The Harbour School (THS), a Pre-K to Grade 12 international school in Hong Kong with three campuses on Hong Kong Island announced last month a virtual classroom initiative called “VC@T”, an online interactive learning platform launched after the second day of city-wide school closures mandated by the Education Bureau (EDB) in response to the escalating protests.
Schools in Hong Kong were closed for six days when protests that have rocked the city intensified. The EDB, Hong Kong government’s regulatory body in the education sector, announced mandatory closure of schools due to safety concerns as the city’s transport network and roads were suspended by protestors.
VC@T was rolled out with the aim of minimising impact to school schedule and offers its students continued learning through a suite of online applications that will:
● facilitate student-faculty and student-to-student communication.
● allow for the individual assessment of student work as well as group work.
● operate on open-source and free-to-download applications tried and tested by teachers and students.
Students returned to school on Wednesday, November 20 after six days of school closure where three of those days were online learning.
THS Head of School Dr Jadis Blurton explained that the remote learning solution was developed with the school’s well known personalised approach to learning in mind.
“We acted quickly to ensure the continuity of school through remote learning. VC@T is aimed at delivering high-quality, instructional programs for its students that are interactive, personal and engaging. We did not want our teachers to simply email homework which would have been, quite frankly, the easiest thing to do. I am very proud of the dedication and professionalism shown by our faculty who were a hundred per cent onboard to roll out virtual classrooms, exemplifying two of our school’s Learner Goals: Resilience and Innovation.”
Reputed for its high-quality and unique educational programs featuring experiential and hands-on learning, THS does not expect this learning platform to replace some of the more hands-on aspects of its curriculum offered through its Centers of Excellence – special programs led by field experts and held at the school’s makerspace, marine science center and a 50-foot sailboat. In addition, high school courses requiring access to specialised and/or technical equipment in laboratory environments would not be possible through the online platform. However, lessons designed for VC@T have been specifically adapted with inclusion and learning outcomes in mind.
THS Principal for Prep and Primary, Christine Greenberg said, “Our students from Prep to Grade 12 already use a variety of online tools on and off campus to supplement their classroom education. It wasn’t as much of a learning curve for our students, the digital natives they are, as it was for our teachers and parents when we rolled out VC@T beginning with Grades 3 to 12, with Prep to Grade 2 having the option to join a day later.”
Mrs Greenberg explained, “Unscheduled closure of school for multiple days can compromise the quality of the learning process and can be particularly disruptive for some students so we were very motivated to launch VC@T quickly. While adding extra days to the school year is a viable solution, we were not certain how long school may be asked to remain closed. I’m really thankful for the team and culture we have at THS so that a possible set back became an opportunity for a different way to learn. It was an incredibly positive experience for students, parents and teachers to see how well the community came together to make it all happen.”
Feedback from students, parents and teachers were overwhelmingly positive.
Grade 1 parent Desiree Lim said, “We were impressed and grateful that the school was able to respond so quickly with remote learning. It provided a semblance of normalcy for my Grade 1 child – he was so happy to see his friends and teachers online. At the time, we did not know how long schools may close for and I can foresee VC@T as a viable solution in a situation where schools had to remain closed for a longer time.”
Even though all schools are now open and running, THS is currently collecting feedback from students, parents and faculty with regards to VC@T in order to tighten up protocols and enhance service for VC@T 2.0.