On Open Distance eLearning (ODeL)

Let me tell you about a quote from the letter of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo. This is a question that has never left my mind, most especially when I have an important decision to make. The question was “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” We are now in one of those moments— a moment right before a life-altering decision where we ask ourselves questions that are supposed to help us decide even if, most of the time, we do not have the answers.

UPOU, distance eLearning, multimedia studies— honestly, these terms were unfamiliar to me until I heard about them from my previous adviser in UP Los Baños. I was wondering why I had not encountered anything about UP Open University before, even though it was near UPLB. I was a lost and an unhappy Forestry student at that time. It was during those times that I was indecisive and afraid of making a choice, yet it was also the time when I had to get a grip. On top of it all, I was frightened of making the wrong choice because I know it would change my life. Eventually, I realized I was wrong. There are no right or wrong choices. What I needed was courage to make one. If that goes well, good for me. If not, I would learn from the experience, get back up and move forward. UP taught me that being passionate about something is not enough. You must work hard to succeed in what you are passionate about. Nothing comes easy. And so I decided to transfer to UPOU to follow my passion and do just that — work for it.

Explaining what UPOU is and how it works to other people is not an easy task. My relatives and friends have asked me tons of questions about the university and I gladly answered all of them every time because I am proud that a university is offering a diverse group of people a chance to study full-time or part-time, regardless of their current situation in life. After all, education is, according to American politician and lawyer Christine Gregoire, “the foundation upon which we build our future.” Of course, there is that one question we all dread to hear in family gatherings— kailan ka gagraduate?

Before I get too sidetracked, let us now talk about the theme for this year’s commencement exercises which is “Leading in Open Distance eLearning (ODeL): Towards Education 4.0” We are now in the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. It means that from production of goods and services using water and steam engines to mass production using electrical power to the automation of production through combined IT and electronics to the fourth industrial revolution where man and the internet (a network of computers) are used. Communicating across borders is now possible. Society has already adapted by being more social, knowledgeable, and innovating ways that are fit to the world we currently live in. Industry 4.0 has made local businesses become global enterprises. It has made talking to friends and relatives across the world easier, and of course, people can now earn degrees online. The response of education to the needs of the Industry 4.0 is that education is now flexible, accessible, has personalized teaching and it also establishes a blueprint for a lifelong learning. After all, we do not stop learning new things every day.

I can attest to the fact that UPOU is the leading institution in Open Distance eLearning. UPOU has a new vision for learning. UPOU has taught us to know why we need a skill or knowledge, where to find it and play our strengths instead of feeding our brains with every information we could find. The learning designs are open, inclusive, universal and people-centered. There is also a convergence of virtual and physical learning spaces in the form of Learning Commons which also fosters peer-to-peer learning. Through all these factors, we can enable new possibilities that will help us, our country, and its people.

Let me enumerate some lessons I learned while studying in UPOU. It has taught me to manage my time wisely, self-discipline, cooperation in group projects and to double check instructions and deadlines. The flexible schedule has given us—students—the opportunity to dive into other activities while studying. We were also able to study anywhere which is an advantage for students who are in the workforce, students who are unable to go to a regular school and for stay-at-home moms as well. Furthermore, I have been able to converse with people from different walks of life. I have met working moms who juggle caring for their children and studying four subjects, working students, and people who are ill but has been given the chance to go back to school to earn a degree because of UPOU. Upon entering UP, I was amazed at how students and teachers can talk about anything and everything. We have become exposed to the harsh realities of life. I can tell you about some of it, but I am afraid that it will take us more than a day to cover it. Kidding aside, having an open mind is important nowadays. The willingness to understand another’s point of view even if it is against yours is important. UP has taught us lessons that cannot be found in books but only in experiences in real life.

UP has given us a lot more than what we deserve. Our UP education entails us to stand for our country. Iskolar ng Bayan para sa Bayan, hindi ba? From here on out, it is up to us to live up to that title. We are among the few chosen ones who were lucky enough to study in this prestigious university. Therefore, we should not waste this opportunity given to us for what good is a UP diploma if we are afraid to attempt anything, question everything, build rock-solid foundations, adapt to changes brought about by society and technology.

