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HK universities welcome funding for virtual teaching and learning

Eight Hong Kong universities are in line for grants totalling HK$165 million aimed at developing better virtual teaching methods, which are anticipated to become part of the “new normal” in coming years.

Online teaching was widely adopted amid the coronavirus pandemic as schools suspended face-to-face classes for months at a time to avoid infections. But the University Grants Committee (UGC), which funds the city’s public institutions of higher education, noted along with its Quality Assurance Council (QAC) on Thursday that they believed schools would continue to make use of virtual methods to enhance teaching and learning even after the pandemic ended.

The additional HK$165 million would be allocated to the eight universities funded by the committee to facilitate more systematic collaboration to promote the strategic development of virtual teaching and learning, a spokesman said.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) recently announced that they welcomed the additional funding launched by the University Grants Committee (UGC) and the Quality Assurance Council (QAC) for universities to promote the development of virtual teaching and learning (VTL).

Over the years, PolyU has laid a solid foundation for VTL. In response to this new initiative, PolyU will actively propose innovative solutions, and continue to strive in acquiring more resources to promote the University’s development of VTL.

To address the long-term teaching and learning needs, our initial plans include: developing exemplary real-time delivery of online academic programmes and new paradigms of online teaching, as well as initiating VTL-related research.

In light of the ongoing pandemic situation, PolyU has been using different online teaching and learning platforms, while constantly upgrading its classroom facilities and providing training and technical support to staff and students to accommodate online and synchronous teaching. PolyU is also committed to digital transformation – some examples include building a teaching and learning centre that supplies e-learning resources and developing new online teaching solutions, such as using virtual reality (VR) technology in teaching and establishing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

PolyU has furthermore dedicated its efforts in developing several online science experiment platforms in recent years, including the newly launched “Borderless Lab 365”. The platform enables students to perform real-time science experiments remotely anywhere and anytime, thereby significantly improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning. This innovative platform is not only being used by the students of PolyU but is also being deployed by various secondary schools. Feedback from teachers and students has been positive, this is a good testament to the competence of PolyU in effectively combining technology with teaching.

The Deputy President and Provost of PolyU stated, “The UGC and QAC attach great importance to promoting VTL, which is in line with PolyU’s strategic development. We hope that with this additional funding in place, PolyU can secure more resources to accelerate the progress of VTL, so as to enhance the overall experience and effectiveness of teaching and learning.”

Another university that received funding was The University of Hong Kong (HKU). A press release from the university stated that they also welcome the move by the UGC and the QAC to provide additional funding for universities’ virtual teaching and learning (VTL) initiatives.

The Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) stated, “In the past 15 months, HKU has engaged deeply with VTL as first the social unrest and then the pandemic moved much teaching and learning online. Additional funding from UGC will enable us to intensify our efforts to build on the many innovative practices developed by teachers and students throughout the campus. It will help us ensure that VTL is fully integrated into our strategic plans for T&L as we navigate the ‘new normal’ in the 2020s.”

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