University of the Philippines begins shift to online classes amid COVID-19 outbreak

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2020 04:07 PM | Updated as of Mar 11 2020 08:36 AM

University of the Philippines begins shift to online classes amid COVID-19 outbreak 1

MANILA — The University of the Philippines (UP) has instructed its professors and lecturers to incorporate online classes in their curriculum, in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to improve its online learning systems.

In a memorandum to UP Faculty, Vice President for Academic Affairs Maria Cynthia Rose Bautista said the state university will "use this crisis as an opportunity” to fast-track its plan to incorporate “blended learning” or a mix of face-to-face and online classes.

“The University is compelled to require our faculty to shift to blended learning while providing detailed instructions on learning materials and activities if neither electricity nor internet is available,” according to the memo.

UP teachers all over the country were told to check on the access of students to devices and the Internet. 

“They are urged to organize opportunities for peer learning by matching students without devices or access with those with access,” Bautista said in her memorandum.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that classes will be suspended in Metro Manila, where most cases were recorded, from March 10 to 14.

Bautista tasked faculty members to adjust their syllabi accordingly, “providing more detail in terms of what is expected for every class session, and uploading the learning materials or links to learning materials in existing platforms.”

Bautista admitted that only 30 percent of the faculty in the constituent universities use the existing platforms. 

“The faculty is expected to quickly learn how to use a platform. CUs are in turn, enjoined to jointly or separately conduct training on the use of their respective learning systems using platforms that can reach as many faculty members as possible,” the memo said.

She said existing platforms will be used, such as the University Virtual Learning Environment (UVLê) for classes in UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños, UP Open University (UPOU) and UP
Baguio; the GE platform of CUs with UPOU as current host in UP Visayas, UP Mindanao, UP Cebu and UP Baguio.

UP teachers may also tap other virtual learning platforms such as Google Classroom and Google Hangouts Meet. 

The university is also “exploring institutional subscription to videoconferencing platforms (e.g. Zoom) to enable students to attend classes and teachers to provide inputs and respond to questions, albeit virtually.”

The Philippines is currently on Code Red sublevel 1 because there is at least one case of local transmission — a man from Rizal without travel history. According to DOH data, if sublevel 2 is raised, triggered by community-wide transmission, classes and work might be suspended and lockdowns could be imposed.

As of Tuesday, Philippines has at least 33 cases of COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases started increasing on Sunday when the DOH announced three new cases, from only three since early February. Four more cases followed on Monday. Most of the cases announced before Tuesday are in Metro Manila.

COVID-19 may be fatal for the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with underlying medical condition but 80 percent of cases globally showed a high chance of recovery "without needing special treatment," according to the World Health Organization. 

WHO said COVID-19 symptoms include fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. The new respiratory disease has left 3,800 dead and affected 110,000 worldwide.