This project aims to develop an integrated learning platform for the eight University General Education (UGE) courses currently offered by the School of Life Sciences (SLS). It adopts the principles of “photo-elicitation”. Presented with a photo which shows intriguing objects or events, students are motivated to learn by making use of their imagination, creativity, logical thinking and experience in addition to prior knowledge. The result of this complex cognitive process can be transformed into a descriptive narrative, which is to be shared among their peers.
Activities, process and outcomes
The project has been implemented as initially planned:
Stage 1 (2016-2017): Content development & design of E-platform framework
(Identification of domain knowledge from UGE Area B (UGEB) courses, design of interface and development of learning content)
Stage 2 (2017-2018) Protocols & integration of the E-platform
(Production of site maps, guidelines, FAQs and sample photographic narratives, software implementation, beta test and launch and Trial run)
Stage 3 (2018-2019) Implementation and improvement for the E-platform
(Pilot run in selected classes, collection and analysis of feedback from students and teachers, optimization of the platform and preparation of final report)
In short, this project has created a smart-phone compatible eLearning platform which boots knowledge integration, students’ engagement and collaborative learning.
Deliverables and evaluation
The major deliverable of the project is Visual Narrative (https://www.vncuhk.com/), an integrated online learning platform of 8 UGEB courses offered by SLS. The platform guides the student users to perform self-learning and collaborative learning activities in 3 steps through a user-friendly interface: step 1 select a photo and input narrative, step 2 rate a photo & narrative, and comment, and step 3 view recommended items. It also supports teachers to rate, comment and retrieve scores with ease. To evaluate the effectiveness of the platform, monitoring data such as narrative entries, user registration, number of views, comments and ratings are recorded. In the pilot run held in the 1st term and 2nd term of 2018-19 academic year, 200 UGEB students have participated in the activities of Visual Narrative with 200 narratives inputted. A total of 344 comments and approximately 1500 views have been contributed by teachers and students, showing a high degree of collaborative learning. Furthermore, online surveys for teachers and students have been designed and distributed to collect user feedback. So far, we have received positive feedback from both students and teachers involved. For example, most student users (strongly) agreed that the platform has motivated them to integrate the knowledge and make good use of the imagination, creativity, logical thinking and learning experience. They also found it helpful for mastering the abstract scientific concepts, making connections among the seemingly isolated topics and applying knowledge to daily life scenarios.
Dissemination, diffusion, impact and sharing of good practices
Two poster presentations were held successfully in the CUHK Teaching and Learning ExPo 2017 and 2018 to introduce the innovative learning platform of Visual Narrative. Meetings with teaching staff of UGE courses from SLS were held to prepare for the implementation of Visual Narrative in classes. The platform of Visual Narrative has an impact on collaborative learning in CUHK as it is the first collaboration of 8 UGE courses. It fosters integration of knowledge and extended learning outside of syllabus. It also enables students to connect daily life and personal experience to abstract and distant scientific knowledge. Furthermore, it builds a foundation for incorporating courses other than life sciences, strengthening students’ ability to view an issue from different perspectives and expanding their knowledge.
In the future, UGE courses from other departments in the Faculty of Science are also welcome to join the platform of Visual Narrative. The possibility of integrating UGE courses in liberal arts and social science will be explored.