Saturday, August 6, 2011

Significant Milestones

UPOU Faculty Congress

The First UPOU Faculty Congress was held last Thursday, August 4, 2011 at the UPOU’s Centennial Center for Digital Learning (CCDL) Hall in Los Banos.  Around 100 UPOU regular and affiliate faculty members from the three Faculties (of Education, Information and Communication Studies, and Management and Development Studies) were present.   

Theme of the Congress was “Teaching Effectiveness in an e-University in the 21st Century.”   This was part of a series of system-wide set of pre-investiture activities in preparation for the Presidential Investiture of UP President Alfredo E. Pascual sometime in September 2011.
                                Some 100 regular and affiliate faculty were present during the Faculty Congress.
Organizers of the Faculty Congress emphasized that the Congress was convened to provide UPOU faculty an opportunity for “collective critical reflection on what it means to be effective online educators.”  The Congress was conceived to enable UPOU faculty to “further develop their technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (TPCK) as online educators; and to critically apply as well as contribute to the scholarship of teaching in a digital age.”
                                          Dean Pat Arinto (FEd) explaining the objectives and mechanics
                                                   of the Faculty Congress.
There were four sessions had the following themes: becoming/being an effective online educator, engaging learners in a virtual classroom, assessing learning online, and identifying foci for a professional development program for online educators.

In her message, UPOU Chancellor Gigi Alfonso emphasized that UPOU is the trail blazer in ODeL because it’s the only institution in the Philippines that delivers all its courses online.  The concerns of ODeL, Chancellor Alfonso said, include the following:

1.   ODeL is actually transnational education (TNE), and UPOU is a major player.  This means that UPOU shall widen its sphere of influence beyond the 60 countries it now operates in.  Consequently, there shall be efforts at curricular innovation to highlight cultural contexts.

2.      An important ingredient in the ODeL efforts of UPOU shall be the radical course designs and delivery mechanisms.  The UPOU has been known for these and it shall continue to pursue such innovative approaches in the design and delivery of instructional services.

3.      UPOU shall continue efforts in creating knowledge through higher-order thinking, which is part of the ODeL framework.  Knowledge creation is now a current concern in educational philosophy.

4.      ODeL, as practiced at UPOU, provides an enabling environment for teaching effectiveness, which, for all intents and purposes, means a systemic blending of expertise through the blurring of the boundaries of the roles and functions of instructional designers, course writers, media specialists, educational measurement experts, language editors, and the like.

Chancellor Gigi pointed out that we need to be reflective educators who continue to be creative and innovative; who must be willing to unlearn old ways of doing things and adopt new and effective approaches especially in a learner-centered community.

UP President Pascual, from his end, sent his message but was not physically present because he was in Congress defending the UP budget.  He said, UPOU is the only open university in Asia that is essentially a graduate university.  And to continue its efforts at introducing innovations in field of educational delivery, we need to invest in IT infrastructure “if we have to succeed in e-learning.”  That sounded to me like a commitment.

President Pascual expressed hope that the UPOU shall provide the necessary training for all UP faculty in improving quality of instructional materials.  Of course, the response is definitely yes because this is one of the mandates of UPOU, to help improve not only instructional methods but materials as well that could be used by teachers in other HEIs in the country.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay on in the Congress.  I had to go home after the first morning session because I had a very bad cough and onset of flu.  I could hardly walk, much less participate in the discussions.  As it turned out, I was down in bed for a couple more days.  Bed ridden or not, I had to prepare my notes for this entry, though.


Great Moment for Devcom

It doesn’t come frequently, but when it does it overjoys.  I’m referring to what is arguably one of the greatest moments for devcom academics, professionals, and practitioners worldwide.  Professor Nora Cruz Quebral, mentor of the major personalities in devcom (I hope I can qualify to be included in this group), will be awarded the honoris causa (honorary doctorate) by the London School of Economics shortly.  The process of selecting the recipient for an honoris causa award at the LSE is very complex and severely competitive.  When the final announcement came out of LSE, all of us who were part of the loop from the beginning of the nomination process were all relieved and thankful that the highly competitive process was over and that Nora, indeed, was the Awards Committee’s choice.

