Facing the challenges to communication, media education during the pandemic

The pandemic has drastically prompted a shift in teaching methods. This poses a challenge to mentors as online or remote learning is not just about transmitting lessons via e-mail. Rather, it requires special skills, highlighting the importance of the learning management system.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a far-reaching health crisis affecting not only the Philippines but the world. It is reported that the outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in November 2019 and later declared as a pandemic on March 11. It comes at a time when the country was still reeling and literally on the steps to recovery from natural disasters like the Taal Volcano eruption, typhoon Tisoy, and the Davao del Sur earthquake. Essentially, the pandemic has resulted in a degree of economic paralysis and the immobilization of community life due to the imposition of stay-at-home restrictions.

One of the hardest hit by the pandemic is the academic sector. The University of the Philippines-Diliman acted swiftly and in a letter addressed to the UP Diliman community, chancellor Fidel Nemenzo informed everyone about the suspension of classes by the national government from March 10 to 14 and the suspension of work in the campus. However, all offices have to maintain a skeleton workforce to ensure that essential services on the campus are continued. Also on this day, the chancellor created the UP Diliman COVID-19 Task Force to lead in putting in place and implement necessary response protocols and institutional mechanisms. 

Faculty members handling production classes had to reconfigure the way their classes could be taught without the physical and tactile learning of handling cameras, microphones, studio lights, computers, to mention a few.

The second semester 2019-2020 was barely gaining momentum when the pandemic was declared. Another memorandum followed suit stating that “members of the faculty are enjoined to immediately plan for alternative means of conducting/delivering classes/lessons, doing an assessment of student learning, and providing feedback; faculty members may use the University Virtual Learning Environment (UVLE) and Google apps, such as Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, and Google Meet.”  While face-to-face classes were suspended, faculty members were allowed to continue with their classes using the online platforms stated in the memorandum and to adjust their course syllabi and requirements.

One of the colleges largely affected with the urgent and swift transition from face-to-face to online classes is the College of Mass Communication (CMC) that offers production and laboratory courses in Film, Broadcast Communication, Journalism, and Communication Research. Switching gears is no easy task. Such courses require the use of film, radio and TV studio facilities, and computer laboratories. Faculty members handling production classes had to reconfigure the way their classes could be taught without the physical and tactile learning of handling cameras, microphones, studio lights, computers, to mention a few.

Such courses require the use of film, radio and TV studio facilities, and computer laboratories. 

Courses requiring the use of computer laboratories are likewise affected because the research software that can be used only in the computer labs of the college is very expensive; the college cannot expect its students to buy and own the software used for communication research. The same holds true in the teaching of, for instance, production design and layout of newspapers, magazines, and the like in Journalism; this requires software that students may not be able to afford to purchase, hence they do their layout in the college computer lab.

Faculty members with radio and TV classes had to modify the teaching of radio and TV broadcasting without the use of studio facilities. One of the difficult conundrums faced was teaching a student how to operate a studio camera without handling the camera itself. While others may argue that there are many video lessons available online in this arena, the tangible experience of holding and manipulating the camera is absent. The same holds true for introductory film courses.  

Because of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed by the government as the main measure to prevent the spread of the virus, outdoor and indoor production shoots in film and broadcast communication had to be stopped. Film and video production involve many people (the film crew, the actors, the director, etc.) that could make physical distancing difficult.  

Even the theses of students were greatly affected, both in the undergraduate and graduate levels. There are theses that require production outputs, there are those that are investigative in nature, and there are theses that need field surveys and face-to-face interviews. The imposition of the ECQ paralyzed all these and theses students and advisers had to work closely in adjusting requirements and expectations.

The ECQ prohibits people from going out of their homes and bans small gatherings of people. A great majority of classes in the CMC requires fieldwork — be in investigative reporting, broadcast journalism, television documentary, videography, documentary film, photography, narrative film, cinematography, survey research, ethnography and fieldwork. 

The challenges faced by the faculty members of the College are not confined to reconfiguring courses from face-to-face to online or remote learning. Not all faculty members are familiar or know about online/remote learning. Such a method of teaching requires special skills. It is not simply using e-mail to transmit a lesson. Faculty have to learn about Learning Management Systems. It is fortunate that UP Diliman has the UVLE and at the moment, faculty members are undergoing training to use this.  

And how about our students? Teaching is not a mechanical action; there should be care and nurturing for the learner. The College is concerned with how our students are coping with the pandemic. The College provided psychosocial access for students to have someone they can communicate with about their problems. Moreover, we also had to look into our students’ access to the internet. The College embarked on a survey to find out their accessibility as well as if they have the necessary gadgets to be able to connect to online or remote learning platforms.

The pandemic is indeed a health crisis, but unlike other health crises that can be solved by improving the country’s health system, it has affected all aspects and sectors of human life. As many say, it is the “new normal” but others say that it is a “new reality” that every Filipino must face and work within all the aspects of their life. We hope and pray that it will not be for long. 


Edited by Charmie Joy Pagulong

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