It doesn’t matter how much the world changes through technological developments or global pandemics – society will always need teachers. But to remain effective, education institutions must constantly evolve and adapt to the ever-evolving world – regardless of the subject matter being taught. This is especially true when it comes to professional education programmes, which are responsible for instilling this mindset in future educators. During the Covid-19 pandemic, higher education institutions have had the challenge of not only delivering to students the world-class education they are accustomed to, but also constantly updating and modernising their curricula. But like great organisations always do, Hong Kong’s universities have taken what seems to be an obstacle or challenge – in this case the current pandemic – and turned it into an opportunity. Nicole Tavares, programme director of the Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages [MA(TESOL)] programme at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), is a leader in the Covid-19 education space, having published a leading research study entitled The Technology Cart and the Pedagogy Horse in Online Teaching in the English Teaching & Learning journal alongside her colleague Amy Tsui in February. “Far from being seen as being disruptive, Covid is a huge catalyst to the team’s pedagogical and professional growth,” says Tavares, who won the 2020 HKU Teaching Innovation Award. “Teachers have been working hand in hand to upskill themselves with knowledge and skills for online teaching and learning, widened their repertoire of e-learning tools and techniques, learnt to master the affordances of technology, adjusted their course content and assessment tasks within a short period of time.” The MA(TESOL) degree is designed to equip students with a thorough grounding in current research, teaching theory, principles and practices in English language education, applicable in schools, universities and other educational institutions in Asia and elsewhere. It is targeted primarily, but not exclusively, at teachers of English to speakers of others language – something that is especially important in an increasingly modernised world. The programme structure was reformed following the Covid-19 pandemic, with all courses moved online in the second semester of 2019-20 and the first semester of 2020-21, before switching to a hybrid mode this past semester. The school has accommodated students outside Hong Kong with online sessions and students in Hong Kong with face-to-face sessions – something that has been welcomed by students and faculty alike. In addition, new curriculum developments have also been made in light of the education industry’s ever-changing landscape. “Addressing the expressed and manifested needs of our students, the programme team has been introducing more micro-teaching activities of real students at schools and visits to schools in courses like English Language Teaching Methodology, Technology and English Teaching and Learning, and English Language Teaching,” Tavares says. “Practical teaching-related elements have also been incorporated into courses such as Teaching Reading in English as an Additional Language. At the course level, teachers have also been largely broadening assessment task-types going beyond written assignments, and feedback types now range from written to audio and video.” She added that Covid-19 has given the MA(TESOL) staff new insights into ways of not only maintaining, but even enhancing, teaching and learning effectiveness in an online environment. “For example, in November 2020, despite social distancing and courses being held in an all-online mode, a large scale online micro-teaching event was organised with the support of a partnering secondary school in Hong Kong. This involved our 48 MA (TESOL) student-teachers operating in 10 Zoom meetings set up with the support of the Faculty’s E-Learning Team, teaching 10 classes of Secondary 1 students (totalling 166 students) with pre-lesson meetings and post-lesson joint reflections with the English teachers at the partnering school, HKMA David Li Kwok Po College.” Tavares said the programme itself has an extremely international focus, as graduates come from top universities in mainland China and around the world. Many students arrive at HKU with international experience thanks to exchange programmes or further studies in countries like the US and Canada. However, arguably the programme’s greatest strength is its robust alumni network. “Our MA(TESOL) alumni are a significant and vital part of our network and we are in touch with graduates even from our earliest 2014-15 cohort,” Tavares says. “Alumni are regularly invited to participate in our programme activities when applicable and to conduct sharing sessions with the current students. They are an essential resource of our theme-based workshops organised to prepare our students for their capstone projects and to dialogue with them on topics related to their study, job search, teaching career, further studies and other areas.” The programme will be entering its eighth cohort next year. It is a full-time one-year programme and the fee for the 2022-23 intake is HK$168,000. Students are mostly locals and mainland Chinese, but also include those from Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and Armenia. