Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

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Dear colleagues and students

I’m writing to inform you about our teaching arrangements for the Summer Semester and Academic Year 2020-21. Our core aim is to make a gradual and partial return to face-to-face (f2f) teaching. To do that, we will have to observe detailed health and safety protocols covering the entire campus, which will be announced well in advance. This email only addresses scheduling issues.

Parameters
The broad parameters we will observe for teaching are listed below. Where circumstances allow, there may be variation within individual programmes.

  • Small-group classes (up to 25 students) will be scheduled as normal.
  • Lectures will be scheduled in classrooms that can accommodate at least twice as many students as are in the class. Thus, a lecture with 60 students will be scheduled in a classroom that can accommodate at least 120 students.
  • For TPG courses, our available teaching rooms will enable us to deliver f2f lectures for most classes of up to 90 students.
  • For UG programme courses, our available teaching rooms will enable us to deliver f2f lectures for almost all classes of up to 90 students.
  • For UG Common Core courses, our available teaching rooms will enable us to deliver f2f lectures for roughly half of our courses with 120 students.
  • The Grand Hall will enable us to schedule a small number of large lectures (up to 300 students) for TPG and UG students.
  • However, most courses with more than 90 students will deliver their lectures online.

Summer Semester
Building on these parameters, we will make a gradual return to f2f teaching for the Summer Semester. We will also offer a small number of online UG courses for students who would like to pick up some credits but will not be in HK.

Academic Year 2020-21
In 2020-21, we will continue with partial f2f teaching:

  • TPG programmes
    Small-group classes of up to 25 students: f2f
    Most lecture classes of up to 90 students: f2f
    Other lecture classes: online (apart from a small number in the Grand Hall)
  • UG programmes
    Small-group classes of up to 25 students: f2f
    Almost all lecture classes of up to 90 students: f2f
    Other lecture classes: online (apart from a small number in the Grand Hall)
  • UG: Common Core
    Small-group classes of up to 25 students: f2f
    Lecture classes of up to 120 students: roughly half f2f, roughly half online
    Mega classes of up to 288 students: just a few f2f in the Grand Hall
  • All TPG and UG courses
    For the first three weeks of S1, we will cater for the needs of TPG and UG students who are unable to come to campus because of visa, quarantine and other issues. Mostly this will be done by making course materials available both f2f and online for that period.

Technical support
As there will continue to be a significant element of online teaching in the months ahead, we are actively enhancing our technical support for both teachers and students.

With so many aspects of the future uncertain, we can’t be sure everything will unfold exactly as planned. As of now, though, this is how things look. Should there be any changes, we will inform you as quickly as possible. In the meantime, please do drop me a line with any queries (ian.holliday@hku.hk).

Best wishes for the summer – Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
VP/T&L

Dear colleagues

I’m writing to update you on our online examination arrangements through OLEX. All exams making use of the OLEX platform are required to follow guidelines prepared by the Examinations Office.

Basic information:-

  • The Examinations Office guidelines are available at http://www.exam.hku.hk/.
  • Teachers and invigilators please access ‘Forms and Links’.
  • Students are asked to access ‘University Examinations and Examination Timetables’.
  • Online proctoring will take place through Zoom, with students’ identities checked by invigilators.
  • All colleagues are reminded to upgrade to Zoom 5.0 here.

We ask teachers and department administrators please to:-

  • Ensure the student lists in Moodle sub-courses are clean. All sit-in students and duplicated guest accounts need to be removed.
  • Upload exam papers to OLEX at anytime from Monday, May 11 to 30 minutes before the start of the exam.
  • Inform students and invigilators before the exam about any course-specific instructions (including whether use of calculators is allowed, whether students should type or write their answers, which the type of script file (doc or pdf) is acceptable, how the webcam should be set up during the exam, and so on). Identical instructions should also be included in the exam paper.
  • Maintain close teacher-invigilator communication throughout the exam period, and especially for the first 30 minutes of the exam (when students are allowed to raise questions of clarification about the exam paper).

