21 September 2020

Learning in the “New Normal”



Dear Students and Colleagues,

Learning in the “New Normal”

It is truly gratifying to see that the new term has gotten off to an excellent start, despite the trying circumstances. The University spares no effort to ensure that teaching and learning continues to forge ahead, with enhanced IT support and timely pedagogical interventions. A student survey and a teacher survey have already been conducted, to facilitate further improvements. Every member of the University deserves our heartfelt thanks, for their understanding and dedication in keeping the fire of education and research alight, under what can only be described as deeply distressing conditions.

Although thankfully the current wave of COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong has subsided, continued vigilance is absolutely necessary. The resurgence of cases after reopening of schools in some parts of the world reminds us of the need to make decisions on a rational basis. The health and wellbeing of our students and staff will continue to be our primary concern and guide our response to the pandemic.

From October 2020, the University will be gradually implementing the following measures.

Teaching Arrangements

A curated “hybrid” mode—a carefully planned combination of face-to-face and synchronous online academic activities—will define most teaching and learning under the “new normal”, without compromising the desired learning outcomes. With the considerably stabilized conditions in Hong Kong, we can now recalibrate the pedagogical equation to include more face-to-face academic activities. This applies especially to higher-level undergraduate courses, postgraduate courses, as well as lab/studio/practicum-based courses, for which face-to-face interactions are particularly beneficial. The University has been working closely with the Faculties, in consultation with Departments and course instructors, on the plan to resume face-to-face teaching activities in a gradual manner, with the aim of balancing pedagogical needs and health risk of the campus community.

Social distancing measures will be put in place to ensure that face-to-face teaching is conducted safely. These include setting limits to seating capacity in lecture theatres and seminar rooms, as well as taking attendance to facilitate contact tracing, should it become necessary.  As some students may be unable to return to campus for various reasons, including travel restrictions, all classes will have an online option.  For these students, individual consultations with the course instructors will provide additional support. 

Changes to the mode of teaching for individual courses will be announced on CUSIS, and sufficient time will be allowed for students to add/ drop courses.

Hostel Accommodation

To safeguard student health and safety, and indeed that of the entire community, all hostel rooms in the nine Colleges will be converted to single occupancy. Consequently, the number of available hostel places will be significantly reduced. We recognize that final-year undergraduate students face added challenges in completing their graduation requirements. For that reason, final-year students with previously allocated hostel places will be accorded priority in taking up College accommodation. Residential space will also be set aside by the University and Colleges for contingency purpose.

There is no change to hostel fees for those originally assigned a double occupancy room. The standing rule that no visitors are allowed to stay overnight will be strictly enforced in all nine Colleges. Subject to availability, other students with special needs to stay on campus may be admitted by their respective Colleges. Further details will be forthcoming from the Colleges shortly. For postgraduate students, separate admission processes are already in place at the Postgraduate Halls.

Infection Control Measures

We are likely to have to live with the new coronavirus for the foreseeable future. If all of us take full responsibility in adhering to the needed infection control measures, we will be able to overcome whatever challenges that lie ahead. At the University, smart thermal cameras have been installed in relatively high-density areas, and vending machines dispensing masks have been deployed at various locations on campus. All lecture theatres and classrooms have also been sprayed with a long-lasting disinfectant coating. Wearing a mask is a proven measure in protecting oneself and others from possible infection. Social distancing, not only in the classrooms or libraries but also in canteens and common rooms, and practices of personal hygiene, such as regular handwashing, will go a long way in keeping the campus safe. To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, campus members should avoid group gatherings and are strongly advised NOT to conduct any large-scale events or events involving catering.

Please remember that, by being considerate, we are contributing to the fight against COVID-19. In exemplifying the CUHK spirit, we are making a difference at a time when empathy and mutual help are particularly needed.

Please also let us take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and joyous Mid-Autumn Festival.

 

Yours sincerely,

Rocky S. Tuan Alan K.L. Chan
Vice-Chancellor and President Provost