I always define ‘leading’ as ‘enabling’... When we talk of leading, it means to say that we are also enabling -- and that’s the only time we can say that we are the leader in this field of distance education,” said University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) Chancellor Melinda dela Peña Bandalaria during the exploratory meeting in Ifugao State University (IFSU) on 14 November 2017. Chancellor Bandalaria, along with Asst. Prof. Myra Almodiel and Ms. Cien Angela Baurile, met with the faculty and staff members of IFSU - College of Open Distance Education and Transnational Education (CODETE) as part of the UPOU’s Cascading Best Practices Program.

The meeting started with an opening statement from Dr. Nancy Ann Gonzales, IFSU Vice President for Academic Affairs, expressing her gratitude for choosing their university as one of the four Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the country that UPOU will assist in strengthening distance education programs. Dr. Serafin Ngohayon, IFSU President, gave the participants an overview of why UPOU came to visit IFSU - to conduct an exploratory meeting on the Distance Education (DE) Readiness of the university’s faculty and staff. Dr. Ngohayon also shared the development that IFSU had gone through in terms of their distance education and transnational education programs. These details are vital in determining in which aspects UPOU’s best practices can be cascaded.

As part of the exploratory meeting, CODETE Dean Ivan Baguilat presented the current status of IFSU’s distance education program. He presented the programs they offer, the state of their faculty and staff members, and their initiatives for the CODETE programs. Mr. Joel Bahni, CODETE Application Developer, showcased the Learning Management System (LMS) he developed for IFSU.

Another part of the meeting was the identification of possible plans and activities under the cascading program. Chancellor Bandalaria led the discussion mentioning some of her observations from the distance education implementation of IFSU. Moreover, Chancellor Bandalaria also identified areas where UPOU’s best practices can be cascaded. She invited the participants to the 5th National Conference on Open and Distance e-Learning (NCODeL), a conference hosted by UPOU, where they can get more insights that may help in the improvement of their programs andLMS. Furthermore, she recommended that the faculty and staff of IFSU enroll in the free online courses on DE Readiness UPOU is offering.

What exactly do we mean by leading? It’s not you walking in front. We have to reconceptualize the concept of leadership. It’s you walking side by side.” This is what Chancellor Bandalaria said as she explained to the participants why UPOU is assisting HEIs in developing their distance education programs. The meeting concluded with some questions from the participants and final words from President Ngohayon and Chancellor Bandalaria.

Cascading Best Practices Program is one component of UPOU’s project on Institutional Innovation. This project aims to strengthen UPOU’s programs and manpower. This development is expected to eventually help the university in capacitating other HEIs and enabling them to offer their programs from technology-enhanced to fully-online mode of instruction.

Other HEIs identified for this project are Benguet State University (BSU), St. Paul University Philippines - Tuguegarao, and Southern Leyte State University. (CABaurile)