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Go Back to the List April 11, 2020
Real-time video teaching can improve classroom teaching

The continued spread of COVID-19 has disrupted all sectors as well as the daily work and lives of people. Disruption includes the suspension of classes and homeworking or home study. To safeguard the health of teachers and students, the suspension of face-to-face classes in most higher education institutions worldwide was inevitable. Many institutions may have temporarily closed down their classes before, but never on such a large scale and it is truly unprecedented globally.
Since early February 2020, apart from implementing many urgent precautionary measures on campus, classes at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong (HSUHK) in the spring semester were mainly replaced by online teaching to ensure continuous quality learning. Proactively responding to the challenge of the times, many other academic activities, such as conferences, seminars, laboratory work, internships, examinations and assessment, oral defence of theses, graduate job interviews, etc, were also held online.
In fact, distance e-learning is not new as a teaching aid. Apart from emails, websites, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and specific education software, for more than a decade institutions have been using learning management system software such as Moodle or Blackboard to enable teachers to upload materials and videos for sharing, to allow students to upload assignments, and to make possible the management of student records. The e-platform, therefore, allows them to conduct online asynchronous teaching. With the advance and increasing use of information technology, online teaching has evolved gradually into a concept of real-time, synchronous virtual classrooms. Since on-campus class suspensions in early February 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, institutions have been working day and night to enable real-time video teaching.
Simulating ‘humanised’ classes
Conducting real-time video teaching does not require everyone to be in the same location and universities are encouraging teachers to follow original class schedules as much as possible. The conferencing software, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet, allows real-time video interactions and polling activities and, at the same time, interactions by text or voice through live ‘chat rooms’, thus enhancing students’ engagement.

Innovation, teaching concepts and methods
As the saying goes: “When there is risk, there should be opportunity.” The late Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter introduced the ‘creative destruction theory’. The COVID-19 epidemic has been destructive, but it has also produced creative destruction in some sense. I hope our teachers and students will have enjoyed some excitement and benefits from online teaching, which will equip them for future learning and communication etc.

The next best thing
In any case, remote online teaching and learning cannot fully replace face-to-face teaching and learning, or an environment where teachers and students discuss things with each other. Unless it is inevitable, universities generally only use online teaching to supplement real classroom activities, the so-called ‘blended learning’.

As we understand more about the characteristics and transmission channels of COVID-19, it will become clear that it will take a longer time before the epidemic will be under full control. Nevertheless, we will have to resume normal work or school gradually as it is difficult to work or study from home for a long time. Even if the epidemic has not completely run its course, we should be prepared to gradually return to our normal lives, as long as adequate precautionary measures and attentive arrangements are made to reduce the risk of transmission.

When the epidemic is over, we shall have a new vista on education and life.

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Written by Simon SM Ho,
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