UGC Funding Scheme (2016-19 Triennium) PolyU-led Projects

Augmenting Physical Learning Spaces with Location-based Services Using iBeacon Technology for Engaging Learning Experiences

Project Summary
Students investing more time and effort in their learning and more efforts from the teachers and/or institutions on learning activities pose positive influences on students’ academic outcomes. Despite the apparent positive values of student engagement, getting teachers and/or institutions to engage students more in learning in-class and out-of-class remains challenging and the higher education sector in Hong Kong is no exception. To address the challenges of better engaging university students for quality learning experiences and accordingly increasing teachers’ chances of adopting the necessary changes, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in collaboration with other partner institutions propose to make use of emerging iBeacon Technology as the innovative enabler for engaging learning experiences. In the current generation of Bring Your Own Device, the iBeacon Technology can be embedded to different existing physical learning spaces (e.g. lecture halls, seminar rooms, general teaching rooms, laboratories, libraries) with e-activities through the iBeacon transmitters and the companion mobile application developed for both Android and iOS systems such that students can become active explorers, not passive receivers, to access the e-materials. As iBeacon Technology is supported by both Android and iOS systems and these two systems are reported to cover 99.3% smartphone market shares all over the World by June 2016, the proposed iBeacon Technology is accessible to most students, if not all, in Hong Kong institutions. The objectives of the proposed project are to:

  1. conduct a comprehensive implementation of iBeacon Technology that can augment various physical learning spaces with e-activities to explore how iBeacon Technology can support pedagogies of engagement and/or new pedagogies;
  2. develop discipline-specific materials for the e-activities in alignment with the intended learning outcomes of the wide range of subjects involved in this project, in the formats of low tech (e.g. video, audio and web information) and high tech (e.g. AR/MR contents) to transform teaching delivery to location-based enabled learning;
  3. design and develop a portable and holistic infrastructure for teachers to integrate AR/MR contents in addition to low tech contents effectively and efficiently for teaching delivery;
  4. investigate the potential Big Data collected from this project (e.g. class attendance, group formation, person-to-person interaction, classroom ecology) for students’ behavioral study and any related issues resulting from this study); (v) make recommendations based on the findings of this project on the educational use of iBeacon Technology with various kinds of e-activities for the higher education sector and beyond as appropriate.


Cross-institutional Capacity Building for Service-Learning in Hong Kong Higher Education Institutions

Project Summary
We propose a cross-institutional project with the objective of supporting and promoting service-learning (SL) in Hong Kong universities, which has been found by research as a high-impact educational practice to nurture holistic student development, especially in the intangible aspects of social responsibility.

Although SL has been integrated into many Hong Kong universities to some degree (either in the form of a curricular graduation requirement or a community service hours requirement), there are still some major challenges in its implementation. Academic SL that integrates academic learning with community service is relatively new to most faculty and there is still much misunderstanding among staff about its nature and methodologies. Most of the teachers who are involved in SL have not received any systematic training in SL pedagogy. While Hong Kong undoubtedly has its “stars” in SL, this expertise is mainly confined to isolated pockets. There is limited collaboration or sharing of expertise among the institutions. This has a negative impact on student learning experience, which is especially serious in SL, since it incorporates experiential and reflective aspects that make teaching these courses a bigger challenge than conventional classroom-based teaching. Studies we have conducted suggest that ill-conceived and implemented SL programmes may cause harm, both to the service recipients as well as to the students.

We therefore propose a multifaceted approach that will fill in the gaps and build up capacity in SL in Hong Kong universities. Our core deliverable is a mixed-mode staff development programme for teachers. To support teachers in offering SL classes, we propose to develop also an eLearning module for students, a bank of assessment tools, and a database of exemplars of good SL practices for reference. To share expertise among the institutions, and to promote further inter-institutional collaboration, we will initiate cross-institutional SL projects/subjects. To promote an evidence-based, critically reflective approach to teaching, we propose a programme to support colleagues in action research projects that will lead to improvement in their SL subjects. Finally, we will create a cross-institutional Community of Practice that will sustain and spread these efforts among colleagues, and foster increased inter-institutional collaboration.

We believe that this project will result in increased capacity in SL and increased inter-institutional collaboration in Hong Kong’s higher education institutions, learning to more rigorous SL subjects or projects that will help develop our students into productive and socially responsible members of society. It will also help establish Hong Kong’s emerging position as a leader in SL in Asia.


Developing Active Learning Pedagogies and Mobile Applications in University STEM Education 

Project Summary
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is crucial to continuing Hong Kong's worldwide competitiveness in our modern society. With the implementation of the 3-3-4 system in Hong Kong, however, tertiary institutions found that many STEM students lack the necessary background and skills to integrate and apply their knowledge to solve problems practically and creatively. One possible solution to this dilemma is to introduce “active learning” to our Hong Kong STEM university students. Active learning is simply anything other than traditional passive teaching. However, despite extensive evidenced based research on the benefits of active learning strategies to our students in STEM, the majority of STEM instructors in Hong Kong do not put these teaching methods into practice due to (i) lack of incentives or support from their tertiary institutions; (ii) instructor’s own background education is in, and contrasting deeply held beliefs in, passive learning and teaching; and (iii) the fact that STEM education in Hong Kong has not been advocated until recently, and is routinely emphasized more for secondary or high schools than in tertiary institutions.

