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Firm amidst the “Avalanche”: OLFU hosts PACU Academic Management Seminar
Firm amidst the “Avalanche”: OLFU hosts PACU Academic Management Seminar

By: Vicente Santos


By: Vicente Santos


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Modernization is at a very quick pace, and a surge of changes is expected to hit the higher education sector in all sides – yet, this generation’s educators are prepared to face the raging outpour head-on. From September 19 to 20, 2019, Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) asserted readiness as it hosted the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) seminar entitled “The Avalanche is Here: Transforming the Higher Education Landscape” at the Assembly Hall of the RISE Tower, Valenzuela Campus.

Based on the paper “An Avalanche is Coming, Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead” by Sir Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Ridzvi, the conference featured a notable lineup of speakers who led timely discussions on shifts, challenges and developments in education brought about by Industry 4.0. It was attended by delegates from over 80 institutions, including participants from the Cebu Institute of Technology – University (CITU) who joined via livestreaming.

Dr. Caroline Marian Enriquez, University President and incumbent President of PACU, formally welcomed the participants on the first day. She recognized that the education sector is “confronted with an avalanche of challenges” such as the implementation of the K-12 curriculum and new legislations. Nonetheless, she expressed her gratitude and confidence in the speakers who are experts in their own fields. Emphasizing the concept of knowledge economy, she advised the audience, “…knowledge is not as useful as an economic resource unless we apply it, we share it, we use it, and it is transferred.” Dr. Enriquez also said that in this dynamic era, “we must find ways of delivering innovative education using technology, tools and industry inputs” whilst understanding “the psychology of the millennials.” “We hope that with this avalanche of speakers and knowledge in this seminar, we will come home with a landslide of new learnings,” she ended.

The Keynote Speech entitled “The Avalanche is Here: Addressing the Challenges in Higher Education” was delivered by Dr. Michael M. Alba, President of Far Eastern University (FEU). In an economist perspective, he presented challenges to Philippine Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs), to which he also mentioned corresponding responses. In relation to this, he likewise shared some of the best practices at FEU.

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Next to take the stage was Ronna Sieh, co-founder of The Coding School PH. In her talk “Upscaling Instruction for the New Learners”, she identified the Generation Z as the new learners, and they tend to have the eagerness to “future-proof” their careers by seeking the appropriate training and knowing what jobs and skills will be needed.

Sieh saw such characteristics as opportunities to develop, thus she encouraged the audience, “You are all at the forefront of educating a generation that we are also very hopeful about – this could be the generation that’s going to save our country, and you’re in front of them…” After introducing The Coding School’s objectives of promoting lifelong learning and shaping skills in a swiftly-changing world, Sieh concluded her presentation with striking words: “…together, I hope you all realize that we are all vanguards of what is to come.”

Rey Untal, President and CEO of the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines then spoke about “Digital Transformation in the IT-BPM Workplace and Addressing the Needs of the Workplace”. He gave an overview of the Philippines’s IT-Business Process Management industry and explored the rising global demand for digital and tech skills. Raising questions on the preparation of the sector for such changes, he advocated the development of an academe-industry partnership that would be responsive to the needs of the changing times.

In the afternoon session, speaker Rogelio Dela Cruz of the Office of Learner Centered Instructional Technology of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, talked about the “Best Practices in Implementing Blended Learning”. From an educator standpoint, he presented steps on defining blended learning problems and asserted that technology is just a tool; the real score is enabling meaningful learning among students. To effectively use technology, he said that it must be “integrated” in solving problems.

Moving forward, Julian Yballe, Senior Regional Director of Instructure, introduced the learning management system, Canvas, which has been adapted by several education institutions here and abroad. He showed how this technology acts as a powerful tool in combining several things in one platform, in relation to Blended Learning.

To wrap up the first day of the conference, Dr. Edizon A. Fermin, Vice President for Academic Affairs of the National Teachers’ College, tackled “Healthy and Safe Use of ICT in Classrooms”. He presented a thorough analysis of the behaviors and tendencies of Generation Z, which makes up most of the online populations. Alongside these, he discussed what educators of this young generation should do, and how they must handle the changes that heavily influence them.

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The second day was just as packed as it brought another set of distinguished lecturers. Starting strong was Dr. Ma. Lourdes Carandang on the topic of “Developing Mindfulness among the Generation Z Learners”. Describing the “true digital natives”, their needs and concerns, she discussed the beauty of Mindfulness – of “focusing on the present moment” and cited some examples on practicing such.

Jay Michael Jaboneta, Manager of Nexus Innovation Labs of De La Salle Lipa, discussed “Digital Transformation in Higher Education”, presenting the Theory of Hope, a template for 21st Century Learning, and the Four Key Trends in higher education today. He also showed examples of developments in technology that can be used in education and invited everyone to “build the infrastructure of opportunity”.

Dr. Michael Joseph S. Dino, Director of the OLFU Research Development and Innovation Center then elaborated on the topic, “Gearing Up Research, Technology and Innovation in Industry 4.0” and its core elements, namely: 1) Purpose, (2) People, (3) Process, and (4) Product.

Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada, Managing Director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations then discussed “Data Privacy Policy and Practices in Schools”, he cited privacy breaches that may be committed in schools. He also pointed out simple and common human mistakes in the industry that put data security on the line, stressing that aside from looking at the technologies involved, the focus must also be on the people who handle the data.

Speaker Dominic Barnachea then introduced the activities and initiatives of the USAID Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) Program, with focus on Career Center Development towards Student Success. The Institutionalization Manager of the said project, he also presented Model Career Centers in various schools in the country and defined the concept of an Innovation-facing University.

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The last speaker was the Dean of the College of Business and Accountancy, and the College of Hospitality and Institutional Management of OLFU, Dr. Ignacio Cordova, Jr. In his talk, he emphasized the importance of career advocacy in universities, and the educator’s roles in the career development of students. In relation to this, he also shared some of OLFU’s best practices, particularly in Academe-Industry Linkages and Pathways.

For both days of the seminar, delegates were given opportunities to participate in the plenary discussions where they raised questions, saw the topics in different perspectives and fostered in-depth conversations.

On behalf of the PACU Treasurer and Programs Committee Chairperson Laurice Faye Juarez, Programs Committee member Dr. Ma. Socorro Eala of San Pablo Colleges delivered the closing remarks where she gave a glance of what had transpired in the two-day symposium. She likewise extended words of thanks to the delegates and everyone who made the gathering a success.

“The Avalanche is Here: Transforming the Higher Education Landscape” seminar is part of the PACU Academic Management Series XI. It was conducted in partnership with OLFU, with the cooperation of CITU, the support of the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC), and the endorsement of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).