Borderless Learning: Online Education Options for Overseas Filipinos


BY RAYMOND CALBAY

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty," says Henry Ford. Where innovation is the key to success in many industries, it becomes every professional's responsibility to keep up with new knowledge, skills, and trends. But between juggling tight work deadlines, adjusting in a foreign culture, and regularly reconnecting with family and friends back home, most overseas Filipinos just won't have the time to enroll in a brick-and-mortar institution.

Books, videos, and multimedia resources readily offer food for thought. But for that extra push, a good alternative to try is online education. Not bounded by commute and classroom time, you're free to hit course materials and complete the activities at your own pace. As long as you can manage some trade-offs, such as not getting instant feedback on your questions, you're very much in control of your learning progress. The best part is you can log on to your virtual class wherever you want - be it in a public library or even in your own bedroom.

Short courses

Web-based short courses are gaining ground these days. I've recently completed a short course through Coursera. Coursera courses are offered by top-tier universities such as Princeton and Stanford and are taught by highly esteemed professors. Have I mentioned that it's free? Yup, totally free! In some courses (like the one I took on Gamification), you can even get a certificate if you pass the requirements such as quizzes, written assignments and final exams. The range of courses to choose from include programming and computational methods to poetry and philosophy. (If you're an OFW dazed with money responsibilities, check out financial literacy basics.) For support, you'll find lots of students from diverse nationalities (Filipinos included!) in online study groups. Some alternatives to check out include EDx and Khan Academy.

If you're looking for a particular professional qualification (such as project management, leadership strategy, or multimedia basics) and are willing to spend modest tuition fees, you can try training providers such as GIZ e-Academy. Backed by the German government, GIZ courses are low-cost, tutor-supported, and quality-controlled. Since there's a limit to the number of students who can enroll, the learning outcomes are more targeted. You can directly apply concepts to your professional needs. A college degree is usually an entry requirement for some of these programs. When I enrolled in GIZ last year, I was satisfied with the scheduled synchronous discussions and as well as inputs on assignments from the course facilitators. On a side note, if you're into the content business, be sure to check out Poynter's NewsU too for learning more about multimedia.

Formal degrees

You can also engage in full-blown degree programs (even tuition-free, such as the case in UoPeople). Locally, the University of the Philippines through its Open University (UPOU) arm, spearheaded online education for Filipinos. UPOU offers accredited programs straight up from the associate's degree to the Ph.D. level. Some graduates of the institution include ranking government officials, armed force personnel, film/TV personalities, and of course, overseas Filipinos. From enrollment, class discussions, to grade inquiry, everything is conveniently done online.

So what could you expect if you decide to pursue further studies with UPOU? "The professors are there just to layout the syllabus and grade your outputs, but they will not spoon-feed the lesson like they do in college," Riyadh-based Pink Tarha blogs on her experience as a Master of Development Communication student at UPOU. "They are available through email in case you need clarifications. But all in all, you will be entirely responsible for you success as an OU student."

Once you decide to further your education, drive and determination are important to accomplish your study goals. Education is one of the best and lasting investments you can have. Drop us a comment to share what you think of online learning. We'll collect some tips to stay ahead of your courses in one of our future posts.

