The dawn of the digital campus

The dawn of the digital campus

- in Technology
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@Jon Joaquin

Digital learning seems to be all the rage these days. A couple of weeks after Globe Telecom launched its elibrary, PLDT announced that it, too, is entering the field through Smart Digital Campus.

The new initiative, which was launched in Davao City on October 12, 2016, has three components: Smart Gatekeeper, Smart Tracker, and Smart E-Learning. Here’s the lowdown on each of them:

Smart Gatekeeper is an automated attendance monitoring solution that monitors students’ entry and exit in real time. It also automatically updates parents via SMS whenever the student enters or leaves the school premises.

Smart Tracker utilizes GPS technology to enable schools to monitor the location of their school buses in real time.

Smart E-Learning is a fully digitized and integrated learning management platform. The mobile app is equipped with social, gamification features that make teachers and students more engaged in learning. These include e-textbooks, online grade books, and chatting programs that aim to foster a more collaborative study environment.

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“Smart Digital Campus is PLDT’s contribution to improving the local educational system as it permits ease and quality of information access between educators, students, and guardians,” Omni Amisola-Larrosa, PLDT SME Nation’s Product Lead for Smart Business Solution, said during the program’s launch.

“With a more streamlined and integrated way of learning, Smart Digital Campus pushes for more collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and productive communication with a learning community. This is in line with PLDT SME Nation’s vision of empowering future Filipino leaders through providing them technologies to fulfill their potential and contribute to nation-building,” she added.

The Smart Gatekeeper was developed by NSpire, Inc. headed by its president Harold Macapagal and managing director Ren Bustamante. Under this technology, students are issued ID cards that have RFID chips that make it possible to track not just the students’ entry into and exit from campus but also their presence in classrooms, libraries, and other places.

Packaged along with Smart Tracker, school administrations can give parents better peace of mind because information on their children’s whereabouts is always available. Macapagal said students will also benefit because they know they cannot skip school without their parents knowing about it.

For Smart E-Learning, PLDT partnered with Vibal Publishing, one of the major publishing houses in the country. Its product manager Abi Echano said the company began producing e-books five years ago upon the request of parents of the De La Salle University who were complaining that their children were developing scoliosis because of the heavy books they were carrying every day.

“Five years ago we started converting textbooks to e-books using the epub 3.0 standard. We also developed the V-Smart app where students can read these books, take tests, and more,” Echano said.

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According to Larrosa, the best thing about Smart E-Learning is its capacity to connect devices even with low bandwidth or no internet through the use of the V-Smart School Server to foster a more collaborative study environment. The cost is between P800 and P1,500 a month depending on the e-books that are included. At the end of the school year, the student gets to own the tablet, ready for use the next school year.

National Competitiveness Council (NCC) chair Guillermo Luz once said that instead of spending billions of pesos for textbooks that are prone to errors and entail huge printing and transport costs, public and private schools should shift to e-books that are easier to upload and update. Today, this is very doable through Smart E-Learning,” Larrosa said.

She said the Smart Digital Campus serves as a great tool in making the country’s schools a world class environment preparing our future globally-competitive nation builders. “That is why we want to make it accessible to all students, including those that are less privileged but deserving, through the Smart DigiSkwela Project.”

Smart Digiskwela will cater to public schools with at least 10,000 students each. Under this program, PLDT will award the Smart Gatekeeper system free for at least 10 public schools. “The only thing that we ask, is for the student to invest on his own ID,” Larrosa said.

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