City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has developed a new web-based education system, known as WELS, for primary teachers and students and is promoting this advanced educational tool to all local primary schools.
Based on the current design of the primary school curriculum, a blended learning commuity which makes use of the WELS platform called, WELNET, has been established. WELNET helps teachers plan lessons, assign homework and coordinate the sharing of teaching resources with other schools. Teachers can also adjust assignment content according to students’ learning abilities and progress. The diverse and interactive learning tasks in the system not only arouse students’ interest but also help inculcate a self-learning habit.
WELNET benefits primary school education and illustrates the way in which the University’s applied research meets the needs of society.
English is the first subject adopted in the WELNET system. To date, 35 primary schools are using the system and many of them used it for teaching and assigning homework during class suspension due to a flu outbreak last month. The system takes advantage of information technology to promote learning with added flexibility in regard to time and space.
Dr Apple Fok Wai-ping, the system developer and a graduate and research fellow of CityU’s Department of Computer Science, said WELNET would cover Chinese and General Studies in 2008–09, and would later extend to Mathematics and secondary school education.
Ms K M Chan, a teacher from Sai Kung Sung Tsun Catholic School (Primary Section), said that students’ English standards had markedly improved after using the system. “At first students only wrote a sentence or two on the system’s bulletin board but later on they left more and more messages. Some of them even wrote an article to share comments with other classmates. This is very encouraging,” she said.
Ms Stella Law Kong-fung, a teacher from Shek Chung Shan Memorial Catholic Primary School, said the school has been using the system for English teaching since 2006 and found that it enhanced students’ self-learning abilities and also assisted teaching. “We integrate the school-based curriculum into the system and it helps build a more systematic curriculum for us. Teachers can adjust the content according to each student’s ability and so teaching becomes more flexible,” she said.
The system is Dr Fok’s final-year undergraduate project. Under the supervision of Professor (Chair) Horace Ip Ho-shing, Director of CityU’s AIMtech Centre, she continues enhancing the system during her MPhil and PhD studies and has won international awards for its creativity, practicability and content.
Professor Ip and Dr Fok set up A & I Education Limited in 2006 under CityU Enterprises Limited to commercialise WELS. They are now promoting this innovative teaching and learning tool to all local primary schools.
Mr James Ng Kam-ming, Executive Director of CityU Extension, said CityU was one of the tertiary institutions that had been active in applied research and technology transfer. “CityU Enterprises Limited was established in 1991 to encourage and enable University staff to commercialise their research outcomes,” he said. “I hope WELNET will become even more popular and benefit more schools, teachers, students and parents.”
Dr Fok has recently designed another web-based learning tool that helps teachers monitor students’ progress in group projects. Project learning is very popular, according to Dr Fok, but it is not easy for teachers to understand how much each student is involved, or has learnt, in different stages.
“Through the new system, teachers will be able to monitor the learning progress of each student, while students will have the opportunity to go through different stages of project learning under guidance,” she said. “Students can also log into the system at home to interact and work with their group partners.”
The new system will undergo pilot testing at a local primary school in May.