Innovation in education through the pandemic

Students from Academia de San Isidro Labrador in Talamban, Cebu City, attend their asynchronous cases on Genyo e-Learning.
Students from Academia de San Isidro Labrador in Talamban, Cebu City, attend their asynchronous cases on Genyo e-Learning.

School is an integral part of the rhythm of Filipino life. The entire year is often planned by families based on when school opens and ends, and the students plan their future based on the subjects they are taking. So when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the largest disruption in education systems in history, we were not prepared for it.

As the pandemic created chaos on all levels, education took one of the hardest hits when in-person classes were banned nationwide during the lockdowns imposed in early 2020. How would an education system that relied almost entirely on physical interactions between teachers and pupils in the same classrooms continue when that very premise was no longer possible?

The Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) decided to do online and blended learning classes, which proved to be challenging. Fortunately, educators and educational resource providers collaborated to explore innovative and creative lesson delivery models to ensure that learning never stops.

Some schools were fortunate to be able to continue their classes using digital and printed learning resources that are aligned with the K-12 curriculum and the DepEd’s Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCs). Educational resource provider Diwa Learning Systems Inc. (Diwa) collaborated with schools to address their needs through its flagship Diwa Textbooks and Supplemental Educational Magazines. Considered as the traditional classroom learning resources, their printed and digital versions turned out to be useful to many schools for synchronous or asynchronous classes.

But as the quarantine stretched out, the need to use more e-learning tools became paramount. As every home turned into a classroom, digital educational resources and tools proved very useful.

E-learning platforms such as Diwa’s Genyo e-Learning contributed a lot to the success of schools in school year 2020-2021. Although it has been in the market for quite some time already being the first of its kind in the Philippines, it suddenly became the main learning delivery tool for schools due to the pandemic. For schools who were using it prior to SY 2020-2021, the switch to remote learning was relatively easier. Genyo e-Learning’s built-in relevant, local and curriculum-based content, and its fully integrated implementation training program, made the transition to online much more painless, not just for SY 2020-2021 but even for the upcoming school year.

Christian Ecclesiastical School in Bulacan conducts syncrhonous classes online with the help of lesson packages from Genro e-Learning.

Electronic tools for learning are not new nor have Philippine schools been averse to them before the pandemic.

Floriza Nepomuceno, principal of Christian Ecclesiastical School in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, took the leap with Genyo e-Learning six years ago. When the pandemic struck, they were ready to switch to full online distance learning. “For us, that was the best solution,” she said. “It’s the alternative delivery mode we were preparing for years ago.” By June 1, 2020, the school opened its online enrollment. “We had students from public and private schools in the City of San Jose del Monte and even outside of the city, to the far areas of Quezon City, Bataan and even outside of the country in Dubai and the United States. Our enrollment for this school year had increased by 5 percent. From a student population of 1,920 in S.Y. 2019-2020, in this pandemic year we have 2,038 students.”

Norber David, principal of Emmanuel Christian School of Santa Rosa Laguna, explains how they have been a Genyo e-Learning partner for the past eight years. “The bond and trust built through the years became our advantage to transition to online learning since our students and teachers have been Genyo users for several years,” he said.

Fr. Sherwin Leo Ferrater, Basic Education Principal of Academia de San Isidro Labrador, Talamban, Cebu City, had so many plans for his school shattered because of the quarantine. He worried about the school and how it would survive. “We came up with ASIL-ENFOLD, which stands for Academia de San Isidro Labrador Engaging Network to Flexible Online Learning Design,” he said. “The program sets forth the new online modality offered for SY 2020-2021 featuring Genyo e-Learning as the LMS.”

Schools adapted all over the country. In San Fernando, La Union, Saint Louis College (SLC) first began using Genyo e-Learning in 2010. By 2020, they were able to switch from blended learning to purely online learning because of the platform. SLC’s Basic Education vice principal Florence Sobremonte said, “selecting and purchasing a learning management system is a strategic decision for our institution and so we are glad that we made the right decision—to make Genyo our partner in shaping the future.” Principal Nenita Bincal of Pagadian Golden School Learning Center explained they had partnered with Diwa since 2012 but it really paid off during the pandemic when Diwa helped train their stakeholders to adapt to the new mode of learning particularly with the parents who had to learn to use the tools as well.

Genyo could be fun as well as useful. Its nationwide “I Am a Cyberhero” contest encouraged students to discover and harness their full potential despite the challenges of distance learning through a photo essay contest for grade school and junior high school and a character on frame competition for senior high school. Teachers got in on the act as well, with the “Teki si Titser Vlog Contest,” a nationwide competition that showcases educators’ creativity and ingenuity by creating vlogs about effective strategies and pedagogies for online teaching and learning.

The pandemic did not just change education for one school year. Education will never be the same as it has actually evolved and gotten better. Through innovation and collaboration, schools were successful in their learning continuity plan despite the challenging times. In the end, Norber David’s words are so fitting: “As we continue our journey, there are still hurdles in front of us, but we can overcome them because we are educators, we are teachers, we innovate and we make a difference.” –BY RUEL S. DE VERA

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