We ask invigilators please to:-

  • Login to Zoom at https://hku.zoom.us before Thursday April 30 if you have not used Zoom before.
  • Launch the Zoom meeting and start the Panopto recording at least 30 minutes before the start of the exam and admit students from the waiting room. The student list for each exam can be obtained from OLEX.

We ask colleagues to make note of these additional points:-

  • Teachers and invigilators are asked NOT to host any other Zoom meeting during the exam timeslot to avoid any unwanted interference with the exam.
  • Invigilators are not allowed to open the exam paper before the start of the exam.
  • Students’ script files will be available for download six hours after the end of the exam.
  • In case an invigilator is unable to invigilate an allocated exam session, the teacher should assume the invigilation duties or arrange for a delegate to do so. If no delegate is available, please send an urgent email to olexhelp@hku.hk to seek assistance in finding a backup invigilator.
  • Administrators from the Examinations Office may enter any Zoom meeting at any time for any exam for inspection purposes.
  • While the University will remind the students to register on OLEX, it would be good if teachers could reinforce the message by reaching out to their students. It would also be helpful if teachers and administrators could check before the examination to ensure that students have registered on OLEX.

To familiarize everyone with the OLEX system, TeLi, ITS and the Examinations Office will co-host three identical online training sessions for staff. Dates and registration details are as follows:-

Session 1: May 5, 2020 (Tuesday) 16:45-17:45
Session 2: May 7, 2020 (Thursday) 10:45-11:45
Session 3: May 8, 2020 (Friday) 16:45-17:45
Registration: https://hkuems1.hku.hk/hkuems/ec_hdetail.aspx?ueid=69633 

A Teacher Drill Platform will be available for two weeks from Tuesday, May 5 at https://drill-epload.hku.hk/exam/. Teachers will be able to view their courses on OLEX from Monday, May 11. Invigilators will only be allowed access to courses they will invigilate, together with the relevant Zoom links. Demonstration videos for students and invigilators can also be found at https://hku.to/exam1920_training. Later this week we will email all students about the exam guidelines, online training sessions and other related matters.

For questions about exam arrangements, please contact the Examinations Office at exam@hku.hk. For technical questions about OLEX, please contact ITS at olexhelp@hku.hk. For questions about e-learning, please contact Dr Tyrone Kwok (tyrone.kwok@hku.hk) or Dr Leon Lei (culei@hku.hk) of TeLi. For other matters, please drop me a line (ian.holliday@hku.hk). Many thanks to all, as ever.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)

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SLEQ now open for all first, second and final year undergraduate students; final year taught postgraduate students.

Please click here to enter the questionnaire.

HKU conducts institutional surveys on students’ learning experiences regularly to yield information for analysis and renewal of curriculum and pedagogy. The findings help ensure and enhance the quality of learning experiences.

We now invite all first, second and final year undergraduate students to complete the Student Learning Experience Questionnaire – Undergraduate (SLEQ – UG); and all final year taught-postgraduate students to fill out the Student Learning Experience Questionnaire – Taught Postgraduate (SLEQ – TPG). Both surveys are conducted online. While different curricula may have different start times for the survey, all targeted students should have received / will receive an e-mail invitation on the start day which provides you with a link that directs to the survey. You can also access the questionnaire through the “My e-learning” tab in HKU Portal, as well as this direct link: http://sleq.hku.hk/1920.

It takes about 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Please rest assured that all information collected will remain strictly confidential. Your opinions are of great importance and are highly appreciated and valued. For more details about SLEQ, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page here. Should you have any enquiries or technical problems, please do not hesitate to contact the Teaching and Learning Evaluation and Measurement Unit at surveytl@hku.hk or 3917- 4787.

Important message from Professor Ian Holliday, Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching & Learning)

Dear students

In light of the recent surge in the number of COVID-19 infection cases and following the HK government’s advice, the University has decided that final year Undergraduate face-to-face teaching and any Taught Postgraduate face-to-face teaching will be delayed for two weeks, in order to minimise the chance of infection in the community.

