distance learning

[OPINION] Are self-learning modules effective?

Liezle Precious Roldan Estrada
[OPINION] Are self-learning modules effective?

Illustration by Guia Abogado

'Modules are not substitutes for teachers'

In October 2020, the Department of Education (DepEd) reopened classes amid the still rampant coronavirus outbreak, and one method of teaching the department appraised to be effective in this situation was modular learning.

What is modular learning?

Modular learning is a form of distance learning that employs the use of self-learning modules. These self-learning modules are based on the most essential learning competencies (MELCS) provided by DepEd. 

Ideally, the modules should include sections on motivation and assessment that serve as a complete guide for both the teacher’s and students’ desired competencies. The teachers will monitor the learner’s progress through home visits (following social distancing protocols) and feedback mechanisms and guide those who need special attention.

Although this was what DepEd proposed and expected from teachers and students, this is far from the current realities involved in modular learning.

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The realities of modular learning

The modular learning approach is hanging by a thread, and it’s not the teachers’ or the students’ fault. The plan seems to be flawed from the start. With so many students, especially in public schools, it would be hard to give each one equal and undivided attention. Teachers also struggle to reach out to all of their students but fall short because economic and social factors stand in their way.

DepEd is well aware of the situation between students and teachers. Not everyone is privileged enough to own a laptop or a phone or to have a stable, uninterrupted internet connection or data. Modular learning was the band-aid solution to these economic shortcomings. But what they failed to consider (or refused to acknowledge) is that every student’s home life is different.

You see, modular learning is heavily reliant on the More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) capacities, also known as the adult figures in these students’ homes. The module relies on their knowledge and patience to teach the student whatever concept they don’t understand.

In most middle-class homes where at least one person has access to data or an internet connection, this might not pose much of a problem. Additionally, at least one person in middle-class families has attended college. This means they have access to education and resources. But this may not be the case for lower-income families.

In families where both parents are absent, trying to make ends meet, and no one has gone to college because of poverty, modular learning might not work at all. Lessons are limited to what’s written on paper. Without another more knowledgeable person who can explain these complicated concepts, the student will definitely have difficulty absorbing their lessons.

With the current setup DepEd has for its teachers and students, the possibility of anyone genuinely learning anything is low. First off, modules are not substitutes for teachers. Like what has been mentioned above, without a knowledgeable person around who can explain confusing or complicated concepts written in the module, the student won’t understand it.

Second, examples are limited. The modules themselves aren’t perfect. They differ from school to school, and their contents depend on the teachers who made them. Some students may not have a problem understanding their lessons because of a well-explained module, but others may not be as lucky. With the lack of standard books used, the level of learning varies. 

Third, students are being left in the dark. Those who don’t have access to electronic gadgets and the internet may not even know who their classmates are for this school year. The only point of contact students have with their teachers this school year is through the modules. Social bonds can’t form between students and teachers.

Additionally, there is a lack of feedback. Once modules have been answered and delivered to the teacher, students only have to worry about the next modules coming in. There is little to no feedback regarding what they have learned and if their answers are correct. Therefore, the modular approach becomes an endless stream of paperwork for both the student and the teacher with no way of knowing its effectiveness.

There are a lot more challenges concerning modular learning, but these are the most prevalent. Both the students and the teachers are at a disadvantage. The quality of education, however hard it is to admit, may have dropped. But because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not their fault. Learning is hard when done on your own.

It’s hard to absorb new information when no one is there to guide you (or at least empathize with you) when the lessons become too much. This may also contribute to the anxiety and depression some students feel now that they’re struggling to keep up with modular learning demands. Although both the teachers and the students are trying their best to perform well in this situation, it’s just not ideal.

The modular learning approach has several weak spots. If DepEd refuses to address them, both students and teachers will have an even harder time adjusting to the new normal. – Rappler.com

Liezle Precious R. Estrada is an educator by profession, and an environmental enthusiast at heart. She also dabbles in painting and calligraphy. In her free time, Liezle indulges herself in hiking and adventures. 

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