Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

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The use of technology in teaching and learning has generated learning data at a massive volume. But how can we maximize the impact of learning analytics (LA)? We explored this question in the 7th International Learning Design & Knowledge (LAK) Conference, themed Understanding, Informing & Improving Learning with Data. It was an exciting experience to find out how educators from around the world develop and deploy their LA tools. Some of our colleagues also presented their research on improving video instructions and their progress on developing learning progress dashboards in the conference.

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Discussions in the Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue

The conference featured 3 keynote sessions, 30 technical sessions and 16 pre-conference events. It covered various aspects of LA, from modeling students’ learning behaviour to institutional deployment of LA in practices, gathering ideas from cognitive science, learning design, educational psychology, learning technology, data science and other related fields.

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A highly engaging poster session where participants shared their ideas via 30-second pitch talks

Several major takeaways from the conference:
Students’ learning behavior, triangulated with their physiological data such as pulse, gesture, eye movement and brain wave, etc., reflect the process of learning, said keynote speaker Dr. Sanna Järvelä from the University of Oulu, Finland. Her research focused on using multimodal data to support the inquiry of learning. With guidance of existing learning theories, learning scientists could understand better the process and product of students’ learning, and provide suggestions for improvement accordingly.

To ensure effective analysis of students’ learning processes, an adaptive data-driven learning ecosystem should be established, as pointed out by Dr. Timothy McKay, keynote speaker from the University of Michigan. To establish this adaptive system, learning data needs to be continuously collected and integrated. This informs both students and teachers of students’ learning as an individual and in groups over an extensive period of time, throughout or even beyond their university life. In the University of Michigan, 10 years of learning data from different sources has been collected for establishing a learning system. This system advises teachers and students by providing relevant data to them. The purpose of putting data in people’s hands is to support decision making, motivate actions and guide behaviour change.

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Dr. Timothy McKay illustrating how data can be used for decision making

Just as research tools are always guided by research methodology, LA tools need to be student-centered and pedagogy-considered. This requires trust and understanding among teachers, system developers, user interface designers and behavioral scientists, whose expertise could jointly contribute to the sense-making of learning data.

For analytics to work well, the data collected from prior experience must be extensive, accurate and relevant. Some classes tend to be more suitable for deploying LA, such as large introductory courses with relatively mature course contents and classes where teachers have a clear understanding of students’ background and ability. The course should also involve a variety of instrumented learning activities, and the course team should constantly and gradually improve the course structure, content and assessments.

Finally, we must remind ourselves that data by itself is not all powerful until actions are taken in response to the analysis. We should also work to ensure that the collection of educational data and the use of LA tools are lawful and ethical.

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Click here if you cannot access Youtube.

Registration

Introduction to the course (Course outline)
University Teaching is an introductory MOOC on teaching and learning in tertiary education, designed by staff at CETL and offered through Coursera. Whether you have just started your first university teaching post, you are thinking about becoming a university teacher, or you just have an interest in understanding the essentials of university teaching, this course is definitely for you.

University Teaching will help you to address the following questions:

  • What is it like teaching in higher education?
  • What does research evidence tell us about effective teaching in higher education?
  • How can we ensure that our instructional design helps our students achieve their intended learning outcomes?
  • What pedagogic options do we have to make our teaching successful?
  • What assessment and feedback practices can help our students learn effectively?

With input from instructors, guest speakers and interviewees, including teaching award winners, students and experts in the fields, you will be exposed to research evidence in relation to effective university teaching and instructional design. Throughout the course, you will learn from teachers whose teaching has been judged to be excellent, and you will see many examples of their teaching in practice.

After completing the learning tasks in this course, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the teaching and learning context in higher education and reflect on the challenges and opportunities you might encounter as a university teacher.
  • Explain key teaching and learning concepts and relevant evidence in relation to effective university teaching.
  • Analyse the relationships between various aspects of teaching and student learning.
  • Identify a range of instructional strategies to support effective student learning.
  • Apply key concepts to the structuring of course outlines and lesson plans in order to support successful student learning.