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in English, Linguistics, English Language Education or English Language and Literature, or a qualification of equivalent standard from HKU or another comparable institution. Teachers have been working hand in hand to upskill themselves with knowledge and skills for online teaching and learning Nicole Tavares Meanwhile, The Education University of Hong Kong (EduHK) – a higher education institution dedicated solely to producing future educators of various subjects – has been especially challenged with many of its courses switching to online study. This has been especially true for the Master of Social Sciences in Sports Coaching and Management [MSocSc (SCM)] course, which has had to make monumental adjustments, according to programme director Dr Carman Leung. “Covid-19 has deterred the university from implementing face-to-face on-campus learning and teaching activities,” Leung explains. “It also affected our experiential learning course, which required students to perform 80-hour on-site attachment programmes in local sports organisations/companies, as well as courses that involved practical skills and lab experiments.” EduHK is considered an “elite athlete-friendly” university, as it produces many of the city’s physical education teachers, sports coaches, and managers. Seeing as how these teachers are often kinaesthetic learners, this makes online learning especially challenging. However, Leung said she and her team have come up with a number of ways to making the new learning styles as effective as possible. “To deal with the Covid restrictions, and by having agreement and collaborations with the partners, we adopted three modes for experiential learning – remote, face to face and mixed – so that students could perform their duties based on individual and partners’ preferences,” Leung says. “In addition, our course lecturers made good use of online teaching tools and platforms to facilitate students’ engagement in course activities.” Despite this, Leung is extremely excited to be returning to face-to-face learning next semester. “To follow the university’s arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme implemented online learning and teaching to all courses from February 2020 until now,” Leung tells us. “However, we are happy to announce that face-to-face classes will resume fully from January 2022.” The programme thoroughly covers the sports and sports management industry, ranging from sports technology, performance analysis, trends and development to basic skills in writing funding proposals and marketing strategies. “The MSocSc (SCM) is the only programme with a combination of sports coaching and management, which is particularly business- and management-oriented, and suitable for both fresh graduates and in-services employees in the industry to pursue advanced knowledge in the sports domain, as well as develop leadership and management skills for their career,” says Leung. The programme is available as both a full-time one-year programme, or a part-time two-year programme. The tuition fee is HK$120,000 which is provisional and subject to adjustment. Scholarships are also available – particularly to elite athletes with excellent academic performance. Applicants should normally hold a recognised bachelor’s degree related to sports, management, or other closely related subjects, or a regional/national level athlete with other or equivalent qualifications. One of EduHK’s other flagship programmes is the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence and Educational Technology programme [MSc (AI&EdTech)], a course that has seen an uptick in popularity following the increased adoption of technology-based distance learning. According to programme director Dr Yanjie Song, she and her staff have used their tech-savviness to improve the quality of distance learning. “The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed had a certain impact on our teaching activities. but fortunately, most of our courses can be conducted online,” explains Song. “For some courses that require hardware configuration, we have delivered technology tool kits to students before doing the hands-on activities with online instructions. We have also adopted cloud computing services to meet the computing resource requirements of deep learning. In general, the adverse impact of the epidemic on teaching and learning is under our control. With effective measures to control the spread of the pandemic, we expect to resume face-to-face courses in the next semester.” The MSc (AI&EdTech) programme aims to nurture talents with knowledge and skills of AI and educational technology, so that they can apply them to solve real-world problems, implement innovative learning environments to enhance learning and teaching, and take the lead in educational innovations and transformation in the digital age. “The advantages of the programme lie in the synergy and complementary role of AI and educational technology to transform education,” Song says. “AI applications in education fall into four main areas, namely, profiling and prediction, assessment and evaluation, adaptive systems and personalisation, and intelligent tutoring systems, which are likely to transform education. Therefore, we believe our students will be at a big advantage in the future.” In addition, students will have the chance to meet tech experts from around the world and possibly get the chance to visit certain tech hubs. Many graduates go on to work in the tech industry as educational innovators, and not necessarily as teachers. “We are constantly inviting the experts in different industries to share their experiences with the application of AI,” Song