Voices: Home (and Away) for the Holidays


BY LUZ ABAD

During Christmas season, OFWs from all over the world typically return to the Philippines to spend time with their loved ones. However, this is not always a viable option for most, especially when the cost of two-way flight tickets would break the bank. There are some quick ways to remedy homesickness. But there's no escaping loneliness and longing for home. These feelings must be acknowledged or else it will consume you. In this Hay Pinas! Voices post, Luz Abad reminisce on what she misses the most from home and also shares things she's learned in her new life in Canada.
"Naloloka na yata ako dito sa Canada. Wala namang dahilan, napapagod lang. O baka tumatanda na. Anim na taon na ako dito. Tignan mo nga, di pala anim, pito pala. Pitong taon na. Minsan naiisip ko, ano kaya ang nangyari sa buhay ko kung hindi kami umalis ng Pinas? Pero syempre, tulad ng ibang 'what ifs', wala namang kwenta ang ganitong pag iisip, wag nalang isipin.
"Sa tagal ko dito, at sa tagal na panahong di ako umuuwi, di ko na alam kung ano na nga ba ang Pinas. Ang nasa alaala ko yata e yung mga gusto ko lang maalala. Masarap na pagkain, mabagal na buhay, mainit na araw. Masasayang mga pagkakataon kasama ng mga mahal sa buhay. Nakalimutan ko na ang hirap mag budget ng kaunting kita doon. Ang sobrang traffic. Ang nakatutunaw na init, ang malakas na ulan - ang baha. Ang away away ng mga magkapatid. 
"Gusto ko na lang umuwi. At humilata ng walang iniisip. Kumain ng pagkaing hindi ako ang nagluto. Bumili ng kung anu-anong napakamumura. Maligo sa dagat. Sumakay ng tricycle. Magsuot ng bagong plantsang damit. Uminom ng coke sa plastic. Kumain ng Champ sa Jollibee, ng Bunch of Lunch sa Shakey's, ng inihaw na pusit sa Riverbanks, ng bibingka at oysters sa Via Mare, ng chicharong bulaklak sa Pathways, ng lechong manok sa Andoks, ng fishballs at manggang hilaw na may bagoong ni Mang Andy. Mag gala sa Mega Mall. Mag shopping sa Greenhills. Magkape sa Starbucks sa Greenbelt. Makipagkwentuhan sa labas kahit gano katagal, ng hindi nag iisip ng mga anak ko sa bahay, naiwang mag isa. Makinig ng Tagalog na nag uusap ng walang halong Punjabi, Korean, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, at kung ano ano pa. Oo, ganyan ka diverse ang population dito sa Vancouver. English yata ang minority. Tagalog lang pwede? 
"Alam ko naman na nangangarap lang ako. Di naman langit ang Pinas. Na mi miss ko lang. Baka pag bumalik ako dun lalo akong maluka. 
"In fairness, marami akong natutunan dito. Naobliga kasi akong matuto. Kaya ko ng magluto ng napakaraming klase ng Pilipinong pagkain. Dati pang handaan lang ang alam kong lutuin. Kaya nung bago kami dito, parang laging may party. Spaghetti, lumpiang shanghai, carbonara, baked macaroni, mixed vegetables with shrimps and quail eggs in creamy white sauce, etc. etc. Ngayon sinigang, pakbet, palabok, adobo, bistek, nilaga, mechado, kaldereta, kahit ano yata. Of course sa tulong ni Mama, Mama Sita. 
"Ang galing ko na ding mag Ingles. Dati-rati, ako na pala ang kausap, di ko pa alam, nakatitig lang ako. Ngayon sanay na ako sa mga Ingles na iba-iba ang accent, pati sa Ingles ng Canadians na para bang kinakain ang mga salita. Bat ba di nila ibuka ang mga bibig nila? Di ba sila tinuruan ng tamang English pronunciation nung elementary? Kunsabagay, ganyan na rin ang mga anak ko ngayon. 
"At eto ka, meron na akong sport. Lampa ako nung bata. Kunsabagay, hanggang ngayon naman. Dati, patintero lang di pa ako makasali sa varsity. Pang muse lang daw ang beauty ko. Pwede na rin, kesa matalo ang mababang paaralan namin dahil nadapa ako. Pero dito, snowboarder ako. O di ba? Sosyal. Pero bago ako natuto, nabali yata ang lahat ng buto-buto ko at nag kulay talong ang buong katawan ko sa dami ng pasa. Lalo yata akong napango sa dami ng 'face plants' ko sa snow. Ikaw ba naman itali ang dalawang paa mo sa tila ba kapirasong plywood. Pero sa wakas, pagkatapos ng dalawang winter, e nakakababa na ako ng bundok ng hindi natutumba. Nadadapa pa rin ako pagbaba ng 'chair lift' pero pwede na. Uubra na. Matatawag ko ng sport ko ang snowboarding. Kaya excited na ako mag winter. Di ko akalaing magagawa ko ito. Parang sa pelikula ko lang nakikita ito noon sa Pinas. 
"Anyway, tama na ang pagmumukmok, wala namang kahihinatnan. I'll just smile and look forward to the future. I'll count my blessings and try to share them. Wish ko lang makauwi sa Pinas. Next year talaga. Promise. See you there."

