Nemo Yu Hau-chak wakes up at 7.30am each morning. After working on some homework from the day before, he goes straight to his laptop that is connected to a larger monitor. He turns both of them on and lets out a yawn; it’s time for another day of online classes.
The citywide coronavirus outbreak has kept Hong Kong schools closed since the Chinese New Year holiday ended on February 3. The closure will last until at least April 20.
To help students continue with their learning, many schools have resorted to teaching online, using platforms such as Zoom, a video conferencing software that many Hong Kong students have become familiar with thanks to the epidemic.
Although most teachers are now quite familiar with using online platforms, there have been stories going around about technological blunders.
In one local forum, a post shared by a university student said his lecturer wanted to mute the students who were talking in class, but he ended up muting another lecturer who was giving a speech.
After a similar incident, Nemo, a 15-year-old student at Carmel Secondary School, admits to giggling alone, knowing his classmates were laughing in their homes, too.
Online lessons often include PowerPoint slides, something his teacher doesn’t usually use.
“No one had a clue what she was talking about for the first few minutes, we didn’t know there would be a PowerPoint file to refer to, so we just kept looking through the handouts to find anything that matched what the teacher was saying.
“Finally, we decided to ask the teacher what she was talking about. Astonished, she asked us back, ‘You guys don’t see the PowerPoint?’” – She’d forgotten to show them.
Sha Tin College student Leanne Jackson thinks learning from home is a pretty enjoyable experience.
“We’ve seen teachers’ kids, pets, their [flats] and sometimes a bit more of their emails than they would have liked, but otherwise our teachers are pretty tech savvy,” she says.
“We get PowerPoint slides to look at in class and assignments to hand in. It’s pretty much the same as regular school.”
The 16-year-old adds that instead of Zoom, they are using Google Hangouts and Google Meet.
All of her teachers received training on how to use these programs.
Tiffany Tong, a 16-year-old student at St Paul’s Co-educational College, agrees. “We are having real-time online lessons. The teachers occasionally struggle with sharing their screens to show students what they want, but otherwise there aren’t a lot of issues,” Tiffany adds.
While online learning from home may sound fun, convenient and somewhat futuristic, Ellen Li from St Rose of Lima’s College points out some flaws which occur, particularly when teachers are not used to teaching online.
“There is a lack of coordination between teachers, so their classes actually clash sometimes,” the 17-year-old says.
“And speaking of the lack of coordination, teachers may forget the fact that students have multiple subjects to learn, they are giving too much homework and using up too much of our time.”
She says one of her teachers once taught for five hours straight, because there was no limit to the length of live classes. And while classes are divided into equal periods during a normal school day, Ellen says online classes can range from one to five hours long.
Although Nemo switches off his computer at around 5.30pm, he agrees that ever since school was suspended, students seem to be getting bigger workloads, and he also finds that sometimes his classes are longer than normal.
“If you asked me whether I miss school, I’d say half-half,” he says.
“I want to see my school friends. I also think the learning environment is better at school than at home. However, I feel that working online has more flexibility in terms of how I manage my time these days as I only have two classes that require us to go live. Sometimes I can even spend an hour playing basketball during lunch time.”