The pandemic situation is changing rapidly and we are committed to ensuring that teaching and learning can be conducted as safely as possible. We very much appreciate your understanding and cooperation. Please stay vigilant and continue to make personal health your top priority.

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching & Learning)

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Dear colleagues

Just a quick supplement to my earlier email sent to both colleagues and students.

Zoom

We’ve upgraded our Zoom licence for the next 12 months. Previously, HKU Zoom accounts each had 500MB storage for cloud recordings. Now there’s no storage limit, though any recording uploaded by a teacher to the Zoom cloud will be removed after six months. Before this happens, ITS will send a notification to remind the account holder to download the relevant file to a PC or laptop.

Storing files

For storing files, teachers may make use of the HKU Video Streaming Server, which offers 150GB to each account holder. Teachers can apply for an account via CF43. A user guide can be found here.

Teaching rooms

A reminder, more for future semesters than the current one: the University has 159 centrally-managed classrooms, and all are fully equipped with Panopto and Zoom facilities.

 

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong

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Dear colleagues and students

We’re continuing to monitor and analyse the COVID-19 situation and its implications for the University. Within this still uncertain framework, we’re trying to figure out the best way forward for teaching and learning. As before, our absolute priority remains the health and safety of both HKU members and the general public.

With this at the forefront of our minds, we’re announcing a series of updates to our plans for the remainder of the semester. We recognise that the choices we’re able to make at the present time are not ideal, but we believe they’re the best that are available to our campus community.

Until the end of the teaching period on May 16, all teaching and learning will be delivered online. There are just a few exceptions, including:

(1) Non-clinical laboratory, studio and practical skills components of courses for final-year students that have to be taught through face-to-face classes in order for students to graduate on time. We will arrange for these students to come on campus for low-density laboratory, studio and practical skills teaching sessions beginning no earlier than March 30. Their other classes will remain online. When required to come on campus, these students will be provided with face masks. Faculties will inform final-year students taking these courses of detailed arrangements at the start of next week.

(2) Clinical programmes in the Faculty of Dentistry and the Faculty of Medicine. These two Faculties will reach out separately to students enrolled in these programmes.

Assessment

Assessment components and weightings will conform to the arrangements already announced by course coordinators. However, for all courses taught online there will be no proctored, in-hall exams during the assessment period from May 18 to June 6. Instead, all ‘final exam’ components will be moved online. We’re asking teachers to rethink the tasks that will constitute the ‘final exam’ to ensure they’re suitable for online assessment.

Assessment choices

As in Semester 1, we’re offering all UG and TPG students three assessment choices:

–     Continue with letter grading, where applicable (contributing to GPA)

–     Change to pass/fail grading (not contributing to GPA)

–     Opt out of the course entirely through a late drop option

Students will be able to make these choices through a link on SIS from March 23 to April 30. Full details will be announced within the next two weeks.

Pass/fail

We strongly advise all students to think carefully when opting for pass/fail grading. Courses that are simply passed will be recorded as P on the transcript, with no GPA. For UG students in particular, this could have important knock-on effects. Internally, we rely on SGPA data for elective opportunities, such as academic exchange and other funded programmes. Externally, employers and universities around the world examine transcripts in some detail when taking decisions about jobs and postgraduate study. Students without solid SGPA data from 2019-20 may therefore place themselves at a disadvantage.

Late drop

Students returning to the University beyond the normative study period solely to make up late dropped credits from 2019-20 will not be asked to pay a composition fee. Normally, this policy will apply only in 2020-21. However, in cases where a student is unable to make up the dropped credits in 2020-21 because the requisite course is not on offer or, in special cases where personal circumstances stand in the way, an extension to 2021-22 may be permitted.

As ever, many thanks for working together with us to get through a challenging semester. Please do write to me with queries: ian.holliday@hku.hk.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong

 

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Dear students

Just a few updates about online T&L at HKU.

