Looking ahead to Semester 1, there are a few issues I’d like to brief you on.
As in Semester 2 earlier this year, the S1 add/drop period will coincide with a period of almost universal online teaching and learning. As before, we’re therefore making a ‘self-enrol’ function available on HKU Moodle to enable students to audit courses. This will only operate during the add/drop period. Once it ends, all such enrolments will be deleted unless the student has formally enrolled in the course through the course registration system.
In a survey conducted a few months ago, many teachers expressed their frustration with HKU’s policy of not requiring students to turn on their webcams for interactive online classes. I therefore reached out to HKUSU to discuss this. We agreed that in 2020-21 students taking online classes will be required to turn on their webcams when the teacher asks them to do so. (Virtual backgrounds are of course permissible.) We also agreed that students may apply to their teachers for exemption on a case-by-case basis. If it’s not possible for a teacher and student to reach agreement, the case may be referred to the Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) in the relevant Faculty or, in the case of Common Core courses, to the Director.
Zoom vs Teams
In a separate survey also conducted a few months ago, some students asked for an alternative to Zoom. A number of colleagues also made this point in the teacher survey. This too was thus on the agenda for my most recent meeting with HKUSU. HKU’s best alternative to Zoom is Microsoft Teams. (For a comparison and links to useful videos, see this blog post: https://tl.hku.hk/2020/08/online-teaching-through-zoom-or-microsoft-teams/.) While Zoom is integrated with HKU Moodle and has a better set of functions, Teams is a viable option. HKUSU’s preference going forward is for teachers to use Teams, not Zoom. TeLi is ready to provide support for any teacher wanting to switch from Zoom to Teams in S1, though I recognize that doing so at this late stage may not be possible. Ultimately, the decision lies with each individual teacher.
All classrooms allocated by the Exams Office for f2f teaching in S1 are at least twice the projected class size. Throughout the semester, all centrally-allocated lecture rooms will be available for use in the booked slots. This means that all teachers will have the option of delivering their lectures in class during the regular timeslots and both live streaming and recording while they do so. TeLi is making a demonstration video on streaming and recording lectures inside a classroom, and will upload it next week to https://tl.hku.hk/teachonline/online-resources-for-teachers/.
Alternative ways to deliver course content
Teachers may also live stream and/or record course content in their offices, or pre-record content in DIY rooms. Teachers who wish to live stream and/or make a recording in their offices can gain assistance with initial set-up through a TeLi consultation session. The range of audio-visual equipment that can be borrowed from ITS can be viewed at https://www.les.hku.hk/les-services/equipment-loan-services. Teachers who wish to use a DIY room can do so throughout the academic year. There are two fully-equipped DIY rooms inside the TeLi studios on the Centennial Campus and two inside the Chi Wah Learning Commons. Bookings can be made through TeLi (https://tl.hku.hk/teachonline/online-resources-for-teachers/).
Keeping in touch with students
Students greatly value the chance to interact with their teachers through virtual office hours offered via Zoom, Skype and other channels. Please do create a regular weekly timeslot when students can join you on, say, Zoom to discuss their courses and teaching materials, or to seek more general academic advice. Some academic advising tips when teaching and learning go online can be found at https://aao.hku.hk/wp-content/resources/pdf/10_advising_tips_online_learning.pdf.
Following extensive consultation and piloting in the Common Core, we’ve reformed the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Learning instrument. It’s now called Student Feedback on Teaching and Learning, reflecting the fact that what we receive from students is not formal evaluation, but rather feedback. We’ve also simplified the instrument as much as possible. SFTL will be used for all course and teacher feedback in 2020-21. The SFTL form can be viewed at https://tl.hku.hk/tl/student-feedback-on-teaching-and-learning-sftl/.
We have colleagues in TeLi, CETL and ITS waiting to help teachers with online teaching and learning. Our recent run of five webinars on virtual flipped classroom design can be found at https://hku.to/V-Flipped. For onsite support with technical issues in classrooms or offices, and for any other technical advice, it’s best to contact TeLi via WhatsApp on 6437-8034. For the Common Core, Wincy Chan (firstname.lastname@example.org) can provide assistance with course design and technical issues. An S1 overview is available at https://tl.hku.hk/teachonline/.
As before, please contact me with queries at email@example.com.
Best wishes, Ian
Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong