/ 26 November 2021

MAKATI-BASED school iACADEMY shared its journey in adapting to flexible learning during a virtual discussion called Talakayan, hosted by the Commission on Higher Education.

The IT school was lauded for its prompt and excellent response during the pandemic.

Mitch Andaya, the dean of the School of Computing and the vice president for Institutional Planning and Accreditation of iACADEMY, shared that communication, capacity-building and a culture of care are the three institutional priorities of the digital transformation of the school during early days of the pandemic.

During the lockdown in March 2020, iACADEMY immediately surveyed its students, parents and employees to assess capacity to shift to online learning.

To guarantee educational continuity during the migration, the institution provided resources and support for students and employees through provisions of hardware for teaching and non-teaching staff, software licenses, tools and subsidy for internet connection.

Faculty development activities were also constantly held to train the teaching staff on the design and delivery issues in distance learning. Training in online teaching strategies, module development and use of learning system management tools were also conducted to help teaching staff facilitate remote learning seamlessly and keep the students engaged in virtual classes.

“What we’re doing is we’re trying to simulate in a face-to-face classroom. We make use of VR/AR technology. Our professors created a metaverse of iACADEMY campus wherein students can walk around the campus, enter a certain room, and find the link for his or her online class. Some professors also use green screens to minimize themselves and mimic teaching using a whiteboard during a face-to-face class. We use this technology to improve the delivery of our classes, and make it engaging and fun for our students,” Andaya said.

iACADEMY also migrated the student and employee support services online and created easily accessible communication channels to facilitate better communication within the organization.

Virtual offices were set up to address immediate concerns pertaining to the various departments, and orientations were conducted consistently to discuss frequently asked questions and concerns from students and parents.

Healthcare services such as telehealth consultations, e-prescriptions and laboratory requests were also provided and extended to the household of the students and employees.

iACADEMY also ensured that mental health support was provided and the community was well-informed of the different ways to cope and take care of their mental wellbeing.

“While academic continuity was a priority for our school, it was equally important to ensure our students and employees maintain good physical and mental health during a time like this. We ramped up efforts not only in delivering quality education to our students online, but also in taking care of the community and making sure we are easily reached. One of our core values underlines that the iACADEMY community is a family, and we will always remain committed to that promise,” Raquel Perez-Wong, iACADEMY Chief Operating Officer, said.

The academy also carry out monthly to weekly surveys to assess the challenges faced by its community. Andaya said that the feedback mechanism allowed immediate tracking of new and recurring challenges. It also provided actionable insights on the difficulties experienced by the students, areas that required improvement and permitted efficient and prompt response to identified problems.

“If there’s something for me to boast about what we did — it’s really the people of iACADEMY. It’s a collective effort of our faculty, students, parents, and staff. They worked so hard in order to help the students and I’d like to commend them for making this work for iACADEMY. We’re seeing the effects of our efforts now — we have less complaints, and our student retention is back to pre-pandemic levels. I’m very proud of the people I’m working with. This difficult time gave us an opportunity to show that we are really living our core values,” Dean Mitch Andaya said.