Shift to asynchronous learning: a quick fix

BAR NONE - Ian Manticajon - The Freeman

Shifting to asynchronous learning mode during crises does a disservice to our youth. The situation becomes even more dire considering that our students already score low on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), ranking in the bottom 10 out of 81 countries in reading comprehension, mathematics, and science.

That is why I understand Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s decision for Cebu City not to follow other LGUs in declaring a shift to asynchronous classes due to the rising heat index. Last week, the mayor issued an order urging public and private schools in Cebu City to adopt modified class hours instead, in response to the climate crisis.

Many may disagree with the mayor’s executive order, believing it neglects the importance of protecting kids from high temperatures in crowded, poorly-ventilated classrooms. However, I think the more worrisome situation is how other LGUs and the Department of Education could expediently resort to asynchronous learning without first exploring other solutions that would not sacrifice the quality of our youth’s education.

The news yesterday was that Cebu City will now be compelled to follow the DepEd’s implementation of asynchronous classes for two days this week, which might be extended indefinitely, as other LGUs are doing. It may be limited for the time being, but what if the high heat index persists until May, as the weather bureau has predicted? Will we be shifting to asynchronous classes again, then back to face-to-face, and so on?

Planting more trees to cool down our campuses is a long-term solution that will take years to implement. Similarly, building more classrooms to reduce overcrowding involves significant costs and logistics, making it a long-term project as well. However, quickly and conveniently shifting to online classes or modular learning methods, in my opinion, is far worse for our youth. We must explore creative solutions to adapt our educational setup to climate change, rather than hastily shifting to online or modular formats at the first sign of a crisis that we failed to prepare for.

To be candid, this shift to online learning, asynchronous classes, or modular learning --whatever you call it-- is not working. It is a poor excuse for mediocrity in our educational system. Yes, it may seem compassionate, yet it delivers a harsh reality to the future of our youth who are being educated in a patchwork or makeshift manner.

I’m not saying that online schooling doesn’t work. Ask the University of the Philippines Open University, and it will tell you that the modality works --but only after careful planning and a system tested through various studies. The one we are resorting to now is far from that system adopted by open universities.

A study conducted in 2018, entitled “Factors affecting asynchronous e-learning quality in developing countries' university settings” (Hadullo, 2018), suggests that asynchronous e-learning systems can succeed. However, their success, particularly in the setting of developing countries, depends on several critical interrelated factors that need to be effectively managed.

These factors include course design and content support. Social support, student motivation, and self-discipline are also crucial, along with students’ prior knowledge and their ability to use technology effectively. Also, the skills, attitudes, and engagement levels of teachers play a critical role. Effective technical support, adequate technological infrastructure, and sufficient funding are important as well.

Now, are these factors in place at the beginning of the school year as part of our contingency measures? It's important that we have planned for them, rather than shifting to them during emergencies without adequate preparation.

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