Add/drop

First, a reminder. We extended the add/drop period to 4:00pm on Friday, February 21. So the window remains open only for a couple more days.

Late drop

We understand that the current online learning experience, while good for some students, is not positive for everyone. We’re therefore offering UG and TPG students the opportunity to late drop any of their Semester 2 courses at any point until 11:59pm on Thursday, April 30. Please note that at present we’re not planning to offer students a pass/fail option for letter-grade courses. This is mainly because we have a system of GPA calculation and honours classification that relies on a solid base of data. If we switch too many courses to pass/fail, that base will start to erode. Provided we’re able to return to campus teaching on March 30, as scheduled, we’ll stick with letter grading for this semester.

Feedback

We’re eager to learn about your experience with online learning to improve our courses. We’ve therefore created a webpage for anonymous feedback: http://hku.to/onlinelearningfeedback. While we’ll read all the submissions from students, we won’t respond as we’re not requesting student identities and contact details. If you’d like to receive a response from us, you can send an email to hcm00101@hku.hk.

Engage!

Online learning is very different from campus teaching, but it does still provide students with multiple opportunities to engage with their courses. Please do participate as fully as possible in interactive classes. As you know, there are many ways to do that on platforms such as Zoom. Please do also keep in touch with your course teachers and academic advisers through any of the platforms they use. Teachers and advisers are happy to connect virtually with students.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday

Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong


Message from Vice President (Teaching and Learning)

Dear colleagues

(Please also read our update on Online Teaching and Learning Resources dated February 7, 2020)

In the past couple of days I’ve had opportunities to discuss online learning with the Associate Deans (T&L) and, when visiting with the President, with colleagues in the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences. In recent weeks I’ve also had many email conversations with colleagues and students. I figure it makes sense to circulate some of the lessons learned in the form of another FAQ list.

Can the assessment weightings for a course be changed?

This issue has already been discussed within Faculties. The answer is yes, but the window for making such changes will soon close. Normally by this point in the semester we would require full class consent (all students). However, until 4:00pm on February 21 we’re in the extended add/drop period, so as yet there’s no fixed class for each course. This means we can make changes more easily. All colleagues need to do is revise the assessment weightings as they see fit, inform all students registered for the class, update the relevant course information on SIS, and send a record of the change to Faculty Board for endorsement. Students who feel disadvantaged by the change will be able to drop the course. While this is not an ideal option, it is still a choice. Note that this must be done before February 21. Thereafter, full class consent will be necessary.

Should the assessment weightings for a course be changed?

If a course taught this semester relies heavily on a proctored final exam, it would be a good idea, where possible, to reduce the weighting for that component and boost the weighting for other assessed tasks. At this stage in the unfolding coronavirus situation, we remain committed to holding in-person exams in examination halls at the end of the semester. However, if the disruption becomes more severe, we may have to revise our assessment arrangements. Were that to happen, it would be good not to be too reliant on final exams, which we know generate issues that are difficult to manage.

Should teachers require students to switch on their camera and microphone for interactive classes?

I discussed this issue at length with the Associate Deans. We agreed that at the level of University policy we should not require this because it could be intrusive in the home environment in which many students study (even though Zoom has a function enabling the background to be blurred or replaced). At the same time, we recognized that teachers may have strong reasons to encourage students to adopt this practice. A colleague in Arts also made the point that in some courses it may be necessary to ask students to do this because of the nature of the learning materials and tasks.

How can students be encouraged to participate in interactive classes held online?

Many teachers report very positive experiences with online interaction. In particular, use of the chat box function in Zoom can trigger participation from students who ordinarily are quite recessive. Others face challenges and problems, however. One way to encourage interaction would be to introduce an assessment component devoted to participation. Even a 10-15% allocation could make a difference. There are also Zoom functions, such as the ‘attendance tracker’, that enable teachers to monitor student participation and intervene with a question or private message.

