Isko(lar) in the Desert: The UP Open University Experience
It’s June again and for most Filipinos this marks the start of another school year! Which reminds me that I have classes starting next week. No, I’m not a teacher – yet. I’m an online student at UP Open University! Wohooo! Proud! m/.
|UP Open University Logo (Source: Google)
The University of the Philippines was (and still is) my dream school. After my classes at NEU, I would go directly to UP Diliman to hangout with my friends, eat fishball, sit under a big tree at the Oval and watch the sun set over the library. I wasn’t a UP student then but I lived and breathed the culture as much as I could. One day, I even sat-in on one of my cousin’s classes. I was so engrossed with the professor’s lectures that I found myself nodding each time she asked for a reaction. I was later introduced to her and she had to laugh because I was more attentive than her actual students
School was such an integral part of my life. So much so that right after college, I actually felt homesick. I’ve spent more time in school for the last 17 years and now suddenly I’m out in the real world. Call me bored and restless but after only a year of work, I decided to apply for a distance learning program at UP Open University. Fortunately I was accepted and now I’m a full fledged working student and just 2 semesters away from my Master’s Degree. Yay!
What is UP Open University?
UP Open University is the fifth constituent of the UP System which caters to individuals who cannot attend regular on-campus classes due to work or other time-constraints. Their headquarters is at Los Banos but they have learning centers across the Philippines. For Offshore students, the Learning Center is usually the Philippine Embassy in the area. UPOU offers an Associate and Bachelors Degree program as well as a number of Masters and Doctorate programs.
Symbolic of what it’s like to be a UPOU student, “The UPoblation is embraced by a swirling form likened to the Philippine flag with the stars representing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and with the prominent image of the sun representing education. The flowing form lifting the Oblation towards the sky represents open access to quality UP Education and its boundless reach.” – UP Open University
If you’re interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Studies or a Masters Degree through distance learning, you can visit their website at www.upou.edu.ph to check the available courses and the application process.
For Bachelor’s Degree applicants, you will have to submit your application and pass an entrance exam. For Master’s and Doctorate applicants, part of your admission will be based on your TOR and other requirements. Application deadlines are usually around February (for first semester) and July (for second semester). You have to send all the requirements before the deadlines. If you pass, they will send an email to inform you that you passed and then send your admission pack in the mail.
Tuition fee is 1000 pesos per unit plus miscellaneous fee of 2000 pesos. It is the same price if you were to go to the traditional UP campuses. Since UP is a state university, this price is already subsidized by the government. Usually, my tuition fee per semester is around 900 SR and my DHL Shipping is around 350 SR. Instructional Materials Fees (for modules and books) vary per subject.Acquiring the hard copy of the books is optional since PDF copies of the modules are usually available at the course site (in case you want to skip shipping them) but I always find it handy to have an actual book with me.
Units allowed per semester
Normally, a working student is allowed only 6 units per semester. Maximum of 9 units per semester can be enrolled with prior approval from the Dean’s office. So a Master’s Degree would usually take around 2 1/2 years to complete.
What is it like to study online?
The academic year is divided into 2 semesters like a regular college school year. Though the similarities end there. First, most of the courses are through Distance Education meaning everything is done online and through emails. You will have your books and modules delivered to you and you will have to study on your own.
There is a virtual campus called “Moodle/ Myportal” where you log in to access your virtual classrooms or “course sites”. The PDF copies of the modules will be uploaded at the course sites and the professor’s announcements will posted there as well.
There are asynchronous discussion forums, which serve as your recitation and attendance. Some classes will allow you to study at your own pace, while some will implement deadlines for tasks and homework. Most of the time, you will submit your papers through the course site though some professors will let you email it to them directly.There are midterm and final exams too and it’s usually done at the Learning Centers or Philippine Embassy for offshore students. Though recently, we’ve been taking the exams through the Myportal site.
Note that studying online means reading your lessons and researching on your own (UPOU stands firm against plagiarism and it is often grounds for expulsion). The professors are there just to layout the syllabus and grade your outputs, but they will not spoon-feed the lesson like they do in college. They are available through email in case you need clarifications. But all in all, you will be entirely responsible for you success as an OU student.
I normally study at least 2-4 hours a day and try to finish my assignments earlier than the deadline. Nerd much? I read modules when I’m not busy at work. I won’t lie, there are times when I had to take the day off from work just so I could meet my assignment deadlines but that’s usually because I didn’t follow my timetable and crammed.Time management is really important if you’re working or in charge of your household. I really admire my classmates who juggle their work, kids and homework and still ace our class! If they can do it, you can too!
For Development Communication students, we have a very active FB group where we share our thoughts and give advice to one another. I’m also very lucky because my boss is really supportive and lets me take the day off during exams. At first this can be daunting, but after the initial adjustment you’ll find the experience both challenging and rewarding.
If you’re planning to study online, don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to just enroll 2 subjects so that you can focus, get good grades and still have a life. For a Masters program, the time limit for completion is 7 years. So no rush. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your friends and classmates.
Also, taking only the regular load would minimize your chances of actually dropping a class which our professors always discouraged us to do. Why? Because UP is a state university and part of the tuition fee is shouldered by the Government. And where do they get the money? Yep, from us – the Taxpayers. This is why UP students are called Isko = Iskolar ng Bayan. If you drop or fail a subject, you will not just be wasting your money, but the also other taxpayer’s contributions. (P.S. The term Isko simply means Iskolar. So anyone whose tuition fee was paid for by the Filipino people through taxes is a scholar.)
You know at first, I was really hesitant to apply at UPOU. I thought maybe my undergrad grades weren’t good enough or that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. But enrolling at UPOU was the best thing I’ve done for myself! I have gained new friends, became more self-confident and gained a better understanding and empathy for my country. One day, I want to return to the Philippines and become a productive member of society. UP inspires me to make a difference.
And I am so happy that distance learning at UPOU is available to our kababayans here in Riyadh.
University of the Philippines Open University
Information Office, UPOU Headquarters
Los Banos, Laguna 4031
tel: +63 49 536 6001 to 06 loc 710
Tuesday to Friday
7:00 am to 6:00 pm
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