There have been some misunderstandings among the education sector and general public about the way home learning should be supported with e-learning modes during class suspension. We therefore provide some further explanations below to alleviate concerns.
Is e-learning the only way of home learning during class suspension?
Learning modes are diversified. Both online and offline learning should focus on encouraging students’ self-directed learning at home and cater for students’ needs and the school context. Schools may use various means, e.g. having assignments and other learning materials printed out for mail delivery to individual students or parents’ collection from the school on a need basis. This can be complemented by helpline service or communication with parents and students via mobile applications to find out more about the learning and emotional needs of students.
Is real-time online teaching the best way of e-learning?
Real-time online teaching is merely one of the e-learning strategies. There are other ways of e-learning. Teachers may provide students with learning materials, exercises and texts for extracurricular reading, collect assignments and offer feedback by using the learning management systems that they are familiar with, as well as emails and the school website. Planning should be the most crucial.
Should real-time online teaching be arranged according to the usual timetable in order to keep up with the teaching schedule?
It is not advisable to make it a rule for all subjects that real-time online teaching should be conducted according to the usual timetable. Suitability depends on the specific features of each subject/theme, as well as teachers’ grasp of e-learning strategies. Total online lesson time should not be overly long. Each session of real-time online learning should be shorter than usual lessons in school and be reduced for lower level students. There should be breaks between two sessions. There is no need for learning to strictly stick to the schedule of progress that the school has drawn up for the curriculum. The school may encourage students to read widely, carry out thematic explorations, etc. so as to enhance their ability to engage in self-directed learning.
Is e-learning including real-time online teaching suitable for students of all levels?
Whether it is real-time online teaching or other e-learning modes, the actual implementation has to be well-planned, taking into account the learning needs of students at different ages and with special needs, students’ power of concentration, impact on eye health caused by prolonged use of electronic screen products, etc. The advice of the Department of Health should be heeded and children aged between 2 and 6 should be discouraged from using devices with an electronic screen for long durations. In principle, real-time online teaching is not recommended for e-learning at kindergarten level. We do not recommend young primary students and students with attention deficit to go online for real-time learning, either.
Should schools adopt standardised computer devices, e-learning platforms and practices for implementing e-learning?
Students’ needs vary with key stages and schools have different circumstances. It is thus not necessary for all schools to implement e-learning with a uniform approach (including the use of computer devices, e-learning platforms and practices). Schools should adopt teaching strategies, learning and teaching resources, and learning activities appropriate to the needs of their students in order to cater for learner diversity. Schools should also be aware of any problems that students’ family might have in respect of hardware and Internet connection speed. There should be thorough consideration and coordination to ensure that students and parents have access to technical support. Besides, schools should assess whether their school-based plan is being taken forward as expected and make necessary modification or adjustment.
Is "One Device Per Student" the prerequisite for effective e-learning?
Equipping each student with a mobile computer device does not mean effective implementation of e-learning. Yet since a lot of students need to use mobile computer devices for home learning during class suspension, schools could render assistance through deployment of various resources. Schools should provide mobile computer devices for students on a loan basis and help them seek relevant financial assistance. The Community Care Fund has since the 2018/19 school year provided subsidy to needy primary and secondary students studying in schools implementing the "Bring Your Own Device" policy to purchase their own mobile computer devices. While the application period for the current school year has already closed, the Education Bureau (EDB) will exercise flexibility in accepting further applications as many schools are trying out teaching practices on electronic platforms during class suspension. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust also provided SIM cards for primary and secondary schools students. Some local telecommunication service providers also provided free mobile data services to some needy students.
Is it a must for teachers to master advanced information technology before they could effectively promote e-learning?
It is not a must. Information technology should not be used merely for the sake of using technology. Coupled with flexible teaching strategies, many handy electronic tools can also effectively enhance students’ learning efficacy. Interactive e-learning can be achieved by simply using mobile computer devices, desktop computers or even smartphones.
Do teachers lack support?
On top of the routine professional development programmes organised for schools and teachers, and the on-site supports rendered by IT in Education Centres of Excellence (CoEs), the EDB has newly created the dedicated webpage to share the skills and experiences in adopting e-learning platforms, flipped classroom strategy and real-time online teaching during class suspension. There is also a series of short videos newly produced for self-study of teachers on the basics and practices about using e-teaching tools. The Hong Kong Education City (HKEdCity) has also launched the dedicated webpage to consolidate some learning and teaching resources for the use of schools, teachers, students and parents. Since end-January this year, webinars on various topics are held every week. Up to March, 30-odd sessions have been organised. The EDB will keep in view schools’ needs and provide support via hotlines (3698 3669 and 3698 3571), mobile applications, webinars and online self-study courses, dedicated webpages, etc.
Online resources for "suspending classes without suspending learning"