The Internet might seem like something that has been around forever. How did people live without it? How did they communicate? How did students do their homework? Interestingly, in some remote provinces in the Philippines, the Internet is a new discovery. There are public schools in these areas where teachers are just starting to learn how to use Google as a search engine and slowly introducing eLearning into their classrooms.
eLearning is not only about sophisticated platforms where teachers and students can meet up in a digital space and interact. eLearning has to do with any learning that uses technology to enhance the learner experience. This is what the President for the Philippine eLearning Society, Ms. Anthea Mariano (or Thennie to her friends and colleagues), says. PeLS is a Society that promotes substantive content, good pedagogy, and proper use of technology for eLearning. The Society was started in 2003 by pioneers in the academic, industry and government sector. Today it has more than 400 individual members and 20 institutional members, and PeLS’ mission is to ensure that its members acquire the knowledge and tools they need in order to implement the most suitable eLearning system for their institutions.
As a first step, PeLS believes in starting with the basics by going to remote provinces and educating public school teachers on the usage of Google and some simple eLearning implementations. This will bring them closer towards the objective of enhancing teaching & learning, which in turn aims to help future generations be more prepared for the future.
PeLS also shares knowledge and experiences through annual conferences held in different regions of the Philippines. They conduct training workshops and create case studies through which their members share experiences in technology adoption, as well as benefits and challenges throughout the process. To date, they have participated in 13 national conferences and two international congresses where they invited international presenters and delegates to speak and share. Currently, there is no other formally-organized eLearning groups in the ASEAN region.
PeLS also has a course on Blackboard Open LMS called “Introduction to eLearning” for its members. An open course available to all members, additional courses are already being planned and will eventually include more advanced topics on eLearning. As Thennie explains, teaching eLearning through an eLearning platform is a great way for teachers to learn because they can experience the platform as a learner. They can see what about the platform engages them, and acquire better course design knowledge for application in the courses they teach.
Thennie adds that the Philippines is very different from some other developing countries in how it embraces change and evolution, instead of resisting it for fear of not understanding the technology. The country has a strong Spanish and Chinese influence in its history, and its education system is American-influenced as well. Thennie says she sees how people now recognise the importance of eLearning especially in the field of education. The President of the Philippines has even passed the “Open Distance Learning Act” (RA 10650) which seeks to institutionalise distance learning in higher education, and also recognises it as a suitable and efficient system that delivers quality education.
Thennie believes in lifelong learning and feels that eLearning is the best way to go. It is impossible to remove technology from the equation today, even in the most remote of places, because technology is making its way through every place in the world. Even though achieving a full adoption of eLearning through all educational institutions in the Philippines is a huge task and will take many years, Thennie is glad that it is moving forward.
* Anthea “Thennie” Mariano, President of the Philippine eLearning Society.
* AFP Nana Chen