As the course coordinator of the capstone courses titled ‘Senior Experimental Projects‘ and ‘Literature Research‘ in the School of Life Sciences (SLS), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the year of 2019/20 was definitely one of the most memorable in my life.
In Term 1, classes in CUHK was called off in mid-November 2019, the face-to-face oral presentations of Literature Research were modified and replaced by other online assessment methods. It was the first time I ever adopted such a contingency plan for a capstone course (and it was also the first time I applied such a plan for many other courses throughout my career in CUHK). Gratefully, everything turned out to be fine.
In Term 2, due to the pandemic of covid-19, all face-to-face courses were replaced by online teaching after the Chinese New Year vocation. Since the teaching schedule was significantly interrupted in Term 2 (classes from February to April were all affected), many final years students had to change their plan (as they were about to graduate at the end of the academic year). With the experience in Term 1, we adopted a similar approach in Term 2 for Literature Research. As the coordinator of the course, I tried all my best to supervise 19 final year students in SLS: initially, I was the adviser of five students in Literature Research; I tried my very best to supervise 14 more students, who had to join the course because of the ‘knock down’ of face-to-face classes. Although we encountered various kinds of difficulties, we managed to overcome with some interesting projects related to 1) climate change and salmon, 2) 2019 bush fire in Australia, 3) marine park for coral, 4) urban tree selection and plantation in Hong Kong, 5) monitoring methods for Indo-Pacific finless porpoises in Hong Kong, 6) food addiction, 7) health benefits of coconut, avocado, and olive oils, 8) diet on sleep quality, 9) health effects of sugar substitutes, 10) green tea and inflammatory bowel disease, 11) gut microbiota and diet, 12) bacteria engineered for low phosphorus environment, 13) oxytocin and bone, 14) colorectal cancer, 15) BRCA mutation and breast cancer, 16) immunotherapy for breast cancer, 17) the mechanism of remdesivir on 2019-nCoV, 18) students with special educational needs in Hong Kong, and 19) experiential learning in Biology. Surprisingly, we came up with some amazing topics during a crisis!
Yet, for Senior Experimental Projects, we adopted Zoom for the online assessment of oral presentations. In my humble opinion, I emphasized a lot on cyber-security and I tried my utmost to minimize the risks: by working out the possible scenarios together with the procedures and contingency plans as well as by following the recommended measures in CUHK. I tried monitoring the whole-day online Zoom presentation session from 10 am to 6 pm on 5 May 2020 (Tuesday); in fact, I learnt a lot practical from this special moment.
I would reasonably say that we are all in a global crisis now; honestly, I worry about my students and this is the main motivation to drive me to strive everyday!