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Sunday, July 26, 2015

How MOOCs helped University of Hong Kong apply e-learning tools on campus

"E-learning has taken off since HKU launched its first online course last year, with benefits for on-campus education too." according to Victor Wang

Online courses have delivered a trove of data that's helped transform learning on campus. 
Photo: South China Morning Post

A year after launching its first online course, the University of Hong Kong is not only rapidly expanding its virtual programmes, but also reaping unexpected results for its on-campus teaching in the process.

HKUx, a subdivision of the international non-profit MOOC (massive open online course) provider Edx, opened registration for its first course in April 2014, following an invitation from Edx co-founders Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in 2013. HKUx has launched three more MOOCs in the past three months.

During the time between the first MOOC, an introductory public health course titled Epidemics, and the latter three, there has been a dramatic shift in the university's approach to the online platform. Professors have realised the applicability of online teaching for their on-campus classes.

Professor Ricky Kwok. Photo: Edmond So

According to associate vice-president of teaching and learning, Professor Ricky Kwok, who oversees many of the university's e-learning projects, HKUx's initial motivation was to promote the university's global brand. "We wanted to let people know what HKU is all about," he says. "Our strategy was to showcase our strength, so we did not really approach the venture from a purely academic point of view."

With this in mind, the Epidemics course featured "star professors", including eight from HKU and one from the Harvard School of Public Health.

The course was "hugely successful", with 10,000 to 12,000 registrations. The demographics were equally impressive, attracting students from 173 countries. More than 10 per cent were over 50 years old, and the median age was 29.

Using statistical software, educators were able to identify which of the material was especially difficult and what kind of assessment was the most effective. They also received qualitative comments from students of diverse backgrounds. Put simply, this was a statistical treasure trove for course development...

Masato Kajimoto. Photo: Dickson Lee

Masato Kajimoto, an assistant media studies professor who is teaching the course Making Sense of News, had a similarly positive experience with lecture videos and plans to draw heavily from his MOOC course for the coming school year. Having launched the MOOC in May, Kajimoto will debut his first flipped classroom lesson this autumn.

His videos are kept at three to five minutes long to cater to students' shorter attention spans. "The generation that has grown up watching YouTube videos cannot process information from long lectures, so these online videos and courses are catering to this generational difference," he says. He intends to flip his on-campus class of 130 students through these videos and online assessments. This will mean a much-reduced need for lectures and more small roundtable discussions, to be led by Kajimoto.

Source: South China Morning Post

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