LOCAL colleges in the cities of Mandaue, Talisay, Carcar and Consolacion town are faced with two challenges as they prepare to open for school year 2020-2021 in October.
Some have suffered a drop in enrollment, while many still have to come up with a plan on how to deliver lessons while face-to-face classes are still prohibited.
At the Mandaue City College (MCC), only 800 of its 1,003 students have enrolled. The others opted to skip this year as their parents lost their jobs when the lockdowns imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) forced many businesses to shut down.
They have to work to help support their families, said MCC school administrator Reymundo Villanueva.
Villanueva had expected more students as the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) had allowed the MCC to offer free tuition through Ched’s Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education program.
The Carcar City College shares the MCC’s predicament.
Its number of enrollees dropped from 1,500 last year to 1,140 this year, said Mayor Merceditas Apura, who serves as the local college’s board president.
At the Talisay City College (TCC), the outlook is different.
Richel Bacaltos, TCC president, expects enrollees to reach 4,000 before the school opening on Sept. 14.
“We even have enrollees from other local government units, but we have to first cater to our students here in Talisay,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The new normal
At the Consolacion Community College, the number of students has barely changed from last school year.
Christian Bacus, the school administrator, told SunStar Cebu they have 1,500 enrollees, most of whom are locals who live near the school.
However, the major challenge for these four local colleges is adapting to the new normal in delivering education.
The TCC and Carcar have adopted a blend of online learning using the learning management system (LMS) and the modular learning using printed modules.
Bacaltos of TCC said half of their students favor online learning while the other half prefer modular learning.
In Carcar, Apura said, 60 percent of their students chose the modular mode.
“Most of our students live in mountain areas, which have poor signal connection,” she said.
Bacaltos said many of their students have limited resources and don’t have smartphones. Those that do have a problem with internet connection, he said.
Villanueva said the MCC also adopted online and modular distance learning.
He said only 30 percent of their 800 students chose modular learning. Because of this, the MCC has invested to improve the school’s internet connection.
They now subscribe to two internet providers so that there’s a backup in case one provider is down, he said.
Villanueva said teachers can work from home as long as they have a stable internet connection. If not, they can use school facilities.
In Consolacion, the administration of the local college will only be using the main building when it opens next month since its other facilities were used as isolation areas for Covid-19 patients.
Bacus said that due to their location, they couldn’t secure a reliable internet connection. However, they’re installing a P2P tower that will transmit an internet signal from the Municipal Hall to the school.
He said they will provide transportation to teachers who will be reporting to school, but faculty members who are 60 years old and above will not be allowed to go to the school.
Since not all students have daily access to the internet, Bacus said they plan to record classes, which students can review anytime.
They will also provide modules and activities that students must complete and submit.
Students without access to the internet can go to internet cafes to work on their modules once a week, Bacus said.
In Carcar, Apura said the local college spent almost P10 million to buy 20 additional computers for teachers, bond paper, ink and risograph machines for the printing of modules.
She said they’re almost 70 percent done with printing modules, while all the needed preparations for the online learning have already been made.
Bacaltos said teachers at the TCC will undergo orientation on the LMS the school will be using on Sept. 1.
He said they have to make sure everything is procedural to assure quality education under the new setup.
He said teachers should reach out to students in all possible ways they can.
He said they’ve finished four of the six modules for the entire first semester, but they’ve only just started printing them.
Once this is done, the modules will be delivered to the students. He said lessons will be discussed remotely.
“We can’t just distribute the modules and then let the students answer the exercises and then later, we will retrieve them without any discussion. There will have to be levelling,” Bacaltos said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Jerum Canillas, a second year computer technology student at the TCC, said he is confident he and the other students will adapt to the new learning setup.
He told SunStar Cebu he prefers modular learning since he works part-time.
He hopes the pandemic will be over soon so that face-to-face classes can resume.
“Nothing can beat learning in the classroom with your classmates and teachers,” Canillas said in Cebuano. (WBS, KFD with JKV)