Covid-19 had compelled us make a 360o turn. It is publicly known as a pandemic which connotes a negative impact on society. The term “new normal” became popular to all in referring to another state of things. Yet, the new normal became an opportunity for DepEd to deliver more efficiently the training for personnel. This situation has prompted leaders to adapt to the situation. While there are seemingly hindrances to pursue the conventional operations and practices in the different aspects of society, leaders both in public and private sectors are coping by maximizing available resources and by remaining responsive despite the challenges of the current circumstances. These circumstances had made DepEd Naga save over 4.2 million pesos for the professional development of more than 1,720 teachers and 216 non-teaching personnel with a total of 1,936.
Among the most challenging programs in any organization is CAPACITY BUILDING. It becomes even more complex because not all are conditioned to use technology. The word technology itself evokes tension or stress from them. Hence, while DepEd Naga prays to capacitate all its constituents, there is a need for extra effort to ensure that capacity building activities are able to obtain their objectives despite the limitations during this pandemic. And in view of the upcoming opening of classes this August 24, 2020, DepEd had promised to prepare both its teaching and the non-teaching staff. DepEd Naga will fulfill this promise in support of the collective efforts of the whole department by conducting research for the training needs of its constituents. From the research data, the interventions were proposed and developed. After a series of quality assurance measures, the intervention dubbed as “Capacity Building for DepEd SDO Naga City Teachers, Instructional Leaders, and Office Personnel" had been finalized.
At the onset the issue was on the impossibility of conducting the Capacity Building in a physical setup. Thus, the same with initiatives conducted by many organizations, the activity was held through online platforms. DepEd Naga had utilized the FB Live Streaming and the Google Meet Applications. These platforms are free. With the concerted efforts of its local experts in technology and training, the 12-day Capacity Building was held on July 27-August 1 and August 3-8, 2020.
Next page is the framework that shows how the capacity building activity was delivered in an online setup:
In the delivery of the sessions, the speaker presented his/her topic using Google Meet. The output video from the Google Meet was shown to the FB Group Members through FB Live Streaming and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). Since the session was open to all the personnel and the average viewer participants during the actual live session were around 700, the speaker may or may not answer queries directly. As the Technical Support Teams (TST) who served as Learning Team Leaders (LTL) were already trained prior to the conduct of the actual training, they are the ones who respond to the queries. When the query is so technical and only the speaker can give a concrete answer, it was only then that the speaker addresses the query.
In the framework above, it is also shown that the Learning Team Leaders play an important role in ensuring the realization of the objectives of the training. Prior to the conduct of the activity, a private FB Group was created which is exclusively for DepEd Naga Personnel. Using the security measures offered by Facebook, the target members of the group were filtered. This was to lessen the possible issues encountered when dealing with the different contexts of the members.
Likewise, to anticipate the possible power interruption and poor internet connection, the Conference Hall of the Division Office served as the Training Headquarter and two schools were set as contingent headquarters. While most of the expected participants are on a Work-From-Home scheme, they were assured that strategic contingency measures were in place.
The participants were grouped into two, those who will conduct actual online classes and those who will not. Those who will conduct online classes were also divided into smaller groups as a Learning Team (LT 1-16) and given special attention by assigned Learning Team Leaders (LTL) for each small group. The LTL assisted the LT while the sessions were going on. On the other hand, the participants who will not conduct online classes which include the teachers, school heads, and other personnel in the Division Office treated as the various Communities of Practice (CoP), asked their queries through the comment portion of the Facebook Live Streaming Video. The Core Facilitators (CF) who were the speakers themselves and some available TST members captured the queries of the participants. With this, it is evident that all the participants were given the opportunity to ask clarifications and were given assistance right away.
What is unique in this Capacity Building endeavor is that first, it maximizes the talents within the organization as the Resource Speakers or the Core Facilitators; second, the creation of Technical Support Team (TST) which empowers competent teachers with skills in technology to share their talents as Learning Team Leaders (LTL); and third, the creation of a virtual support system in the Learning Teams (LT) who render technical support to each other especially to participants who have difficulties in dealing with technology. The various Communities of Practice (CoP) were also attended to by either the CF or the LTL. All the collaborations in the preparation of said activity were held using the online platforms.
One important effect of this activity is the development of the spirit of volunteerism in the TST members. It was shown in the way they responded to queries. They tried to render assistance to participants even late at night or early in the morning as participants work on their required outputs. With due recognition to their passion to help their colleagues, it is commendable that they manifested extra miles of extending assistance to participants. Likewise, participants who already learned the skills generously shared what they learned to their colleagues who were not able to cope up with the sessions. Learning had a ripple effect as it was passed on and shared to others.
Another uniqueness of this activity lies in the interaction between the participants and the learning facilitators. From being facilitators, they became mentors of the participants. These facilitators with expertise are able to hone their skills more as participants clamor for more competencies that require these facilitators to learn further. In addition, considering that internet connection and the power supply may interfere in the activity, Facebook recording enables participants to go back to the previous sessions when they encountered connectivity issues or when activities in some offices and schools coincide with this activity. DepEd Naga had maximized its available resources without adding cost except for the reasonable meal allowance for those who are preparing the groundwork and the operation of the activity. DepEd Naga is composed of 1,936 personnel. Per record, an average of 700 participants in the live session every day were recorded. Though in a private group with around 1,936 members, the first video has already earned more than 7,500 views in one week. For the 700 participants alone, at least 4.2 million pesos is saved for professional development. The savings may still increase if 100% or the 1,936 personnel are able to watch the videos saved in the FB group. Also, by discovering the talents within the organization, opportunities are also given to potential leaders and learning facilitators in the bureaucracy.
While DepEd Naga City aims to capacitate 100% of its constituents, there were unavoidable circumstances wherein some participants cannot join the actual live streaming. Some reasons behind this were: personnel sharing screens such as for teachers with connectivity problems at home went to schools observing IATF health protocols; teachers viewed the recorded sessions later due to other concerns like taking care of very young children during the live session; those who prefer a more relaxed mode wherein they can look at the recorded sessions at their own pace without the pressure of the workshops; personnel having simultaneous activities and works concerns and for other reasons.
Nevertheless, even if some cannot join the real-time sessions, they were still encouraged to go back to the sessions. The framework included the recording of sessions in the Facebook Group intended for this activity. To ensure that they learned and acquired the skills expected of them, the sessions were designed to be performance-based. The participants were given tasks to accomplish especially for the topics that are skills-based such as basic troubleshooting of their laptops, manipulating google applications, and using features in Office 365 including Microsoft teams. (See attached training matrix.) The certificate of completion will be given to participants who successfully completed the outputs.
Based on feedback drawn from the comments in the Facebook live streaming and the evaluation done by the Division Quality Assurance, Technical Assistance, Monitoring and Evaluation Team from the participants, some issues were really encountered as expected. However the contingency plans lessened their effects on the conduct of the training. Consequently the rating given by the participants for the whole implementation of the Capacity Building activity is 3.37 over 4 which is 84% satisfaction level. So far, the positive feedback from the participants are evidences that the capacity building endeavor was a success. Even those who were seemingly resistant to learn how to use computers expressed appreciation of the training as they were able to overcome their fears of technology. The outputs they submitted are the concrete proof that the strategy worked in the training.
Henceforth, while face-to-face capacity building activities are not yet workable, DepEd Naga City will continue using this online framework. Concurrent to this 12-day capacity building, activities in the Division Office and in schools such as Management Committee Meeting, orientations and Learning Action Cell sessions were done following the same framework. Succeeding capacity building to other stakeholders like parents will also be patterned here with provision for those who do not have the required gadgets and connectivity. Even the tasks of monitoring, supervising and offering technical assistance to teachers in the thirty-nine schools in DepEd Naga City will adapt the same.
This capacity building scheme may be far from perfect but it is serving its purpose well. From the feedback and results of the “Capacity Building for DepEd SDO Naga City Teachers, Instructional Leaders, and Office Personnel" and the ensuing similar activities, this framework is still a work in progress. A research is currently being undertaken by the Human Resource-Training and Development Unit of this City Division in order to enhance said framework.
Amidst this pandemic, DepEd Naga City remains steadfast to its commitment: “Naga THRIVES”. – [ Prepared by: Michael A. del Rosario and Corazon Fatima A. Silerio ]