Social work education at UPOU — towards openness

Finaflor F Taylan
The University of the Philippines Open University

Los Bańos, the Philippines

The Diploma and Master of Social Work programmes of the University of the Philippines Open University aim to facilitate advanced professional education and learning among development and social work professionals through an open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) framework in programme administration, teaching, research and services. As a descriptive study using a case study approach, the paper describes the Diploma and Master of Social Work programmes of UPOU in relation to its framework of open, distance and e-learning, using existing programme documents, feedback from students and other stakeholders, and reflection on experiences and benchmarks. In programme administration, the admission and advisory policies try to take into account principles of openness. The programme curricula offer different tracks for the varying needs of professionals; and all courses are facilitated online through a course site, where learning interaction, submission and learning activities within the class happen. Student profiling is also encouraged for each course which guides the faculty staff to make the course more appropriate for the learners. The field instruction programme (FI), an integral part of social work education, is also suppoted online by local supervisors working under the overall direction of the faculty in charge of the courses to accommodate students from all over the world. Students are encouraged to have their FI in their own communities or agencies through a work-study scheme to promote praxis. In lieu of continually updating the programme, especially its learning resources integrating local and global trends in social work, resource-based course packages (RBCPs) in selected courses are presently being developed. With engagement from local and international professionals, experts and communities, different research projects are also undertaken to update the programme policies, curricula, faculty, instruction, student support, learning materials, and resources. Extension activities are also being explored, particularly forging partnerships in offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) to enhance organizations and people's competence in development work.

From these experiences, activities are proposed to improve the social work programme in particular, and the researcher as well as the ODeL learning facilitator. There needs to be an exploration of more interactive online and distance learning activities. Studying the ODeL framework and strategies of UPOU and other open universities is also essential for benchmarking and improvement of the existing ways of operating. Using and developing open educational resources (OERs) will also help to maximize students' learning. Lastly, researchers need to reflect on how to contribute to understanding and address the digital divide especially in the worsening conditions of poverty.