To broaden students’ intellectual horizons and foster their critical thinking in a world that evolves at the speed of fibre-optics, the role of classics — from The Analects to On Liberty — has never been more important. But comprehending classic texts requires patience in close reading, a rewarding experience contradictory to the culture of instant gratification nowadays.
Dr. Kevin Ip, lecturer in the University General Education Foundation course ‘In Dialogue with Humanity’, which aims at fostering students’ self-understanding and visions of good life and good society through intellectual encounters with significant works of literature, religion, moral philosophy and political philosophy, is aware that students tend to interpret the texts based on their life experience, without carefully examining the logical coherence and historical background of the texts themselves.
‘The new generation is used to browsing for solutions online, but they may not have the prudence in evaluating the credibility of the source. To assist students to understand the sociocultural contexts of the classic texts, we have lined up CUHK scholars to conduct mini-lectures hosted on the KEEP edX platform,’ said Dr. Ip. The modules mainly serve the purpose of clarifying core concepts before in-depth discussion in weekly tutorials.
Five micro-modules including ‘Social Contract and Freedom’ and ‘Arabic Peninsula at the Beginning of Islam’ have been created, while more modules are in the pipeline. The production team attended a workshop at the Centre for eLearning Innovation and Technology (ELITE) to equip themselves with the knowhow of video editing and interactive exercise setting. According to Dr. Ip, each module requires one week of preparation and another week for multimedia content editing. ‘The micro-modules’ completion rate is now above 70%. I find them instrumental in clarifying the core concepts in tutorials, especially when the 45-minute lecture with a class size of over 100 students may not afford a deeper exploration of classic texts’. The micro-modules are currently open to the CUHK community. Dr. Ip hopes to open them to a wider online community in future. ‘After all, the mission of higher education is to pollinate knowledge for the betterment of society.’
Alongside classroom interaction, autonomous learning is also conducted on the mobile app DAIMON, a reading companion developed by CUHK teachers for comprehending difficult texts such as the Qu’ran. The check-point questions of the app help students check their own reading progress and understanding.
Adapted from the Chinese University Bulletin No.2, 2016