Transitioning the Intangibles

Updated: May 18, 2020

Prof Ma. Mercedes T. RODRIGO

Head, Ateneo Laboratory for the Learning Sciences Ateneo de Manila University

I have spent my career in a Jesuit university in the Philippines.  As a university, we are committed to academic excellence, as all universities are.  As a Jesuit university, though, the education that we provide is values-laden. We offer a grounding in the liberal arts, regardless of students’ areas of specialization; we advocate service to others, especially the marginalized; we care for the individual person. With the COVID-19 crisis, we, like most universities and colleges around the world, had to cease all on-campus activities and make the transition to online learning.  As I type this, our faculty are gearing up for an online summer (June/July) and an online, possibly blended, first semester.  One of the questions that arises constantly as we prepare is: How do we retain the trademarks of Jesuit education in this virtual space?  Much of what we practice in terms of values relies so much on the non-verbals, serendipity, and incidentals.  We make eye contact with our students. We notice their body language.  We look over their shoulders as they complete lab work or problem sets.  They sit together, silently,  working in parallel or else engaging in animated conversation about something they heard in class. We see them walking into a chapel for prayers or standing at attention when the national anthem plays. They join us when we cheer during basketball games, volunteer in relief operations, or hike up mountains on weekends. None of these small interactions are graded but, taken together, they make up a culture and identity. How do we bring this online?  I am hoping that the next few months will provide the answers.