Artificial intelligence. Virtual reality. Digital classrooms.
Digital technology’s exponential growth in the global market since the first chip was invented has presented countless opportunities for use.
Think nanotechnology. Think NASA’s simulation of space. Think droids and virtual assistants or J.A.R.V.I.S. With tech, there is no telling where the development is leading us, from space explorations to voice-activated lights, to sensors in toilets, blurring the lines between sci-fi and reality.
So who says that tech could not be used for the transfer of learning, especially when an especially-contagious virus has rendered face-to-face learning archaic.
With a pandemic threatening an end to traditional chalkboard-and-chalk teaching, schools and higher education institutions are now scrambling for newer, more creative means of teaching that would minimize physical interaction without necessarily compromising quality of teaching.
And then, there is Riverside College.
Using tech in forging digital frontiers
When the medical college started its Senior High School, it adopted the iPad Program, where Grade 11 and 12 students were issued iPads to make them more adaptable to the global village.
“We have been incorporating technology; we are the only school with an iPad program (for our SHS). We want to be known as a technology-aided institution,” Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Michelle Saplada tells DNX.
This direction of adapting to the global village as more and more people are traversing the information superhighway is the vision of Riverside College’s President and CEO Samuel Lee. It is also Lee’s vision to forge a newer, fresher path for RC and make the college – known more for its medical programs – to branch out to other paths, like business management for instance.
“Integrative” learning and pioneering digital tech
Way before the pandemic started, Riverside College was also already marrying state-of-the-art technology, and innovative learning strategies into their teaching strategies.
“We started everything last end-term, which is March, when the city was still under [general community quarantine],” Saplada reveals. She said the college simply continued with online classes all summer, and from those experiences, formulated new strategies to help cope with the coming academic year.
“We have adapted,” she says,
Adapting to what could be the new normal also means adopting innovative strategies that would be more viable to the situation.
One of these is the RC’s version of “integrative learning” which Saplada describes as a combination of “online and residential learning”.
Other than that, the college has already expanded its iPad program in 2018 to include selected college students.
Then of course there’s the blending of cutting edge technology to teach medical subjects, like artificial intelligence, simulated hospitals, the use of virtual reality for anatomy classes, advanced facilities and equipment like x-ray machines for their for radiologic technology students, mammogram machines, CT scanners.
Support is also given to teachers to ensure that they are on the same proverbial digital boat. Campus, for instance, is open for teachers who do not have access to strong internet connectivity, while tablets are also made available for part-time teachers to facilitate ease in transfer of learning.
Teachers are also taught how to manage systems for online notes, while a digital library provides archiving needs and resources for academic researchers.
The college has also infused in its curriculum Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL), which uses a wide range of computer applications for teaching and learning.
“I still think we are the only school right now that has this much emphasis on (digital) technology,” Saplada said.
For Saplada and RC, the future of learning is really in digital tech.
“In the near future, A.I. and technology are very important; we want students to be equipped, especially life-long learning skills,” Saplada says.
Life-long learning skills, says Saplada, are any skill that would make students survive in any environment.
RC is now reaping from the quality of instruction that it has through its products.
Known for its top-notch medical programs, RC’s alumni have been placing the college on the map not just because of their skills but because of their work ethics.
One Cebu hospital, for instance, prefers the College’s rad tech alumna because “they are easily adaptable, and they don’t complain with whatever work is given them,” she says.
Their internship programs are also top-of-the -line, with RC interns working shifts in hospitals like those in Cebu, Dumaguete, or even the Philippine General Hospital.
Such highly-skilled graduates are, of course, valuable during a health crisis.
“We have frontliners who are very knowledgeable with what they are doing,” Saplada says, adding, “They can help make people be aware not just in health care but in formulating health protocols to help curb the pandemic.”
From medicine to trading: The future of RC
Riverside College has always been known for its medical programs like physical therapy, radiologic technology, medical technology, pharmacy, and nursing.
But now, under President Lee’s leadership, the college has “branched” out into business programs like entrepreneurship, and business administration.
“We have a shift towards these courses – Riverside is not just all about medical fields anymore,” Planning and Data Protection Officer Angela Erbite tells DNX.
This means that in the very near future, Riverside College will soon be producing businessmen, entrepreneurs, traders, managers, primary movers in trade and industry.
RC’s new normal will truly connect everyone to the future.