With a nod from the government, the floodgates for edtech players have been lowered. But what ingredients will revolutionize the sector?

In the crux of the coronavirus pandemic and global economic tensions, the government of the Philippines has emphasized the importance of online education. To this end, it has created a dedicated office in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

The CHED will spearhead the implementation of online learning and distance education in higher education institutions (HEIs) across the country to address the changing educational needs of students as well as teachers.

In addition, making more strides towards the digitalization of education in public schools, The House Committee on Basic Education and Culture recently approved the Public Schools of the Future in Technology (PSOFT) Act that legislates a roadmap to the digitalization of public school education in the next five to 10 years.

Challenges to overcome

According to a study of medical education in the country, one of the main challenges faced by Filipino students in transitioning to an online curriculum amidst the pandemic was the lack of relevant infrastructure.

There is certainly no shortage of people leveraging the Internet in the country—last year some 70.7 million people in the Philippines accessed the Web via their mobile phones, and this is expected to reach over 90 million by 2025. The challenge is to leverage the ever-increasing mobile phone connectivity to afford learners increased flexibility on where and how they learn, without the need for expensive hardware.

This is where educational technology such as learning management systems (LMS) can build bridges and fill accessibility gaps in the scheme of digital transformation. Predicated on strong internet speeds and reliability, a good LMS infrastructure that is adopted nationally can offer rich modern features like self-paced learning, better parental engagement, and seamless learning experiences on all smart mobile devices with no need for a separate mobile app.

With specialized LMS systems catering to learners and educators from school to college level and even beyond that, the sector will be able to tout adaptive learning pedagogy that automatically recommends content to learners based on gaps in their current knowledge, and allow for individual pacing and faster completion times.

Boosting accessibility through partnerships

Seeing the opportunities opening up in the Philippines, edtech vendors are eager to support the huge industry. One of them, D2L, already has a strong presence in other Asian countries including Singapore, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.

With its entry into the Philippines, it has also partnered with local key players in information and communications technology (ICT) and telecommunications in order to tap on their existing ecosystems that can boost visibility and accessibility. For a start, the consortium has already signed on the City Government of Taguig, for the Department of Education Division of Taguig and Pateros (TAPAT), which has responsibilities for the 37 public schools in Taguig City. 

One educational institution that has already embraced the latest edtech is the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. Its head of Educational Technology Rogelio Dela Cruz Jr. said: “With D2L’s Brightspace platform, learning has become more democratic, as students are provided with options regarding the time, place, and pace at which they want to learn. With its competency- and outcomes- based structure, differentiated learning—something that is difficult to conduct in a face-to-face mode of teaching—is now possible.”

Due to the lack of infrastructure in the country, an LMS must also be accessible from the get go, if it is to take off expediently over the long haul amidst foreseeable challenges. At De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS), an all-inclusive education can be now implemented in classrooms using the Brightspace LMS platform.

In SDEAS, teachers can easily use images and videos to facilitate the learning process in the classroom. For assessments, students are able to film themselves signing their essays in Filipino Sign Language (FSL) and can easily submit these assignments through the LMS. Likewise, teachers can provide feedback with videos in FSL, hence enabling efficient and personalized learning both inside and outside the classroom. 

Other independent colleges and schools using the LMS include Emilio Aguinaldo College, Chevalier School and Informatics Philippine, with more to come as vendor alliances proliferate.

Imbibing an Edtech future

Said D2L’s Regional Director Nick Hutton: “We have the expertise and experience in the education technology sector that can help the industry here embrace digital transformation, which is the future, pandemic or not. We seek to create awareness about LMS and its importance in elevating education to the next level while helping schools and colleges get future-ready, and the Philippine education industry understands that.”

The edtech DX journey for the country’s huge population and disparate social-economic mores will be long and perhaps even rocky. Other LMS and edtech partnerships will in time also be bidding for a piece of the lucrative pie.

But as long as the government is able to manage and calibrate the tech disruptions in the education landscape, the future for learners will be kept bright and continually evolving.