Finally—the start of a new academic year! With the arrival of the novel coronavirus pandemic last semester, UM adopted distance teaching, and teachers and students could only meet online. However, now they can finally communicate face-to-face, in class. In the new academic year, a new cohort of freshmen joined the university. In this article, we interview some faculty members, students and staff in order to understand their feelings about the resumption of physical classes.
New Role, New Challenge
U Chi Wa is a doctoral student and research assistant in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition to attending classes, he also assists in the teaching work of an instructor. In the past few months, he has experienced difficulties understanding some of the complex concepts during online classes, and he also had little experience providing guidance to students online. Luckily, he quickly adjusted to the new mode of teaching and learning.
‘During the pandemic, sometimes I walked on the wide central avenue on campus, and I could only see a handful of people,’ he says. U looks forward to meeting the other members of the team in the laboratory in the new academic year so they can encourage and support each other. He also hopes that his teaching work and research projects can proceed smoothly. In addition, in the new academic year, he will have a new role and responsibility—he will become a resident tutor in Moon Chun Memorial College (MCMC). ‘I hope to help students with their studies, but I also want to help them develop interests,’ says U.
Encouraging Freshmen to Work Hard
Lai Ngok Seng, a fourth-year student in the Department of Management and Marketing, went to France for exchange in the first semester of the previous academic year. After returning to UM for a week or two in the second semester, he switched to online learning because of the pandemic. He says, ‘I used to think that I would have all the time in the world with my classmates, but after the outbreak, I realised that nothing should be taken for granted.’
Lai says that in the next academic year he will start career planning. ‘I have to decide whether I want to pursue further studies or get a job after graduation,’ he says. ‘I will also cherish the last year of my college life, as well as the time I have left with my teachers and classmates.’ He hopes first-year students will cherish their time in college and work hard.
Preparing Students for a Technology-driven World
Miguel Gomes da Costa Junior, a senior instructor in the Department of Computer and Information Science, has been teaching online from home during the pandemic. He realised in the process that with advanced information technology and readily available information, a teacher’s responsibility is no longer limited to imparting knowledge; it should also include guiding students to think independently. He believes that the pandemic has completely changed how people live and work. For instance, more and more companies around the world now require employees to work remotely from home, and the ability to use information technology will therefore become more important in the workplace. ‘In the future, I want to equip my students with the necessary knowledge and skills so they can embrace a world that becomes increasingly dependent on technology.’
Gomes da Costa adds: ‘In the new academic year, I can finally return to campus. The pandemic is not over yet. My students and I can’t see each other’s faces as we still have to wear masks. But it’s still good to be back. Being able to communicate with students face-to-face is one of the greatest joys of being a teacher.’
Alice Hong, a resident fellow in MCMC, describes her relationship with students in the past few months as ‘so far yet so close’. She explains: ‘Due to the pandemic, students spent most of their time studying at home, with extracurricular activities greatly reduced. The upshot was that we actually got to spend more time communicating on social media, which brought us closer together than before.’
The RCs are the student’s homes on campus. Each RC is a multicultural learning community formed by the college master, resident fellows, and students from different backgrounds. In the past six months, Hong has held various online workshops. She has also organised some online activities to support the anti-pandemic campaign. The new academic year has barely started, and she has already come up with some creative ideas about how to support students in their studies and personal growth. Coming from a background in social work, she has always been concerned about the physical and mental health of the students. Over the next three months, she plans to organise a series of life education activities, including a ‘Heart-to-Heart Peer Counseling Scheme’, in order to promote mental health awareness and kindness. While welcoming new students, she also wants to say to the older students, ‘Welcome home!’
‘I Miss My Students Very Much.’
Sandy Sou, a staff member in the Student Affairs Office, is the leader of many university-level cultural and arts teams. During the pandemic, she made sure that these teams continued their training online. She also arranged for students to participate in a number of online competitions to ensure that they didn’t stop learning. ‘Online training can never replace face-to-face communication. I miss my students very much,’ she says. ‘I am so happy that we can finally see each other again in the new academic year.’
Sou says that she will take preventive measures when arranging student training or holding large events in the new academic year, such as controlling the duration and the number of participants of each training session. She expects there to be many unknown challenges in the near future, but she is positive and optimistic. ‘I will embrace whatever challenges that may lie ahead and try to do my best to serve my students and the university,’ she says.
New Facilities on Campus
At the beginning of this year, UM suspended classes and adopted distance teaching in response to the pandemic. In the past few months, although there were fewer teachers and students on campus, the university continued to operate to prepare for the new academic year. For example, a new western-style restaurant has opened; new covered walkways have been constructed on the central avenue to facilitate walking between different buildings; and many bamboo trees have also been planted to beautify the campus.
Source: My UM ISSUE 96
Released on 2020-09-09 09:06