Life is too short for all the things we need and want to do. My fellow graduates of UPOU Class of 2018, we are at a crossroads. A decision must be made. Are we going to turn a blind eye on what is happening to our country today or are we going to fight for our country and its people for what good is a UP diploma if we become the generation of scholars who are ignorant of the social injustices that are screaming at our faces?

To my fellow graduates, congratulations to us, and may we all keep fighting for our country.



My Second Shot at College Education

I used to be a DOST scholar in *TUP Manila but somewhere along the way, I lost my appetite for learning. Different issues in my family bothered me so much including the pain of knowing my sister was suffering from different complications from cerebral palsy. In 2006, I lost my scholarship and my motivation to pursue Electronics and Communications Engineering. I dropped out of TUP with no clear goals in life. I just left my dreams out there. I was the eldest in 5 siblings and I, at the age of 19, was already feeling the weight of my role in the family. It was a tough decision to make, but I chose finding a work to support my family over finding resources to support my education. I knew I couldn’t do both at the same time. I thought I won’t be able to focus in my studies anyway knowing that my family is starving.

So, I found a job at a BPO call center as a customer service agent in 2007 and I thought college was way past me. Years passed and in 2012, when I was already working as an IT Helpdesk agent, my officemate approached me and encouraged me to send an application to UPOU to pursue a college degree. My friend explained to me how UPOU works and how it is the university for us working people who barely have the time to pursue a college degree in a traditional school setting.

It was encouraging to hear. But it took me a while and some courage to finally decide to do it. Eventually, I realized that it’s about time for me to pursue my education, to fulfill my dreams, to focus on myself as everything seems to be going fine already. My sister (second eldest) already graduated with a Nursing degree with my support. My younger brother was about to graduate in college as well and my youngest sister was already in high school. My sister who was previously sick is already an angel in heaven. My parents, on the other hand, are back together. I also met the man of my life who I eventually married, and he was in full support of my decision. In 2013, I sent my application to take the Undergraduate Admission Test in UPOU. I got admitted and finally, in 2014, I was a student again.

My first year was tough. I had a poor Internet service and a crappy Acer notebook (mini-laptop) then and I thought that was enough for me to survive at least the first year of BAMS. There were days of crying out of frustration because I couldn’t complete an online exam without having to press F5 every time I move to the next test item.  It was so annoying and stressful already that it was such a relief when my husband bought me a laptop out of his company bonus.

The adjustment was real given that my job was not a normal 8am-5pm schedule. I work in graveyard shifts which adds to the stress if I couldn’t manage my time well. My normal routine would include a sleeping time of 4 to 5 hours during daytime while the other 3 or so hours are spent on readings, discussion forums, blogs, etc. It is tough to be working at night and studying in the morning on your own because even if you have the willingness to study, your brain and body slows you down. You feel sluggish and sleepy and your comprehension becomes slower too! Which you have no control of since it’s just a normal response of your body when you didn’t sleep the whole night. The sad thing is even if I have been doing this job for 10 years now, my body won’t get used to it.  Coffee became my best friend though at my age of 32, it’s slowly betraying me too (but that’s another story to tell). 🙂

The road to Sablay is not an easy one and never will be, that’s for sure. Actually, there is no easy road in life at all! There will always be obstacles and hurdles to meet. Life’s journey will always be bumpy. But isn’t that what makes it more precious – overcoming challenges in life with your dignity still intact? Even to this day, it’s hard juggling three priorities at the same time – my job, my studies and my responsibilities at home – but it’s a challenge I am so willing to take every time.

There is something about wanting to achieve a goal that keeps you going every time, probably it’s the fulfillment you get from it, something that was not clear to me back in 2006. It is 2018 now and I am packed with plans and goals and skills I didn’t know I could have before UPOU. If everything falls into place and according to my plan of study, 2019 is my year of graduation. And this, this idea gets me pumped and excited every time. It’s what keeps me going in UPOU.