Luz Abad migrated to Canada seven years ago. She enjoys frolicking in the snow with her husband and kids, although she misses her extended family back in the Philippines. She works as a banking and finance professional. To read more about her OFW stories, visit her blog.

Protecting Your Money From Investment Scams and Frauds


BY BURN GUTTIEREZ

Quite a number of OFWs are starting their homecoming (vacation) at this time. Most of them are staying up until Christmas or New Year’s Day. This is also the period and season when OFWs are the main “target market” of scammers.

So how will an OFW be able to spot a financial scam such as pyramiding and avoid being the next victim while enjoying his or her vacation with loved ones?

Here are a few quick points to remember to protect you, your family, and your money during the Holidays:

1) Don’t be too excited to invest your money. Take your time to research first the background of any investment program being offered to you.

2) Never borrow more money to invest on something you do not understand just because you were promised to receive big returns.

3) Avoid free seminars that claim you can quickly become a millionaire with their strategies. People behind these will tell you and advertise that you should not invest your money in slow traditional investments such as stocks, mutual funds, VUL’s, etc.

4) Avoid complicated and unbelievable presentations on how to build massive wealth in less than 2 years. Building wealth takes time, planning, hard work, and determination. Remember that there’s only one bestfriend that you can rely on in long-term investing: “Compounded Interest”. By reinvesting the returns of your stocks or funds, your wealth will grow exponentially over the long term. You can not consider 2 years as long term.

5) Don’t give in to salesmen who pressure you. Scammers usually pressure their prospective victims into investing all their money in their “wealth-building” program but will not explain to you the risks. They even urge you to borrow money so you can invest more.

6) Do not believe promises to receive “secret” techniques to becoming rich if you join them. Remember, there are no “secrets” or “insider information” to getting wealthy. The ONLY “secrets” to becoming rich that you should know are these:
  • Learn more about investing
  • Give back to God
  • Live a frugal and simple life
  • Avoid unnecessary expenses
  • Be content with just 60% to 70% of your monthly income/salary
  • Be an entrepreneur
  • Invest the rest in legitimate financial instruments
7) Beware of glossy posters and banners with images of peso/dollar bills, a man on an SUV, or of a man punching his hands towards the sky. Run away as fast as you can before they take your money away straight from your pocket.

8) Do not invest if they do not have a physical office in the Philippines. If someone offers you a wealth-building system but could not present a legitimate office address in the Philippines, it’s scam. Many scams claim that their offices are located overseas, in weird places for business like Belize, Panama, Ukraine, etc. and would even present credentials of the business in those countries. Why invest in companies based overseas? There’s more FUND in the Philippines!

You Can Become Rich Over Time, Not Too Soon

Lastly, please remember that you can be financially free and independent even if you are just an employee or as an entrepreneur selling real and legitimate products or providing professional services. Its just a matter of gaining knowledge, discipline, and exerting more effort.

Making more money will never guarantee that you will become “rich”. It’s what you save and invest, and how you manage it as a steward that will make or break you.

Grow yourself first, and you will grow your wealth over time.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God And His righteousness; And all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33

Have a happy and bountiful Christmas season with your loved ones!

This article was first published in BurnGutierrez.com.

OFW Profiles: DJ Regina of South Korea


DJ Regina hosts the radio program for Filipinos in South Korea under Woongjin Foundation's Multicultural Family Music Broadcasting. She is a Master's student of Public Policy at the Korea Development Institute under the Global Ambassador Fellowship.

In this pilot episode of Hay Pinas! Profiles, Regina shares insights and lessons she has learned while staying abroad. Among it is for overseas Filipinos to serve as "Philippine ambassadors" to foster goodwill wherever they may be.