After two long years, Benilde reopens its doors to face-to-face learning for A.Y. 2022-2023. Due to the uncertainty brought about by the fluctuating COVID-19 cases, mandates, and restrictions provided by the government, the College had to adjust its plans to ensure the safety of all students and staff while maintaining the quality of its education and service.
During the period of remote learning, the College managed to recalibrate its curriculum offerings across all courses to provide satisfactory education for its students despite the present limitations of online modality. With the help of the already-in-use learning platform, BigSky, the transition to online was smoother despite major adjustments for both professors and students.
After conducting its pilot Limited Face-to-Face (LF2F) classes with selected schools in May 2022, the College tested the logistics of in-person set-ups through guidelines such as the accomplishment of the Health Declaration Form (HDF) prior to entry, which was eventually repealed on Oct. 3; temperature checks; frequent sanitation especially high-person concentration areas of each campus; as well as protocols for when an individual is suspected to have COVID-19 symptoms.
Are you a Roomie or Zoomie?
“The concept of a hybrid is that you will have what we call the ‘Roomies’ and the ‘Zoomies.’” Vice Chancellor for Academics (VCA) Mr. Angelo Marco Lacson explained to The Benildean. “The roomies are those that are attending the class on-site, and the zoomies are at home using our video conferencing platforms.” This is not to be confused with a hyflex setup, where students are given a choice between attending F2F or online whenever they please.
“We need to equip the classrooms with appropriate technology, like cameras that can follow the instructor and the students. We have different setups. While we already have some, we are still in the procurement process of some of those classrooms that we can use for the hybrid setup,” Mr. Lacson stated.
Furthermore, he shared that a total of 28 programs, 175 courses, and 518 sections from all schools are set to participate in the hybrid classes for the first term of the academic year. On determining who gets to participate online and on-site, it is first-come-first-serve basis during the enlistment of classes per term.
Additionally, in an interview with The Benildean, Office of the Vice President for Lasallian Mission and Student Life Vice President (OVPLMSL-VP) Ms. Veronica “Nicky” Templo-Perez stated that even frosh students would be able to participate on campus, stating that in-person activities are “the gateway, even pre-pandemic, to life in Benilde [so] students can opt to come to college and see what life is like in Benilde.”
Beyond academics, one of the highlights of college life centers on student extra-curricular activities, which is exactly what VP Templo-Perez is hoping for by the next academic year.
“Student life outside the classroom is also very very important. Sa ngayon, things have to be orchestrated by the student life and formation. We are really being cautious because it is still a pandemic, and we need to be responsible for ourselves and for each other, but hopefully, within the [this] school year we will be able to open the campus for student activities and information activities like retreats and recollections,” she shared.
Students are expected to submit their vaccination records and signed undertakings, as well as to adhere to the health protocols on campus: temperature checking, the wearing of face masks at all times, frequent sanitation, and physical distancing of one meter. The government mandate has repealed the need for each student to submit proof of medical insurance to be able to participate, therefore the College no longer requires it as well.
Moreover, Benilde has already implemented proper ventilation facilities per classroom, no-contact alcohol dispensers mounted across campuses, acrylic barriers, and handwashing stations at entry points.
Mr. Lacson clarified that even when the Alert Level systems are lifted, the College will operate at a 70% maximum capacity. This means that from the pre-pandemic capacity of 40 students per classroom, the maximum number allowed will only be from 26 to 28 students per classroom.
As of posting, the College has already begun to operate at 100% maximum capacity with the same hybrid set-up for select courses this second term.
Should anyone within the Benildean community contract or develop COVID-19 related symptoms, the protocols vary depending on whether the individual has online class or is already within the campus. For online classes, Benilde Center for Health and Medical Services (CHMS) Medical Director Dr. Franz Tiosejo explained to The Benildean that the individual is to immediately inform their respective faculty, and will be asked to accomplish a CHMS consultation form.
“In the event that a student develops symptoms while in the College, the student should report to the clinic. They will be sent home for isolation and referred to seek medical consultation,” Dr. Tiosejo said. If a vaccinated individual is found to be COVID-19 positive, they will be isolated and monitored for seven days; as for unvaccinated individuals, it will take ten days.
Individuals may return to the campus once they have been cleared by the clinic. COVID-19 positive students may attend online classes if they exhibit asymptomatic presentation with a medical clearance from a private physician; are suspected of having Covid, but have been unable to take a confirmatory test; or are exposed to a Covid-19 positive household member.
As a parting message during the interview, Mr. Lacson also reminded students, “If and when you find yourselves on campus, just remember that safety is everybody's concern. It's not just the concern of our clinic, of our security, and faculty… It's everybody’s. If there are reminders to you, don’t take it negatively; take it constructively.”
No turning back
“Things will never be the same,” Ms. Templo-Perez stated. “We will never go back to a 100% F2F. I think we have innovated how we deliver our classes to ensure that we are still able to make our Benildean students real-world-ready. [...] And this falls in the plans in the future where we also take into account harnessing the power of online [learning].“
Many students are looking to return to the “good old days” where they could freely work and study on-campus, but the times have surely changed for the betterment and safety of all.
While the community can never be restored to what it had grown accustomed to, a new door opens where Benildean education becomes inclusive for those who prefer or must study from home.
Although it will take time to actualize the innovations of a hybrid learning system, the College seems to be off to a good start. With proper management and feedback applications, all that is left to do is to move forward and work with it together as a community.
This article is also published in The Benildean Volume 8 Issue No. 2: Reacted.