The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academics (VCA) has recently launched DLSU@Home, a hybrid online and off-campus program in which qualified students may have an academic experience from the comfort of their own homes.
In the launching party held last April 1 at the North Forbes Park Pavilion amidst the houses of Manila’s elite, VCA Dr. Myrna Austria emphasized, “As Saint John Baptist de La Salle reached out to the poor of France who could not afford quality education, DLSU now reaches out to Filipinos without the time or effort to have a college degree.”
Just give me a reason
According to a recent survey conducted by the VCA, 30 percent of current undergraduate students are delayed by a term or more. Dr. Austria shares that when asked why, students gave reasons ranging from difficulty in following the flowchart, external problems like financial and health issues, and dealing with other priorities like social activities with friends and soul-searching.
DLSU@Home aims to address these issues by making available online versions of general education courses for students to complete on their own time without having to go to class in-campus. Students simply need to access the DLSU@Home online portal and check if there are online versions of the courses they are enrolled in during the term. Students will be able to attend online lectures, have video conferences with professors, and take online schoolwork. Students are only required to come to class for orientation on the first day and to take their final exams. The schedule of DLSU@Home follows the same schedule in-campus, making the students experience the campus vibe virtually.
However, Dr. Austria clarifies that students will still need to attend in-campus classes for degree majors, Physical Education, Personal Effectiveness, and National Service Training Program courses.
Students qualified for free use of the DLSU@Home program include athletes, working students, and students with executive or editorial positions in organizations. Other students may also avail of the service by paying 5,000 pesos per course per term. However, said students will have to justify why
they need the service.
Higher education making sense
DLSU@Home can be compared with the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), which aspires to provide wider access of high-quality education through online platforms. It is important to note that the UPOU is not entirely online and not all courses available in the regular curriculum are offered under the program.
“DLSU tries to make sense of the now,” muses Dr. Austria, “in which information travels faster because of the internet.” She continues that precisely because of this reason, the administration has established a program that will bring Lasallian education right to the comfort of students’ homes.
The office of the Information Technology Services (ITS) is in charge of maintaining the online service. ITS Director James Sy explains the realistic design of the website, describing, “It is not just a website with online courses. We like to call it DLSU’s online campus.”
The website features neoclassical-inspired designs akin to the architecture of St. La Salle and Yuchengco Halls, flash animation of students walking along St. Joseph Walk, and even an ID-scanning facility to verify the student’s enrollment. Jokingly, Sy adds, “At least in the online campus, you wouldn’t have to wear your ID, have your bags checked by the guards, or have to follow the dress code.”
To finish the school’s virtual atmosphere, offices such as the Office of the University Registrar (OUR), Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO), Lasallian Pastoral Office (LSPO), and the different academic departments are accessible with just a click away.
“The future begins right where you start growing up, because the stronger connection is at home,” DLSU President and Chancellor Br. Dennis Magbanua FSC shares. He also adds that education always starts at home and DLSU makes it possible to provide it in the most efficient and comfortable way, depending on the student’s choice and resources.
Excitement, apathy, and uncertainty
Students have received the program in many ways; some have shown excitement while some have remained apathetic.
Ramona Bautista (III, BS-MKT) shares that she is “greatly [looking forward] to enroll in the program” because she can opt to have a part-time job while studying, which she reasons is quite practical.
Meanwhile, students who find themselves in unusual circumstances can also benefit from the program, according to Tin Idel (III, AE-BSA), who mentions that she has a friend who had to temporarily stop schooling due to being pregnant. “DLSU@Home is such a comfortable and efficient way to learn especially for people who think that it’s too late for them to get education,” she concludes.
On the other hand, several professors have raised relevant questions targeting the efficiency of the program, particularly in terms of assessment because of different environments.
For instance, Joel Tanchuco from the School of Economics believes that an environment where one studies has an effect on one’s learning curve, and whether it becomes positive or negative is dependent on the individual. “Some students are better at oral learning than written ones; with online, written works are more expected of you,” Tanchuco argues.
Although the initial launching of the program has been met with mixed reactions, Dr. Austria maintains that the DLSU@Home program will be offered to the University, initially in its beta testing stage, to begin on the fir st term of academic year 2015-2016.