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How Philippines’ universities can support students along their entire educational journey

Limited access to digital devices and the internet is posing learning challenges for a sizable portion of students in the Philippines, highlighting ongoing work for the education sector in supporting a quality learning experience. In light of asynchronous learning which has emerged as a pathway for educators and learners to pursue uninterrupted learning in remote/hybrid environments, there are a number of tactics that institutions can consider.

Jack Brazel
Jack Brazel
Regional Director, South East Asia
Turnitin

Limited access to digital devices and the internet is posing learning challenges for a sizable portion of students in the Philippines, highlighting ongoing work for the education sector in supporting a quality learning experience. In light of asynchronous learning which has emerged as a pathway for educators and learners to pursue uninterrupted learning in remote/hybrid environments, there are a number of tactics that institutions can consider.

Pointing to the importance of a responsive curriculum, research by Alvarez Jr. indicates that the flexibility afforded by asynchronous modalities was a boon for students in the Philippines, in terms of developing their sense of responsibility and reflective thinking skills. However, while students participating in the study reported increased ability to navigate learning at their own pace, many also reported the drawback of limited teacher-student and student-student interactions that affected morale and even learning outcomes.

Keeping students motivated and adaptive to the future of education and the workforce they will eventually enter, also raises the need for ‘authentic assessment’ as a fixture of institutions’ assessment strategy. Not only does it enable educators to understand what knowledge students internalise and their capacity to apply it beyond theory, it’s also crucial to creating assessments that mimic skills students will be expected to demonstrate in their professional lives.

As a checkpoint for student learning and teaching efficacy, it is critical that assessments are fair, inclusive and accurate so that learning outcomes are validated. When exams are neither fair nor inclusive, the risk of academic misconduct becomes likelier, thereby hindering learning opportunities and jeopardising a culture of integrity, not to mention damaging institutional reputation if the quality of learning is called into question.

Accordingly, institutions have a role to play in empowering educators to design exams that support meaningful learning and are a true reflection of what is taught in class. A failure to scaffold learning in this way may leave students feeling stressed and vulnerable, which can compound and widen learning gaps. Furthemore, this can result in vulnerable students turning to shortcuts or acts of deliberate cheating to get ahead, which not only breaches academic standards and ethics, but also reduces the accuracy of exams and assessments as evaluative tools to determine students’ abilities.


Measuring learning outcomes in optimal ways

Validity, reliability and fairness are the three accepted pillars of effective assessment design, but since the rapid shift to online learning heralded by the pandemic, flexibility and agility have earned an honourable mention when envisaging the way forward for learning and assessment.

Unexpected success borne from the online learning revolution should provide the impetus for institutions to explore new teaching and learning methods, whether it’s grading policies, delivery of content, or variations in assessment models to better suit online and blended learning environments and reduce overreliance on summative assessment. For instance, by embracing more formative assessment which is ongoing and low-stakes in nature, institutions can overcome the lack of guidance students may feel in asynchronous learning and mitigate any feelings of isolation. The provision of such formative feedback may even strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships.

The obvious question, then, is how can educators pursue such responsive assessment practices instead of reverting back to the traditional, well-worn path, that is ultimately insufficient for the digital era? For one, institutions in the Philippines can explore a learner-focused approach to teaching, which supports meaningful assessments that engage learners and equips them with practical skills. Designing assessments in this way makes learning objectives less abstract, laying the foundations for students to develop the practical skills they’ll need upon joining the workforce.

Institutions can also take steps to encourage academics to work with students to collaborate on assessment design, which helps to align student and educator expectations, and encourages greater student investment and responsibility in their learning goals. The potential benefits of this co-creation of learning may prove significant, enabling better cooperation with both peers and instructors, and in the long run, prompting course material to be revised and strengthened for the benefit of student learning outcomes.


Anchoring learning outcomes on inclusive assessments

With hybrid/blended learning increasing reliance on asynchronous modalities, accommodating different learning styles has never been so crucial. Incorporating varied assessment allowances within an exam and throughout courses, students can experience – and be assessed on – the full breadth of learning. Even multiple-choice exams can be repurposed to pivot towards formative assessment and effectively measure the scope of students’ knowledge and how they apply it. The larger point being that, when diverse formats are offered, students can be accurately and fairly evaluated, thereby providing opportunities for teachers to intervene when required and give credit where credit is due.

Upholding formative feedback loops is another method to enhance asynchronous learning modalities. Of course, increasing student feedback can be challenging for time-strapped educators, so technology such as Turnitin Feedback Studio can lend a helping hand in the delivery of fast, high-impact feedback that promotes writing excellence. Furthermore, tools like Turnitin Draft Coach empower students throughout the writing process with instant feedback on referencing and citations that directs students towards meaningful self-learning and nurtures understanding of research ethics and standards. Long term, this prepares students to remain steadfast against the pressures of churning out questionable or plagiarised output. It ensures that the all too crucial guidance of a teacher is not lost, whilst building student confidence and resiliency, and with the added benefit of reducing educator workloads in correcting citation errors in submitted work.

With such strategies in place to better support the student learning journey, institutions not only safeguard their own standards and reputations as bearers of capable graduates and robust research, but will also be perceived as advocates for student experience and wellbeing. This is invaluable to attracting new students and fostering upstanding professionals and citizens, which will not only elevate the Philippines’ academic and research community, but also result in a future-proofed economy and society.