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By the courtesy of the Teaching Innovation Unit at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Development of the National Taiwan University (NTU), TELI participated in a professional development programme entitled “eProfessor” that was held on April 29-30, 2017 – the Labour Day long weekend. We have heard about the magic of this bootcamp from Professor Benson Yeh (former Director of the MOOC Project in NTU) for a couple of years – but seeing is believing.

Success factors of NTU’s e-learning professional development programmes

  • Blended with a Facebook closed group for pre-event communication and community building
  • Intensive face-to-face sessions focusing on participatory learning
  • Genuine sharing of successful and failing experiences by both invited speakers and participants
  • Real-time support from organizing team: from video production to instructional design – prompt follow-up on the spot

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Some 30 teachers showed up at the training. Before the face-to-face programme began, they were asked to prepare a Facebook post with a short smartphone-quality clip telling their fellow bootcamp members two things about themselves: one that is true, one that is false. The purpose is twofold: to get some experience about video-taking, and to break the ice in the group. As Rick Levin said, watching yourself on a screen could be horrifying for first-timers – so this pre-event assignment seemed to be a good warm-up exercise for everybody.
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The highly participatory bootcamp features hands-on exercises, group work with peer-feedback, workshops and experience sharing. The topics included:

  • Flipped classroom and peer-to-peer learning
  • Practical lessons from pioneers of flipped classroom teaching and learning
  • Instructional design for problem-based learning
  • Pedagogical skills in an e-learning environment
  • Tools to facilitate the visualization of teaching and learning materials (e.g., DIY video making software)

The intensive face-to-face sessions might look demanding, but they equipped members with the necessary skills and supporting network to jumpstart a forward change in technology-enriched pedagogical practices. In his sharing of flipping a civil engineering course, Professor Huang Yin-nan said it is important to have partners in an e-learning journey. Collaboration and interaction facilitate reflective practice, and provides an emotional safety net when teachers are in doubts and encounter frustrations. “We share both successful and failing experiences. In fact, very often we learn more from the latter,” he told the participants.

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(Source: http://ntumoocs.blogspot.hk/)

Throughout the “eProfessor” initiative, challenges are matched by support. The 10-people strong Teaching Innovation Unit at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Development provided comprehensive support on-the-spot: from setting up closed groups on Facebook for your course, to getting filming equipment ready for lecture recording. They have also produced excellent tutorials for teachers’ self-learning. Here is a sample on proper lighting for video-taking:
https://youtu.be/V3pevaUNle0

Thank you NTU, we have so much to learn from you!

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“Statistics point that 5 million gamers in the US spent more than 40 hours a week playing World of Warcraft in 2010 – which is [almost like] a full time job…” said Dr. Benny Ng at the ‘Benny and the Apps: Gamification and Student Learning’ seminar.

If you were given a choice, would you rather go to class or play games? Games may be the majority’s answer. Would a gamified curriculum motivate your learning?

Dr. Benny Ng gave a glimpse of why and how we can gamify teaching to engage students in ‘Benny and the Apps: Gamification and Student Learning’, a seminar held on April 5, 2017. The role of play and a 5-step gradual process to apply gamification were some highlights of the sharing.

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“How would you feel when facing obstacles in reality?” Participants in the seminar mostly gave negative answers. Yet, Dr. Ng believes that challenges can turn into a positive force in games, providing incentives for players to keep trying. After all, play provides a freedom to fail, experiment, fashion one’s identity and put in continuous effort. The role of play facilitates better and enjoyable learning.

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Answers by participants were directly reflected on a wordcloud through mentimeter

Participants were also asked what behaviours they hoped their students displayed in class, the most popular answers included ‘attentive, engaged, listen, motivated’. These match with characteristics of a gamer’s behaviour, such as persistency, risk-taking, attention to details, problem solving, urgent optimism, active learning, self-disciplined and resilience. In such a way, gamifying a class can motivate students to display the qualities mentioned by participants in the wordcloud.

