PE classes hurdle online learning as instructors push to keep students active

Story by Eliseo Rioja

As a program requiring face-to-face setup, Physical Education (PE) remains stuck in a rut as classes shift to remote learning, challenging the assurance of necessary skills and knowledge being catered to students holistically.

The UP Department of Physical Education has postponed offering 23 courses that require face-to-face interaction such as basketball, badminton and volleyball. Only 136 courses were offered compared to the 159 last semester.

PE courses, which previously carried six to eight sections, have increased to 15, making classes smaller and easier to monitor and facilitate. Despite fewer available slots, the high demand for PE classes as a required course remained.

Should remote learning continue in the following semesters, students can only choose among PE courses that can be taught online, posing a challenge to the sufficiency of slots.

Challenges in remote learning

Most professors have resorted to using online platforms such as Zoom to hold PE classes. However, unreliable internet connectivity remains one of the main hurdles confronting these classes.

UP College of Human Kinetics Dean Francis Diaz shared how poor internet connectivity has hindered his students from attending synchronous classes. To alleviate this, synchronous sessions were made lenient so students will not be left out.

“‘Yung class ko ngayon na PE Circuit Weight Training, ang default mode namin for synchronous class ay via Zoom. Halos 95-100% naman ang attendance. [Pero] ‘pag may student na spotty ang connection, nagsasabi agad na they will turn off video, so okay lang rin ito,” Diaz said.

Unstable internet connection is also a problem for Gretel Martirez, a fifth year Bachelor of Physical Education (BPE) student who is handling a taekwondo class for her practicum.

“Yung pinaka-challenge lang talaga is ‘yung internet connection and also mga gadgets na kailangan kasi lima kaming nag-aaral sa bahay. Minsan hiraman na lang kaso isa lang laptop sa bahay,” she said.

The virtual setup of remote classes makes learning a challenge especially to PE courses that teach fundamental stances, movements and posture.

First year BPE student Maui Parajas, who is currently taking folk dance said that while she recognizes her professor’s efforts to teach in an online setup, it is still difficult to catch up with dance lessons remotely.

“Super hirap ng PE subject ngayon… kasi hindi mo actual na nakikita kung paano isagawa nang maayos ‘yung steps,” Parajas said. “‘Yung naiisip ko kapag hindi ko na-gets ‘yung na-teach ng prof [ay] kaya naman i-Youtube pero hindi pa rin pala.”

Driven by fears from failing the class, she sought help from her mother, who happens to be a Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health teacher. She maintained that physical classes are still more efficient because professors can thoroughly guide students better and the class can participate in peer teaching.

Given the limitations of online platforms, the PE faculty prepared course packs and materials to reach students who cannot attend synchronous classes.

Diaz uploads his lessons on Youtube and sends them via students’ emails for asynchronous sessions. He also utilizes Messenger group chats to communicate with his students.

In Cate Yleaña’s Philippine Games class, the primary medium for all the course files, announcements, submissions and videos are uploaded in the University Virtual Learning Environment.

Her synchronous sessions involve class participation where games are played together through Zoom. Students who were not able to attend can submit videos of themselves doing the games played during the session.

Meanwhile, asynchronous sessions include video reports submitted by the students and weekly journals and video tasks wherein students do different routines and exercises by themselves.

Expectations in forthcoming semester

The shift to remote classes brings forth the question of learning. Diaz observed that his students follow the exercise routines, but emphasized that learning cannot always be guaranteed.

“If you are looking for [learning] assurance, we can’t assure it, even us [faculty] adjusted to our expectations as a result of remote learning. Pero we do emphasize na at the end of the day, mas lalo kailangan bigyan ng importance ng mga students ang physical activity through PE to precisely keep healthy during the pandemic,” he said.

For Martirez, remote learning eased her work because her practicum requirement of teaching five subjects was reduced to three, which she is currently teaching in the UP Integrated School (UPIS). The situation, however, made her worry about her career.

“Naka-affect siya [remote learning mode] lalo na nu’ng sinabihan kami na hindi kami magtuturo ng high school and elem ng UPIS, kaya disadvantage siya para sa’min kasi hindi namin alam kung paano makipag-deal with [those] students,” she said.

Likewise, Parajas mentioned the great impact of this shift to remote learning to her major that requires numerous practical and physical activities.

“Since BPE ang course ko, puro kami practical so kailangan lahat ng sports or anything related to PE mapag-aralan at maisagawa ko lahat. S’yempre need ko na lumabas at makisalamuha sa kapwa ko BPE ang course para maisagawa ko ‘yung mga need na gawain,” she shared.

Although students can take advantage of not having to travel to and from UP, the social interaction value — an important component of PE — is far greater in face-to-face classes than in this new remote learning mode, Diaz said.

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