Hull students in Hong Kong share experiences of online learning amid COVID-19

University of Hull students in Hong Kong provided vital feedback about online learning which is now at the heart of teaching in the School of Education.

The online learning experiences of 115 students in Hong Kong, who are studying for the University’s B.ED Education and Early Years programme, offered valuable insight into how to make a successful transition from face-to-face learning to online.

Students in Hong Kong moved to online learning in January – several months before the UK entered lockdown – making them ideally placed to share their experiences.

The benefits of this insight will be felt by new and returning students at Hull, as they start the new semester in September, during which the University will deliver a blended learning approach.

When the impact of COVID-19 forced a move to online learning in March for students at the University’s Hull campus, the team was in the fortunate position to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to the situation.

Dr Jo Traunter, Programme Director for the B.Ed Education and Early Years, said: “We had already faced the challenge of moving to online learning for our students in Hong Kong back in January 2020, so we absolutely knew what worked and what didn’t."

We were already ahead – as we knew the challenges our Hong Kong students had faced, and the positives which had made their learning engaging and enjoyable.

Dr Jo Traunter

Programme Director for the B.Ed Education and Early Years

“We knew that students didn’t want an annotated PowerPoint and an article to read. What was important to them was the need to maintain the opportunity for interaction with their tutors, their peers and learning community.

“They wanted to be able to ask questions when they needed answers and – if they were struggling with all that life was throwing at them – then they wanted the opportunity to revisit or to watch and learn at their convenience.”

Student Carol Strydom, who was studying the programme in Hong Kong, said she appreciated the way the lecturers worked hard to make their online meaningful, using different teaching methods to keep their attention and make the classes interesting.

“I appreciated it when new lecturers we had never met before took the time to first introduce themselves to us - by sharing stories and pictures of their lives with us,” she said.

“It made our online learning much more personal. Even just seeing all the other students signed in, asking questions and commenting helped me know, I'm not alone in this.”

Adapting one of the most-highly valued, popular and successful learning models for online delivery was a challenge.

Intrinsic to the design of the Early Childhood Studies is the distinct pedagogical approach, which focuses on play-based hands-on learning and the opportunity to become part of an active and engaged community of learners.


For the teaching team, the challenge was to safeguard the distinctiveness of the programme, continue to promote opportunities for active learning and maintain and build the learning community.

Dr Traunter said: “The online programme team were committed to making sure that the human element of the programme was preserved and set about creating as many opportunities for students to not only hear but to see and interact with their tutors.

“The success of the programme delivery could not be attributed to one person and owed its success to great team work, from the excellent support of Emily Armstrong in the teaching and excellence academy, to the whole teaching team.

“Everyone has worked incredibly hard to give the students the best possible teaching and learning experience.”

The team ensured success by:

⦁ Acting on student feedback and experiences of using the software gained during the transition to online learning for students in Hong Kong.

⦁ Providing a clear and well-planned online teaching timetable at the outset and guidance on accessing the teaching and resources.

⦁ Notifying students well in advance about what to expect, the level of support and providing frequent updates to address any anxieties they might have.

⦁ Using consistent tools for programme delivery to avoid the stress of continually introducing new technology; enabling one-click access to make engagement straightforward for students.

⦁ Using the Virtual Learning Environment to arrange interactive lectures and encourage discussion.

⦁ Encouraging students to continue to work in groups using break out rooms for tasks and maintaining the community of learners. Supporting the development of meaningful relationships between staff and students and amongst the students.

⦁ Checking in with how students were feeling, advising them of additional support through the networks and services provided by the University during lockdown.

⦁ Responding and acting on feedback to enhance online learning experience.

⦁ Ensuring flexible delivery to fit in with students’ lives – taking into account their home schooling and key worker responsibilities, as well as the fact some were living in different time zones. Encouraging flexible one-to-one appointments with tutors – not necessarily in office hours.

⦁ Supporting staff with technology by providing assistance from specialist IT staff including trouble shooting in virtual lectures.

Nicole Scoular, a student from the School of Education, described how she benefitted from the quick response of her tutors to teaching online.

She said: “I've been able to still finish my degree rather than it being put on hold and have been able to study round the kids being at home, in a time that suits me. In a round-about way I've learned more techy skills on my laptop too.”

Student Xin Miao, who is an international student from Shanghai, China, studying at the University’s Hull campus, also paid tribute to the School of Education for its support and encouragement with her studies since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Even with the transition to online learning, Xin described her experience as a student in Hull as “unforgettable.”

She said she was grateful for the advice and guidance provided by her supervisor who “showed the sincerest care for me and all the international student…”

The B.ED Education and Early Years is a programme which runs in two countries, with delivery in Hull and Hong Kong. It is a one-year Honours degree ‘top-up’ programme and runs for twelve months.

Special thanks to the following staff who made the transition to online learning a positive experience for students. From Education Studies: Jane Reynolds, Dr Jo Traunter, Dr Rebecca Adderley, Dr Angel Garcia-Urbina, Thamara Bulmer and Christine Trala. From Initial Teacher Education: Dr Julie Brierley and Paul Hopkins.

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