Globalisation shifts online during the pandemic
28 Oct 2020
As universities around the world adopt online or mixed-mode teaching and learning in the COVID-19 era, many educators have been adapting their courses in innovative ways to educate students remotely. Dr Kristen Li, Lecturer of the Department of Computer Science, has found a silver lining in the current health crisis as she has transformed her class into an online space that broadens students' global vision through virtual exchange.
Breaking geographical boundaries
When it became apparent that in-person activities would be affected by the pandemic, Dr Li tweaked her plans for her IT Management: Principles and Practice course. In an effort to enhance students' e-learning experiences, she promptly made special arrangements with industry leaders from Hong Kong and overseas to host a series of online seminars and discussion sessions, strengthening the connection between the students and the industry.
Many speakers were quick to support the idea, and the fact that these exchanges were held in a virtual classroom made it logistically simple. From addressing information security in the public health sector in Italy, to detailing the digital transformation of a smart airport, the speakers provided invaluable insights into technological applications in various sectors.
"Students appreciate that they can gain knowledge from the perspectives of different industry leaders," Dr Li says. "Compared to regular learning, students participating in the online sessions show greater initiative when it comes to interacting with the speakers."
Internationalisation at home
E-learning in a globalised setting also bridges the distance between students and their peers across the world. In a virtual exchange, students from HKBU attended the courses of partner universities in Germany and the U.S. online, and vice versa.
Dr Li observes that the virtual space facilitates interactions and mutual learning among students. In her IT Forum and E-Business Technology class, students from different universities joined each other online and had lively discussions. "Peer learning is more active in the virtual classroom than the regular one," she says. "For instance, during the discussions, students from Germany kept asking our students and teachers questions. This in turn encouraged our students to ask questions in return and engage more."
By forging virtual ties among students from different countries and regions, Dr Li believes that online education presents opportunities for universities to build globalised communities in which students can learn from each other and make progress together.
Connecting global wisdom and creativity
Virtual international exchange also makes it possible for students from a diverse range of backgrounds to work together on projects, competitions and other activities remotely. An excellent example is the Virtual Hack and Design Challenge 2020, which took place in April this year.
During the challenge, more than 110 university students from 16 countries and regions connected online over a 48-hour period to develop innovative projects that addressed COVID-19. Dr Li was one of the key members of the organising committee for the event, and she recalls how the pandemic drove the team to rethink the programme, which for the past few years has always been an annual in-person event.
"We were determined to transform the hackathon into an online format, which allowed a much broader reach as students were able to join without geographical limits," she says. Besides overcoming technical challenges, the organising committee also made an extra effort to connect and engage with the students. Social activities such as virtual coffee and window-view sharing sessions were arranged to bring the participants closer together despite their physical distance.
The enthusiastic response from the participants showed that effective remote collaboration and the exchange of ideas is achievable in a virtual setting. With the plans for the second virtual hackathon in the works, Dr Li and her team will continue to develop innovative approaches that will enable students from various disciplines to learn, collaborate and share global wisdom under the new normal.