How can students be encouraged to view online lectures?

One suggestion made by a colleague in Social Sciences is to ask students to complete a weekly assignment consisting of a brief account of the lecture and a short list of questions related to the material covered in it.

How are students currently located in the Mainland connecting with HKU?

For our online exam (OLEX) platform at the end of the first semester, we secure a leased line from Alibaba. This enables students located in the Mainland to connect with HKU as if they were in Hong Kong. The line is not monitored because it uses a point-to-point https protocol, where the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. All traffic between the two points is encrypted. For online T&L in this semester, we have again secured a leased line from Alibaba.

How can teachers stay in touch with their students during this period of online T&L?

Moodle remains the best way to keep in touch with students. In addition to any uploaded materials, please do post weekly consultation hours for students to schedule individual conversations with you (using, say, WhatsApp or Zoom). Many students have questions, but they no longer have the option of catching hold of a teacher after a lecture or calling by during office hours. This is also a way to keep the academic advising function going.

How can colleagues share good practice and lessons learned from online T&L?

Some Faculties have created online platforms for teachers to post good and bad experiences of online learning. This is also something we could consider doing for HKU as a whole, linked to Faculty pages. In many Faculties informal groups of colleagues are coming together to share experience and provide mutual support. This is clearly a very welcome development.

How can upload speeds on Zoom be enhanced?

We recognize that Zoom is an outstanding T&L platform and we’re keen to ensure it’s fully available to colleagues. At present we’re exploring options for enhancing Zoom functionality at HKU. In the meantime, however, for obvious reasons upload speeds are better at the ends of the day. It’s also possible to download, say, a recorded lecture from Zoom to a desktop computer or laptop and then upload for students to view through Microsoft OneDrive. Details are available here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362473-Local-Recording?mobile_site=true .

How can teachers learn more about online T&L?

We offer support to teachers through:

– TELI training sessions scheduled by some Faculties, and hopefully ultimately by all Faculties since the feedback is uniformly excellent;
– Updates on TELI website: https://tl.hku.hk/2020/02/online-teaching-and-learning-for-staff-updated-february-7-2020/ ;
– TELI gadgets and tools: https://teli.hku.hk/e-learning-resources/ ;
– TELI e-learning quick start guide;
– TELI e-learning demonstration videos;
– TELI individual consultation sessions with Leon Lei (9162 3384) and Tyrone Kwok (5964 8396), who can both be reached via WhatsApp;
– CETL website: https://www.cetl.hku.hk/ ;
– CETL designated Faculty liaison persons: visit https://www.cetl.hku.hk/ , then click “Support for online teaching and learning” (the first iconic picture on the left-to-right scrolling banner).

As before, many thanks to all and please drop me a line with queries.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice President (Teaching and Learning)

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Teaching and Learning Arrangement (Updated February 10)

Dear colleagues and students

The University is continuing to draw on expert medical knowledge in monitoring the coronavirus situation in Hong Kong. While all of us are eager to return to teaching and learning in early March, we realize that it is now unlikely that scheduled classes on campus will be able to resume so quickly. As long as there is risk of infection in a crowded classroom, we cannot deliver face-to-face teaching. I’m writing to inform you of how we envisage the remainder of the semester unfolding.

Please note that the teaching and assessment schedules for professional undergraduate programmes may differ from those described below, and will be announced separately by programme directors.

