Back in 2016, the University received funding from the Education Bureau (EDB) and The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust to develop a series of open, copyright-free textbooks for local primary and secondary schools. Among them, the Open English series was added to the EDB's recommended textbook list. Recently, the series won a HK$23.1 million grant from the Quality Education Fund (QEF) to support its development into an online interactive multi-media application in three years' time.
The grant is an answer to the rising trend of blended learning as well as a recognition of the University's expertise in educational technology. Based on the Open English series, which comes in print and electronic editions, the new app will incorporate multimedia teaching resources including games, videos and virtual experiences. For example, some lessons will be delivered using animations, videos or virtual reality / augmented reality (VR/AR) scenarios, while some exercises will be presented in the form of games, and students will be able to practise English conversation with an AI chatbot. In a nutshell, it will facilitate self-directed learning in a flexible, fun and personalised way by making use of technology that young people are familiar with.
The greatest advantage of the app lies in its “openness.” “It supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI),” explains Dr Eva Tsang Yuen-mei, Director of Advancement of Learning and Teaching, who leads the project. Simply put, multimedia teaching materials and student learning profiles created under the app can be imported into other learning management systems, allowing teachers to create their own question banks and keep track of students' progress. “Most importantly,” Dr Tsang adds, “like the original open textbooks, the app will be entirely free.”
The app is expected to benefit up to 36,000 primary and secondary school students and 1,200 teachers. In the pilot stage, around ten seed schools will first test out a beta version.