For the 4 years that passed and the year to come, this is my life in UPOU. And for that, I am thankful for the opportunity to study online at the comfort of our homes, the cafes, libraries, and wherever places we chose to study, for the opportunity to learn with the same quality and excellence provided to traditional UP setting, for the professors who facilitates us in learning in the same extent as a traditional professor would be and lastly, for the second chance to fulfill my dream and to finish what I started- my college degree.


*Technological University of the Philippines, Manila


Digital Collective Workshop in a Nutshell

By: Pamela Gallardo and Monika Borjal


Last October 19-20, 2018, UPOU Digital Collective held a two-day workshop in Parque España Alabang. There were a total of seventeen participants, including the former BAMS program chair, Sir Al Librero and the present program chair, Sir Diego Maranan; while the rest, consists of alumni and ongoing students of BAMS. We were provided with all-expense paid accommodation and full-board meals. This blog is basically a rundown of our workshop experience which consists of discussions to podcast sessions, blogs, soundtrack project, book project, the DC website, to MMS 200 projects.

Day 1:
We started the workshop by introducing ourselves in order to get to know each other. Being in an Open University, it is not expected for everyone to know every participant which is why this part is really important. Sir Al then discussed what Digital Collective is all about, its purpose and future plans.

Digital Collective aims to produce open educational resources or OERs to be utilized by the UPOU community. In so far as the community is concerned, DC is also the closest we have to a student organization in UPOU as its members are composed of students, alumni and UPOU staff and faculty. Future plans on making a new set of course manuals for production courses, such as MMS 172 (Audio in Multimedia) and MMS 173 (Photography in Multimedia) to be created by the members of DC also became a topic of discussion.

After the first part of the discussion, we were given a chance to share the reason why we decided to join Digital Collective and to share our goals and initiatives for the betterment of the BAMS community. Below are the common reasons the participants shared:

  • To collaborate with fellow BAMS students
  • To showcase talent and skills in multimedia
  • To contribute and share knowledge
  • To gain additional multimedia practice/experience for the improvement of one’s skills
  • To build sense of community in UPOU
  • To give back to the university through OER contents
  • To share guides and tips for the present students
  • To motivate other students by sharing experiences and success stories
  • To create a legacy to leave in the next batches to come

It was truly inspiring to hear our co-participants share different motivations in joining the Digital Collective. No matter how different it was though, the bottom line is just as common for everyone; they, we, all want to be there and practice what we learned in BAMS through DC.

Not long after, Sir Diego started discussing the background of BAMS—on how it started and how it was built, who created it, and the development of the courses. Such information is not discussed in a normal academic activity, so it was enlightening to learn how BAMS came about. This is when Sir Al revealed that a book project is in the works to share this particular journey of BAMS and UPOU with the community and even those outside of the academe. It was an exciting news to hear especially after learning that students will have a part in the making of this book.

After lunch, Sir Al discussed multimedia production courses particularly photography and audio which will be useful for creating contents to be placed in the Digital Collective's OER site. He also pointed out general tips for production courses such as time management, specifically, he reiterated that taking two production courses at a time is not advisable. The different stages in production were also discussed: pre-production, production, and post-production. Of course, the right equipment, software, and techniques were also discussed, he even showed us how lighting works in photography. This was really helpful for those who are yet to take the production courses.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in doing a group activity. We were divided into three groups—writers, photos and videos, and audio. Each group had a brainstorming activity by answering different questions about BAMS and how we can solve it through Digital Collective. Each group shared their opinions and every concern was addressed by both the current and former BAMS Program Chair. It was an informative afternoon as this was the first time that we did such an activity where problems and solutions were raised by students and alumni themselves. This activity served as a venue for the members of Digital Collective to formulate plans and discover project opportunities for the students. We hope to have more of this in the future.

