11 November 2021

Redefining enriched virtual mode of instruction amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic: The UST Experience

By
Banjong Ujjin
AUN Senior Programme Officer;

The University of Santo Tomas (UST), founded in 1611, is Asia’s oldest existing University and is located in Manila, the Philippines. UST joined the AUN-QA Associate Membership in 2016 and have been actively participating in the AUN-QA activities. Up to 2021, the University has done 4 AUN-QA Programme assessments with a total of 14 Study Programmes. UST, as an institution, has done the AUN-QA Institutional Assessment as well. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to school closures, the University of Santo Tomas is committed to implement a mode of instruction rooted in the principles of communion and encounter that promotes dialogue, and ensures accessibility and flexibility in learning. Recognizing the various health, financial, and social concerns that beset both teachers and students, the University acknowledged the need to strengthen communication channels and facilitate fluidity in instruction to provide every learner with the opportunity to continue learning despite the uncertain circumstances and varying limitations. 
The University implemented Enriched Virtual Mode (EVM) of instruction beginning AY 2020-2021 through UST Cloud Campus powered by Blackboard. Published literature describes this blended learning model as having online instruction as the backbone of student learning but requires face-to-face learning sessions as determined by the teacher. However, in AY 2020-2021, quarantine regulations in the Philippines do not allow for in-person classes, as a measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. To mitigate learning loss brought about by school closures, and to promote a positive learning experience among students, the University engaged its academic staff in rigorous training on strategies to enrich the students’ learning experience. 

The enrichment strategies for EVM are four-fold, all directed towards contributing to the attainment of the SEAL of Thomasian Education and the Thomasian Graduate Attributes (ThoGAs): 

These enrichment strategies are centered on collaboration – among teachers, with industry partners and alumni, with community partners, and with foreign partner institutions – acknowledging the rich opportunities for learning with others, and maximizing technology in breaking the boundaries of space and distance. 

Thus, Enriched Virtual Mode (EVM) of instruction in UST, while currently limited, if not totally devoid of face-to-face class experience, has been redefined as an enriched learning experience through collaborations that expose learners to real community concerns, new trends in their disciplines, and global perspectives, while safely learning in their homes. Our academic staff are at the forefront of this, with pedagogy-driven and technology-focused training sessions that help them expand their horizons and explore new strategies to maximize the students’ learning experience. Innovative approaches to teaching key competencies arise from rich discussions and co-creation of content with partner individuals and institutions, and these converge to provide quality Thomasian education to their learners.