Text and photo by Jordan Mari S. De Leon
THE OFFERING of online courses through the e-Learning Access Program (e-LEAP) in 2003 was a milestone in UST education as it showcased the school’s pioneering drive to computerize its processes.
The National Service Training Program (NSTP) was one of the first to utilize this technology when it offered Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literary Training Service (LTS) courses fully online, complete with lectures, notes, assignments, discussion boards, announcements and a grade book for the first semester, enabling students to take examinations in their homes.
In addition, the e-LEAP also offered Web-Enhanced Courses (WEC) for faculties and colleges, which serve as supplementary education to the students.
The Thomasian academe responded well to e-LEAP, according to an official report showing how the number of e-LEAP users has been growing steadily since the program’s first year of operation.
But are the students and professors truly ready to take the big leap?
Ready for the revolution?
Mark Fang, a student in the Faculty of Pharmacy said that while the e-LEAP provides convenience, he doesn’t believe that it should be used in subjects like Biostatistics, which is offered as WEC in his faculty. Although it is convenient for Fang to take the exams online, he finds it harder to learn a Math subject like Biostatistics, which he believes is better taught in the classroom.
Oliver Sara, a fourth-year Medical Technology student, said since anyone can use e-LEAP outside of UST, some of his batchmates merely let someone else do the online quizzes for them.
“Lazy students can merely give their student number and password to someone else and let him/her do the activities, and the professor is not aware of that. So where is learning there?” Sara said.
On the other hand, Hansel Bulaclac, the Pharmacy student council president, said the e-LEAP helps inform him of announcements, grades, and different activities of the University.
“The only problem is, not all students frequently check the website,” Bulaclac said.
Meanwhile, an e-LEAP official report showed that more faculty members are getting involved in the program. In AY 2002-2003, only 0.5 per cent of the 1,500 faculty members were involved. That grew to 10 per cent in 2003-2004 and 28 per cent in AY 2004- 2005. This semester, another 10 faculty members are developing courses for possible piloting by second semester.
There are still faculty members, however, find it better to stick to the old ways.
Filipino Professor Aurora Francisco said she finds no use for the e-LEAP since she’s retiring soon.
“As a senior faculty member, I am not that enthusiastic when it comes to these new technological advancements,” Francisco told the Varsitarian.
Another professor, Rebecca David of the Faculty of Pharmacy, who is middle-aged, said most professors still prefer the traditional way of teaching or the classroom setting since that is what they are accustomed to. She also said that there is less interaction between the students and the professor with the e-LEAP.
Math Professors Xandro Nieto and Juliet Buenaventura, on the other hand, said the e-LEAP provides them a lot of convenience since the computer immediately checks the online quizzes once students have taken them. Nieto also observed that his students are more excited because the e-LEAP provides a different method of taking examinations.
“Honestly, our team (e-LEAP) feels that some students, although very few, are not quite ready. Although the generation today is very much into technology, some do not yet welcome the idea of infusing it into education,” e-LEAP Project Manager Ninia Calaca said. “However, with the number of e-LEAP users growing every semester, it shows that we are going in the right direction.”
On the rise
When the e-LEAP first operated during the second semester of AY 2003-2004, the initial WECs, mostly chosen for first- and second-year college students, were Algebra, General Inorganic Chemistry, Philippine History, Principle of Economics. The pilot test involved 500 students.
In its first year of operation, e-LEAP only had about 6,000 users. It rose to 12,000 in the first semester of AY 2004-2005 and to more than half of Thomasians in the second semester.
According to Calaca, this year, the e-LEAP team targets 18,000 e-LEAP users and more WECs. The report shows that from the five per cent of the courses developed in 2002-2003 grew to 61 per cent last year.
This semester, the e-LEAP has deployed 130 WECs in all the Universities’ colleges and faculties except for the Graduate School, Faculty of Civil Law and Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.
Calaca said despite some problems like occasional breakdowns, e-LEAP also offers a number of advantages both for the student and the professor.
She explained that since most students today are Internet users, the e-LEAP provides them education with just the click of a mouse button.
According to her, the student’s attention is diverted to learning rather than pornographic, on-line gaming, or chatting sites.
Calaca added that the e-LEAP also provides convenience to students who are sick since they can access their lessons, assignments and quizzes online.
Meanwhile, the system lets the professor closely monitor the student through its system statistics and performance dashboard, programs that display the exact time and date the student logged on, the number of times a page was viewed, the exact time and date a student submitted an activity or an assignment, and even the number of mouse clicks.
Calca pointed out that the transparency grade book is a “nearly flawless” feature since it shows where the grades were exactly based and can help avoid arguments between the professor and the student.
“Students cannot lie here as everything is recorded,” Calaca said. “In a way it also disciplines the students to work responsibly. It’s literally a virtual classroom”
Further, online courses also have communication media like discussion boards and messengers, which, according to her, develop a student’s critical thinking, and a grade book wherein students can determine their class standing.
“The messenger function is also a good way for a teacher to reach out to their students beyond the classroom, something that is important in improving the teaching-learning process,” Calaca said. “UST is the only school that pioneers such innovations.”
Preparing the courses
While the e-LEAP presents many conveniences for students and teachers alike, developing on-line courses is no joke.
The e-LEAP team first asks the different colleges of the University to provide a list of recommended faculty members that can develop and use online courses. The willing professors then undergo extensive training before they start to develop a course.
Calaca said developing a course takes at least six months and testing it on a pioneer class also takes another six months. The test course is then evaluated by the students, experts and, other professors teaching that course, and the e-LEAP management team.
The e-LEAP then coordinates with selected representatives from the different colleges of the University in order to inform them of the courses being deployed.
The e-LEAP also has an e-Guidance, an on-line guidance counseling program and can serve as a medium of interaction among student organizations.
Calaca said that e-LEAP is on the fast track to progress as it is steadily offering more WEC’s every year. She also said that the e-LEAP team is currently developing WEC’s for third- and fourth-year major subjects since most WEC’s are offered for general education subjects.
Calaca said that there is “no stopping” this revolutionary change in UST.
“e-LEAP is now changing the learning environment in the campus. Students now flock at the Internet access centers in the Central Library to follow through on their lectures,” Calaca said. “It is now evident that UST is positioning itself as the benchmark as e-learning provider to a mass base of students.”
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