Beyond teaching and research, how can universities and colleges serve the public better?
The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) has always believed that public service cuts across its teaching and research functions. In its 23 years of existence, UPOU has tried to integrate public service in its core functions and major activities. UPOU is uniquely positioned to serve the public better through its thrust and mandate of widening access to quality education, especially to sectors that are not normally reached by other constituent units of the UP System.
To surface the importance of public service, UPOU established openUP—one of its flagship programs that focuses on widening access to continuing professional education; providing digital opportunities to communities; providing venues for discussion of relevant issues in the society; and providing technical assistance to higher educational institutions (HEIs), local government, people’s organizations and civil society. With the enactment of Republic Act 10650 (Open Distance Learning Act), UPOU has been given a crucial task of assisting relevant national agencies, HEIs and technical and vocational institutions in developing their distance education programs through training, technical assistance, research and other academic programs.
Tell us about one or two public service programs or best practices under taken by your constituent unit (CU).
The UPOU has a number of public service initiatives. Let me just mention two programs which are unique to UPOU:
- Massive Open Distance e-Learning (MODeL). UPOU’s platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are online courses which are open to the public for free. In the Philippines, UPOU pioneered the offering of MOOCs through MODeL. UPOU offered its first MOOC in 2013—Introduction to Mobile Application Development Using Android Platform—which received a Merit Award in the PR Programs Merit on a Sustained Basis (Education/Literacy Category) at the 49th Anvil Awards in 2014. The course aimed to equip students with the necessary skills and know-how to deploy android application for android phone and tablets. It was developed and offered in collaboration with SMART Communications, Inc. Since then, UPOU has developed a number of MOOCs with the aim of making education more open and accessible, and in promoting lifelong learning. Courses offered are clustered under the following categories: ASEAN Studies; Child Rights Protection and Promotion; DE Readiness; eFilipiniana; eService Management Program; Interlocal Cooperation; ODEL Teacher Accreditation; Sustainable Development; and Technology for Teaching and Learning. UPOU MOOCs can be accessed through http://model.upou. edu.ph.
- UPOU Commons. The UPOU Commons is a repository of UPOU-produced Open Educational Resources (OER). OERs are educational resources with open licenses, available for free, online and can be used by anyone. UPOU is a staunch advocate of OERs as it believes that OERs that are well-designed and implemented can help achieve SDG 4 which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Through the UPOU Commons, the public can access learning resources that have been developed and produced by UPOU. These resources feature experts on content such as science, mathematics, technology, sociology, communication, arts, etc. who are not just from UPOU but from other UP units and academic institutions. OERs from UPOU Commons can be used by teachers and students to improve teaching and learning. Examples of these OERs are on Technology for Teaching and Learning which have been funded by UNESCO and produced for teachers to improve their competencies on information and communications technology (ICT). UPOU OERs can be accessed through http://networks.upou. edu.ph/category/commons-video/.
Through programs like these, UPOU attempts to remove barriers (such as geography, time, economics, gender and age) that have traditionally restricted learners to avail of and access quality education.
What problems or challenges have you encountered in doing public service? How did you solve or address them?
From my point of view, one of the major challenges that UPOU faces when it comes to doing public service is the lack of manpower. Being a small university with a very wide reach has become a major challenge for each faculty and staff of UPOU.
Despite this major challenge, UPOU is able to overcome it through collaboration and partnership. By engaging its affiliates, alumni and students and other partners and networks, UPOU is able to deliver its commitment to make quality education more open and accessible, and to promote lifelong learning.
Suggest one or two ways of further improving the public service program in your CU and locality.
To further improve UPOU’s public service program, the following can be done:
– Increase engagement with the communities it serves, including rural communities, by sharing with them innovative teaching and learning technologies
– Include students in co-creation and use of OERs
– Strengthen collaboration with all sectors of society
– Improve the dissemination and promotion of MOOCs and OERs to increase participation and involvement of the public