Try Boldly, Plan Rigorously – Keys to Successful eLearning
Sam Shui Natives Association Huen King Wing School is not a pioneer of eLearning adoption. In fact, you can say it has ‘lost at the starting line’ – that’s according to its principal, Ms Lee Siu-po. Yet, the school seized the opportunity brought by the class suspension in the past few months and made the leap to eLearning savvy. With joint efforts from the whole school, it has successfully come up with a holistic plan and implemented effective eLearning to keep daily learning and teaching going.
The Right Platform for the Right School
In the first two weeks of class suspension, the school’s first priority was to select a suitable learning management system and video conferencing tool, which are essential for teachers to conduct real-time online lessons and to distribute educational videos and assignments to students during the suspension period. Ms Harriet Chow Hoi-ling, PSMCD, said the digital platforms and tools must be accessible anywhere, as they have quite a number of cross-boundary students.
When schools are choosing a learning management system, Ms Chow thought it was important to consider its functions and usability. The right platform should meet the school’s learning and teaching needs, e.g. teachers can upload and distribute multimedia learning contents, and set up different kinds of assignments and assessments.
It is also crucial for a system to be able to collect and analyse student learning data efficiently. ‘Collection and analysis of student learning data are vital for us to understand students’ learning progress, so as to adjust our learning contents and teaching pace accordingly,’ said Ms Chow.
The school also spent considerable time trying and evaluating different video conferencing tools before deciding on Zoom, a tool deemed most suitable for their teachers to conduct real-time online lessons with students. Mr Ng Ka-ho, Information Technology (IT) Coordinator and Mathematics Panel Head, said Zoom’s low data transmission was a huge plus in addition to its availability to cross-boundary students. ‘Not all students have high-end internet equipment and digital devices at home, so we should minimise data transmission for everyone to have their online classes smoothly.’
Mr Ng said other important functions to consider include those for teachers to manage their classes, e.g. control or share screen, turn on and off microphone, etc. Meanwhile, features such as chatroom, button to indicate raising hands, digital whiteboard and instant messaging can help facilitate interactions among teachers and students. ‘To communicate with students in real time, teachers would use multiple apps at the same time, such as WhatsApp and WeChat,’ he added.
Dual Tools for Flipped Classroom: Videos and Online Lessons
By the third week of class suspension, the school had decided to implement real-time online lessons. The teaching team first conducted joint preparation meetings to come up with the online teaching timetables and contents according to the school’s annual learning and teaching plan, said Ms Chow. Then they met up regularly during the class suspension period to keep track of students’ learning progress, so as to adjust the learning contents and teaching pace.
In the past few months, the school fully adopted ‘Flipped Classroom’ for learning and teaching. Educational videos and online assignments were assigned for students to acquire subject knowledge, followed by online lessons where teachers would provide instant feedback based on students’ performance and learning difficulties.
This way, students’ daily learning time would not accumulate to over three hours, which means students would not spend too much time using digital devices. Even though teachers had less teaching time with the new approach, Ms Chow said they were able to catch up with the planned schedule by the sixth week of class suspension. ‘By limiting the length of the educational videos to five minutes, teachers had to focus on key points and compress the learning contents, and that’s why the teaching pace could be accelerated, giving rooms for them to introduce other online learning activities,’ she said.
Collaboration Is Key to Enhance Learning and Teaching
Ms Chow reflected that the experience gained in the past few months had greatly inspired their teaching. The teachers realised the importance of being open-minded to changes and challenges, and that it was a good idea for them to share experience and learn from one another in order to achieve better learning and teaching. ‘We have held a number of lesson observations for teachers to know more about different learning and teaching approaches, and how to use various digital learning tools. They would also share opinions and feedback after each session for further improvement.’
Ms Lee Siu-po, the principal, said they were bold – it was not an easy job for a school with no experience to fully adopt eLearning in such a short time. Yet with a heart to innovate and collaborate for better learning and teaching, the team stepped out of their comfort zone and into the world of eLearning.