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Hong Kong Baptist University protest

Relaxed attendance rules at Hong Kong’s Baptist University will improve teaching quality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 4:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 9:39am

As a lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University’s Language Centre, I support the university’s recent decision to relax attendance requirements for all its students.

In the past, students skipping more than 30 per cent of classes would fail a course automatically. Under the new policy, they can still pass with less-than-perfect attendance records.

Despite its potential impact on students’ class participation, this new policy may improve the overall quality of teaching and stimulate innovation among teaching staff at the university.

University students are young adults who should learn to make responsible decisions on how to spend their time. If they find a better way to study course materials than attending lectures, the university should respect their choices.

Also, under the new policy, all university faculty members must rethink how to attract students with more effective teaching, as their attendance is no longer guaranteed.

In the new semester, I will experiment with the flipped classroom approach in my English courses. Unlike conventional lectures where teachers present new material in class, I have created a series of video lectures students will watch in advance.

They can learn the basic concepts and techniques at their own pace through the videos and assigned reading. They can then discuss the material and receive my feedback on their thinking during classes. I have also created WhatsApp groups for my students to discuss course materials outside the classrooms.

First adopted by Professor Eric Mazur at Harvard in the 1990s, the flipped classrooms have recently gained much currency in higher education.

Through video lectures that cover basic course material, the classroom time spent with instructors can be saved for more demanding tasks that involve conceptual understanding and problem solving. This approach is particularly suitable for language teaching, as students can practise language skills more autonomously and receive guidance from their tutors to further improve their skills of independent language learning.

With the new attendance policy, Baptist University is well positioned to provide more resources to encourage faculty members to flip classrooms. Accessing course materials in videos, students can study anywhere using their mobile devices and juggle different commitments in more flexible schedules.

Through instant messengers such as WhatsApp, students and teachers can stay connected beyond the classrooms and even hold virtual class meetings in bad weather.

Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong