When Hong Kong’s Education Bureau announced the suspension of classes back in January, it urged schools to "make good use of e-learning, such as providing students with useful learning materials through emails, school websites, e-learning platforms and other effective means". It’s a situation that is quite different to the outbreak of SARS in 2003 when schools were closed for seven weeks; nearly 20 years ago, they lacked the technology to deliver such high-quality online learning.
Today, however, international schools have quickly been able to use applications such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, Google Meets and Zoom for online lessons, stories, instructional videos, sing-along assemblies, music sessions, and much more. Schools had already invested in these online resources, their teachers and students are familiar with using them within the classroom, and many students have their own iPads and laptops. Without the recent advances in technology within schools, the ability to teach from a distance would be hugely inhibited.
In Hong Kong, international schools are taking different approaches to online learning. When the initial two-week closure period was announced, most schools started by simply posting instructional videos and activities for students on their website. However, as the suspension was extended, schools have rolled out timetabled days of online learning complete with breaks, PE lessons and music sessions.
While online learning cannot be a replacement for classroom-based and face-to-face learning experiences, it is the most reasonable compromise for the moment. The use of technology and digital devices in the classroom is frequently debated within education circles. So, perhaps now we can find some answers as students in Hong Kong have, albeit reluctantly, become part of a huge experiment in distance learning.
Next page: How are Hong Kong's international schools delivering online learning?