October 23, 2020

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Coronavirus leads to rising use of e-learning tools

During the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003, many educators in Hong Kong turned to the dissemination of online learning via a website created for each grade level. Subject teachers posted worksheets and projects for students to complete.

Now, in 2020, differences in schools’ commitment and capacity to implement and support high-quality online instruction become evident as schools close amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong schools will remain closed until at least 2 March 2020.

Several schools, especially international schools, are trying to have their students “attend” a regular school day. Some are providing students with an interactive classroom experience via different web-based video conferencing tools.

They are working to continue live interactions between teachers and students as online instruction is adopted, as well as more collaborative interactions among students with online instructional programmes. (However, some schools are still sending worksheets to students.)

How are these schools able to roll out home learning so successfully? Experience of bad weather, and coping with the disruption caused by recent protests in Hong Kong, have helped.

Educators have become accustomed to delivering home learning in a suspension for typhoons, which is typically one to two days.

During the protests, teachers started using more videos, and afterwards reviewed delivery of home learning across schools so that they could be better prepared for further suspensions, one educator noted.

Another school stated that it is currently using several different online platforms to deliver lectures and meet curriculum benchmarks. Teachers have the flexibility to decide how they choose to disseminate online learning.

One school is addressing the well-being of senior students. Its PE department uploads daily workouts for students that are designed to be done indoors using home furniture.

Student advisories take place daily at noon, which allows students to engage in a live chat with their tutor, enabling their well-being to be assessed.

The heads of each prep school are recording a weekly assembly, focusing on hygiene and handwashing, among other topics.

Students preparing for exams and doing practical subjects have definitely been affected by the school’s closure. Reduced access to specialist machinery has prevented some students from design technology completing work and affected drama students’ ability to rehearse with others.

To help with this, teachers find themselves taking more risks; using online simulations in lieu of practicals.

In related news, a Hong Kong-based artificial intelligence SaaS company announced that it has launched a series of free online educational tools.

The firm offers complimentary videos for AI-focused online classes, an interactive platform for learning to program and practising AI theories, and courses for educators to learn how to teach the content.

The video classes focus on the fundamentals of AI, machine learning, and robotics. The content is available on several online learning platforms in China.

Meanwhile, teachers can use the firm’s instructor training materials, which include details on “AI development to applications and algorithms.”

The tech firm is also offering free live-streamed lessons that allow for real-time conversations, the company said.

During the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year which began in September, 140,000 students from cities including Shanghai, eastern China’s Qingdao, as well as Hong Kong and Macau used the company’s AI curriculum.

AI applications have made contributions to the prevention and control of the epidemic – in terms of screening, diagnosing and monitoring the disease through data analytics.

With the rapid adoption of AI technologies in various industries, rising demand for AI talents is expected across the world.

The firm is not the only company offering free online classes as a result of the outbreak.

A Chinese online teaching and the educational company pledged to offer free classes to children between the ages of four and 12.

Meanwhile, schools around China have been using platforms like Dingtalk and Wechat Work to conduct remote video classes so students don’t fall behind.