Interview transcribed by Gabrielle Poon
Welcome to the KEEP Interview Series with partner universities! We're kicking off the interview series with our interview with Professor James Pounder from Lingnan University. At the Lingnan University seminar held a few weeks ago, we had the privilege to interview Professor Pounder (Director of Teaching and Learning Centre) regarding his perspectives on e-Learning. He provides valuable insight particularly on how he believes e-Learning could support a liberal arts learning context, especially in motivating students to interact and develop wholistic thinking skills. Watch the videos below:
Q1. What do you think about the current development of e-learning in Hong Kong?
A: I think the developments are exciting and I think they certainly have the potential to enhance the education of students. I think that what is important is that we always have the students in mind. Sometimes we can really, I think, it carries away with the use of technology for technology sake. And I think the central point about, you know, e-technology, e-learning is that it has to enhance the learning of the students. So in the context in which I’m talking which is a liberal arts institution, whatever e-technology we use, it has to be seen as an extension of the dialogue that the faculty member would have with the students because the emphasis is on close staff-student relations. E-technology insofar it enhances that, it is a very good thing. If it takes away from that, then it’s not something that would be readily embraced in a liberal arts context. There’s something unique about the liberal arts context, which is that, it is a small-class situation with a lot of face-to-face contact and dialogue between the staff and the students. So for example, e-learning if we put learning management systems in that category, what we will tend to be using is the discussion forums in Moodle, for example, because that’s an extension of the discussion you’ve had in the classroom. In that sense, it is something we couldn’t do without developments of e-learning so in that sense, it is a very good thing. Moocs may not be mainline for a liberal arts institution. They may be supplementary but not mainline because in a mooc, it is relatively impersonal. So I think that would be probably my answer: yes, e-learning is exciting, it can enhance the educational process. But in the liberal arts context, we are particularly concerned with the extending of the staff-student dialogue, which is part of the classroom experience.
Q 2. What do you think about KEEP?
A: KEEP is a very exciting initiative. I must say that this particular presentation we have today, this workshop or seminar whatever you want to call it has been very informative for me. I’ve attended a previous workshop which was held at Chinese University. And I think at that point, KEEP was only at its infancy. But now, I can see wonderful work has been done and I can see tremendous potential for it. So yes, I think it’s got a tremendous potential in breaking down the barriers between the various universities, which have historically worked separately. Do good work “separately”. But I think, you know, it’s a case of collaboration now. It’s the way we should go. And it looks to me as if the platform of KEEP is an ideal platform for facilitating that collaboration between the universities, which is needed, again, for the benefit to the students.
Q 3. How do you see the future of online education?
A: Again remember I am coming from the context of Lingnan which is a liberal arts institution. The benefits have to be viewed in that context where the classroom experience is one of discussion. A faculty member not particularly standing in front of the class and giving what you will call a formal lecture. What happens very much in the Lingnan classroom is that you have a lot of discussion taking place. So one feature which I think is a very important feature with tremendous potential for a liberal arts environment is the flipped classroom. So online education insofar as it would provide, let say, the input for the students before they get into the classroom is an excellent and excellent vehicle that would then free up the faculty member from giving a formal presentation and for spending most of the classroom time in the type of dialogue which is central to liberal arts education. And I think online education insofar is, we teach students to be interested in various aspects of education because the principle of the liberal arts education is to develop an interest across the different subject disciplines outside the students’ own discipline. Insofar as online education, things like Coursera and so on, can enable a student to click on a course and say this is something I am interested in. It broadens the horizons of a student which is just what liberal arts education is supposed to do. So in that sense, it’s a benefit. Anything that takes away from the idea of creating the whole-person, which is what liberal arts education is all about, would not be well received. But much of what’s happening online does facilitate that whole-person development and in that sense, I think it is a good thing.