The University of Hong Kong has developed a "multi-function learning platform" to support teachers conducting in-person and online classes simultaneously.
The Hybrid Learning Mobile Desk Console, developed by the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning with HK$2 million of University Grants Committee funding, places online group members at the center rather than in the periphery of breakout during whole-group discussions.
The center said the console, the result of a two-year effort, would facilitate international academic exchanges and allow lectures and workshops to continue even when the campus is closed.
Online students will be at the center of group discussions by appearing on two back-to-back computer screens at the center of each hexagonal table, where classmates sit around.
Online students can see all their classmates at the same time and vice versa, with both groups being able to look at the same computer screen.
As the lecturer moves, the 360-degree cameras on the tables help track the lecturer with the help of infrared laser. The console's integrated audio system resolves the problem of unclear audio due to the lecturer's movements.
"In the past, the biggest challenge of hybrid teaching was how to interact with students attending lectures online," said the centre's senior lecturer Tris Kee Yee-chun.
"With the platform, students online can easily see the lecturer as the lecturer walks around. And they can participate in in-class discussions," Kee added.
Students' work can be projected onto a digital canvas that wraps around the room for feedback from teachers and classmates whereas online students can be projected onto the canvas to contribute to whole-class discussion.
"We were given two years ago a brief to predict what classes would look like when face-to-face learning resumed and to draw out the best lessons from arrangements during Covid
-19," said center director Susanna Bridges.
"Hybrid was the hardest to crack but we have designed this space ourselves and patented the Hybrid Learning Mobile Desk Console in Hong Kong and mainland China," she said.
Bridges added the console could help the university expand further in the Greater Bay Area to accommodate students from a vast space.
The platform is being tried in designated classrooms.