Etiquette in the digital classroom
Vanessa and Raquel had to face the challenges of the new normal caused by COVID-19 and adapt quickly for the sake of their students. They weathered major resistance and financial constraints but remained steadfast in their leadership.
Etiquette in the digital classroom
NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - June 19, 2020 - 12:00am

The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has created many a new normal — including “inside” the classroom.

When many schools in the Philippines open in August, both students and educators are in for a different ride. Given the threat of COVID-19, the traditional classroom setup of many educational institutions will meanwhile give way to online learning.

With no face-to-face interaction, the digital classroom, said young educators Vanessa Tanco and Raquel Wong of iACADEMY in a Zoom interview with The STAR’s Newsmakers, is prone to challenges. Aside from access to technology and gadgets, it is also the proper decorum of learners that poses a challenge to the new educational platform.

“All the more that etiquette in the digital classroom should be observed,” said Raquel, COO of the academy.

iACADEMY, located in Makati, has senior high school and college programs centered on computing, business and design. It has specialized course offerings such as Software Engineering, Game Development, Animation, Multimedia Arts, and Fashion. It started in 2002 with an initial class of 72 students. The academy now has a population of 2,500 students.

Given that fidelity to learning is a prime composite of education, the digital classroom should adhere to more.

“Students should be mindful of what they say or share in the digital classroom. That’s very important. Bottomline, information shared should be factual. Always check sources of information,” said Raquel.

Raquel is a Public Administration graduate from the University of the Philippines. She obtained her master’s degree in Public Administration from The Catholic University of Korea. In 2014, she joined the academy as assistant vice president for corporate communications. She spearheaded milestone events for the school such as the first student exhibition in Rockwell, the 24-hour gaming and development competition called “Battle League, Creative Camp, TEDxiACADEMY.”

“Go to the proper channels, like the school guidance counselor, when voicing out something. People tend to rant online. Students should be encouraged to be mindful of what they say and to go to the right channel for them to be heard and for their concerns to be addressed,” added Vanessa, president and CEO of the school.

Vanessa holds a degree in Legal Management from the Ateneo de Manila University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. In 2007 she entered  iACADEMY as head of the marketing department and doubled the enrollment for that year. Since then she has been at the forefront of expanding the college by offering new courses under the School of Design and steered the school’s partnership with Project Runway Philippines, WACOM, IBM, Amazon Web Services and PwC.

The time of the pandemic is the time to be most caring, shared the young duo. Claiming their school is bully-proof, they both recognize that bullying in the digital classroom can also take place.

Vanessa said, “In our school, we try to do everything to stop bullying. We have a community who takes care of each other. We have what we call the student experience department. There’s always a strong support system in school.”

The etiquette of caring should be observed in distance learning.

“We have a school doctor and counselor that our students can call 24/7 with their concerns,” said Raquel. But during the enhanced community quarantine, when school operations were hampered, Raquel said the school called all their 2,500 students one by one to check on them.

“We had to make sure that if ever anyone of them was experiencing anxiety problems, their concerns were acted upon,” she said.

Vanessa added: “Prior to the COVID-19 situation, whenever we had students who were not feeling well or who had met an accident on the way to campus, we always made sure that there was one or two persons from the school who would be there with the student in the hospital (if necessary) until his or her parents or guardian arrived. This is why when the pandemic happened, we felt that we were better prepared to face it. We’ve had a lot of practice in reaching out to students and parents during difficult situations,” Raquel said.

Vanessa and Raquel are proud to say their students are known as “Game Changers,” who are competent to take on a highly competitive professional world because they are “bold, different, and game-changing.”

Vanessa added the school, aside from being a bully-proof community, carries a culture of inclusivity and diversity. They proudly said they are the first to implement the gender-neutral bathrooms in school because “we value uniqueness.”

They said the academy’s faculty is composed of both locally and internationally experienced academicians and industry practitioners. The school prides itself in being the first Wacom Authorized training partner in the Philippines, the first college in the ASEAN region to be appointed as an IBM Center of Excellence, the first and only Toon Boom Center of Excellence in Asia, and a partner of Amazon Web Services for Cloud Computing Certification courses.

Instead of being anxious about the new teaching and learning format in their school, Raquel and Vanessa said they are “excited about the online setup.” With genuine excitement, they talked about two types of classes: the synchronous and asynchronous education.

Synchronous, they said, is an online setup where all students in a class are learning together, attending school together via digital education. Students in this format can access live streaming and can make immediate consultation.

Asynchronous, on the other hand, includes pre-recorded lectures that students can access anytime. This format is designed for learners who have no proper internet connection.

But first, Vanessa and Raquel said, the etiquette of distance learning through online education should be in place before anything else. *

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at’m also on Twitter addslideshowhere @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend!)

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