The 7th National Conference on Open and Distance eLearning (NCODeL 2022) featured Special Sessions on the second day of the conference, 24 November 2022.
For Special Session on “Best Practices and Prospects of Micro-credentials, the moderators were Associate Professor Peter Sy of the Department of Philosophy of the University of the Philippines Diliman, and the Chairperson, Dr. Joane V. Serrano, Dean and Professor of Faculty of Management and Development Studies of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU). The first speaker is, Ms. Chiara Finocchietti, the Deputy Director of Centro di Informazione sulla Mobilità e le Equivalenze Accademiche (CIMEA) National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC) Italy.
Ms. Chiara Finocchietti talked about how micro-credentials is not a new concept. She explained that providing smaller units of courses by higher education (HE) was not a new idea since it already existed even during the 90s. She discussed how micro-credentials were seen as opportunities to see education as a form of lifelong learning. Ms. Finocchietti shared that CIMEA offers credential evaluator courses open to Italian HEIs, but does not offer micro-credentials on the international level. She thanked Dr. Serrano for the question because it’s an interesting perspective for their organization to look into.
The next speaker, Mr. Arnald Alejandro Pagulayan, Leader of Talent Development CNX PH, presented his study entitled Securing Employment Through Micro-credentials in the BPO Industry: A Contact Center Services Perspective. He discussed the potential of using a massive open online course (MOOC), co-developed through academic and industry collaboration, as a micro-credential online course to increase the number of qualified applicants for voice work within the business process management sector or call center operations. The MOOC, titled “Introduction to Contact Centers Services (ICCS)” was employed and developed by UPOU Pahinungod and Concentrix Philippines.
Special Session 5: Cultivating Sustainable Blended and Open Learning in the Philippines
For Special Session 5 entitled Cultivating Sustainable Blended and Open Learning in the Philippines, the moderator and the first presenter, Dr. Patricia Arinto, Dean of the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College and Professor of the Faculty of Education of UPOU, discussed her study entitled The Blended, Online, and Open Learning (BOL) Ecosystem in the Philippines. The study viewed BOL from the ecosystem perspective. The presentation was about developing BOL ecosystem resilience by cultivating diversity and connections. She explained how cultivating resilience by systems view and institutional capacities could foster or strengthen coordination by taking an ecological approach to capacity building and by making a careful analysis of institutional setup. The study recommended that ODLs should be established across the country to be able to do capacity building for BOL.
The second presenter is Assistant Professor Anna Katrina Marshal of the Faculty of Education of UPOU. She presented her study entitled Building Institutional Capacity in Blended, Online, and Open Learning. It is a long-term goal to establish partnerships and collaborations with BOL institutions which will require deliberate and planned change for the dimensions of capacity building (types, levels, stages, outcomes). Part of the presentation was the showcasing of Sustainable Institution Building for Open Learning (SIBOL) which aimed to foster effective BOL practices in 3 phases using 6 modules. Some of the most relevant topics discussed were the BOL material development & technology management of BOL.
The third presentation entitled Doing Blended Learning: Challenges and Ways Forward was done by Dr. Alfredo Babay, Vice President for Higher Education of Ateneo De Naga University. It was about the transition from minimal to optimal blended learning instructional delivery with Google Classrooms for modality. The changes in modality due to the disallowing of fully online classes allowed us to foresee the creation and implementation of blended learning. However, the issues and challenges were faculty retooling, budget for ICT (hardware and software, personnel), and curriculum revision.
The fourth presentation entitled MSU-IIT Experience: Doing Blended Learning, Challenges, and Ways Forward was done by Dr. Amelia T. Buan, Dean of the Mindanao State University Iligan Institute of Technology. The study was about the transition to face-to-face classes with issues and challenges encountered about the program level of organization of subjects, participation of students, tasks designed for face-to-face and online classes, and preparation of faculty members on learning materials to support student engagement. The study recommended that in order to sustain BOL, the strengthening of student support and support in materials development, increasing faculty members’ capacity in improving student achievement through blended learning, and encouragement of the program level faculty members to work together to analyze data, should be incorporated in the newly implemented programs.
