Supporting virtual learning at CityU

Regina Lau

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Four academic departments-- Biology and Chemistry (BCH), Electronic Engineering (EE), Economics and Finance (EF), and Accountancy (AC) and the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) are collaborating in a project to enhance students' learning and growth. The project, the Virtual Learning Support Centre for Students (VLSC), is a cyber location for participating departments to post web pages specifically devoted to students' learning. Launched in September last year, the VLSC is encouraging more academic units to participate in the project, which is supported by Teaching Development Grants.

At the end of February, Professor Edmond Ko, Vice-President (Education), opened an exhibition in the Mall to promote the web-based learning resource centre to staff and students.



Principal project supervisor Dr Lilian Vrijmoed, Associate Professor in BCH, said: "We aim at transforming our students' learning mode from passive to active learning, a learning mode which enhances motivation, and analytical as well as problem solving ability. The VLSC also incorporates strategies to train them to engage in lifelong learning."

VLSC comprises a homepage maintained by CELT and a number of departmental VLSC pages. Individual departments enjoy a high level of autonomy on the content of their VLSC page, under the overall principle of enhancing students' learning. Some focus more on academic learning while others emphasize learning beyond the classroom. Each department has recruited Learning Coordinators to provide content update and maintenance of the departmental pages.
The homepage, which serves as a common platform to other departmental pages, is characterized by its emphasis on generic learning skills and on-line workshops on practical skills, such as writing a term paper, examination skills, or giving a presentation. It also provides links to relevant programmes developed by Student Development Services.

"In view of the large number of websites which are appealing to students, we have to develop strategies to attract their attention and maintain their continual interest," said Dr Vrijmoed. Features such as psychological tests and on-line quizzes add fun to the pages. Discussion sessions on news items closely related to their studies help to arouse their interest in current affairs. Chat rooms, bulletin boards and students' areas provide venues for building a sense of community among students. And features like the on-line dictionary from Merriam-Webster, and links to sites of interest relating to the department's subject disciplines also enhance the site's usefulness to students. "Eventually, we hope that the VLSC will serve as an important out-of-the-classroom learning resource for students."

Four departmental VLSC templates are available for reference for academic staff members who are interested in joining the VLSC. You are invited to contact your departmental representative of the project team: Dr Lilian Vrijmoed (BCH); Dr Henry Chung (EE); Dr T M Ho (EF); Dr Joe Hong (CELT); and Dr Margaret Poon (AC).


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