Unvetted e-learning materials may lead to ‘diploma mills,’ CHEd warned
MANILA, Philippines — Lack of monitoring and evaluation of the quality of online materials being used for distance learning could lead to “online diploma mills,” Senator Imee Marcos cautioned the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) on Wednesday.
During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education, Marcos cited the need for CHED to have a “focused effort to set standards on online and distance learning.”
“Ang takot natin maging online diploma mill ‘yan. Kasi, ito nga very convenient excuse na bigay na lang nang bigay ng diploma, automatic yung promotion, hindi naman natin alam kung ano talaga ang tinapos nung bata, dahil hindi nakakapag-monitor yung CHEd,” Marcos told CHEd chair Prospero De Vera III.
“So I enjoin CHEd to please look at that and at the same time,” she added.
Before this, Marcos raised concerns about subpar online materials used for distance learning.
“Sangkatutak ang nakikita nating materyal na libre at hinahayaan na gamitin, pero sa kabila nito yung iba naman palpak, hindi masyadong maganda yung materyales, hindi rin matuturing na talagang educational,” she said.
Marcos has had issues with diplomas herself. She had previously claimed that she has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) but the two universities have denied it.
Marcos then asked De Vera about CHEd’s efforts to standardize online learning materials.
According to De Vera, the commission has launched PHL CHEd Connect, an online website where faculty members and students can access quality online learning materials.
Eighteen local and international universities as well as CHEd partners have contributed online materials to be uploaded on the site, De Vera said.
“These are very good materials because they have been vetted by universities that have a long history already offering open distance learning,” he said.
The site, he noted, “is open for all universities.”
“So this is the initial step that the commission has done to make sure that there are quality materials grouped in one site that can be used by faculty members,” he added.
De Vera also told the Senate committee that CHEd also entered into an agreement with e-book suppliers “so that they can provide limited access to e-books for free.”
“For example, a faculty member is allowed to download as many as 50 e-books from the site for free before they start paying,” he said.
“And we are now looking into other sources of good material put here, so that’s the first step,” he added.
While she acknowledged efforts being undertaken by the commission to provide free online materials for both educators and learners, Marcos insisted that CHEd should improve its monitoring and evaluation.
“I think are copious amounts of online materials many of them free na magagamit na ngayon kaya lang ang concern ko, medyo mahina tayo sa M and E, yung monitoring and evaluation. Kasi kung minsan nakakalusot yung walang kwenta na mga materials at yun na lang yung ginagamit para madali,” she said.
“I was thinking, perhaps, in addition to looking for all the freebies available right now, and all the initiatives on your part, maybe even this in this very early days, we start already with the monitoring and evaluation set-up so that hindi naman mag-suffer at magkaroon ng unlearning and loss of quality,” she added.
De Vera agreed with Marcos, saying that CHEd needs to set up a “good monitoring and evaluation system” given the number of universities across the country which are of “different sizes, different locations, [and] different capacities.”
“We don’t worry about top universities that have been doing open distance learning for a long time. We don’t need to monitor them, what we expect to do is to help the less prepared universities by training their teachers, making their materials available,” he said.
The concern, the CHEd official noted, lies with smaller universities with less than 1,000 students because they lack the financial capacity to afford training for their teachers or to purchase online learning materials.
To address this, De Vera said the commission has encouraged the creation of regional consortiums between public and private higher education institutions.
“So they will help each other and also so that the good and better-prepared universities can share their resources with the less-prepared universities,” he added.
“So ‘pag may regional consortium they can actually share materials, they can learn from each other and they can help each other,” he further said.[ac]
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