A positive approach to the above dilemma of increasing active learning in STEM education in Hong Kong universities is based on the following four observations: (i) approximately 98% of our Hong Kong students today carry a mobile phone, tablet or laptop to the classroom; mobile applications (m-apps) for education (ii) enable teachers to improve their teaching practices; (iii) engages and highly motivates students by providing them with new opportunities to participate and construct their own learning, individually or collaboratively; and (iv) improves students’ achievement, understanding and application of concepts. These four observations, coupled with a meta-analysis which indicates that active learning increases Asian student examinations scores by more than an average of 6% in STEM university subjects, suggests that increasing active learning with the aid of m-apps can greatly enhance Hong Kong students’ learning outcomes in STEM tertiary education.

Therefore, the main objectives of this proposal are to explore and develop new pedagogies to increase active learning in STEM Hong Kong education and to cultivate innovative m-apps to enhance active learning. Increased engagement and collaboration between teacher and students in STEM education will equip our students with the necessary practical/social skills and theoretical foundation essential to tackle our current economic, scientific and technological challenges.


Enhancing Learning Outcomes for Students through a Data-driven Review of the 4-year Curriculum in UGC Funded Programs

Project Summary
The objectives of this project are to analyse the experience of graduates to identify factors that impact on student success in the 4-year curriculum (4YC) and to use this information to provide better support to current students. This will be done by first conducting a review of academic programs and co-curricular activities for 4YC programs and then using the findings to establish and embed measurement and reporting processes for academic advising, monitoring and supporting students. The approach adopted for this project will be to use analysis of institutional data (e.g., students’ entry scores, grades, subject choices, use of support services, survey data etc.) to see how well the curriculum in a program supports students and whether it supports all students to the same extent. Analysis of program and subject data will be supplemented with interviews, focus groups and surveys to look at the satisfaction of the first graduates and to gather recommendations for improving the curriculum. Reporting mechanisms will then be developed based on analysis of data from graduates collected across their studies to identify factors that impact on students’ learning and academic success. Measures of these factors will then be incorporated into reports that will be used with existing student support systems to assist academic advisors, program leaders, teachers and students in monitoring and responding appropriately to students’ learning progress in a timely and effective manner. A website with online resources will also be developed to assist others to use the methodology to establish student activity and performance data reporting processes for their own programs. There will be a series of training workshops to assist those interested in applying the project methodology and a showcase event where the findings from the project will be presented. In addition, the project activities and outcomes will be evaluated by an external evaluation expert. Findings from the project and its evaluation will be disseminated via conference presentations and papers published in peer-reviewed journals.


Enriching Senior Year Places Students’ Learning Experience through Curricular and Co-Curricular Activities in Hong Kong’s Universities

Project Summary
Senior year places (SYP) in universities are UGC funded and allocated specifically for graduates of sub-degree programmes. SYP students will be admitted to the university based on a credit unit transfer system and complete their studies in 2 years. The SYP student population is growing rapidly, so their unique learning needs should be emphasized.

However, based on worldwide evidence-based studies and the local pilot study conducted by the project leader, SYP students are suffering from a “mismatch” between their learning needs and institutional offerings. This “mismatch” is affecting their learning experiences. Two significant factors underpin this “mismatch”: (1) the imperfect programme alignment of subject credit transfers between sub-degree and degree programmes which leads to heavy study loads (some students take 8 subjects per semester); and (2) the lack of adequate basic academic competency skills, psychological, career support and international exposure. Even though they are admitted to the third year, they are in fact first-year students in the new environment.

To fulfil the needs of SYP students, the specific objectives of this project are to: (1) meet the learning needs of SYP students before, during and after their transition into the degree programmes in the participating universities; and (2) enhance SYP students’ learning experience by improving their academic competencies, future career preparations, library searching skills, individual well-being, and internationalised experience during their time at university. Accordingly, the 3 major deliverables will be: (1) a student-centred online support system with interactive multimedia courseware shared initially among the 4 participating universities to administratively monitor, facilitate and advise SYP students from the first point of study interest all the way to graduation; and (2) a series of institutionally transferrable educational curricular and co-curricular activities enhancing students’ transitions into degree programmes and subsequent learning experience that will tie in seamlessly with the online support system; and (3) institutional benchmarks and guidelines shared by participating universities concerning expectations of SYP students and the assessments of their achievements.

In addition to the anticipated positive impacts of the project on SYP students’ learning experiences, this project will lead to a paradigm shift from competition to collaboration among sub-degree and degree programmes to provide flexible and diversified admissions. The online platform will facilitate the transparency of the subject alignment for credit transfers from sub-degree to degree programmes, while the courseware or other curricular and co-curricular activities will facilitate smooth transition processes and meet the learning needs of SYP students.


