To explore how teachers at HKU SPACE make use of technology to boost students’ engagement in their Library and Information Studies, the E-learning Team interviewed Ms Yu Ling Ling, Senior Programme Director, College of Life Science and Technology, on 11 January 2018. Ms Yu shared her valuable experience and best practices in the use of E-learning in Library and Information Studies courses. Below is a record of our conversations.
How do you use E-learning in your programmes?
With the basic E-learning features on SOUL 2.0, we upload teaching resources in the formats of videos, PowerPoint and PDF files. We arrange them in accordance with lecture topics so that they are easily accessible to learners. We encourage teachers to use communications tools such as Chatroom and Forum as modern students prefer typing text rather than verbal interactions. With these asynchronous tools, students can ‘speak’ freely in response to questions, thus enhancing their understanding and analyses. Through these online discussions, teachers easily check whether the taught topics are well understood by students.
Regarding course administration, we make use of Announcement to update learners with latest course news and to provide them with detailed instructions for assignments. For checking plagiarism, we use Turnitin to make sure that proper citations are included in students’ assignments as students are encouraged to use their own words rather than copying directly from sources. With the use of Turnitin, students are able to view their own Turnitin e-reports with comments and related issues on citation and plagiarism. Based on the e-reports, students revise their assignments, thus plagiarism reduced and quality work assured. Technology benefits both teachers and students.
As for the various distance learning programmes offered in collaboration with Charles Sturt University, Australia (CSU), students can access online packages via the learning platform provided by CSU. To enhance communications between local students and students studying these programmes from other parts of the world, 3 or 4 online meetings with the use of Virtual Classroom are conducted quarterly. Not only can students enhance their learning via sharing their experiences, but also build their networks globally. Another merit of Virtual Classroom is that students can join online meetings on mobile device. This makes the whole thing very simple and convenient.
In addition, we believe that audio-visual pedagogy will enhance students’ learning and understanding. With the help of E-learning team, we have developed a set of online resources on cataloguing of books to supplement face-to-face mode of learning. Other application of using online resources and exercises are under planning. Our Group considers that online learning and assignments are excellent for students to thoroughly understand difficult concepts through repetitions by playing the online materials anytime anywhere.
Recently, we have started to employ virtual reality (VR) in our teaching and learning.
Why do your programmes use virtual reality (VR) as E-learning pedagogy?
VR provides objects with a 360-degree view, thus emphasising the maker space in the learning environment. Without physical visits to libraries, VR tours with annotations can let students understand the facilities’ design and setup, service points in the libraries and their relevant operation functions. These VR tours have become an essential teaching tool in each module of our programmes.
VR library tour
Apart from immersive learning experience, VR can also facilitate meaningful in-class discussions in commission programmes on Principles of Librarianship. Our class comprises librarians from public or international primary, secondary schools. After viewing the VR tours, our teachers guide discussions on the advantages, disadvantages and best practices of each library’s setup. Is it difficult for your library to follow these practices? Is this problem unique in your setting? What remedial actions can be taken? Students will share their thoughts by comparing their working environments and state the challenges to adopt those practices. In this learning process, our teachers need not spend much time describing the library environment as students can get a clear understanding of each library setup. Thus, they become more focused on discussion, analysis and generalisation. By implementation of VR, discussion is more interactive and training is more practical.
360 VR library tour
What are the lessons you have learned from your E-learning pedagogy in your courses?
Firstly, one has to be familiar with the use of technology, for instance, the differences in deploying Virtual Classroom and Virtual Reality. Ideally, the Programme Team and teachers may need to understand the features, trend and applications thoroughly. With the immense help rendered by the professional E-learning Team, we are able to apply the E-learning pedagogy effectively and smoothly.
Secondly, during the implementation of E-learning pedagogy, it is necessary to allocate sufficient time to design and test the E-learning tool. The length of each E-learning object must be carefully designed based on the nature of the topics and the programme length. Design with clear learning outcomes in each learning object will facilitate the effective implementation and use of each tool.
What are the challenges?
On application, we need to convince our part-time teachers that VR is user-friendly. 360-degree usage is simple, but in order to create an immersive experience, students need to wear VR boxes or gears. This supplementary equipment needs other auxiliary contributions that are challenging. Besides, classroom settings, programme logistics design incorporated with VR that align with the existing teaching progress is another issue to be dealt with.
What is your advice to Programme Teams who want to apply E-learning in their courses?
Our advice is to devote more time to planning, design and applications. In addition, seek professional advice from the E-learning Team that can alert them to take note of the key issues throughout the course development. Moreover, they need to balance the feasibility of their plan and the value to their students, and to fine-tune the learning materials from time to time for effectiveness.
What would you like to improve in the future?
Ideally, our programme support for students would be further enhanced if the School were provided with more technical provision. We find videos very useful for introducing students to library technical jargons. As the process of incorporating E-learning in programme development, video production in particular, is time-consuming, more technical support is essential to make it a success.
(Note from Ms Yu: From a recent student survey, all (100%) participants agreed that using VR technology in education would be one of their preferred learning models and that the use of VR helped them learn in a more practical way. In addition, 100% of the respondents agreed that VR could enhance their learning experience.)
Ms Yu Ling Ling