Nowadays, a student can earn a college or master?s degree or a doctorate even if he or she does not attend classes. One can also earn a degree in the Philippines while the student is working abroad. This has been made possible by distance education, which has been facilitated by the availability of Internet services in many parts of the country.
Distance education offers several advantages. Unlike traditional education in which one goes to school regularly to meet teachers and classmates, a student availing himself or herself of distance learning can ?attend? classes while at home or in the workplace with the use of e-mail, chat and video conference. Assignments and announcements are posted online.
Like the mainstream learning experience, distance education follows a curriculum. Deadlines are set but studying can be done at one?s pace. At the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) face-to-face sessions between the teacher and student are done four to five times per semester.
At least 19 schools offer distance learning in the country. At the moment, UPOU offers the biggest number of courses among the schools.
A total of 1,738 students are enrolled at the UPOU this second semester, 129 of whom are abroad, according to Eden Salon of the UP Learning Center Administration.
Last semester, there were more than 2,000 students enrolled at the Open University.
A study by the UPOU has found that there is little difference in the quality of learning received by distance education students and regular students.
SHARON CUNETA was reported to have not only passed in April 2006 but also placed second in the admission exam of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), which provides learning through distance education.
A year later, singer Sarah Geronimo followed in the footsteps of the singer actress and passed the exam.
Cuneta and Geronimo are among the students availing themselves of distance education.
Distance education is unlike the usual classroom setup where students and teachers are supposed to be present regularly for education to take place.
In distance education, learning normally occurs in a different place from teaching, with the use of different forms of medium. With this system, it is easier for individuals, who do not have the opportunity for a traditional learning experience, to still pursue their studies.
Students are left to learn in the comfort of their homes or workplace.
Distance education still follows a certain curriculum. While students are usually left to study at their own pace, learning materials have deadlines.
In the Philippines, apart from the UPOU, 18 other universities and colleges offer undergraduate and graduate programs using distance education through open universities.
All the 19 schools make use of the Internet, specifically e-mail, chat (voice or via web cam) and/or video conferencing, to provide distance education.
The schools also require regular face-to-face interaction between teachers and students at their respective learning centers.
Others like the University of Santo Tomas and the ABS-CBN use distance education to help the less privileged get a high school diploma.
UP Open University
Established on Feb. 23, 1995, students at UPOU follow a semestral schedule. Teacher-student interaction usually takes place with the help of snail mail, telephone, electronic communication and occasional face-to-face interaction.
Face-to-face sessions are done at about four to five times per semester under the supervision of a tutor.
To ensure that the exams are done by the students themselves, examinations are supervised, whether face-to-face or online. Examinations and assignments are the bases for the students? grades.
Face-to-face examinations are done at the UPOU learning centers that may be located on UP campuses in Diliman, Los Baños, Manila, Baguio, Cebu College, Tacloban College, the Visayas and Mindanao or in other cooperating institutions like Universidad de Sta. Isabel, Cagayan State University and the Department of Education-Cagayan de Oro. The learning centers are also used for study sessions.
The programs offered are Diploma in Science Teaching, Diploma in Mathematics Teaching, Diploma in Research and Development Management, Diploma in Computer Science, Diploma/Master in Environment and Natural Resources Management, Diploma in Language Studies for Teachers, Diploma/Master in Social Studies Education, Diploma/Master of Social Work, Master in Hospital Administration, Master in Public Health, Master of Arts in Nursing, Master in Public Management., Master of Professional Studies in Development Communication, Ph.D in Education, and Associate in Arts.
Tuition for formal or diploma courses range from P300/unit to P600/unit while nonformal or certificate programs cost P3,000/course.
Although the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Open University was officially launched in 1990, its distance education project started in the 1970s.
The project was intended to be an extension of the PUP on its provincial campuses where it offered technical-vocational courses to mostly out-of-school youth and the poor.
Starting with 360 beneficiaries, the PUP Open University?s student population has grown to almost 2,000.
Since 1970, PUP has been able to open other learning centers in Manila, Quezon City, Taguig, Bulacan, Batangas, Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Camarines Sur.
