College students share remote learning woes as classes shift online

With their classes now online, university and college students struggle with the challenges of remote learning, left with no choice but to adapt during the pandemic. (READ: FAST FACTS: CHED's flexible learning)

In July, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Prospero de Vera III said that schools were ready to open classes using the flexible learning approach. (READ: CHED says schools ready for 'flexible learning' in August)

"Flexible learning" for higher education institutions involves a combination of digital and non-digital technology, which CHED says doesn't necessarily require connectivity to the internet. (READ: FAST FACTS: CHED's flexible learning)

According to De Vera, universities and colleges have the freedom to choose which mode would be effective for them. They could go purely online, purely modular, or a combination of the two.

De Vera said on August 14 that colleges and universities are not covered by RA 11480, the law that moved the school opening for basic education students from August 24 to October 5. (READ: Colleges, universities not covered by law that moved school opening – CHED)

A total of 731 colleges and universities would open classes in August, while 186 more would open in September and October, De Vera said.

There are a total of 2,400 colleges and universities in the country, according to CHED.

How are students dealing with remote learning? And how are universities helping them?

Rappler spoke with several college students about their experience.

Burning out

Despite Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) getting praise on social media for its attempts to make education inclusive, students like Kyrron Jarred Rodriquez and Keith Adrian Santos, both Computer Science majors, continue to experience difficulties.

They told Rappler in an interview that they struggle with unstable internet connections, have difficulty focusing on lectures, and are burning out from the distortion of their work-life balance.

However, they also said that Ateneo and their professors are making efforts to provide a conducive learning environment during the pandemic.

According to them, Ateneo has sent out surveys to assess the situation of their students, provided laptops and internet access to those in need, offered extra stipends to scholars, and engaged in "Kamustahan sessions" between the department heads and the student body, which would be done throughout the semester.

"All in all, I can clearly see how ADMU is doing their best to help in these trying times," Santos said.

Students of De La Salle University have also encountered problems apart from unstable internet connections. 

"There were many times when I had no choice but to find out more about the lesson on my own, because the videos and modules still weren't enough," shared Accountancy student Stephanie Poon in a mix of Filipino and English.

She also said that her classmates no longer listen to their online classes seriously as their lessons could already be found on other sites.

How is DLSU helping its students?

Management student Joshua Sta Ana said that DLSU is helping them through the Lasallian Welfare Student Program (LSWP), which provides emergency relief assistance and technology support to students, and financial assistance to those in need through the St La Salle Financial Grant.

"Aside from these, the students are also helping by providing student-led financial aid programs, technology assistance programs, and much more," Sta Ana said.

Inclusivity

However, this kind of support is not experienced by Lalaine Ramos, a Political Science student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), who attended summer classes in June.

Ramos told Rappler that PUP has not done much to ensure the inclusivity of its education system. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education 'only for those who can afford')

"After enrollment, ilang linggo akong naghintay ng announcement sa page ng PUP. Hinihintay ko kung kailan magsisimula ang klase at kung paano namin maco-contact ang mga professors namin. At after ilang linggong paghihintay, wala pa rin akong nabasang announcement. Hanggang sa may kaibigan akong nagbanggit sa akin na start na raw ata ang summer class," Ramos said.

(After enrollment, I waited weeks for an announcement on PUP’s page. I was waiting for information on when classes would start and how we could contact our professors. But after weeks of waiting, there was still no word until my friend mentioned that our summer classes may have already started.)

Despite efforts to prepare for the digital shift, challenges for PUP students and their professors remain, including unstable internet connections, time limitations on classes done through Zoom's free version, and the strain on mental health. (READ: With shortage of guidance counselors, how will PH students cope with pandemic?)

"Parehas na nangangapa ang mga estudyante at professors sa paraan ng pagtuturo. Malaking adjustment ito para sa aming lahat dahil first time itong nangyari," Ramos said.

(Both the students and the professors are struggling. This is a big adjustment for all of us since this is the first time this has happened.)

However, Lalaine remains grateful for the efforts of some of her professors to ensure their students can learn and submit their requirements.

"Basta para sa akin, hindi na muna dapat talaga ituloy ang pasukan habang wala pang bakuna," she added.

(For me, classes really shouldn't resume until there's a vaccine.)

#AcademicFreezeNOW trends

On Thursday, September 3, students who already started their online classes took to social media to air their grievances.

#AcademicFreezeNOW became the top trending topic on Twitter Philippines.

 Here's what students are saying:

On August 31, a youth group urged President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order (EO) that would initiate an "academic freeze" until January 2021 to give the government enough time to prepare for the shift to distance learning. – Rappler.com

Gab Jopillo is a Rappler intern. She is a junior Communication student at the University of Santo Tomas.