Special Session 6: Immersive Technologies
For Special Session 6 entitled Immersive Technologies and Open and Distance E-learning, the moderator was Dr. Roberto B. Figueroa, Junior Assistant Professor of Faculty of Information and Communication Studies (FICS) of UPOU.
The first presentation delved into the Education in Metaverse written by the Founder and Vice President of FrameVR, Gabe Baker, and Ms. Ravneet Kaur, the product specialist of FrameVR. Ms. Kaur represented the company and the study by introducing immersive technologies by defining them as making online interaction more personal. Virtual classrooms are one of the primary uses of immersive spaces, which FrameVR also offers. She further says that Frame is one of the tools which enables immersive technology. It is a browser-based tool that is highly accessible and customizable with different content types. Its ability to build multiple worlds and create an ecosystem that educators and administrative staff can build within Frame, works well with students and global classes. She also adds that the use of customized worlds (iTeacher) which creates a metaverse entirely dedicated to educational content and virtual classrooms lead to more accessible educational resources.
Mr. Nicholas Wilson, an Immersive Learning Practitioner, English Teacher, and Curriculum Developer, and Dr. Mehrasa Alizadeh, an Immersive Learning Researcher and Assistant Professor at the International Professional University of Technology in Osaka, Japan, were the second presenters. They discussed their study entitled Teacher Stories from the 2D Metaverse: Fostering Collaborative Skills in Distance Learning Settings. The main goal of the study is, “To not see online teaching as changing the setup of learning, rather, we like to foster new kind of skills which is remote collaboration. It is something that keeps growing at the industry level, in society, as the Covid-closure is ending. As a teacher, when I think about my students, I ask what skills do they need when they start working?” said Wilson. Furthermore, the study emphasizes that with the use of browser-based applications like Google Workspace and GatherTown, they are able to bring forth a new advent of immersive technologies to primary and tertiary-level learners.
The last presenter for this special session was Prof. Eric Hawkinson, a Learning Futurist and Coordinator of the Mixed, Augmented, and Virtual Realities in Learning Special Interest Group (MAVR-SIG), Japan Association for Language Teaching, and also a Professor at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. His presentation was entitled Immersive Learning Initiatives in Higher Education. He talked about the specific case uses and research initiatives in immersive technologies. He also discussed the use of immersive technologies such as the recreation of the UN Security Council which helped students to gather more perspective in engaging, lobbying, and negotiating international laws in such a global setting. Moreover, his initiative in Together Learning City also allowed students to showcase their best works through a web-based virtual reality (VR) environment. But one of Prof. Hawkinson’s favorite creations would be The Studio, the recreation of his own studio in the metaverse. Through The Studio, he could interact with other individuals through social gatherings, meetings, and other functions.
During the question-and-answer (Q&A) portion. Mr. Lexter Mangubat started by inquiring about the process of helping students get through the learning curve. To answer his question, Mr. Nicholas J. Wilson suggested that the students would be allowed to go through the platform or technology. They would discover new skills by being adaptive to the kind of technology that they are familiarizing with. Next, Assistant Professor Mari Crisanto inquired about the accessibility and universal design for learning. Dr. Alizadeh answered this question by saying that browsers could be utilized in order to prevent fatigue or eye strain. In addition, Prof. Hawkinson suggested that there should be limitations in the use of the immersive learning platform. He stated that the universal design for accessibility often clashed with the immersive learning experience and was still in need of further development. Then, Ms. Eliza Cornejo sought suggestions for free and affordable platforms for immersive technologies. Mr. Wilson, in return, suggested that there were free plans for every application but they had limitations. Prof. Hawkinson further suggested the use of platforms being used by comic book creators and RPG games platforms to facilitate online learning further.