With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the Filipino government to place parts of the country under varying degrees of quarantine, everyday life has been disrupted like never before. Schools are particularly affected, having been forced to temporarily shut down as a precaution against further waves of infection, resulting in an unprecedented number of students having to take classes online.
The adjustment certainly presents many challenges, and this is why the FEU Institute of Technology (FEU Tech) is proud to announce it will be breaking the traditional formula of education by releasing a digital learning system called the Mastery-based Individualized Learning Enhancement System, or MILES for short. The pioneering system is expected to be available not only at FEU Tech, but also the Alabang and Diliman campuses by August 2020.
Through the online course management platform CANVAS, MILES will create a user-friendly interface to deliver well-designed content that is geared towards personalized learning. MILES is the first of its kind not only in the Philippines, but in the rest of the world as well.
Yet what truly sets MILES apart from other remote learning solutions is that it truly takes every student’s personal situation into account. “We can’t take for granted that every student has access to a stable Internet connection,” said Rolan “Marco” Garcia, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at FEU Tech.
Garcia refers to the fact that despite the Philippines registering as having some of the heaviest Internet usage in the world, the country still has abysmally slow Internet speeds. In 2019, the country’s fixed internet download speed ranked 16th slowest among 87 countries.
According to FEU Tech senior executive director Dr. Benson Tan, this reality is what has spurred FEU Tech to design an unparalleled solution that keeps even the unconnected in mind. “We certainly don’t want them to be left behind,” he explains. “So that is why MILES offers different learning options that cater to students with different situations.”
For example, the “Fully Online” option is mainly for students with good, stable online connections and computer devices. Distribution of learning activities, materials, faculty consultations, and mentoring would be 100% online and asynchronous.
Yet the “Blended Online” option is available for students who have minimal internet access. Here, learning materials will come in the form of both printed materials and flash-drives filled with video lectures, learning activities, and other materials. These will be sent via a courier for a nominal fee.
Though it will only be available once the government allows the resumption of physical classes, there’s even a “Blended Face-to-Face” option that balances asynchronous learning with on-campus interactions. Classes and lab courses that require personal interaction will fall under this option, but all faculty consultations and exams will be online. “This option is best for students who really want elements of the face-to-face environment,” Garcia explained.
With remote learning looking to be the only viable approach for schools in the foreseeable approach, FEU Tech’s MILES program presents a groundbreaking new solution that is inclusive and easy to understand.
Not only that, but parents and students who choose to avail of the MILES program will have further peace of mind given the wealth of experience FEU has behind it when it comes to innovation. Although the first of its kind in the world, the MILES program is not FEU Tech, Alabang nor Diliman’s first foray into utilizing technology to give students a better education. At all schools, for example, students are given access to computer labs that take their individual needs into consideration—whether they are an IT major, multimedia arts major, and so on.
Furthermore, all these schools offer opportunities especially designed to give students a leg up in a rapidly digitizing world. From blended courses that allow students to study both business and Information Tech and even offering certification programs courtesy of tech titans like Cisco and Microsoft, the schools have always aimed to stay inclusive, relevant, and competitive – -something that they only intend to continue even in the face of an unprecedented crisis.
Both FEU Tech’s senior director for administration Jarvis Muyargas and senior director for computer studies Rossana Adao agree, of course, that the transition into such a unique solution certainly comes with its own set of challenges on their end.
“For one, nobody really expected the pandemic to come about. It’s a complete 180-degree turn, to suddenly live with the realization that classroom learning as we know it may not come back for a while,” explained Adao. “There were a lot of meetings and deliberations that had to happen before FEU Tech decided to roll out MILES.”
Yet Muyargas also adds that all the effort is definitely worth it. “We believe that the ongoing crisis doesn’t have to mean learning and mastery have to stop. With MILES, we can ensure that no student will be left behind,” concluded Muyargas.