POV: On-site Learning Across the Learning Units

POV: On-site Learning Across the Learning Units

January 01, 2023

By Nathaniel Bernard Macatangay, UPCM 2026

Emerging from the desolate grip of the pandemic, the UP Manila campus is slowly regaining life with the return of students to on-campus learning.

Beginning this Academic Year 2022–2023, all learning units in the UP College of Medicine are offered opportunities to hold in-person activities. Here's a glimpse on the experiences of the various learning units in their face-to-face classes.

LU I and II: Education in the Basic Sciences
Conrad Raymond Arreola, Learning Unit I &
David Dizon, Learning Unit II

Most of the subjects taken up by Learning Units I and II are of the basic sciences including Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics among others. They also have their Introduction to Patient Care (IPC) courses and other courses in Arts, History, and Physical Education.

Conrad Raymond Arreola, a Learning Unit I student, is currently taking his Physical Education classes in Pilates at the Sports Science and Wellness Center (SSWC). He recounts that certain courses such as PE really benefit from having on-site classes.

“For PE, nakikita talaga namin kung paano siya ginagawa unlike kapag online. Usually kasi, pinapanood lang kami ng videos online showcasing how to do the actions [in Pilates] Mas okay sana na dinedemo siya para if ever meron kaming immediate questions, or may mali pala sa ginagawa namin at least mapapansin ng prof agad-agad.”

David Dizon, a Learning Unit II student, agrees with this view. “There are a lot of things the [face-to-face] classes have that makes it a more authentic learning environment. First of all, with the teacher and the students being there, it is often easier to foster interaction … as compared to an online setup wherein people are restricted by their internet,” he states. David is currently taking his PE in Social Dance at the SSWC as well.

For both Conrad and David, some of their courses conduct face-to-face exams in the College of Arts and Sciences. For Bio 110: Integrated Principles of Biology, Conrad takes his exams in-person and admits he is a bit on the fence when it comes to face-to-face exams.
“For the exams, I think it’s 50-50. You can’t really say na majority ng tao motivated kapag face-to-face. I think majority of us still prefer na online [exams] since hassle pumunta ng school for literally one exam. But overall okay naman ang experience namin,” Conrad explains.

Aside from these subjects, the other courses being taken by the LU I and II students are being delivered online with some planning to implement more face-to-face classes and blended learning in the coming weeks.

More than the classroom activities, there are many other things to look forward to with the return to in-campus life, as David weighs in.
“Aside from the academic, the social aspect of [returning to campus], being able to meet with my classmates and my friends that I made in my first year feels nice… Overall, the shift from online to face-to-face is something that is a positive for me, and something I generally look forward to as it continues happening. It helps me form easier relationships with other people, at the same time, it helps me learn because of the authentic learning environment,” he comments.

LU III: Beginning Med School in Hybrid Set-ups
A lateral entrant perspective

Cyril Francis Wakit, Learning Unit III

Students of Learning Unit III are faced with the challenge of taking up essential foundation subjects. These include their first interdisciplinary courses, human health and wellness courses, and the anatomy and physiology subjects of the various organ systems.

Cyril Francis Wakit, member of the Class of 2027, expresses his excitement in beginning his transition from finishing his undergraduate degree to studying in the UP College of Medicine. He is a graduate of BS Biology Major in Medical Biology from the University of Santo Tomas.

As a lateral entrant beginning his medical education, he feels overwhelmed with doing multiple adjustments all at once. “I’m from UST. It’s been overwhelming… Aside from adjusting in terms of [changing] universities, there’s also the adjustment from college to med school. Puro adjustment talaga ang naramdaman ko… But also exciting since I get to be more flexible.”

Along with the rest of Class 2027, Cy is taking up his courses mostly online. Lectures, small group discussions, laboratory simulations and the like are mostly delivered online, however, he has been able to participate in hybrid on-site small group discussions in their OS 204: Head and Neck Module.

In their on-site sessions, he was also able to use the Anatomy Laboratory which houses cadavers, plastinated specimens, and other 3D anatomy models.

“[Face-to-face sessions] really maximized the hands-on learning that we’ve been missing during the online set-up,” Cy comments. He adds that having in-person learning activities is more conducive to learning especially with the subjects that they are taking such as anatomy and physiology.

“Mas conducive mag-aral sa school compared to when you’re studying at home where there are a lot of distractions. Your home kasi, syempre, is your resting place. Ang hirap mag-concentrate when you’re supposedly in your resting place but you have to study,” he explains.

For Cy and the Class of 2027, in-person activities have been limited to a few students who are physically able to attend since many are still in their respective provinces and are confined to participate online. Weighing in further on having to go to on-site classes, Cy notes that he has to wake up earlier and sacrifice some personal conveniences to do so.

“Unlike when you’re in an online setup, kung late ka nagising, you just open your laptop then nasa class ka na. Pero pag face-to-face, you really have to wake up early and prepare early in order to attend classes.”

LU IV: Welcoming the Return of Learning Opportunities

Nicole Marie Biglete, Learning Unit IV

Prior to the current academic year, the Class of 2026 was already given the opportunity to have the Learning Enhancement in Anatomy Program (LEAP) for one week on-campus last June 2022. This allowed the class to supplement their online learnings with the specimens and models available in the anatomy laboratory.

Beginning this semester, however, the now Learning Unit IV students frequent the halls of the College of Medicine and College of Public Health for subjects such as HS 202: Biopsychosocial Dimension of Illness, Ther 201: Pharmacologic Basis of Therapeutics, and OS 216 Hematology and Immunology Modules.

Nicole Marie Biglete, along with her batchmates from the Class of 2026, attend lectures, small group discussions, laboratory sessions and examinations on-site for said subjects.

