How Metro schools continue lessons amid coronavirus threat

Michelle Abad

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How Metro schools continue lessons amid coronavirus threat
(UPDATED) With classes in Metro Manila suspended for at least a week, schools need to get creative to keep essential activities on schedule

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Following the recent spike of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Metro Manila the past week, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of classes in Metro Manila from March 10 to 14.

As of this writing, there have been at least 49 cases of the coronavirus in the Philippines – with those who have not yet recovered confined in hospitals in and around the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Department of Education (DepEd) ordered NCR schools on Tuesday evening after the President’s announcement to implement “social distancing measures” amid the COVID-19 threat. By then, it had already suspended national activities requiring travel and congregation, such as Palaro Regional Meets.

With the uncertainty surrounding the incubation of the disease, schools are resorting to creative measures to keep classes running outside the classroom. Here are some of their practices:

Using online platforms

Here is a list of some online platforms some teachers have reported using or are encouraged to use to conduct their classes:

Ramon Avanceña High School (RAHS) principal Danilo Estavillo encouraged teachers in their Quiapo-based school to make use of Google Classroom to interact with students. In this platform, teachers can post announcements and assignments that students can accomplish online. 

In Pasig Elementary and Sta Ana Elementary, some teachers post slideshows of their lessons in Facebook groups and allow students to ask their questions and share insights through comments. Some also give assignments via Facebook Messenger.

Ateneo de Manila University lists Moodle, a free and open-sourced learning platform, as among online venues for learning.

Video conferencing app Zoom, which has gained popularity with schools and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, is reported to be under scrutiny over privacy issues. Two flaws in Zoom’s macOS client allow potential attackers to access a user’s microphone and webcam.

Users in the US have complained to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after being startled by pornography during meetings.

Multimedia lectures. At the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, some professors have opted for the following options on Facebook:

  • Livestreamed lectures
  • Audio lectures
  • Video lectures of a PowerPoint, along with an audio track of a discussion

Students can also comment on the multimedia lectures for questions. Professors provide links to supplementary learning materials, like YouTube videos.

Other online practices. The University of the Philippines (UP) and Ateneo suggested the following practices for faculty members in conducting remote lessons:

  • Adjusting syllabi and providing more detail on expectations of each session
  • Holding online classes on the same schedules as appointed course periods
  • Uploading learning materials or links to them in existing platforms
  • Adapting requirements to make them more compatible to an online delivery mode (e.g. essays instead of an exam)
  • Taking inventory of students’ access to the internet, and matching students without access with those with access for peer learning opportunities
  • Conducting thesis defenses online
  • Determining contingency plans for laboratory classes, internships, and field immersion, among other out-of-classroom requirements

UP also made their Open University’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) accessible via their website for easy transition of lessons from face-to-face to online. According to the website, all educational institutions looking to do e-learning may avail of the MOOCs for free. (READ: [OPINION] A few possible benefits of the coronavirus outbreak)

RAHS principal Estavillo said there are no concerns about access to internet in their school. Meanwhile, for Sta Ana Elementary, principal Leo Pabaruan said that even if some students do not have access to the internet, they can just review their hard-copy lessons and modules for their postponed exams. The same is done in RAHS.

If teachers are unable to hold online class sessions, Ateneo advised them to break down the remainder of the course into modules, assign reading materials, and prepare an assessment to go with each module. Students would submit their requirements for the modules through email.

Ateneo decided that should the suspension of classes be announced within 3 weeks of the end of the 2nd semester, the semester would be deemed ended, and the final grades would be based on the latest class standing.

Staggered exams upon return

The week of March 10 to 14 coincides with the exam periods of some public elementary and high schools. The principals of the mentioned public schools said that this makes it easier for alternative learning, since lessons scheduled this week are not as heavy.

Pasig Elementary principal Emelita Medina said that once the students come back for their 4th quarter exams on March 16 to 20, they will come on a staggered basis – meaning students will come in batches at different times of the day to avoid too much contact.

This is also in line with the DepEd advisory for all basic educational institutions in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Postponement or cancellation of non-academic events

The University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) suspended all events until March 14.

A theater organization in Ateneo canceled its shows from March 11 to March 18, beyond the President’s suspension period.

Some high schools like Xavier School canceled its upcoming proms after the President’s suspension. Xavier also canceled off-campus retreats.

Advice dissemination

UP released a set of COVID-19 guidelines for its students through an online pamphlet. It contains answers to questions like, “I think I’m sick. What should I do?” It also contains illustrated guidelines of proper handwashing, how to use face masks, receiving letters and packages, and interacting with animals. 

At the end of the pamphlet is a list of contact numbers for each UP campus’ University Health Service. There are also QR codes for the official websites of the Department of Health and the World Health Organization.

This is “to prevent the spread of misinformation and undue alarm.” –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.