A 5-step process to apply gamification was introduced:

  1. Understanding the target players and the context
    • Age group? Existent skill sets? Location? Duration?
  2. Defining Learning Objectives
    • Is the assessment rubric clear enough with actionable tasks?
  3. Structuring the experience
    • How can your content be broken down to stages/milestones?
  4. Identifying resources
    • What kind of gamifying resources may be needed?
  5. Applying game elements
    • What kind of self or social elements may be applicable? For example;
      Self: point, levels, time restriction; Social: leaderboards, interactive cooperation

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Changing the terminology of your syllabus can already be a start – what about gaining ‘experience points’ instead of ‘scores/marks’, completing ‘quests’ instead of ‘courseworks’, or ‘mission’ instead of ‘instructions’?

Take the risk to innovate and test new ideas, find the fun element in what you teach. If education becomes a joyful experience, students will ultimately be passionate to pursue life-long learning.

Want to give it a try? Contact us.

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Inter-professional team-based learning (IPTBL) is an innovative teaching approach which aims at promoting peer-to-peer learning and collaborations across disciplines. In 2016, the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine piloted IPTBL with nearly 600 medical, health and social care students from HKU and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This year, the organizing team scaled it up to serve more than 1,000 students from the following programmes: Chinese medicine, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work from HKU; and medical laboratory science, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, radiography, and social work from PolyU.

The details of implementation are as follows:

Topic of Instructional Unit Date No. of participants
Anticoagulation Therapy January 21, 2017 247
Depression February 11, 2017 310
Fracture February 18, 2017 437
Multiple drugs February 25, 2017 347
Developmental delay March 18, 2017 192
Cancer March 25, 2017 501

What’s new this year?

(1) Venue: To facilitate group discussion and communication between teachers and students, IPTBL was conducted this year in Lecture Hall II at the Centennial Campus, a flat area with mobile chairs and strong WiFi connectivity.

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Before: IPTBL was conducted in a lecture theatre setting in the 2016 pilot round. Students in groups tended to face the stage most of the time.

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After: Groups were arranged in circles this year. This picture features 71 small groups of five to seven students seated in the spacious Lecture Hall II. The IPTBL team would like to thank colleagues from the Examinations Office, Estates Office and Learning Environment Services of ITS who made all the six sessions possible.

(2) Team progress chart: How to pace the 4-hour face-to-face IPTBL session is a big challenge. While the moderators and content experts had to be very conscious of the time, students also played an important role in moving the session forward. The newly added team progress chart displayed on one of the four screens in front of the hall, indicating whether a particular group had finished the assigned task – just like what a leaderboard does in online games. This provided motivation to students to complete their work in a timely manner, and also gave teachers some idea on which groups to interview in the interactive feedback session.

(3) Peer evaluation: Team-based learning creates many opportunities for students to learn with, from and about each other through intensive interaction and collaboration. During each session, they got to know each other’s expertise and communication style. Peer evaluation is a mechanism for them to provide honest feedback to their peer teammates in terms of four competencies: values/ ethics, roles/ responsibilities, communication, and teamwork. At the end of each session of this year’s IPTBL, students would fill in their peer evaluation scores in an online form. They would then be directed to another page which showed them, in real-time, the average scores that he/she received from other teammates.

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Dr. LK Chan explained to students how to fill out the online peer evaluation form. By the way, did you notice the balloons in the picture? They indicate the group numbers so that teachers/ facilitators could quickly locate where the teams are.

Exemplary facilitation skills
Team-based learning incorporates many elements of constructivist learning (Hrynchak & Batty, 2012). The teachers (content experts) spent much time to come up with carefully-crafted application exercises which can reveal common misconceptions and debatable topics from which students build new understandings. During the interactive feedback session, many teachers showed excellent skills in facilitating the discussion of a large group of students, such as:

  • not picking the team leader to present the team’s views;
  • asking open-ended questions with a focus on understanding the students’ rationale in picking a particular answer;
  • encouraging students to articulate their thoughts;
  • addressing uncertainties or disagreements;
  • providing a closure after each discussion; and
  • paying attention to teams or students who are not taking part (e.g., by inviting a range of teams to give their opinions).

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IPTBL is the Bronze Winner for Discipline Award (Life Sciences) in the prestigious QS Stars-Wharton Reimagine Education Awards 2016. The team celebrated the success after a briefing session in January 2017.