Undergraduate programmes

Now – Feb 15 As you know, we are devoting these two weeks to online learning.
Feb 17 – 29 As announced previously, we will take a recess for the final two weeks of the month to enable teachers to make course adjustments for the rest of the semester, and to enable students to engage in self-study based on the three weeks of teaching already undertaken in the semester.
Mar 2 – 28 Since the coronavirus situation in Hong Kong is likely to prevent us from resuming campus teaching in March, we will return to online learning for these four weeks. While some students may be able to visit the campus for specific activities, there will be no scheduled face-to-face classes. We plan to make use of the reading week (March 9-14) for online classes, though we will of course respond sympathetically to absence requests from colleagues and students with pre-existing commitments.
Mar 30 – May 16 We hope to resume scheduled classes on campus for these seven weeks. Should that not be possible because of ongoing health and safety concerns in Hong Kong, we will make an early announcement of alternative arrangements. (In the event that it becomes safe to return to on-campus teaching before the end of March, we will seize the opportunity and make an announcement to all students at least 14 days in advance.)
May 18 – Jun 6 We intend to conduct proctored exams during the assessment period, and will require all students taking exams to be present in the examination hall. We will move the assessment period back by one week, with the aim of bringing the semester to a close in early June. We have heard from many students, especially in the final year, about the importance of concluding the semester within a reasonable timeframe. We will make every effort to do that.

 

Taught postgraduate programmes

We are adopting a flexible approach to the scheduling of taught postgraduate programmes. Faculties or programme teams will announce the detailed teaching arrangements to their own cohorts of taught postgraduate students.

Research postgraduate programmes

University policy encourages research postgraduate students with no immediate need to visit the campus to undertake their research, and liaise with their supervisors, remotely. Students who need to conduct their research in a campus setting, such as a laboratory, must adhere to Government and University infection control protocols before returning to campus. All research postgraduate students should discuss their study plans in detail with their supervisors. We will respond sympathetically to requests for candidature extensions necessitated by disruptions experienced during this semester, and for tuition waivers for the extended period of studies.

Visiting campus

One general reminder during the current coronavirus situation in Hong Kong: colleagues and students who visit the campus must adhere to Government and University infection control guidelines. We will have no alternative but to take strict disciplinary action against anyone not adhering to them.

Once again, many thanks for your understanding and cooperation as we seek to navigate the remainder of an unprecedented and unpredictable semester. As before, please stay vigilant and continue to make personal health your top priority.

Professor Ian Holliday

Vice-President & Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching & Learning)

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Important message from The President and Vice-Chancellor

Dear Students, Colleagues, Alumni and Friends, 

2020: Build and Rebuild 

The miracle of Hong Kong is rooted in its dynamism and resilience. As a beacon of knowledge, our university has stood tall for more than a century. 2019 was tumultuous, but not once did we waver in our faith in our mission and in the city’s future. 

In the most difficult moments, we came together. I salute you and thank you for your courage, determination and commitment to our university. We value diverse opinions and even opposite ideas in a community that treasures inclusiveness and respect for others’ views.  We insist on civility on campus and rational debate that challenges one another. 

Our teachers and staff have been reaching out to students and as the new semester begins in late January 2020, we are planning more engagement opportunities in big and small groups, formal or informal.  We, as a university community, will build bridges together and search for solutions.

At the same time, colleagues have scaled new heights of scholarship and discovery that won accolades and acclaim, all converging to help make the world a better place. We launched six new interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts and Sciencesdual degree programmes with top-tier international partners and many other initiatives to meet the needs of a changing world and new generations.  Our Common Core and Experiential Learning won top awards, locally and worldwide. To enrich our own talent hub, we launched the Presidential Post-doctoral Fellowship and Presidential PhD Scholarship, and vigorously recruited young scholars with the Meeting of Minds and a new Outstanding Young Professorships scheme.  

Looking ahead, we will build five new student residences and in collaboration with the world’s best universities, we will embark on cutting edge research and transform lives with the InnoHK schemes to be launched soon. The Tech Landmark on the Main Campus with its new institutes, the expansion of the Medical Campus and the new Institute of Advanced Dentistry are all symbols of our ambitious vision.  

I invite all of you — students, colleagues, alumni and friends — to come together on our university’s unique journey of learning and discovery. It may not always be a smooth voyage, but we are here to innovate and to create knowledge to advance humanity.  

Merry Christmas and Happy 2020 to you and your families!  

Xiang Zhang
President and Vice-Chancellor

 

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