UIC officially started online teaching classes on 17 February in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19. Students and faculty members embraced this new journey and tried to get the most out of online teaching and learning.

Student Wang from Year 2 International Journalism Programme said: “It feels a little different to communicate with the teacher through the monitor, but you can still receive valid information as long as you focus on the live room instead of other things at home. The advantage of online classes is that if you have any information, you can immediately share it on the screen and discuss it with your teachers and classmates.”

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Online class

Year 1 Accounting student, Cai, remarked that “The benefits of online lessons include being able to see the PowerPoint very clearly, and you can take screenshots, so you don’t have to worry about sitting far away and not seeing clearly in ordinary classrooms.”

However, teachers and students pointed out the online teaching and learning practice have encountered teething problems.

Occasionally, due to the different equipment and network conditions of teachers and students, stalling may occur during a class.

Interaction is limited and response is not instant when students want to ask questions but it is also sometimes difficult for teachers to see all the students through the online platform.

Moreover, teachers can’t observe students’ reactions well, and they need students to have a high degree of learning autonomy.

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Showing PowerPoint slides during online instruction

Dr Kuo Yi-Lung, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology Programme, believed that if teachers make good use of online learning management systems, diverse online video conference platforms, or real-time communication software, then the quality of online teaching is even better than traditional classroom teaching without the assistance of online teaching platforms.

Prof Evelyn Mai, Programme Director of Cinema and Television, commented that the epidemic helps teachers and students to learn new media and communication methods.

“We need to think more about teaching methods and content,” Prof Mai added. “How can we keep the students’ attention without distractions? For students, learning through online teaching and live broadcast systems is like learning new media, which will help them with their future careers.”

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A student takes notes during an online class

Dr Jesse Owen Hearns-Branaman, Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies Programme, offered his advice and said: “I think with some practice we can mitigate the lack of face-to-face interaction and maintain a good level of teaching quality. We just have to remember that feedback and response will not be instant and that should be taken into account when creating teaching material.”

Dr Hearns-Branaman continued: “In many ways, online teaching may be better. For example, students can watch recordings of lectures during their own time, and this flexibility may help students organise their schedule better. Also, students will have more time to contemplate on the content of the lectures and watch them multiple times, and thus be able to formulate more in-depth follow-up questions, examples, and comments.”

Dr Lin Mi, Acting Programme Director of Applied Economics, said it required collective efforts to make e-learning as effective as a traditional on-campus course.

“For teaching staff, it features an opportunity to reflect on every aspect of the course to determine how to integrate available resources and technologies, matching them to the ILOs, course contents and students’ needs,” Dr Lin added. “For students, it imposes a higher-level demand for self-discipline to become an ever proactive and self-motivated learner. Sufficient communication, clear instruction, and active interaction are keys to ensure that both students and teaching staff would be able to benefit the most out of e-learning activities.”

Dr Lin concluded by saying “While we all enjoy the advantage of delivering courses unbounded by time or location, e-learning also imposes requirements on the reliability of hardware and internet speed. It also calls for creative solutions for assessment arrangements that fulfil the course intended learning outcomes.”

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E-platforms make online teaching and learning possible

Guqin teacher Ms Mandy Li, Lecturer of Whole Person Education Office, felt in the beginning that online teaching would be a difficult challenge for learning art experience courses, especially due to the inability to use musical instruments.

“Through the course preparation, I found that ‘all roads lead to Rome’. The mission of a guqin teacher is to make more people fall in love with this art,” Ms Li said. “However, you really need to touch the strings of the guqin yourself and feel the sound, so I do look forward to the end of the epidemic and returning to classroom activities.”

The Information Technology Services Centre (ITSC) made a great effort to support UIC’s online teaching and learning activities.

Director of ITSC Dr Raymond Lee said ITSC conducted more than ten online training sessions in advance in accordance with the different requirements of each academic division and the time difference between teachers at home and abroad.

On 10 February, UIC undertook a test run of the online teaching on the Panopto e-platform, where more than 4,000 students went online, exceeding the expected 2000. To address this issue, ITSC has been in the process of migrating the iSpace to Cloud Service, so as to ascertain the stability of the systems and to support the official teaching and learning activities.

Reporter: Lauren Richardson
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(from MPRO)