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PLDT, Smart ramp up e-learning initiatives as school year opens under new normal

PLDT, Smart ramp up e-learning initiatives as school year opens under new normal

For 33-year-old Daisy Jane Diola of Cebu City, there could not be a better time to go back to school, betting against all odds in a pandemic. Giving up her sales job, she embraced technology and started attending online classes, one of hundreds of thousands nationwide now braving the challenges of e-learning in the new normal, and benefiting from local partnerships with PLDT, the country’s biggest and only integrated telco company.

“I am new to this kind of set-up, but I am always open for new learnings,” Diola shared. “I am thankful for all the support we have been getting, especially our connectivity devices.”

PLDT, its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), and PLDT Enterprise have teamed up with over a hundred schools, colleges and universities nationwide, as well as tech giants Microsoft and Google to make connectivity and digital solutions more accessible to the education sector.

“As the academic community gears up for the coming school year amid the new normal, we are one with them in ensuring that Filipino teachers and students are equipped with the best connectivity solutions and global-class e-Learning tools and platforms to aid their online education,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart President and Chief Executive Officer and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer.

These tools include discounted PLDT Home Wifi and Smart Bro Pocket Wifi units powered by Smart LTE. To date, Smart provides high-speed mobile internet service to over 93% of the country’s cities and municipalities and 95% of the population.

Under the Study Smart program, Smart and its partner distributors have provided these devices to various academic institutions nationwide, including Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, De La Salle College of Saint Benilde-Antipolo, Pamantasan ng Cabuyao, Colegio de San Juan de Letran-Calamba, Ateneo de Naga University, Baliuag University, Malayan Colleges Laguna, Talisay City College, University of Antique, Iloilo Doctors College, Tagoloan Community College, University of Mindanao Digos and Davao campuses, Lyceum of the Philippines Davao, Philippine Academy of Sakya-Davao, Cagayan de Oro City National High School, Leonard Young Sr. National High School, Notre Dame of Dadiangas University, Notre Dame of Marbel University, Ateneo de Davao University, University of Southern Philippines Foundation and Cebu Technological University, to name a few. 

The company also partnered with the local offices of the Department of Education (DepEd) to provide pre-loaded 5G-ready SIMs for the use of students with their LGU-issued tablets for the coming school year. Smart provided 25,000 SIMs to DepEd Batangas City, 15,000 SIMs to DepEd Lipa City and 3,000 SIMs to DepEd Noveleta, Cavite. These SIMs are pre-enrolled to the Smart Infocast broadcast tool so that the schools will be able to coordinate directly with the teachers and students.

In partnership with the Minor Basilica of our Lady of Manaoag, PLDT is also set to provide internet connectivity to 10 chapels in the Municipality of Manaoag. The Basilica and the Manaoag DepEd plan to use the PLDT Fibr Wifi hotspots for the distance learning needs of students in the community. PLDT will likewise provide connectivity via PLDT Fibr to the DepEd Region 3 office in San Fernando, Pampanga, to help with their region-wide coordination activities in preparation for the school opening on October 5.

In Bayambang, Pangasinan, Smart donated 20 LTE pocket WiFi devices to the local government and the DepEd district. The devices were distributed to the teachers who visited the poorer barangays in Bayambang to conduct a mobile enrollment caravan, helping ensure that students are able to enroll in the coming schoolyear.

In Mindanao, the local government of General Santos City and the Schools Division of GenSan also partnered with PLDT Enterprise to provide devices and GigaStudy subscription for the 5,000 public school teachers in the city. Newly launched nationwide by Smart as a package tailor-fit for education, the GigaStudy pack has generous load allocations and access to academic suites such as Microsoft for Education, Google Classroom, Google Meet and Docs, YouTube, and various other learning management systems. 

In addition, Smart has also partnered with laptop manufacturers and distributors to make these devices more affordable and accessible. Bundled with Smart Bro Pocket Wifi, these laptops and tablets are also available on installment basis in select distributors.

Smart Prepaid also launched on September 12 the first ever Smart University virtual campus. As students join in-game activities designed to teach, test, and motivate them to excel and reach out to other learners, they earn points to be part of a Leaderboard. Class topnotchers to be announced on October 10 will be able to donate up to 60 student tablets for fellow learners with no access to devices this coming academic year. The donation will be facilitated through School-in-a-Bag, Smart's flagship education CSR program. Teachers will also be provided with laptops and pocket WiFi kits. Smart University is in line with the recent launch of Giga Study, and the wireless arm's partnership with educational apps startup Edukasyon.PH. 

In celebration of Cyber Security Awareness Month, Smart held a month-long online cyber security and internet safety caravan supported by the National Privacy Commission. Dubbed as #CyberSmart, the learning caravan aims to educate students and teachers all over the country on how to protect their digital life. The caravan will enable participants to log into a virtual hall with interactive booths and games while learning how to identify threats online.  

Beyond Fiber 

PLDT Enterprise has also partnered with schools nationwide and offering BEYOND FIBER, an all-in-one digital solution that will enable businesses of any size, such as the academe, with curated digital tools and wi-fi fit for enterprise—all anchored upon business-grade fiber. PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the country’s most extensive fiber network, is now nearly 360,000 kilometers nationwide.

The group’s partnership with global IT giants Microsoft and Google, for instance, has also helped ePLDT, the ICT arm of PLDT Enterprise, deliver highly effective products and packages that support the sector’s push to jumpstart e-learning.

ePLDT’s portfolio includes Microsoft Office 365 for Education, which includes Microsoft Teams for Education, which can be used by schools to build collaborative classrooms, create and distribute assignments, foster professional learning communities and connect with colleagues from a secure Office 365 Education experience.

To date, ePLDT has deployed around 248,000 Microsoft for Education licenses to different schools nationwide which are being used by both teachers and students. These schools include Holy Cross College of Pampanga, Sacred Heart School - Ateneo de Cebu, University of Cagayan Valley, Don Bosco Technology Center-Cebu, Gullas College of Medicine, Holy Family School of QC, St. Theresa's College, and Velez College, among others.

ePLDT also offers Google Cloud's G Suite for Education that combines G Suite's collaboration capabilities with Google Classroom, and Chrome for Education via chromebooks to help students and teachers with hardware access.

No learner left behind

PLDT, through its Infoteach Outreach Program, has also been providing learning opportunities to high school students as well as elementary and high school teachers nationwide by upgrading their cyber technology skills through internet basic IT education. PLDT also recently donated a computer laboratory to Butig National High School in Lanao del Sur.

The DepEd also recently announced that it is collaborating with the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF), Smart to deploy the CVIF-Dynamic Learning Program (CVIF-DLP) as a supplemental learning resource for school year 2020-2021. 

In support of DepEd’s Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), CVIF, Smart and the PLDT-Smart Foundation are working together to ensure that the teaching and learning process continues despite the pandemic. DLP is an independent learning strategy available in various delivery modalities–online, modular, TV, and radio, and trains students to learn with minimal intervention from teachers.

A key component of CVIF-DLP are modules of self-directed Learning Activity Sheets which will be made available for free in the DepEd Commons, an online portal that provides free and quality learning resources to teachers and students.

In cooperation with DepEd, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Smart and parent firm PLDT have also provided free access to the DepEd Commons.

These key initiatives of PLDT and Smart demonstrate the application of ICT for development, in support of the Group-wide advocacy to promote digital inclusion. These initiatives also aim to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, particularly UN SDG #4 of providing quality education.