Way forward
The IPTBL team is now reviewing the feedback from students and teachers. They are thinking about improving the implementation in the following ways:

  • shortening the readiness tests in order to leave more time for discussion on the clinical scenario;
  • re-voicing students’ opinions when they contribute something that appears to be complex or not too well understood to students from other disciplines.
  • Adding new functions to the online platform for running IPTBL to provide more informative feedback to both the facilitators and students.

For those of you would like to learn more about IPTBL or contribute to it, please contact Dr. Fraide A. Ganotice, Jr., Program Coordinator at Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, via ganotc75@hku.hk. If you want to get to know the technical aspects of running large classes, you may reach out to the Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI) via enquiry@teli.hku.hk.

Look forward to IPTBL 2018!

Reference
Hrynchak, P. & Batty, H. (2012) The educational theory basis of team-based learning. Medical Teacher 34, 796-801.

Further reading

  1. Breaking through the Silos with Technology and Team-Based Learning
  2. Big Success at International Award to Reimagine Education
  3. Learning to Work in Teams: Interprofessional Learning for Health Students

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There are two things higher education institutions must do when guiding their students in learning. First, we should teach students how to transfer their critical thinking skills from one context to another. Second, we must engage students in active learning and deep processing to develop their capabilities.

Minerva is a non-conventional college startup where students live in seven world cities and interact with teachers and peers via live videos on an online platform in their four-year education. With its growing popularity and low admission rate, it is described by some as a college “tougher to get into than Harvard”. On 17 February 2017, Mr. Ben Nelson, Founder and CEO of the Minerva project shared his secrets of success in Minerva in a seminar titled “How to save higher education in twenty seven easy steps?” at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

What should we teach?
Minerva believes that higher education institutions should teach students how to transfer their critical thinking skills from one context to another. Their teaching philosophy focuses on providing students with a framework of thinking applicable in different situations. Education is not meant to provide rote solutions, but ideas and patterns, so that when students encounter a novel situation, they can come up with a novel solution.

The fundamental problem in higher education is that we spent years learning things in an unstructured environment before we learn how to transfer. The goal of Minerva is to alter students’ way of thinking and interpreting the world. “It’s like doing brain surgery,” said Mr. Nelson. He agrees that studying in Minerva can be challenging, but by the 3rd or 4th year, students will have learnt how to parachute into any location and make the most out of any situation.

How should we teach?
We must engage students in active learning and deep processing instead of simply lecturing them because deep processing leads to better retention of knowledge. Mr. Nelson perceives passive lectures as an ineffective way to disseminate information as it does not encourage deep processing – students’ knowledge retention rate drops to 10% by the end of the 6th month, meaning a 90% failure rate.

Based on his examination of empirical evidence, he came to the conclusion that “when you go through deep processing, you get memory for free.” If you only push students to memorize something without going through deep processing, the retention rate will most likely be very low.

Higher education is “the gatekeeper between citizenry and leadership.” It is necessary for universities to keep up with changes, or else we may be in the peril of not existing.

A big thank you to HKUST for inviting us to join this thought-provoking seminar.

Further reading:

  1. An introductory video about Minerva
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Explore the “secrets” of dental materials and digital dentistry together in the Materials in Oral Health MOOC offered by the best dental school in the world.

Register now!

Click here if you cannot access Youtube.

We all need healthy teeth, don’t we? Have you ever wondered why titanium, ceramics and some synthetic polymeric materials are the “materials of choice” in oral health care? What are the “secrets” that make these materials so special for dental implants and other restorative procedures?

In the Honors track, a special Best Essay Award is running to provide an opportunity for learners to expand their horizon and scope of learning in this course. The winner will have the opportunity to publish alongside the chief instructors, Professor Matinlinna and Dr. Tsoi.

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HKU Dentistry ranking No. 1 in the World has the vision to bring together the expertise and best practices in dental materials and biomaterials in its upcoming MOOC Materials in Oral Health. The course is taught by a professional team of 30+ local, regional and international dentistry professionals and experts in dentistry and dental materials. What does this course cover? This 4-week Oral Biomaterials course unveils the exciting and unique properties and clinical implications of some state-of-the-art dental materials, including titanium, zirconia and modern synthetic polymer-based composites. We are also going to look at the crucial roles of CAD/CAM technology and 3D printing in dental application and digital orthodontics.

