The Mariano Marcos State University intensively recalibrates its ways to face the challenges of the ‘New Normal’ brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis states, “MMSU has remained responsive in re-shaping its operations as an academic institution amid the health crisis.”
“The university is on the right track of implementing flexible learning among its students under the New Normal academic environment. It is the best instructional strategy at hand to ensure that MMSU still achieves its mission to develop virtuous human capital despite being prevented to meet the learners in person,” says Dr Agrupis.
Flexible learning involves a combination of instructional strategies – online and offline, synchronous and asynchronous – which teachers can use to make sure that students still gain knowledge and develop competencies despite not meeting their students in person.
Currently, the faculty and students of the University use the MMSU Virtual Learning Environment version 2.0 (mVLE 2.0) to facilitate flexible learning. In the platform, faculty members upload class resources (handouts, PowerPoint materials, audio-visual presentations and online materials), administer examinations, conduct video-conferences, create assignments, compute grades, and provide feedback, among others.
The continuous upgrade of the online platform since 2013 shows that the University remains to uphold academic excellence by being responsive to change.
“Even before this pandemic, MMSU has innovated and found ways to forward our brand of instruction, and we will continue to improve our facilities, infrastructure and to enhance our manpower to remain as a leading University in the country despite the crisis,” Dr Agrupis says.
Moreover, MMSU instructors and professors undertake rigorous training for the use of virtual tools to further improve the teaching and learning process at the University.
In addition, Agrupis crystallized that “the administration conducted surveys to know the readiness of both the faculty and students in the shift on the instructional modes.”
“The results of the survey fed the university guidelines on the teaching-learning set up. We really make sure that our policies are data-driven and that, everyone is included in the decision-making process of the University.”
With the survey, the university was able to identify the needs of its employees and learners with respect to their media access and use. “We have determined our staff and students who lack gadgets or tools and have poor or no access to the internet,” she says.
With this, the University facilitated extensive donations of android tablets, pocket wi-fi and electronic load to those who direly need of such support. The University is also set to purchase more gadgets for this cause.
This shows that the University values inclusivity and that it aims to alleviate the digital divide in the country – to enable the students to continue with their tertiary education through technical and technological support.
Furthermore, because students cannot go to the campus due to the COVID-19 quarantine protocols, the University has also coordinated with local government units to provide the students with a study area and good internet access in their locality.
“We acknowledge that multi-sectoral planning and implementation would really assist us to cope with the crisis and to ‘heal as one,’” she muses. (‘We Heal as One’ is the country’s slogan to combat COVID-19.)
The president concludes that the cooperation of the faculty members and students in coping with the current situation “shows that the whole MMSU continues to recalibrate to remain relevant in our society.”