Professor Xiao - Shanghai Polytechnic University, Professor in Graphics Design
What do you feel about teaching on zoom?
In China, we use Tencent Meeting. There are not many problems on the software itself, it includes screen sharing and file uploads. Every technical aspect is satisfactory and I feel as a teacher it is easy to use.
What are some pros and cons of online education?
There is less transportation required, there is more time for both students and teachers. Students are able to listen to lectures from different cities. Online lectures also allow screen recording and this helps students to revise lectures. In China, the tradition is there is no lecture recording. The resulting effect of lecture recording hence brought new revision material for the students. This is an advantage to online learning. However, this is connected to the third question but students lose out on face to face communication, direct teaching and other teaching experiences. Even though the students and teacher interact across the screen, over the camera, the atmosphere is different. In Chinese universities, it is organised by class. Therefore, communication between student and student is really important. It is a type of interconnection in socialisation and it is really difficult to imitate this through screen-to-screen teaching.
What is the biggest challenge in conducting classes online?
Teaching is a dynamic form of learning. It is not only teaching knowledge, teaching is also nurturing student’s other aspects. These other aspects include how students communicate, how to work as a team. These all require the long-term guidance of a tutor, having interactions, and it is a subtle learning that only occurs over a long period of time. This is connected to my discipline of creative arts, an important aspect of it is the genuine connection between the student and teacher when they work together. In the process of creation, when two passionate minds meet, there is a sense of ‘emotion’ and this ‘emotion’ is hardly able to be created behind the screen.
It is a challenging teaching period for teachers to teach those practical- based subjects such as art, engineering, and architecture, etc. As an art-design professor, how have you been conducting your practical lessons that are supposed to happen in studios? For you, what have you tried to maintain the efficiency of class as before?
Currently, I still use online drawing animations to imitate the teaching program in physical workshops as much as possible. I plan in the next month to slowly return the students to the workshop for learning. Half online and half offline is what I think currently is the best solution. Workshop learning is like the traditional mentorship, where one experienced person takes a more junior student. In the workshop, the senior person who is now the teacher can take the student to complete a project step by step. If there is any mistake during the process, the senior student can correct them immediately. This is something that is unable to be conducted online. Therefore, online teaching cannot replicate workshop classes completely. As a lecturer, I can only try to imitate the workshops as much as possible. The student’s experience, however, had indeed deteriorated.
How has the online teaching mode influenced the assessment and exam? Are there any changes to the marking system?
We do not examine based on the mark of the final assignment. Currently, it is no longer student completing the assignment under a monitor by the teacher, therefore, as a teacher we want to examine more on student’s thought process and problem solving. Because it is no longer face to face, this also challenges student’s self-discipline. We are looking at whether students further themselves and increase independent thinking abilities. This will be how we as teachers examine them. Therefore, on the online format, we encourage more students to discuss with peers to explore a question or a project.
Do you think online teaching will take place physical teaching in the future or maybe progress education through both physical and online teaching?
I think online and offline teaching is completely different. Online teaching can definitely solve knowledge-based problems, but currently, I feel online teaching will not completely takeover offline teaching. Teaching is not only teaching knowledge but also how students place themselves within the society. Teaching on one side teaches a lot of people on how to socialise, how to conduct logical thinking and this is all requires a complex, systematic, and long term delivery method for students to learn them. This cannot be done through online teaching. For people, or any kind of living organism, communication, face to face emotions, a self-immersed learning is a basic requirement. It requires everyone to live the emotions, it is something that cannot be ignored. Therefore, online teaching can be a good experiment but never replace offline teaching, I do not think that will be realistic.
Finally, I want to add that for online teaching, from teacher’s perspective I feel there is contradiction. This is also the emotions that humans face when meeting a new technology. This technology evidently brought many convenience, such as it is time saving. Furthermore, our viewpoint widens, as online teaching allows people from any city or country to meet and communicate. However, through a cold computer screen, we lose the connection between people to people, the sort of happiness, nervousness, disappointment that is only felt in physical meetings. If we lose those emotions, then teaching becomes almost like “fast food”. What do you truly want out of learning? If you just want to be filled with hard, technical knowledge then this fast food style is definitely viable. But you also need these emotional connections, right? You want to venture in all sorts of different experience, right? It is like choosing all different types of cuisines and restaurants. It also like autopilot. Many people will think autopilot is high tech and easy but for people may also think it is not good. For me, I like driving as I can derive happiness from it, I like to drive as a hobbit. This is a represents a nice juxtaposition between the two.