[University of Santo Tomas] Putting Learners First: Embracing Genuine Educational Approaches

Video Transcript
So, we're gonna move to our panel session now. You've already met Melissa, our exec who's out here from the state. But I wanted to introduce you to Anna Ramos. And so Anna is currently the director of educational technology center at the University of Santo Thomas. USD, where she spearheads the UST cloud campus project specializing in massive scale e learning management. At UTS, she ensures the professional development of teaching staff by leveraging technology for diverse online education delivery models.

She also holds the position on the board of directors of the e learning forum, Asia, Alpha, focusing on the integration of information technology in education across Asia. So her resume is, as as exciting as it is intimidating for me, but we've got two amazing speakers to welcome Just before they come up here, we have got a polling functionality to work. So at some stage, if you wanna jump in, you can, answer one of our polls on AI. We'd love to go through some of the results later. Please welcome to the stage, Melissa, and Anna.

Alright. I think you should be good. It's so good to be here with you, Anna. We, we had the opportunity last night to sit next to each other at a dinner, realize there's a lot we have in common both personally and professionally, and I agree with Ed. Your your background is intimidating.

And exciting, and I am glad to have you here to, give us a little bit of insight in particular on thinking about how to put learners first. So I'm going to I know we have a couple of slides, that you're also gonna help share with us. So I wanna start with. Would you mind sharing a little bit about the University of Central Thomas and your role, so we can set the stage a little bit more. So first, let me greet every one of less and good morning to everybody here.

I'm also represented, of course, by not just by the university, but also by the entire Dominican province of the Philippines. They are also at the back, where several schools are, joined together in one direction. So going back to your question as to, university in itself, so from the screen, we are able to see that based on historical data, this is the oldest university in Asia. But when it comes to e learning, it has started a little bit earlier. So when it comes to e learning, we started around two thousand two for fully online cause delivery.

Yeah. And as we were chatting last night, you've used lots of different tools and lots of different technologies. Do you mind sharing just a little bit about why, you why the university finds online learning so important in its mission? Well, it's it it started with a visionary leadership knowing that the future of education will be, technology pervasive. And so we started that early means that we need to integrate as early technology, in education So this could start from, the courses that we teach from the support services, that will be able to implement that and put that into action. And so it's important that there is visionary leadership from the very start.

And everything else will follow, laser focus in that direction. I think that visionary leadership as I learned a lot last night, is really exemplifies something that I chatted about this morning, which was putting the student at the center of the learning. Or really the importance of, as you can see here, ensuring that students have the autonomy and even the agency to be successful in their learning journey. And so this is why I'm excited, to to ask you a few more questions about how you're thinking about, everything from the return to face to face to where the future is going. So let me start with and I will share our questions as we go.

Let me start with returning back to face to face. What's changed in your educational approach and how you cater to today's learners. And I know I think you might have a slide or two. I'm happy to push the slides for you. Right.

So from the screen, we're seeing that the universities really look into what is said to be lasting. Regardless of the technological revolution. So since we have this already prior to pandemic, and, now going back to pre pandemic in the pre pandemic state again, it means that we can still look into what were those best things that we did, the best practices that we did. So because we have this in place, like, we we see to it that our outcomes are met, despite that, there were changes in the technological landscape. And then when we focus on clear expectations in course quality, then it would be easy to to make a shift.

From one learning modality to the next. Next here also is we see to it that support services are in place. And so we are also very fortunate that we work with very committed individuals, both in the academic and technological skill sets that they have. And so there we are able to flourish together. And and with that, there is a check of the right infrastructure that must be there.

So including the learning management system that ties everything else together. And so having, this in place, It's something that we hold on to. So your, your competence in terms of course quality and teaching delivery comes first. And this is translated even granular up to the level, of course, design, course plans, and the interventions, then it's easy for us to make a shift because everything else is now being guided in a standard manner. That focus on quality and, the focus on ensuring service, I think is really important.

Especially as we think about returning back to face to face, and then also as we think about, how we embrace some of the new technologies that are coming with it. I love that and that leadership focus as well. As you think about, how that learner profile and how it's changed, has that affected how you, engage with your learners or how you use either hybrid environments or online environments? I I've mentioned about course design and how important it is. Now knowing that the learner the learning outcomes that must be developed, And and since we know that that is the right direction, having a blueprint, like, something like that on the screen, It has and it has to be, translated, to the level of, constructively aligned learning activities and assessments then we are assured of the quality of teaching regardless of the shift in the environment. And so when it comes to learners.