Fostering the Integration of Local and Non-local Students for the Enhancement of Internationalization and Engagement with Mainland China

Project Summary
The present world can be characterized as a system of interconnected networks encouraging trade, transactions, and financial and intellectual commerce globally. To compete in a global age fraught with challenges, higher education institutions need to train and nurture competent graduates capable of engaging these challenges. This project aims to assess the current situation and obstacles of integration between local and non-local students within Hong Kong universities, to foster integration of local and non-local students for enhancement of student internationalisation experience and/or engagement with Mainland China.

The basic process of the project is summarized in this paragraph. After the initial assessment of status quo practices is conducted, the team will develop and design an adaptable inter-institutional framework integrating the best curricular and co-curricular practices for enhancing internationalisation and/or engagement with Mainland China, with particular emphasis on the integration of local and non-local students. New practices to complement existing best practices will be introduced with the cooperation and support of relevant stakeholders (e.g. student societies, academic departments, administrative support sections). After the new framework is implemented, it will be tested and evaluated by means of authentic assessments that are integrated to track students’ international and global competencies. The project will leverage individual universities teaching and learning centres in order to share the findings and the adaptable inter-institutional framework to share with management and academic and non-academic units. Resource Centre stocked with guidelines, authentic cases, best practices and the inter-institutional framework will be built up to enable the sharing of practices. This will enable the fruits of the project to be disseminated to other UGC-funded institutions. An extensive evaluation plan will check and verify that the project has correctly identified students’ need vis-à-vis internationalisation that the delivery strategy is effective, whether students are able to achieve global competencies, that integration between local and non-local students has improved and that the Resource Centre meets the specified needs of the project.


Language Enhancement for Capstone Projects Using Interactive Apps 

Project Summary
This project, comprising co-investigators from five UGC-funded tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, aims to achieve two major objectives: 1) to enhance the English abilities that undergraduate students in different disciplines need to complete their capstone projects, and 2) to develop a mobile app for students to organize their capstone project ideas and to practise the English required at different stages of capstone projects, e.g. the English needed to write the abstract, literature review, methodology, findings, conclusion and recommendations of their report, and the English skills they need to verbally present and defend their thesis.

To achieve these two objectives, the project will bring together English language teachers and discipline academics/project supervisors, as well as experts in mobile app design, be they staff, students or experienced app developers. Language resources that are specific to the use of English for capstone projects in different disciplines will be developed. General language resources that address common English needs will also be produced. These resources will then be delivered to students via a mobile app. Students from different disciplines will have access to a capstone project English app that is developed specifically for them. This app will offer in-app and push notifications so that students will receive project reminders and relevant English resources at each stage of their capstone project process. Students can personalize the app for themselves and they can use other functions on their phones to help them generate ideas for their capstone project.

This proposal addresses some crucial needs and gaps because many UGC-funded institutions do not offer specific English language training for capstone projects for different disciplines, and even for those institutions that do, the deliverables of this project can supplement the language training, which is not necessarily in the semester when they write their final report. The final year is an important year for students as they strive to complete their degree programmes and relate their projects to their future career or study. The capstone project is the demanding learning task that students have to complete in their final year, and maintaining their English standard through working on their capstone projects can build their confidence and help them to effectively showcase the knowledge and skills acquired in their university education.


Transforming Internship for Transformative Learning and Reciprocal Knowledge Transfer between University and Workplace

Project Summary
Real world learning provides an important complement to classroom learning. As such, internships provide an opportunity for our students to apply their university education to the complexities of real world problems, issues and challenges in a given organizational context. Yet, how much of our university education is effectively transferred into the workplace and make a difference to organizations facing these challenges? Just as importantly, how much of the students’ internship experience is brought back into the classroom environment in a structured and systematic way so that this iterative process fosters deeper learning and re-examination of the underlying assumptions that drive our theories, models and teaching methods, and in the process better prepares our students for a complicated world? This three (3) year Teaching and Learning grant proposal aims to provide the impetus to change the way UGC funded tertiary institutions view student internships by requiring students to document evidence-based examples of specific applications of what they learned at school to Problem-based Learning work-assignments during their internships. This reflective practice is then directly tied back to the classroom environment where such discussions and sharing is assessed as part of the individual student’s subject grade. This bridging of the “knowing-doing” gap will also engage teachers with a view to “teach for knowledge transfer”. To facilitate the importance of this iterative process in a structured and measurable way, provide students with a framework (called “Staying F.O.C.U.S.E.D.”) developed and successfully tested with students over a seven-year period (by the project leader at PolyU) which has helped students learn better, faster and more than they are currently used to when dealing with complex problems, issues and challenges. Five UGC funded universities have all agreed to take part with financial backing to this proposed project. We also have the support of Harvard Business School, Northeastern University and the University of Toronto on board to share their international experience with student internships. Using Kurt Lewin’s Model of Change, we plan our three-year project framed around Unfreezing-Change-Refreezing. Our key stakeholders will be students, teachers, internship coordinators, employers and the institutions that guide them.