University of Nottingham Ningbo China launches online teaching

03 March 2020

3 March: The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) started its spring semester teaching yesterday, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

This move to online teaching and learning involves virtually all taught courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Around 8,000 students and over 400 teaching staff have remotely taken part in the classes from all across China and as far away as Europe and Africa.

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Having had the first day of online learning, Jiahui Tang, a second year Architecture and Built Environment student felt confident of making the most of the experience.

“I think with the remote teaching, my learning outcome can be just as good because online learning allows greater flexibility - I can rewind the pre-recorded lecture and repeat until I fully understand, and it motivates me to better utilize the online resources.” She said.

To get prepared for the delivery of online teaching, academic and administrative staff on both the Nottingham and Ningbo campuses have been in close cooperation.

Since January, faculties and schools had started to develop contingency plans around online teaching. To provide students with the optimal learning experience, about a third of academic staff members returned to campus in early February to learn and compare the various remote teaching technologies. Every teaching staff member made an individual module online teaching plan that could best reflect the specific feature of each module. The teaching plan and a whole week’s worth of module content were made available to students a week ahead of the official start date.

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Dr Chiew-Foong Kwong

A Wechat group has been set up to enable academic staff to share experiences.

Assistant Professor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Dr Chiew-Foong Kwong is one of over 200 members of the Wechat group. Dr Kwong has been active in offering great ideas and techniques to his peer academics. He has so far created 14 video tutorials on leveraging digital resources for a better online learning experience.

Dr Kwong started delivering blended courses - that supplement face-to-face lectures with prerecorded content - at UNNC three years ago. “I give the introductory session of a topic in a prerecorded lecture, which I then upload onto Moodle. So in the face-to-face class, I can then focus on a more difficult topic.” He said.

Dr Kwong’s module Computer Aided Engineering has enrolled over 90 students from across the globe. Before the class start date, he had already made available of his module content. When the class began at 9 am Monday, students signed in to his discussion forum on Moodle to delve into detailed topics.

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Interactive online teaching rooms

To support with module design and technology preparation, the University’s IT and e-learning support services have come up with a variety of technical solutions.

Moodle is the University’s major online learning platform, where academics not only share learning materials but also manage interactive activities, moderate discussions, create assignments, track students’ progress and set up reminders for upcoming events. 

There are other ways, though, to accommodate students’ learning needs. 

“Microsoft Teams” and the platform "Zoom" are widely used to run live seminar sessions, where teachers and students can conduct a two-way interactive flow of ideas. Some academics also use Echo 360 to collect student feedback on improving module teaching.

In addition, interactive online teaching rooms have been set up on campus, where academics are supported to use an array of teaching technologies.

In the meantime, the University is continuously working on improving the teaching quality based on students’ feedback and learning outcomes. Staff are also being surveyed in terms of their experience with the online teaching platforms so that any issue can be addressed at the first opportunity.