The discussion ended, and we took a break for dinner before we started shooting for the podcast sessions. The setting up of the equipment took some time as well as the preparation for the interviews which is why  the recording lasted until almost midnight. We had two podcast sessions recorded. The first one was supposedly a laid-back interview, a more student-centric style. Pam and Candice did this episode by sitting with the current and former BAMS program chair for an interview about BAMS. But considering the unpreparedness for this episode, some said the outcome was a little too stiff compare to the usual "podcasts" we hear/see. Such observation was understandable as none of us had an actual experience in video/film production as big as this one. Also, it's not everyday that we get to interview two intelligent people at the same time, it was really nerve-wracking as Pam describe it. We can't describe the relief we all felt when the podcast session ended successfully.

" I was surprised that I would be doing an interview with the BAMS' former program chair, Sir Al Librero, and current program chair, Sir Diego Maranan. Joining the workshop, I kind of expected that I could be chosen to do a podcast session--but, it never entered my mind that I would interview Sir Al and Sir Diego; not to mention the fact that everything was just unplanned, it's close to impromptu--the questions we asked, we just thought of those questions minutes before we started shooting. So to sum it up, it was really nerve-wracking because I wasn't prepared, we weren't prepared. Luckily though, we got to survive the whole thing. Well of course, I know that we can do better--we just need to plan things ahead of time to avoid such stressful situation", Pam on her podcast experience.

For another couple of hours more, we enjoyed each other’s company (by "we" we mean, those who were able to stay up longer) over light booze, chit chat and laughter. It was a fun but long and tiring first day.


Day 2:

On the second day of the workshop, everybody woke up late as expected. We started the discussion late, but Sir Al said that it was fine as we were able to cover the important matters on Day 1. Come to think of it, our first day was unexpectedly productive and fruitful. It almost covered one and a half days considering the time we finished the podcast sessions and we had two podcast sessions recorded.

Day 2’s discussion started with the Digital Collective’s book project. Winter David, one of the members working on this project discussed with us the status of this project – including the book cover, the content layout, and the funding of this project. We were particularly interested in the cover for the book as there were lots of great choices that we found it hard to choose. The topics for the content of the book was also discussed.

While having lunch, we had the opportunity to discuss MMS 200 projects with Sir Diego. He is the current faculty-in-charge for this course. MMS 200 serves us our culminating project as a BAMS student. He explained what MMS 200 is all about and how we should go about our projects if we our plans are to relate it to Digital Collective. He added that it is very important that our project is question-based. This is so because MMS 200 projects should still be based on the problem question regardless if your project is empirical research or practice-based research. On the other hand, we were advised to keep in mind that a multimedia project is supposed to be interactive. This is because a multimedia product or service is supposed to initialize interactivity – accessing it should utilize or make two or more senses of a human being respond. He made it clear to us that it is okay to collaborate such as with Digital Collective as long as it will be clear in the student’s proposal and report what his/her contributions are. Other MMS-200 related questions were raised and addressed during the discussion coming from those who are currently taking MMS 200.

After the MMS 200 discussion, the participants then discussed future plans for BAMS Tambayan and how we should go about the DC's project management. It was decided that both Slack and Trello mobile applications will be utilized to keep track of the projects and other features and contents required in building the Digital Collective website. Right then and there, Slack account for DC was made and participants were added. Towards the end of the discussion, participants drafted a plan to hold a photography contest to encourage UPOU students in producing photos to be used as contents in the DC website.

The workshop ended at around 3:00 in the afternoon and although it was a brief workshop, it was nothing short of fun, memorable and productive two days. Fun because in the short two days we got the chance to get to know each and every one, face to face. It was a refreshing experience to finally be able to put a face in every person’s name and sit with them physically in the same room. Because at one point or another, we have encountered these people – students, faculty - in UPOU’s digital platform; in some occasions, we heard their audio projects, saw their photos, read their blog posts, etc. but never met them formally, face to face. Well, at least for most of them, as there were some of us who we were able to meet personally in some occasions.

The experience was definitely one for the books as it is not everyday that we get to experience such an opportunity. We bid our goodbyes that afternoon, took a couple more group shots to add to the hundreds more we already had, said our Thank You’s, and left the venue with new lessons and experiences. We don’t know when the next chance like this will be, but we are already looking forward to it.

Thank you to Sir Al Librero and to the Digital Collective community for this opportunity.

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