COPING WITH CONNECTIVITY ISSUES IN DISTANCE LEARNING
THE WORLD is currently pushed to digitally accelerate as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit physical interactions. With this, Philippine academic institutions face the complexity of unconventional setups and insufficient learning materials. Additionally, poverty and slow Internet connection in some areas in the country make it more difficult for teachers and students to actively participate in distance learning.
Philippine telecommunication companies are already working on improving the country’s Internet connectivity that can eventually make the new educational setting more effective.
Weak Internet connection is not a new problem in the country as the Philippines used to have the slowest Internet speed in the Asia Pacific according to Akamai’s Q4 2016 State of the Internet Connectivity Report, with locality and lack of telecom towers as among the factors.
Based on the analysis published by Thinking Machines Data Science with Asian Development Bank on Feb. 1, 2021, it is observed that poorer areas have slow Internet connection because majority of the towers are situated in wealthy cities. In June 2020, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) stated that in both rural and urban areas, 84.3% of households have no Internet access.
In a previous BusinessWorld report, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan group spokesman John Lazaro said that most families do not have electronic devices which are necessary for an easier online learning experience.
Because of inaccessible or limited Internet connectivity and technology, many provincial and public schools adopted distance modular learning. In July 2020, a Department of Education (DepEd) survey result revealed that most parents (8.8 million) preferred modular learning for their children.
Meanwhile, during the BusinessWorld Insights on Oct. 14, 2020, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) President Emmanuel A. Leyco shared that for educators to know if the students are listening and learning, they observe the body movements so they can adjust their teaching methods. He added that engagement between educators and students must be included in the learning environment but the online setting makes this difficult.
Nevertheless, with the continuous efforts of the DICT and the local telco companies to address connectivity problems, the country saw an advancement in Internet speed. From the first month of the current academic year until January 2021, the ranking of Philippine mobile Internet speed propelled from 121 to 86 out of 140 countries based on the Speedtest Global Index.
Additionally, last Feb. 11, Globe Telecom, Inc. announced its endeavor to construct 2,000 towers and one million fiber-to-thehome lines for this year. The company also offers data plans and other free resources to support online education. Globe’s HomeSURF199 promo gives additional data to access DepEd Commons, YouTube, and Google. Globe eLibrary, which stores age-appropriate digital storybooks and e-learning videos that are made specifically for Filipino children and young adults, is also available online.
While it may take a while for telco towers to be built, there are ways to maximize Internet connection at home. Globe shares that routers must be centrally placed for an even signal distribution because walls, doors, and other obstructions weaken the Wi-Fi signal. For a stable connection, Globe recommends to only connect the device being used. If the Wi-Fi serves a big house, Globe offers Wi-Fi Mesh to ensure wider coverage.
However, as poorer areas remain to be short of telco towers, numerous students still struggle with their distance learning, add to this the unavailability of other educational resources.
DepEd stated in their assessment and grading policy that the school’s learning evaluation should be fairly made with “the provision of reasonable leniency and considerations for possible difficulties met by the learner.” Parents and guardians are also requested to partake in their children’s distance learning and assessment. When necessary, they should communicate their children’s situation to the teachers. They should also guide their children as they fulfill their assessment tasks and monitor the tools given by the teacher.
Child and family psychotherapist Faridah Kristi C. Wetherick advises that parents must listen well to their children and be calm, reassuring, and emotionally present. She also tells parents to take care of themselves because when mental stress affects their physical health, they can risk their effectiveness as companions to their children. —