Putting them first means we acknowledge that, yes, they have unique, unique qualities that we need to develop as well and accommodated, while we are transitioning back to face to face. Like on the screen, we are seeing that we put now emphasis on what we have missed, as a learning loss during the pandemic. And so this time we put premium on more interactive discussion, more hands on experiences because we think that those foundational skills and knowledge must first be met. And then therefore, it has to be translated back to our blueprint. Yeah, for standard, decision of instruction.

I I I really appreciate your use of of blueprint here and really giving guidelines and guidance and structure to not only decision making, but helping teachers and most importantly students. And that leads really nicely to my next question, which is, as we think about changes in technology and even in the increasing skills gap in the Filipino workforce, how what what steps are you taking to better prepare your learners for the workforce? And and what kind of opportunities do you see at your university to help alleviate this issue. Oh, did I well, it's close. How are you preparing your workforce? That's really. How are you thinking about how to prepare students for the workforce today? So for the university's multi function, multi type factorial, management and approach.

So first, you can look at the top management level and how you are able develop graduate attributes, but can also be granular in a sense that you can, change and adapt to the new environment of the workplace when you redesign your curriculum. And so this is where, industry relevant curriculum would come in And this is also where there is, there's also emphasis on partners partnership with industries that they could contribute to the redesign of the curriculum. There's also, soft skills development or hard skills development that we can integrate through badges in micro credentialing. So for example, our, the College of computing and computing and information science some of the micro credentials are already embedded in the curriculum, although the source would probably not the instructors of the university, but some of global courses that are already recognized. And so there are many ways.

So it could also be internship. We intensify our internship, particularly in our health allied courses. We also, of course, need to develop entrepreneurial mindsets. And so there are incubation zones in university with our Comaccino Center where they could, this time, develop those mindsets Well, on the screen here, this is something that, is embedded across. So from your basic education to your, graduate education that in your, alignment of your content, your teaching activities, and your assessment.

You need to make sure that you have all of these four, processes and enrichment activities just to assure that what you're preparing your students for are reflective of what they'll expect in the future. So here, we're looking at because we need to develop servant leadership. There would always be community development embedded in the lessons. And then second, there would there would be, let's say, invitation of foreign speakers into the classes as well as those in the industry. And the last year, we recognized that not one teacher can answer all the questions of the students.

So the expertise of teachers are now combined to be able to deliver courses and diversify the teaching and learning on practices. So this is something we check as part of course quality indicators. The industry partnership piece. I think, institutions, I know as I've talked to institutions around the world, that's always an a bit of an art have you had long standing partnerships with industry, or how did you how did you get industry to be interested in engaging in such a a a deep partnership with the institution. So each of the academic units are given the freedom to have the partnerships as well as there are those that are said to be university wide.

So what is good with, the academic freedom being given to the level of the academic units. One, it is contextual to the industry where they belong. And so they really know what's what are the trends in the industry and serve our and therefore, when they integrate, let's say, industry partners, foreign partner institutions, it is now targeted to the content and the outcomes that they need developed within the program. But at the same time, the university and the top management level seems to eat that everything else tied together and making sure that all activities will lead to that shipment of the graduate attributes. Eventually.

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I'm I'm gonna pass that advice along to some other institutions. It's such a great place for academic freedom to live.

Right, giving the departments their opportunity to own what those partnerships look like because it's their expertise, and then to help port them throughout the university to craft those. That's really, really powerful. And, you don't see that very often. So, I love that. It also leads to my next question, which is really about being time constrained.

So educators are very time constrained. We talked about this a little bit earlier and how are you supporting your educators, to encourage them to either experiment with new teaching strategies, even to adopt a lot of the Blueprints and structure that you've talked about already. So I've, mentioned a while ago that, I'm very fortunate to have work for the past eleven years with very committed, individuals, and they are right there, in front of me So on the screen, we're seeing how we really put premium in what we call the standard, professional development, programs So here, it is not just the unit where I belong. That is the educational, center, but we also work with another unit and we call that the center for innovative, teaching and educational delivery. So on the screen, we are seeing that we have different cell, set of, skills, and also domains of expertise.

