Few weeks before the national lockdown, I was elated to have received a message from our e-learning consultant, Sir Rey Alo, informing me to be one of the courseware developers of a new e-learning course.
Being a courseware developer, I find the task very appealing yet very challenging, thought-provoking yet mind-boggling; it sparks creativity but is extra tedious. It’s a mix of both good and crazy but very beneficial when it comes to learnings and growth in the career sense. As a Media Production Specialist in the office, courseware development has been something I look forward to since it makes me think…it excites me to imagine ways of presenting information differently and putting them in action. It forces me to be creative, and most importantly, I get to learn and relearn things that are new and things that I might have overlooked.
The weeklong courseware development activity was set on May 2020 and was initially planned to be held in General Santos City – some place I’ve never been to and was looking forward to visit. The good side of the activity is that you are forced to finish the job and to focus only on the job. Work related things are distractions unless urgent, so for me it’s kind of a rest week from office deliverables. *awkward laugh since my superiors might be reading this so...*
Well, THAT WAS THE PLAN…
So as we all know, Miss Rona came along and as the empowered woman that she is, made a huge positive impact (pun intended) to the world and left it with a global health crisis which heaven knows when it will end. And with the probably most used words for 2020: lockdowns, travel bans, quarantines, ayuda and more, plans were cancelled, or were they?
The cancelled activity, I should say, was kind of a relief since our tasks, especially at the Information Services Section, were very vital during the pandemic. We had to work 2x harder since face-to-face training activities couldn’t be conducted and everything had to be done online. Thus, office social media must regularly be updated, information should be presented - differently through various media channels, and reaching out to our clients and partners has become an everyday task. So it’s safe to say that making a course during the pandemic is just another load to carry and good thing it was cancelled.
Well, THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT…
Around June in the Year of the Pandemic, Sir Rey messaged me again and informed me that I’m still a part of the courseware development activity however it will be conducted in the “comforts” of our own homes. As safe as it sounded, receiving the message gave me a lot of questions. “Should we finish it in just a week?”, “Who will be my Subject Matter Specialist?”, “Is the course too technical for me to comprehend that I should stress myself out learning about it before organizing the information and laying it all out as clearly as possible so that the course takers won’t find it difficult to understand?”. Most importantly, “Can I do this with all the tasks and responsibilities in my hands right now?”
Well, THAT’S THE THING ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES…
Opportunities come once in a while. Having been chosen as a part of the team out of the many qualified and amazing colleagues in the ATI network is a great pat on the back for me. So I took it.
Meetings, meetings, meetings. Online meetings. It was June of the Pandemic Year when I got to meet my fellow members of the courseware development team who were colleagues from the different ATI training centers and the subject matter specialists who were from different universities in Mindanao. The course we were about to develop was the Online Course on Halal Goat Production. This project was a collaboration between the Halal Goat Science and Innovation Center of Sultan Kudarat State University and the DOST-PCAARRD.
Each course developer was partnered with a subject matter specialist. Each pair is assigned to develop a module of the said course. Me and my partner, Dr. Carlito Sanchez from the University of Southern Mindanao, were tasked to develop Module 6 which is mostly about health management of Halal goats at different physiological stages. Yasss! We’re talking about medicine, diseases, scientific names – your boy is gagging, my dear friends!
Well, THAT WAS JUST THE BEGINNING…
It was difficult! The courseware development workshop started in August and was projected to be a one-week activity. “Projected”. You see, it’s the new normal. Things just don’t turn out as we want it to. Accomplishments would take quite a longer time before actually getting accomplished. When it comes to delays? Oh boy, it doubles.
The pandemic made it hard for both the subject matter specialists (SMS) and the courseware developers.
First, it was difficult for the SMS to take photos of the goats, especially for our module which requires actual shots of the different goat diseases. Due to lockdowns in different areas in Mindanao, travelling to farms was an impossibility.
Second, due to the fact that the developers and subject matter specialists are employees of their respective offices, they too have to do their assigned jobs. Corrections and the updating of information of the modules by the specialists would take a longer time before it is again forwarded back to the developers. Consequently, layouting, color harmonizing, drawing, animating, coding, and organizing the module by the developers would also take time before being sent back to the SMS for another set of corrections.
The good thing with our workshop is that we are using the Articulate Storyline 3. It is a software for creating interactive courses. Since it has some features that are same with Powerpoint, Storyline made it easier for us to organize our courses and present them how we imagined them to be.
Third, the never-ending connectivity issue. Communication is key. But what is communication if it is impossible to communicate? Some of us live in areas with low or no internet or mobile connectivity at all. We send an email, we receive a reply 2 weeks after. We call but the call doesn’t go through. Some of our team members also live in disputed areas where gun fights are a common and being safe is a priority. We send a text, we don’t even know if it’s received or not. It’s like being ghosted.
Well, THESE ARE MY THOUGHTS…
What’s difficult for me personally is that my job requires me to be creative. During the pandemic we have to make new content, we have to feature new things, everything must be new. It would really come to a point that your creative juices won’t flow and you just sit there doing nothing but wait for it to come back. Sometimes being within the four corners of your room or the office would just suck out the creativity in you. A new environment would be the best place to think but the pandemic stops us from doing so.
Creating an online course is a challenge. Creating one during the pandemic, was a torrent of challenges. It was hard. You need a whole lot of patience. Patience despite the computer lags and hang ups, patience with the slow connectivity, patience with the late responses, patience with the “I have to finish this first before doing this”, and patience with yourself for choosing to rest and take a break sometimes.
After 3 months (more or less…or more), despite the setbacks and letdowns during the process, everyone was able to deliver. As of writing, our outputs are up for pretesting and each of us, I believe, are proud of our work. There still may be some changes or a few corrections but we know that with each other’s help, things can be possible.
What I learned from the whole experience is that, good things take time. This is an online course and we are not doing this for ourselves. It’s for the people who needed information and education. Especially now that people rely solely on the internet or media to get information, it is really important for us extension agents to present and provide information that are easy to understand, useable, and factual. To be just a part of the team is an honor but for us to actually come up with a course to be dished out soon to farmers who needed it the most in itself is the reward.
The tasks may have doubled, the stress multiplied, mental health may have been compromised *wink, in the end, the reward may be simple, but the accomplishment was fulfilling.
Well, IT’S A QUITE PRODUCTIVE LOCKDOWN…another year again?