COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A THREAT OR AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AN IMPACT ON TEACHING AND LEARNING IN TERTIARY EDUCATION

L.P.L. Vrijmoed, P. Hodgson 

University of Wollongong College Hong Kong (HONG KONG)
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.3 million deaths worldwide as of November 2020, and Hong Kong has experienced waves of infections since January. Educational institutions closed all regular classes in February in response to the outbreak of cases. As a safety measure to protect both teachers and students, classes were swiftly switched to video-conferencing platforms to continue running the scheduled curriculum. Using strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, this paper describes a study that surveyed 220 students from Hong Kong and 243 students from China in an institution to investigate how they responded to this mode of learning in order to improve the institutional operation. A survey was also conducted with teachers to review how they experienced the new teaching mode. Although they experienced a steep learning curve to manage the video-conferencing platform, they developed ways to interact with their students while being unable to see them face to face. By making use of tools available in the learning management system, teachers engaged their students by creating more quizzes and holding forum discussions. Some teachers reported positive outcomes when students were taught through the virtual platforms, while others reported missing personal contact with their students.

There had previously been educational disruption when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hit Hong Kong in 2003, but regular classes were resumed when SARS eventually subsided. Adopting a synchronous mode of learning through a video-conferencing platform may be a temporary solution for the current pandemic’s disruption of regular classes. However, the emerging trend of working from home in the post-COVID era means that there is a need to provide an educational experience that can prepare graduates for their future careers. The implications of blending remote learning into the curriculum as a sustainable mode of learning is discussed.