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Hong Kong universities to get HK$165 million in grants to develop better online teaching methods

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 21/01/2021 Danny Mok danny.mok@scmp.com
a group of people on a sidewalk: Eight publicly funded Hong Kong universities are to receive millions in grants for developing better online teaching methods. Photo: Nora Tam © SCMP Eight publicly funded Hong Kong universities are to receive millions in grants for developing better online teaching methods. Photo: Nora Tam

Eight Hong Kong universities are in line for grants totalling HK$165 million (US$21.3 million) aimed at developing better virtual teaching methods, which are anticipated to become part of the "new normal" in coming years.

Online teaching was widely adopted amid the coronavirus pandemic as schools suspended face-to-face classes for months at a time to avoid infections. But the University Grants Committee (UGC), which funds the city's public institutions of higher education, noted along with its Quality Assurance Council (QAC) on Thursday that they believed schools would continue to make use of virtual methods to enhance teaching and learning even after the pandemic ended.

The additional HK$165 million would be allocated to the eight universities funded by the committee to facilitate more systematic collaboration to promote the strategic development of virtual teaching and learning, a spokesman said.

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a woman standing in front of a crowd: The grants are intended to encourage universities to collaborate to enrich students' learning experience, among other things. Photo: Winson Wong © Provided by South China Morning Post The grants are intended to encourage universities to collaborate to enrich students' learning experience, among other things. Photo: Winson Wong

The universities were encouraged to deploy the funding to implement a range of project initiatives, the spokesman added, including the development of assessment methods and educators' skills, as well as means for enriching the overall virtual learning experience - for instance, by encouraging interaction among students during online classes.

"While the pandemic has brought about immense challenges to teaching and learning on one hand, it has also offered opportunities for transformation on the other," committee chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing said.

"The UGC and the QAC hope that the additional funding will catalyse innovative and strategic thinking among our universities, and prepare them for the ever-changing teaching and learning environment as well as their development needs under the 'new normal'."

Chinese University said it welcomed the additional funding, noting there would now be more resources for further developing innovative online teaching and learning methods, as well as for upgrading hardware, training teachers and personnel, and enhancing students' online learning experience.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Chinese University (pictured) said the grants could help pay for hardware upgrades and training for teachers. Photo: Winson Wong © Provided by South China Morning Post Chinese University (pictured) said the grants could help pay for hardware upgrades and training for teachers. Photo: Winson Wong

The president of Lingnan University, Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, said the funding would help his university explore how to effectively make use of hybrid teaching models, which blend online and face-to-face classes.

Education University, meanwhile, said the grants would help local institutions adapt to the so-called new normal.

The University of Hong Kong, the University of Science and Technology and Polytechnic University also welcomed the grants, with the former saying the money would help it fully integrate virtual learning into its strategy.

The other universities funded by the committee are City University and Baptist University.

The universities will be invited to submit proposals for new initiatives, and can make use of the funds from the first half of 2021 to mid-2023.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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