Despite another year of remote learning, it seems that UP’s old epithet “University of Pila” has stuck around. Instead of seeing long queues sprawling from campus buildings, the “pila” now manifests in the waitlist counter of the Computerized Registration System (CRS).
While the lack of class slots is already a long-standing problem in UP, new policies set to facilitate remote learning have aggravated it. Because university units had implemented relatively smaller class sizes without increasing the faculty population, many students had to vie for fewer class slots during a more difficult enlistment process.
This semester, UP Diliman (UPD) has also opted to hold only one preenlistment round, contrary to having two runs in the past terms. The second round is used by departments to open more classes, especially general education (GE) courses, based on the remaining demand. Unmet demands owing to lack of slots are turned into waitlists which usually contain hundreds of students vying for just a handful of remaining slots.
GEs have high demand as every undergraduate student is required to take all these courses: Arts 1, Eng 13 or Speech 30, Fil 40, Kas 1, Philo 1, Soc Sci 1 or 2, and STS 1 or DRMAPS. This semester, only 10,029 slots were made available for the required GE courses (see sidebar 1), lower than the 14,000-plus students expected to enroll this semester.
Among those who are taking a GE this term is Suzanne, a second-year business administration student. During preenlistment, CRS gave her only six units of major courses, way short of the minimum 12-unit load.
It was not until the night before classes began that she was able to enlist six more units, including STS 1. She had to join waitlists several times, constantly checking her CRS account if a slot had already been granted.
Smaller Class Size
For STS 1, the UP Science and Society Program (SSP) which offers the course had to implement changes, the most significant of which is the reduction of class size, said Rene Rollon, director of the SSP.
A class in the remote learning setup could not accommodate the same number of students as STS 1 used to when its classes were being held in auditoriums which can hold up to a hundred students, Rollon said.
For this semester, the average class size of an STS 1 section is 43, a significant drop from the pre-pandemic average class size of between 80 and 180 students.
SSP strictly implemented the cap in class size by disallowing the teachers' prerogative to add students in their classes. After preenlistment, offering units use the waitlist feature of the CRS to manually grant classes depending on the remaining class slots.
“Hindi lang isyu sa mga estudyante ang pagbabago ng size ng klase kung ‘di [sa] teachers din,” Rollon said. He added that many STS 1 professors had told him that handling a large class was already difficult during the physical setup, much more so now when classes are held remotely.
Due to the reduction of class size, Rollon concedes that SSP is no longer on track to meet its target of offering STS 1 classes to approximately the number of first-year students, usually around 3,000 students.
Changes in Teaching Load
The Department of English and Comparative Literature (DECL), which offers Eng 13, has also reduced class size since last year to make remote learning more conducive for both students and teachers.
“The drop was initiated by the department itself. Based on our research, the optimal class size for an online class in the humanities is 12,” said Judy Celine Ick, the chairperson of DECL. But considering the high demand for a GE course, Ick said the department agreed to set 15 as the class size. Before the pandemic, a typical Eng 13 class had 27 students.
From around 1,300 during the second semester of academic year 2019-2020, Eng 13 slots were reduced to just under a thousand slots during the first semester of remote learning (see sidebar 2). "Prerogs” were also prohibited in DECL, except in the case of graduating students.