The Ugnayan ng Pahinungód UP Open University (UPOU) live-streamed its Online Bridge Program Closing Ceremonies on 17 July 2021 at 2 PM via Facebook. It was a virtual gathering that recognized the completers of the second offering of the Bridge Mathematics and English courses. Attendees included the students themselves, their respective families, and the Course Coordinators.  The Masters of Ceremonies were Mr. Jabez Flores and Ms. Zoe Yra Aluag, both from the Faculty of Education.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Rhonna Marie R. Veneña, Director of Ugnayan ng Pahinungod, asserted that the closing ceremonies celebrate two accomplishments. First, for her, the Bridge Program has once again contributed to the fulfillment of UPOU’s mission of providing broader access to quality education to learners across the regions and nations through distance learning. Second, she noted that the very persistence and desire to learn that the Bridge completers have shown despite the pandemic are worthy of celebration. Director Vereña commended the volunteer teachers for their selfless service, specifically their generosity to share their expertise and time. She said that she hopes “students bring what they’ve learned to their studies.”

UPOU Chancellor, Dr. Melinda dela Peña Bandalaria, in her message, described the closing ceremonies as giving “special attention to celebrating the milestones of learners” in as much as being a “celebration of opening opportunities through open, online education.” She emphasized the significance of digital literacy as learners and teachers alike thrive in what has been dubbed as the VUCA world — volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Moreover, she reminded every attendee that “grit” is needed in order to be successful as independent learners. She said that although most of those who belong to the “generation alpha” are tech-savvy, the spirit of volunteerism must continually be ignited for it allows the disadvantaged members of our society “to have a space in the lifelong learning ecosystem.”

The Bridge Program Documentation video was played right after the Chancellor’s message, noting that 562 and 393 students participated in the Mathematics and English courses, respectively.

During the Presentation of Completers, three topnotchers shared their experiences. Kirstie Nicole Paglinawan recalled “having fun in answering the modules.” At the same time, Dianne Angeline Inofre underscored the value of re-taking assessments and learning from mistakes. As for Mariella Louise Limpin, who was recognized as a Topnotcher for both Bridge Mathematics and English courses, understanding contexts and assuring mutual respect when communicating were two of the many lessons she learned in the entirety of the Online Bridge Program.

Some of the Course Coordinators were able to share their congratulatory messages to the completers. For one volunteer teacher, Peter Lutes, there are many barriers to studying this pandemic, but “open education can help break down barriers.”

Dr. Ricardo T. Bagarinao, Dean of the UPOU Faculty of Education, concluded the virtual gathering with his closing remarks. He thanked everyone involved in making the Online Bridge Program possible. He hoped that the completers “will continue to strive for excellence as online learners” and that their Bridge experience will inspire them “to pursue higher education.”

The Online Bridge Program courses for Math and English are offered for free and open to all interested learners, specifically the senior high school and undergraduate students. The courses, which usually run for four to five weeks, are accessible via UPOU’s Massive Open Distance eLearning (MODeL).

For more information about the Bridge Program and to receive updates about the upcoming offering, visit the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod’s website and Facebook page.

Written by Wilzen Bermoy

Edited by Joane V. Serrano and Anna Cañas-Llamas