Japanese and Hong Kong academics say virtual learning falls short

While online courses have become the norm amid the COVID-19 pandemic, academics in Japan and Hong Kong believe online courses cannot really replace face-to-face learning despite the merits of technology to communicate with students.

“Learning doesn’t happen in the classroom, it happens outside the classroom, on campus where students can interact,” with each other and with teachers, said Oussouby Sacko, president of Kyoto Seika University, during a recent webinar.

The photo shows speakers from Japan and Hong Kong during a webinar on the future of education on September 22, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Pasona Group Inc.) (Kyodo)

The Future of Education webinar was hosted by the Awaji Youth Federation, an educational group in Japan, as academia grapples with the challenges of online learning.

Sacko said professors at his university in western Japan were struggling to teach, for example, art-related classes online, and students were also losing interest in attending classes.

To motivate students, Sacko, originally from Mali, has set up a hybrid system of direct interactive sessions between teachers and students once a week and online lessons on other days.

Recognizing the challenges teachers face in running virtual classrooms, he said there was a need to develop a program for teachers to train them to get used to the new style of teaching.

An online survey conducted by the National Federation of University Cooperative Associations in July showed that 44.7% of students are not finding their lives fulfilling amid the pandemic, citing the limitations of online courses as one of the factors.

Baniel Cheung, Assistant Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Hong Kong, shared Sacko’s feelings on the benefits of face-to-face learning, while acknowledging the benefits of speed. information and knowledge sharing through online courses.

“It’s hard to teach without seeing the faces and body language of the students, to really know what the other is thinking,” Cheung said, adding that if teaching could be “hybrid” in the post-era era. COVID, “Digital cannot replace humans.”

Representing the voice of the students, Fuka Chida, a sophomore student at Chiba University, said the pandemic had heightened the importance of learning on campus.

“University is not just about studying, but a place where I can learn about myself through interactions with others and grow,” said Chida, Japanese Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Human Rights. youth and the United Nations, a group created in partnership between United Nations agencies and civic groups. dedicated to children and young people.

Sacko said the pandemic has made it easier for students to communicate through the Line social messaging app and noted how shy students are participating in class more actively than before.

Cheung said he uses the WhatsApp messaging platform to communicate with students, having created different groups for different purposes. The tool is used to reduce what he calls “psychological distance”.

Looking ahead, he underlined the vital role of technology for future inter-university collaboration.

Cheung said online collaborations between universities have become more frequent during the pandemic and called for these efforts to continue, especially between universities in Asia.

“Students have become more competitive during the pandemic and want to acquire more skills to survive in companies, so inter-Asian exchanges should take place,” he said during the webinar of the federation, founded by the company. Japanese Recruitment Company Pasona Group Inc.

He added that he hopes Japanese universities will offer more courses in English that are popular with students in Asia, such as manga and animation.

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Norma A. Roth