Professor Mimi Zou frees up class time for collaboration and project-based learning by delivering traditional lectures through online micro-modules
To learn more about Professor Zou’s Micro-modules, please visit this website: http://elderlawinhongkong.blogspot.hk/
Professor Zou lit up the room with her amiable smile the moment she walked into the interview to discuss her novel teaching and learning practices. Among other achievements, Professor Zou has received two consecutive teaching development grants from CUHK: Micro-modules Courseware Development Grant Scheme (MMCCDGS) in 2014/15 and Courseware Development Grant Scheme (CDGS) in 2015/16. Her pioneering work in micro-module courseware development has benefited not just law students but also earned university-wide recognition as an exemplar for innovative interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
As the teaching development grant scheme for academic year 2017/18-19 -Teaching Development and Language Enhancement Grant (TDLEG) is now open for application, we were fortunate to interview Professor Zou on her grant application experience and how it has benefited her professional development.
Could you tell us a bit about your micro-module innovations?
I have made 25 micro-module videos in total for two courses: Elder Law (JD) and PRC Legal System (LLB). I believe these micro-modules, of around ten minutes each, are a useful tool for students to learn foundational as well as more complex concepts, supplement the additional set readings, and consolidate their knowledge in the classroom. Students can view the micro-modules at anytime and anywhere, even while they are on the go.
How did you incorporate micro-modules into your courses?
The micro-modules were used as part of a flipped classroom approach. The use of micro-modules freed up valuable face-to-face time for students to engage in interactive classroom discussions, group exercises, and other activities.
Take my Elder Law course as an example. I have adopted a project based learning approach (PBL) in class, where students work in groups of six to examine elder law issues in different legal systems. I believe that equipping students with the right set of skills in their legal education is very important for their future job prospects and that teaching law is not just about the passing on of legal content. Important learning objectives that underpin my pedagogical approach include enhancing students’ abilities to work as a team, take initiative for independent learning, and develop critical analytical skills.
In what ways do you think using micro-modules in conjunction with a flipped classroom has benefited students’ learning?
Compared to ‘spoon feeding’ approaches, I try to use this innovative method in a way that encourages students to become creators of knowledge, rather than mere passive recipients.
The use of micro-modules also allows students to learn beyond the textbook and the classroom. The videos connect students with the wider community, such as through interviews with elderly persons in Hong Kong. E-learning also opens up opportunities to bring experts around the world into the classroom.
How did you evaluate the outcome of your e-learning project?
I have conducted student surveys mid-way through the course and some focus groups at the end of the term to understand students’ perceptions about the micro-modules, the flipped classroom approach, and project based learning. The surveys were anonymous, and students were asked to freely write their own comments on any aspect of their learning experiences. For the focus groups, student participants were randomly selected. A project assistant hosted the focus groups without my presence.
How did the students react to this form of learning?
The students reacted positively overall and appreciated how much effort goes into creating the micro-modules. Some students said that they wanted more topics to be covered in the micro-modules, so that was a good sign. Nevertheless, there were some students who expected a more traditional way of learning.
I have learnt through these projects that ‘knowing your audience’ is very important. Perhaps this learning approach is more suitable for senior year students.
What is the most important thing you have learnt through these two projects, in terms of professional development?
Professional development is about taking risks and trying to do something different. Sometimes there might be a conflict between the ‘safety of traditional approaches to teaching and learning (which could get you better course and teaching evaluations) and trying something new that could benefit students in the longer term. I am prepared to take up the challenge of the latter, particularly after seeing the actual benefits for students.
What advice would you like to give to other grant applicants?
The entire experience was really rewarding, even though creating the micro-modules does take some time and effort. I would encourage colleagues wanting to do something innovative and different with their teaching and learning to apply for the grants. Also, I subscribe to various SSRN e-journals on legal education and keep a teaching and learning journal for self-reflection, which have helped me with ideas for such grant applications.
By Vivian Chen