reveals. “Furthermore, field trips to AI and educational technology companies and universities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in the United States may be planned and scheduled in the programme to provide participants with a better understanding of technological developments in leading tech hubs, and equip them with the knowledge and skills to contribute to the GBA after graduation.” The course is available for both part-time and full-time study which take two years and one year, respectively. Tuition is HK$120,000 and scholarships are available. Applicants should hold a recognised bachelor’s degree in educational technology, statistics, computer science, engineering related disciplines or other equivalent qualifications. “As far as we know, we are the only Master’s programme in Hong Kong that combines artificial intelligence with educational technologies,” Song says. “Our programme not only introduces the fundamental knowledge of artificial intelligence and educational technologies, but also provides opportunities for students to apply cutting-edge technologies to solve real world problems and make effective use of them in education with theoretical underpinnings.” Finally, the 26-year-old Master of Education (MoE) programme at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), a hallmark postgraduate degree that helps produce teachers and education professionals suited for the modern world, has made study delivery and even pedagogical changes to accommodate students during the pandemic. “To facilitate students’ learning and in view of the Covid pandemic, the Department of Education Studies has been offering a hybrid mode of teaching and learning which accommodates students’ diverse learning needs,” explains Professor Atara Sivan. “From this academic year, all students attend classes face-to-face and with full enthusiasm. Instructors of the Department have been witnessing an increase in motivation and engagement of students in their studies.” Sivan believes that a unique feature of the programme and HKBU as an institution, is the extra importance placed on students’ physical, mental and academic well-being. This has especially been the case during the pandemic. “The department adopts an ‘open-door policy’, in which students can come and talk to us whenever they need assistance,” Sivan says. “Over the years, we have also provided additional pastoral care and academic support for students who find it taxing to adapt to their new postgraduate study lives.” Sivan states the overall aim of the programme is to strengthen students’ knowledge and skills in education, as well as train them to become self-reflective practitioners, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners to contribute to the field. “The key skills we imparted include critical thinking, problem-solving, analytical skills, educational research, and leadership skills within an interdisciplinary environment,” she adds. The programme keeps launching new concentrations to meet the ever-changing needs of Hong Kong’s educational landscape. For example, last year’s new concentration called Applied Psychology in School aims to help graduates better understand student mental health. In addition, the programme has become increasingly tech-focused, with a greater focus on subjects like Big Data that are becoming more important each day. Our programme adopts a humanistic approach through which students are mentored by staff, become members of our inclusive learning community and thus build their personal professional capacities Dr Ricky Lam “Big Data is important to what we teach, since the world is moving in this direction, and with relevant expertise in our department, we do our best to prepare students through our teaching and practical examples,” Sivan says. “For example, we offer Data Analysis for Education, and Theory, Research and Pedagogical Issues of Data Handling. These electives empower students to be critical thinkers and decision-makers when dealing with Big Data in their work context.” Programme director Dr Ricky Lam explains in greater detail how the MoE is constantly updating the curriculum to fit the needs of students – especially in light of recent events. “Despite numerous challenges, the Master of Education programme continues to reinvent new pedagogies to enhance students’ learning and preparation for their future careers,” he says. What is impressive, he adds, is students who had been working full-time quit their jobs to undertake the one-year full time mode, an attestation to the programme’s attraction for mature students wishing to enhance their professionalism. Lam says that because of the pandemic, the university has adopted mixed-mode instructions and e-assessments for full-time and part-time students to minimise disruptions. As for the programme itself, apart from enhancing their subject knowledge, the MoE engages students in a wide range of creative pedagogies and practices to cultivate transferable skills. “Our programme adopts a humanistic approach through which students are mentored by staff, become members of our inclusive learning community and thus build their personal professional capacities,” Lam explains. Those that apply for the programme include local in-service teachers, psychology educationalists, Education Bureau personnel and more. Students can complete the programme with three graduation options – coursework only, coursework and independent projects, and coursework and dissertation. Part-time students can opt for a more flexible study schedule.