She also shares her optimism with the return of patient interactions in the wards. “Start na ibalik yung patient interactions for our OS subjects and along with it yung skills improvement,” she comments after being able to interview and assess a patient for the OS 216 Hematology Module.

She adds that small group discussions held face-to-face in the same module, enhanced her communication skills.

Despite these developments in the mode of instruction for the students, Nicole points out possible improvements for the current setup such as the fine-tuning of scheduling woes and added expenses for the students.

“Hassle for other people na hindi pa nag rerent [near UPM]. Tumaas rin ang living expenses ng [students] from the provinces. Hindi rin super sulit if hindi consistent yung face-to-face.” She explains that many students travel from afar to attend face-to-face classes while those who rent for lodging near UPM battle with high costs of living while the majority of classes are still delivered online.

LU V: Taking that Leap, Going to the Clinics

Jose Raphael Delos Santos, Learning Unit V

By the time students become Integrated Clinical Clerks (ICC), they are already exposed to both in-patient and out-patient settings. This, as well as migrating to in-person training in the clinics, is the great transition that Jose Raphael Delos Santos and the Class of 2025 are currently embarking on.

The Class of 2025 have just begun their clinical exposures this semester. Prior to this, their lectures are still mainly delivered online, and only the small group discussions and exams have been delivered through in-person means.

Among the subjects that Raph and the rest of his batchmates took this semester so far, their interdisciplinary course in anesthesiology allowed them to have clinical activities where they had turns learning how to use an ultrasound, operate a patient-controlled analgesia machine, and how to administer central and peripheral analgesics. Aside from that, in their IDC 221/222 courses, they had activities in different departments to observe and even conduct patient interviews.

Raph recounts that learning clinical skills was very difficult for him in an online setup in the past two years and sees in-person learning as a great motivator for him.

“Clinical activities are more visualized by the students and in turn making it easier to learn. [There are] interactions with professors and mentors which just positively impacts learning overall. Also [by] slowly starting to have patient interactions, we get to work with our batchmates in real life,” Raph narrates.

In the coming block modules that they have to take, there will be more time dedicated to patient interaction and training in the clinics. With this, Raph recognizes that the risk of COVID is still present and even just one COVID-positive case among their batchmates would affect all the planned sessions. Hence, Raph hopes that face-to-face sessions will be optimized despite these risks, and more opportunities for face-to-face learning could still be provided for them.

LU VI: From Computer Screens to the Clinics

Vince Justin Tiu, Learning Unit VI

Entering their clerkship year, the majority of the Learning Unit VI students’ learning experiences come from duty posts and patient interaction supplemented by small group discussions after shifts.
Vince Justine Tiu, Learning Unit VI, shares his experiences from their duty posts. “The number of clerks per duty post can range from 1-18 at a time. Shifts are implemented but the hours vary from 4-hour and 30-minute shifts up to 12-hour shifts. The implementation of [face-to-face] activities may vary from one block to another as the departments receive feedback from the rotation.”

When asked of the impact of this shift to in-person learning, Vince has this to say: “In my case, I would say that it supplemented what I’ve learned during online classes. I was able to relate real life experiences with theoreticals. It also provided a new environment from computer/tablet screens.”

As they venture into this new environment, he notes that as clerks they also follow protocols when it comes to their safety and well-being.
“Symptom tracing, self-monitoring, and wearing of PPEs (N95 mask or better) are strictly implemented as preventive COVID-19 protocols. Clerks are also refrained from doing procedures that produce aspirates to lessen the risk of contracting the infection,” he emphasizes.

Vince anticipates more patient interaction and hands-on guidance from his senior colleagues as they get to see and manage cases in real-life rather than just reading them in websites or books.

LU VII: Preparing for the Post-pandemic World Outside Medical School

Apryll Raedine Saavedra, Learning Unit VII

Among the different learning units, in-hospital training is a non-negotiable for the Learning Unit VII students who are taking up their internship at the Philippine General Hospital. LU VII students, even during more stringent pandemic restrictions, were already given opportunities to have clinical rotations and patient interactions, SGDs, ward endorsements, clinical rounds, and case presentations.

The courses that the interns rotate in depend on their internship track. All of which have face-to-face clinical rotations generally in departments such as internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and family and community medicine among others.

Apryll Raedine Saavedra from the Class of 2023 cites specific challenges in adjusting her study habits during her internship while juggling more hours in clinical rotations.

“Having more hours of clinical rotation compared to my experience in clerkship, wherein some rotations were done online due to COVID surges, [I] definitely needed some huge adjustment in allotting time for studying.” Raedine recounts. She also adds that she understands that this is how it’s going to be when she becomes a licensed physician.
“It will only become more challenging. So, I understand that this shift in learning and the demands are only preparing me for the future…” she explains.

As her time in the College of Medicine draws to a close, Raedine still anticipates much more learning.

“I look forward to further improving my skills in history taking and physical examination, as well as arriving at a diagnosis and differentials, and formulating a plan for my assigned patients. Also, I would like to improve my skills on performing procedures and to have better flexibility and time management with all the tasks. Most importantly, I am looking forward to learning firsthand from the patients and residents, fellows, and consultants because having F2F clinical rotations make these more motivating and engaging rather than having online activities.” she narrates.

As many are still grappling with living out this pandemic, the UP College of Medicine is now at a crossroads in medical education where previous learning modalities have been challenged and innovative strategies are now the requirement. Despite these monumental changes, there have been constants along the way. Among which are our patients, our peers, and our mentors. As we tread on ever so cautiously as a medical community, our steadfastness and conviction to excellence in medical education shall not waver.