assurance of going back to face-to-face learning will still be monitored until August considering the unpredictable fluctuations of tallied COVID-19 cases.
In case of another lockdown, the University plans to go back to POL while making sure that classrooms are also capable of sustaining such a learning mode.
“As far as the inverse is concerned, the factor that we are looking at most is the ventilation because studies have shown that [SARS-CoV-2] transmission is mainly through air…So what we are doing now is that we’ve identified the classrooms that can exchange [and] take in outside air regularly,” the provost explains.
Meanwhile, with the USG also in a transition period, Escoto says that they are “recalibrating” their plans on how to accommodate students once back on campus.
“We only have a small campus in Manila and we are moving in limited spaces. I am still working on the Lasallian Care Kits initiative with CSO (Council of Student Organizations) and SCI (Student Care Initiative) so that we can provide students with a few resources they would need to protect themselves from the virus while on campus,” she details.
Through coordinating with various committees and bodies in the University, the USG hopes to provide the students with the assistance they need to adjust to the demands of the hybrid mode of learning.
“We are looking into both the active and inactive bodies, analyzing what the USG has done in these bodies in the most recent years, and what more [we can] do now that we are back in campus,” Escoto notes.
Far from home
The news of hybrid classes in the next school year was also accompanied by an option to enlist in POL due to many students having several health and economic-related reasons, such as living with individuals who are at high risk of getting infected by COVID-19, or simply worrying for their safety.
“It still feels unsafe and risky to opt for in-person classes as we will be exposed [to other people] for longer periods [of time and] the vaccine does not guarantee immunity to [COVID-19],” Robin* (IV, IE-SM) states with regard to their decision to opt for POL. They add that it was also their parents’ decision, although Robin initially did not prefer the option.
Meanwhile, Calista Garcia (I, LGL) suggests that being a POL student is “evidently the more economic choice” as not having to frequent that campus on a weekly basis would cost her less.
Furthermore, the University is also known to be home to students from across the country and abroad. Many of them will either return to Manila or live there for the first time as in-person classes resume.
Ashley Sumadsad (I, LGL), who has been residing in the United States of America since the pandemic started, feels happy about getting to experience life on campus soon, but her excitement is also accompanied by stress. “This means I would [have to arrange] my papers for my stay in the Philippines, and [my] living arrangements [might] change because of the traffic experienced around the [vicinity of the] University.”
Indeed, this new living setup is a major change. “Moving away, most of the time, is a leap of faith,” asserts Kyle* (I, BSMSChE), who comes from Laguna, “I have no doubt it will get pretty hard, but establishing constant communication and [familiarizing] myself with [my] new environment early should help me.”
Familiar and uncharted territories
For some, going to campus may be the continuation of an abruptly cut student life. Students from ID 119 and below experienced a halt in their campus life following the transition to online learning due to COVID-19. For many of them, Term 1 of AY 2022- 2023 will be their first step back into University grounds after two years.
Cheyanne Arguelles (III, LGL) and Ico* (IV, IE-SM) both name interaction with their peers as one of the challenging aspects of adjusting to the online setup in its initial stages.
Arguelles shares that it was challenging to adjust to the limited interaction with professors, but she is hopeful that the hybrid setup would be an avenue for more interactive classes and opportunities to engage not only with her professors, but also her peers.
Ico adds that the online learning setup feels “much less rewarding” as he gets to socialize and to celebrate accomplishments with others in the in-person setting.
Meanwhile, for most ID 120 and 121 students, the incoming AY will be their first time experiencing campus life, bringing about feelings of both excitement and apprehension. Faye* (II, AB-CAM) and Yra Gutierrez (I, AB-CAM) agree that it will be a mix of emotions for them.
Gutierrez notes that connecting with people online is “very different” from having face-to-face conversations, but he also fears that going back to campus will increase his chance of contracting COVID-19.
As the University tests out and continues to develop its hybrid learning delivery, there is much to be expected from the administration in ensuring that all health protocols are complied with, and substantial inclusiveness and equity are provided to all students.
*Names with asterisk (*) are pseudonyms