Then Philippine Women?s University president, Dr. Jose Conrado Benitez, in his inaugural address on Feb. 19, 1993, formally announced the university?s policy on distance education. ?It is the classroom that will have to go to the students and not the students to the classrooms. It will enter the homes through distance education; it will take place in the offices and workplaces through various career development and continuing education programs; it will situate itself in our communities through accredited experiential learning activities designed for community immersion,? he said.
In March 1994, the PWU EDTV or educational television program was launched. It was the first and only cable television channel exclusively dedicated for educational programming. On July 15, 1996, the PWU College of Distance Education was formally created.
The PWU College of Distance Education says its learning centers are on its campus in Manila, and in participating schools in Makati, Las Piñas, Bataan, Bulacan, Imus in Cavite, Camarines Norte, Kalinga, Lipa in Batangas, Pampanga, Bacolod and Hong Kong.
Konrad Adenauer Center
The Ateneo de Manila University?s (AdMU) distance education program is focused on just one course: Journalism.
The Konrad Adenauer Center for Journalism, together with the university?s Department of Education, ?designed [the program] primarily for working journalists who seek excellence and advancement in their craft through a comprehensive academic graduate-level training.?
The program offers three core courses: Advanced Reporting and Writing, Media Ethics and Media Law.
Electives consist of: Advanced Computer-assisted Reporting, Creative Writing, Editorial and Opinion Writing, Investigative Journalism, Issues in Broadcast Journalism, Leadership in the Newsroom, Media Economics, Media and Politics, Newsroom Management, Online Journalism, Photojournalism, Reporting Business, Reporting Conflict and Peace, Reporting about the Environment, Reporting Information Technology, Reporting Social and Development Issues, Science Reporting, Visual Literacy, Writing for Broadcast and Writing about Culture.
The program also lets students choose any three graduate-level courses in Humanities, Social Sciences, Management, Natural Sciences and Engineering, called cognate courses.
The core courses are taught online using on-campus methods while elective courses are taken purely online. The cognate courses are held onsite on AdMU?s Loyola campus.
Students are required on campus for only two brief periods during the two-year program: two weeks in August and the six-week summer semester from April to May.
The University of Santo Tomas organized a distance education program to help less privileged individuals who do not have the opportunity or the money to study.
UST?s project began in 1999. Classes were conducted through a two-way radio with a teacher supervising five sitios in Bamban, populated mostly by Aetas who had never gone to school. Through distance education, the Aetas learn basic literacy and functional skills?reading, writing and simple arithmetic.
Each radio set in every sitio runs on car batteries. The radio sets, including the one in the radio room of the university, are licensed by the National Telecommunications Commission.
Its Distance Learning Center (DLC), established in 1998, was intended to be a school for young actors and actresses who have no time for regular schooling.
Originally, DLC had only nine students, all actors. The DLC now accepts students, regardless of age or stature. It also gives much consideration to students with special needs like those who have to undergo regular medication.
The DLC is divided into two programs: semi-regular and home school.
The former requires students to attend classes four times a week (Tuesday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.) at the Talent Center Building in the ABS-CBN compound.
The latter gives students the leeway to study at their own pace, in the comfort of their homes. Still, a student under the home school program is required to come to the learning center to take their periodic trimestral exams, to submit projects, and to participate in special school activities.
(Schatzi Quodala is on the staff of Inquirer Research.)
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Open U offers convenience
MARIA PAULINE ARQUELADA, an Associate in Arts student, enrolled in the UP Open University because it was ?convenient.?
With the use of e-mail, chat and video conferencing, she is able to ?attend? her classes. Her cell phone also comes in handy.
?Everything is posted online and I can access assignments and announcements anytime at my convenience. I can take care of my kids, manage a business and continue my studies all at the same time,? Arquelada said.
Distance education can sometimes be a ?hassle,? according to Mark Rozell Sabille, also an Associate in Arts student at the UPOU.
?Sometimes, homework deadlines are conflicting with my work schedule,?? Sabille said.
But the setup is suitable for working students like him because he does not have to be physically present in a classroom, he said.
Distance education is spreading globally, enabling overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to continue their studies.
In fact, an OFW, Susan Eleanor Claro, topped this year?s graduating class of UPOU. Claro works for a United Kingdom-based nongovernment organization in Laos.