Cebu Normal University (CNU) successfully convened education leaders across different institutions in a virtual platform to share experiences and discuss ways to overcome challenges in the higher education sector brought by Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

This platform was called Higher Education Connect (HEdConnect). The first session of HEdConnect was live-streamed last Tuesday, June 30 at the CNU Public Information Office (PIO) Facebook account of the University.

HEdConnect was initiated by CNU through its Center for Research and Development (CRD) as part of the University’s 118th Foundation Celebration.

Read related article: [CNU thrives, leads, and serves in the ‘new normal’]

The first session of HEdConnect dwelled on the theme, Reframing the Landscape of Learning: The Leader’s Voices.

Dr. Filomena Dayagbil, CNU President, led the session as the moderator and invited a set of panelists representing the different Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

These panelists included: Atty. Liza Corro, University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu Chancellor; Dr. Eduardo Ompad, Region VII Association of Local Colleges and Universities (ALCU) President and Lapu-Lapu City College (LLCC) President; Dr. Ethel Agnes Valenzuela, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Secretariat Director; Dr. Ma. Imogen Quilicot, Siquijor State College (SSC) President; and Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr., University of San Carlos (USC) President.

“I am so much delighted that all of us in Higher Education consider the pandemic as an opportunity to explore initiative or innovative approaches to survive, to thrive, and to lead in Higher Education,” Dr. Maximo Aljibe, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Regional Office VII Director, said in his message.

Aljibe said that the pandemic is a form of disruption but positively it can be seen as a way to connect people in the academe to learn, become resourceful, more creative, and innovative to continually operate as education providers.

“The pandemic changes us in Higher Education to an indefinite modality. As a proactive response, we need to transform the pandemic into an enormous ocean of opportunities. Together let us survive, thrive, and lead in Higher Education by connecting to each other in form of partnerships, consortium, leadership either in actual or virtual platforms.” he said.

The panelists took turns in sharing their academic institutions’ experience of the pandemic, how they ensured continuity in terms of teaching and learning, research, extension, and their recommendations in order to thrive, lead, and serve in the new normal.

Corro said that UP Cebu immediately practiced the work and study from home arrangement to ensure safety to its stakeholders; immediately procured institutional Zoom; revisited their University Virtual Learning Environment (UVLE); and had a refresher webinar training for Google Classroom and Microsoft 360 feature for non-users.

She said that they have planned to enhance their internet connectivity and are looking into providing their faculty and students with internet allowance. They are also planning to upgrade their Library Management System.

UP Cebu has also produced COVID-19 Heat Maps, COVID CHECK assessment and monitoring web-app, and printed prototype face shields and parts of some medical equipment as their research and extension initiatives amidst the pandemic.

Ompad shared that based on the survey they have conducted as part of their Learning Continuity Plan (LCP), LLCC has aligned its curriculum competencies and designed flexible learning using digital and non-digital technology to suit the capacity of their students.

He said that they have maximized the use of self-directed learning modules considering that as a local college they cannot procure Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Valenzuela said that she commends the information sharing of HEIs to gain insights from the best practices of other schools but encourages all to develop one’s own unique response since each institution has a different context, situation, and type of learners.

She reminded the participants of the session to always consider the mental, psychosocial, and emotional health of the learners and teachers.

Quilicot said that SSC has suspended its classes and even though Siquijor is declared COVID-19 free, they still planned to conduct their admission and enrolment processes in the upcoming school year by municipality.
They also planned to apply block sectioning in all their programs with a maximum of 40 students per class which will be divided into two for physical distancing.

Cellan shared that USC has an ongoing Canvas training for its faculty and staff. He also recommended re-engineering education by shifting the practice of Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) to Problem-Posing Education (PPE) to develop graduates who are not only competent but are also critical thinkers who have an outward-looking perspective.

He also said that the teachers’ role this time is to facilitate the learning process for students since everything is available online. He said that the students now are authors of what they are going to understand, know, and make sense of with the changes of time.

HEdConnect “is indeed an academic milestone as leaders converge to share insights, reflections, and practices on how to reframe the landscape of learning amid and beyond the pandemic,” Dayagbil said.

A recording of HEdConnect can be viewed at the CNU PIO Facebook account. (JDF)