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HKU study calls for more measures to enhance e-learning preparedness

Image Credits: HKU, Press Release

research team comprises of members from the Centre of Information Technology in Education and the Academic Unit of Social Contexts and Policies of Education (SCAPE) of the Faculty of Education at HKU, released the first of a series of six bulletins recently.

The research was based on the data collected during school resumption from June to July 2020.

The study is entitled “eCitizen Education 360”, which aims to collate the experience and needs of schools, teachers, students and parents in the transition to a full-fledged online learning experience during school suspension and their needs thereafter, to take joint school and community actions to shape quality learning and teaching to prepare for the new normal of many uncertainties.

The survey was met with enthusiastic support from over 1,200 teachers, 1,300 parents and 6,000 students from primary, secondary and special schools.

Key findings

  1. Effort of schools and parents to sustain learning paid off:

With the effort jointly made by schools and parents, learning was sustained throughout the school suspension period. School leaders, teachers, and a large majority of parents and students did not worry about the impact on students’ long-term academic attainment or chances in life despite prolonged school suspension.

School leaders, parents, students, and especially teachers agreed that students gained more digital skills during this period.

  1. The cumulative negative effects due to socioeconomic and digital divides on disadvantaged students need attention:

Parents from lower socioeconomic status (SES) families perceived significantly less improvement of their children’s digital skills during the school suspension period. They also reported higher levels of inadequacy in access to large screen devices (9.89%) or digital learning resources (17.79%) for their children’s learning at home.

Only 15% of parents reported lowered expectations of their children’s results in the upcoming examination while 30% reported an increased expectation. The change in expectation is positively correlated with home-based parental involvement. Parents from lower SES backgrounds reported lower levels of home-based involvement with their children’s education both before and during the school suspension periods and they lowered their expectation of the children’s academic attainment.

Students from higher SES backgrounds were less worried about their academic studies and had better emotional wellness. They had higher confidence in their ability to learn both before and during the school suspension period.

  1. Pre-suspension e-learning preparedness crucial to effective online learning transition:

Students from schools that had given a higher priority to e-learning and had in place a more comprehensive e-learning implementation plan before the pandemic (e.g. those with a “Bring-Your-Own-Device” strategy) reported greater gains in digital skills and lower stress about school resumption.

Teachers from these more e-learning ready schools were also more likely to share effective teaching strategies, adopting more student-centred online pedagogy such as individual counselling and small group tutorials via videoconferencing.

  1. Implications for actions from the research findings

Schools should devise whole-school comprehensive plans incorporating adaptive and flexible online and offline learning and teaching arrangements by referencing and learning from the positive experiences gained before and during school suspension in schools across Hong Kong;

There is an urgent need to provide technology access and other accompanying support for those students without adequate internet access and efficient devices for learning at home; and

A partnership should be fostered between schools and community organisations to provide support to students and parents in need that is appropriate for their specific contexts.

The Professor Nancy Law remarked that the team pleased to see from the data collected from the participating schools that despite the many challenges in the uncharted terrain, online learning has brought significant improvements in digital competence of students and teachers, and without long term negative impacts on academic outcomes as perceived by all stakeholders, thanks to the efforts of school leaders, teachers and parents.

Those parents who have become more actively involved in their children’s learning expected their children to achieve higher examination results, as well as improved relationships with their children. The generous support from the wider Hong Kong community to provide material and service support to students and families has also contributed much to the success.

Professor Catherine K.K. Chan, Academic Unit of SCAPE, Faculty of Education, HKU, stated that the university is partnering with a range of community organisations, Cyberport included, to address the findings through actions – to make an actual impact on students’ learning with the help of digital technology.

Digital literacy plays a vital role in learning in the 21st century and HK’s students must be equipped with both the skills and the resources to help them attain their fullest potentials.

Dr Tan Cheng Yong, “this research provided comprehensive data to confirm that students in schools with a holistic e-learning plan before COVID-19 were better prepared for the transition to online or blended modes of learning.”

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