So the unit where I belong, we have, around forty seven elearning specialists across the university, providing con, providing contextual, support to their faculty members. So we have e learning that specializes, for example, in medicine, engineering. And so they are able to impart contextual examples and, advice to their own faculty members. So here, we are merging the power of these two units so that we can provide, institutional wide training, but we can also divide our training programs to pedagogical driven, and we can also, provide, very detailed technology focused sessions. For example, right now, we are focusing on, canvas, training programs.

The the one of the things that you mentioned, was it's very discipline specific as you bring your your educational technologist out to the different disciplines. And one of the things that I I've seen is when you give teachers contextual help, they understand how to use it in their day to day job. That inspires them to want to understand and to learn more as opposed to, you know, doing a a broad generic how to train, you know, how to use canvas as opposed to how to use canvas in your classroom, in your specific field or discipline. I really admire that. And and has that been a deliberate choice? How do you how do you think about that partnership with the disciplines? Started, several years ago.

I've said, like, twenty years in the making. That was already the the support services that we've had. Now, aside from the support services, there should be, of course, a place where that could be staged. The support services and so we have the entire sixteen floor of one of our newest building that is set to be a faculty incubation zone And so this is where teachers are able to practice and model different teaching methodologies with different physical configurations as well as how they could also mirror that in the virtual space. And so this is where, e learning specialist report, that is also where they need, for example, the faculty members to be able to, guide them on their right way of teaching a particular subject.

And because the strength of the e learning specialist is on the technology domain and the right pedagogy as well, then they could easily, mentor, teachers. Right? How did this space come to be? Did you bring teachers and technologists together to design this space. I'm really curious. It's inspiring and interactive, and it it it I can see where it really motivates faculty to think about their teaching and how to use these technologies, how did you come how did you craft this space, or how did you come up with the design? So if you're really into the educational technology space, usually you look at what is the trend globally. And because you do benchmarking, you also, what do you call this? Look at the educational landscape where it is going, And so you try to, of course, integrate that in your strategic plan and making sure that that will be translated to your operational plans along the way and that you make it a reality.

So again, it starts with a vision, a clear vision where you wanna be, and where you would want to bring your future students to at the same time. And with that, the teachers must be equipped with the right, technologies, the right methodologies, the right support at the same time. And so we're fortunate to have you know, very supportive administrators. That's something I've witnessed over many years. And this is probably the reason why we started very early, and each administrators handhold each other.

And so this is the reason why after twenty years, we are still here. To being the same thing or maybe improving our own our old practices. I love that in the supportive administrators and the relationship that the faculty administrators and staff all have together, I think, is really, really powerful. And I, and I love that that's been part of your history and has given you the opportunity to really evolve. So my last question, and then we will open this up to questions from the group as well.

My last question is, this is a a room of colleagues. What advice do you have for institutions looking to diversify their teaching and learning approaches or practices. If you could share advice or perhaps things you would recommend they do or not do What would you say? So first, of course, is, we'll we go back to before we even look at that position into what we wanna be. Of course, it's important to have what we call, embracing the mindset of growth. In the entire institution as well as in the level of the faculty and also the students because later on, they will continue to sick knowledge and improve on themselves.

So if you have that culture of growth mindset in the in the university, then we can easily, transcend whatever technological revolution that would would come in the sure, or even if there's a pandemic or not. So having that would mean that we will be able to adapt. And be agile at the same time in making sure that we still become relevant, in the next in the next five or ten years and more. Okay. Another is, of course, there should be support, from the administrators in order for us to have this cascaded down up to the level of the students.

So support services are important. And the next thing, of course, is making sure that the culture of innovation is flourishing. We are given the freedom to be able to test to be able to to be able to, discover, new teaching techniques that But at the same time, we need to know that these should be the best teaching techniques for the achievement of learning outcomes And with this, as you can see on the screen, we are moving towards, the traditional way of teaching Here, we are seeing that, later on we can move from traditional to more, in innovative ways of teaching, from singular delivery of modes to this time multi, model in delivery from structure to something more open and flexible, and including learning spaces should now be hybrid learning spaces. Yeah. That's, it's so important that growth mindset.

I've spent many years I mentioned earlier teaching, and I've also worked on the university side and, and being able to embrace growth and be able to take risks and feel supported and safe. I think is is such a valuable, piece of advice, especially as we're experimenting with things like Ryan shared that are scary. Or can be, very unknown. So I I love that advice, and I really appreciate the vision of where you're going next and incorporating the physical with the virtual together, and thinking about all of that as spaces is is so valuable, especially as we return back to face to face instruction. And with that, I know you were kind enough to, allow us to have some questions So if we have questions in the audience for Anna, we would love to make sure we can answer those.