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Oral biomaterials today is an exciting area encompassing contributions from professional dentistry to biology, chemistry, physics, material science, mathematics and engineering. Whether you are dental practitioners and dental technicians, non-dental practitioners, dental students, university students from various disciplines, or senior secondary school students – this course will open your eyes to the magic of dental materials science. If you are a prospective university student, this course can open up new and exciting opportunities possibly leading to new career paths.

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Join us in the upcoming Materials in Oral Health MOOC on April 25 2017!

Register now!

Follow our Facebook pages: HKU Online Learning and Dental Materials Science, Faculty of Dentistry, HKU!

Sneak Previews
Have a taster of what will be taught in this course!
(Sneak preview playlist here.)

The Application of Silicon and Silicon Compounds in Dentistry – Prof. Jukka Pekka Matinlinna
- “Silicones find a wide range of biomedical applications…”

Dental Material Choice: Zirconia vs Titanium – Prof. Niklaus P. Lang
- “Shortcomings with titanium are mostly aesthetic in nature…”

What is Digital Dentistry? – Dr. James Tsoi
- “Digital dentistry is one of the emerging fields in dentistry…”

Materials used in Implants – Dr. Nikos Mattheos
- “Osseointegration is a remarkable story of scientific discovery…”

More sneak previews here.

Stay tuned for more details!

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“[The] place where knowledge formation occurs is right at that edge where you do not know what’s going to happen. If you did, it would just be repetition, it wouldn’t be discovery […] students get very excited at that moment,” said Professor Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Director of Common Core (CC), after Professor Ricky Kwok’s sharing on March 7, 2017 about his experience of flipping the course CCST9003 Everyday Computing and the Internet.

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Last semester, Ricky and his course team began a new teaching and learning experiment. They have developed a series of videos to replace traditional lectures; and delivered 5 game-based workshops for students in their CC class (e.g., solving the Rubik’s cube, defusing bombs in a computer game, and solving encrypted codes). The main driver of the flipped approach was the dissatisfaction with the low energy level observed in lectures. “We (teachers) are just sending out sound waves that nobody cares to receive,” Ricky said.

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Participants of the sharing session had to experience this new way of learning first-hand. Prior to the meet-up, they were asked to watch several video clips on “recursion”, one of the algorithms that Ricky taught in his course. When they came in, they had to “compete” in an online game powered by Kahoot to check their preparedness, followed by a team-based, hands-on activity of solving a recursion problem with lego pieces. While groups of students in the actual CC course need to produce a video on the solution by the end of the two-hour class as a deliverable, our teacher-participants were asked to explain their solution to Teaching Assistants within 10 minutes. Feel the adrenaline? That’s what Ricky meant by “learning begins at the end of your comfort zone”.

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Ricky learnt from his own experience that the 4Cs – credit, collaboration, competition, and co-creation – were important in providing the motivation that students need. Here is his recipe:

Application in CCST9003 Advantage
Credit All classwork activities counted towards students’ final grade. Students had the incentive to participate in the first place.
Collaboration It is one of the criteria in the grading rubrics. Every group member needs to participate and demonstrate collaboration. Creates room for dialogue and peer-to-peer learning; where stronger students are motivated to help weaker students.
Competition Each group competed with the 29 other groups in the class.

Competitive elements, e.g., the fastest and most accurate team wins, students can leave the class once they completed the task.

An essential element to push for and maintain a high energy level, competition is a good motivator for an individual to strive for the better.
Co-creation A video had to be produced on the spot at the end of each class, showing how the solved the problem. Learning by teaching is encouraged; students can have solid take-aways and a sense of satisfaction when leaving the classroom.

“Just enjoy that learning and don’t care about the marks,” one of the CCST9003 students said in the video interview done after the last classwork activity. Perhaps this is great testimony that all the hard work of Ricky and his team paid off at the end.

The Common Core continued to be a sandbox of experimentation of new pedagogies. This semester, Mr. Matthew Pryor is also flipping his CCHU9001 Designs on the Future: Sustainability of the Built Environment.

Last but not least, feel the beat of CCST 9003 through this video.

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Have you been in situations where your students lack knowledge on how to present and analyze data but your course contents are so packed that there’s no extra time to teach or elaborate further on how to use statistical tools? Yet, data analysis skills should not be overlooked, as it plays an important role across many disciplines.

The case of SCNC1111
The Science Foundation Course SCNC1111 Scientific Method and Reasoning encountered this situation. As part of their group project, the students of SCNC1111 have to make their own investigations into how Mathematics and Statistics can be or have been applied to daily life and scientific inquiry. Over the past years, the teaching team observed that while most students were good at data collection, some of them seemed to be at a loss on what to do with the data: What can the data help us to do?

Seeing that some students lack proper training in handling, interpreting or analyzing data, the SCNC1111 teaching team found it essential to fill the gap:

“As there is not enough time to cover all these in class time, [we] took the initiative to produce videos to introduce data analysis in a convenient and low-cost way. The animations in the videos can help to vividly illustrate the concerned points, and the University can keep a database of resources for students to use at their convenience.” – Dr. Eddy Lam, Dr. Rachel Lui and Dr. William Cheung, SCNC1111 Course instructors

As a result, several useful and efficient instructional videos have been developed on how to use free online resources to plot nice graphs and do basic statistical analysis. Students’ skills and learning experience can both be enhanced. With the hope to incorporate students into the process of teaching, the SCNC1111 teaching team has previously recruited senior undergraduates as Senior Tutors for the course and one of the Senior Tutors, Mr. Dag Wong, was in charge of the video production. The team believes that “students can be our resourceful partner in developing high quality teaching materials and videos.”

Interdisciplinary resource-sharing
These videos can prove to be useful not only in science, but also in different disciplines such as economics, psychology, engineering, sociology, to name a few. In the long run, such productions can initiate synergy among different faculties in developing and sharing educational resources in common areas of inquiry. As students are expected to learn a wide spectrum of skills, creation and utilization of interdisciplinary materials will be highly beneficial.

Here are some typical data analysis questions asked by students across the campus, to which the SCNC1111 team has responded through the videos. Please feel free to share these links with your students!

What if I have an equation and I simply want to plot a nice-looking graph?

What if I have gathered some data and I wonder if there is any relationship between them?

How does regression work?

How does linear regression work with excel?

Let this be a start to knowledge sharing across disciplines!
Contact us if you are interested to learn more.

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Organised by Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI)

Date : March 7, 2017 (Tuesday)
Time : 12:45pm – 2pm
Venue : Room 321, 3/F, Run Run Shaw Building (Main Campus)
Speakers : Professor Ricky Kwok (Course Co-ordinator and Teacher), Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
Facilitators: Teaching Assistants – Ms. Yuqian Chai, Mr. Xiangyu Hou, Dr. Tyrone Kwok, Dr. Leon Lei (Chief), Mr. Victor Wong; Course Manager – Mr. Donn Gonda
Respondent: Professor Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Director of Common Core Curriculum

Registration

About the sharing:

The Common Core Curriculum Committee granted approval for running CCST 9003 – Everyday Computing and the Internet in the Scientific and Technological Literacy Area of Inquiry – as a Small Private Online Course (SPOC) in the first semester of 2016-17. Traditional in-class lecture materials were replaced by video recordings and other online learning materials, leaving more time for interactions in face-to-face sessions. For those of you who would like to know more about what happened, please sign up for this sharing session. The teacher-in-charge and TAs will show you how the course was re-designed, what in-class activities were used, and perhaps most importantly – the pains and pleasures of running this SPOC.

Please note that participants are required to watch a few short videos and send in some questions before coming to the face-to-face sharing. They will also be given hands-on exercises during the 75-minute session (so, we are serving light refreshment). Come prepared.

Sign up via http://bit.ly/2lEKso3 by March 3, 2017.
Enquiries should be directed to enquiry@teli.hku.hk.

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