IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2021 - 50

Opinion
are other add-on benefits, such as all students can
access session recordings, giving students a better
command of what has been taught in class in the
physical classroom, and this will be of particular benefit
for students who would otherwise fall behind.
We have also found that online teaching has
improved self-study capability and as a result,
improved learning outcomes. At Peking University,
a survey found that the satisfaction rate was even
higher than expected and quite a number of students
suggested keeping the online teaching along
with offline, after the pandemic.
Additionally, I think that online teaching has, to
some extent, offered a solution to teaching resource
imbalance and made sharing of the global academic
and research resources possible. All of us have had
the experience, during the pandemic, of enjoying
more seminars or webinars and online talks in
various fields, which was not very common before
the pandemic. For education on campus, it seems
online teaching will initiate a new environment
of course delivery in which global collaboration
will be embraced more actively in the future. So,
I think these are all positive sides to these technology
approaches within the education sector.
SW: Within the context of these technologydependent
classrooms, what do you see as the
teacher's role in stimulating motivated engagement
and interaction from students, when lessons take
place online?
LR: I think my task in this is a bit easier, because
I am working with quite small groups of students,
so it's easy to keep them motivated. When you're
one-to-one with someone, they can't be anything
other than motivated, because there's no escape!
That said, even when I've been involved in much
larger classes and assumed that the students might
not be so interested, I've been pleasantly surprised
by how engaged and how motivated they are. There
has been an assumption that students will lose motivation
online, but the experience I've had this year
is quite the reverse, with very good attendance and
lots of participation with students asking questions.
I give them the credit for that rather than for anything
that I might actually do! Oxford's tutorial system is
based on the students themselves producing work;
they have to write a paper every week, so the tutorial
is dependent on student activity. This is a mindset
which Oxford promotes in its students from the
very beginning - that our students are active in their
50
learning and they need to participate to make this
work, that it's not just about the teacher taking on
the responsibility.
One of my key ideas as a teacher is that what I'm
doing is building a relationship of mutual trust; my
students need to trust me as a teacher: that I'm going
to arrive ready to teach them, that I have a specific
subject knowledge with which they want to engage.
At the same time, I trust my students that they're
going to produce the work, and that they're going
to join in this conversation with me. Establishing
that kind of relationship sounds as if it's at the softer
end of things, but in fact, it's actually a very rigorous
demand for a teacher to be making of students. That
kind of initial engagement tends to keep students'
levels of motivation high, whatever the context and
conditions, online or offline.
FW: At PKU, we are using Zoom, we are using
Teams, and also Blackboard and Canvas, as well
as our local teaching platforms such as ClassIn and
Tencent. These platforms offer many different tools,
such as a timer and dice, or we can give students'
trophies for their answers. We can share the students'
screens and deliver an individual board to
each student for their answers, just like handouts in
the physical classroom. Breakout rooms enable the
allocation of students into smaller groups for discussion
and then to come back to the main group.
All these interactive tools are easily accessible to
the teacher and encourage collaboration among the
students. It's up to each professor which tools they
want to use and how they want to use them, much
in the way that ten years ago, teachers started to use
Powerpoint or other multimedia teaching tools, to
make their classrooms more attractive to the students.
Now is another new era for teachers to learn
about these new tools and methods to gain better
control of the classroom and to increase students'
engagement and interactions.
SW: We hear quite a lot about how the COVID-19
context is contributing to heightened stress and anxiety
for students. I know that each of you has been
involved in student pastoral support. Please can
you share with us what your university and college
are doing to support their students' well-being and
enhance their mental health at this time?
HS: COVID-19 posed a huge challenge to universities.
For example, more than 40,000 students
at Peking University couldn't return to the campus.
Our staff in charge of student affairs had to make
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2021

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