And I think we have a few folks, I can either repeat it or if we have a mic out there, we can make sure you we can hear your question. So do does anyone have any questions for Anna? And we've got Ed with the Mike, which is fantastic. Alright. Okay. Hello.

Good morning. Good morning to to you, miss Anna. Good morning, Paul. I would like to introduce myself first. I'm Michael.

I'm from CIIT College of Arts and Technology, and I'm just I just want to give some context to my question. I am, the Edotech coach in our institution. And this is my first time in the position. And basically, I'm starting from maybe about zero to five percent. So we're really starting out, and I really admire your talk because that's also something that we are dreaming of having in our institution.

A center for Edotech. And I'm I'm really glad to have a witness or or listened to your talk. But now I my question is, What advice could you give to someone like me who's starting out, with that vision of having this edutec center in our institution, but I really have no clue where to go, what direction. So where can I start? What are the fundamentals that I can that I can, you know, or fundamental direction that I can take so that I can get towards that vision, or we could get towards that vision. Thank you.

Thank you for your question. So first is, of course, you have to revisit the strategic plan of your university. You have to, of course, align as well to where your university wants to go how you would want to develop, your students. And then from there you can, assess what are the resources that you have in the university and what else can you improve on that? So including, as I've mentioned, your policies and guidelines in terms of, your course design and, teaching excellence. Or a teaching practices.

And then you also check on the support services that you have, and then, of course, what are the infrastructure that you may have in the university. Now moving that moving beyond that, you can either pursue that in a more formal way So which means that you can go back to school and, maybe, have certification courses on in the areas of instructional design or technology management. It depends on what is your role in the entire e learning project management. Okay. And next, of course, you can do in in an informal way.

So which means that you can reach out to schools or this is the the Canvas community. For sure, there are e learning leaders here, and you can do benchmark from one school to another. And then right after that, after getting all of those good points and good practices, you go back and try to draft now, your own plan for your e learning unit. Thank you. That was a great question.

And I think we have time for one more question. Is there another question out there? Oh, yeah. Ed's coming. Hi. Sir.

Good morning, Anna. Thank you very much for your presentation. It looks like, your your teachers have a really big toolbox to work with. What What makes, what are the decisions that they have to make to choose from the toolbox and to choose the different modes especially now that we're coming back. How do you determine, the hybridity? For example, how much online and how much is not.

How do you determine, which tools are more effective? And is it done on a per program basis, or is it is it something that's, institutional? Thank you, sir. So to answer that question, we can look at different levels. So first, we can look at, program levels. We can also look at the course level and then into the specific subjects. So the the reason for telling that is because when you know the learning outcomes that must be developed, everything else will be easier.

So for example, if you have this particular outcome that must be developed, it is easier for us to distinguish what teaching strategies are best used to be able to develop. Low skills or the knowledge and attitudes. And with that as well, your assessment would also follow And there are features in the learning management system that would actually allow you to be able to develop and assess students And so because you you have a solid background of constructive alignment, then you will not be, confused with what technology tools are out there. So it's easy to do an alignment of technology tools and features. So it can be as granular as you can be.

With defining what specific teaching strategies best, and the kind of assessment that is needed. And the tools that will be able to support and enhance the teaching and the assessment process. Did I did I answer your question, sir? So it's easy when you know constructive alignment. Yeah. Another way, a very similar way I've seen it approached is using backwards design.

Where if you think about what is the outcome you want from the learning experience, just like you described, those learning outcomes, how do you design back to the assessments? Then how do you design back to the experiences and then how do you design back to the content? And if you do a stream of technology tools, at each step, you can align them to that, again, those outcomes, the assessment, the content, and the learning experiences. So very similar work. And that's Again, the methodologies that, Anna has shared with us, I think are really great as we think about the systems and processes we put together to to inspire the kind of innovation we're talking about today and to really drive to those learner outcomes. So I wanna Thank you, Anna. So much for joining us.

I'm sure there'll be more questions for you at lunch and and later this afternoon, and I wanna thank all of you for the great questions and really thinking again about the structure and how we go about doing this practice in order to really student learning. So thanks everyone, and thank you, Anna. Thank you so much for the opportunity.