Dr. Quebral’s award is certainly a huge message to the world regarding her “passion for and huge contribution to the field of communication for development/development communication” (Manyozo, 2010).  By the way, to many social scientists worldwide, the LSE is the “star” of the social sciences and economics.

To Nora, mentor and role model, thank you for hammering into our heads in our younger undergraduate years at UPCA what a development communicator ought to be.

This is simply long past due.  Still, certain moments in life, particularly professional life, are worth waiting for.  What makes this event much more significant is that the award’s meaning goes way beyond the personal level.  I’d think Nora thinks that way.  I’d think Nora’s students think the same way, too.


Research Renaissance at PhilRice?

I ran into Dr. Dong Rasco, Jr. the other day and we exchanged pleasantries, which quickly led to his new assignment as PhilRice Director.  He’s upbeat about this assignment and seemed eager to begin serious research work in the country’s rice research agency.  I mentioned to him that our contemporaries at UPLB are all expecting for serious rice research coming back after quite sometime, to which he simply smiled and said, “let’s hope so.”

He sounded as if he was saying, this is a reasonable expectation and I can do this because at PhilRice, “there are a lot of good people there.”  When he got his call slip, he was just weeks into his Sabbatical Leave from UP Mindanao, no doubt, to write yet another book.  Well that sabbatical will have to be discontinued because a new responsibility has been assigned.  Snippets of the humble scientist’s professional priorities and habits.

"There are a lot of good people at PhilRice," is Dong's word of mouth today. Such comment, to my mind could mean an enabling research environment might be opening up at PhilRice?  So, to my friends at PhilRice, time to get down to brass tacks.


Congratulations to Yet Another Achiever
We’d like to congratulate UPLB Chancellor Luis Rey I. Velasco for being this year’s recipient of the Discoro L. Umali Medal for Most Outstanding Science Administrator.  This award is annually given by the country’s one and only science academy, the National Academy for Science and Technology (NAST).  If you’re a Filipino academic or scientist, you can say you’ve made it (or have arrived) if you make it even to just membership in the NAST.  Being an NAST Awardee, certainly is a few notches above the rest.

Chancellor Velasco, formerly Dean of the UPLB College of Agriculture, also used to be the Director of UPLB’s National Center for Microbiology and Biotechnology Research (BIOTECH).  The two-term Chancellor is a Professor of Entomology at UPLB.

Congratulations, again, Chancellor Rey.


Good Luck to the Thousands Who Took the UPCAT

These last couple of days,  August  7-8, 2011 (it's now Sunday afternoon in the Philippines), the UPLB Campus, like any other UP Campuses throughout the country, has been host to thousands of graduating high school students and their families.  Paraphrasing the great poet W.H. Auden, I'm sure that the reason why the young graduating high school students were here on campus was to take the UPCAT; why the others were here, I have no idea.  Serious business, indeed.   Two full days of exams is no joke.  The UPCAT, in fact, as many know, is the great separator of the grains from the chaff. 

On the average, there are at least 60,000 UPCAT takers annually.  And only 9,000-10,000 are taken in due largely to overcrowding in all the UP Campuses, except UPOU.  All the six other campuses of UP are residential campuses, while UPOU is an open university.  Today, UPOU has under 3,000 students (the majority are graduate students), but UPOU is preparing for greater numbers of students in the next five years.  Given UPOU’s online delivery of instruction through virtual classrooms instead of physical classrooms, it’s able to accommodate tens of thousands of students without having to construct physical classrooms all the time.

We believe that there’s always a limit to the capacity of UP to construct classrooms, and there, too, is a limit to the willingness of the tax payer to foot the bill for classroom construction every year.  Therefore, I do suggest very strongly that those intending to enter college, especially those interested in undergraduate training in the fields of media studies and education, might study carefully the option to pursue your studies in the distance mode.  (UPOU is now offering Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Studies [BAMS], and Bachelor of Education Studies [BES]).  The same challenge is being hurled to those wanting to take their diploma  or master’s degrees.  To those wanting to earn their PhD (in education) or doctor of communication, the UPOU is prepared for you guys, any time.

Perhaps, UPCAT applicants in future might need to clearly specify in their applications forms that their preferred option in terms of campus should be the UPOU.


According to announcement on the construction site, this is how the Los Banos Centtro will look like upon completion.  It will compete with existing small businesses in the area, I'm sure.


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