Updated: May 13, 2022
Teacher: Dr. David Lau
Department: School of Life Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
The ongoing covid-19 pandemic, periods of class suspension, or even occasionally extreme weather have had a transformative effect on where and how we teach and learn. In order to compensate the lost time and the missed learning opportunities, Dr. David Lau, Curator of the Shiu-Ying Hu Herbarium from the School of Life Sciences at CUHK, created a “Virtual Reality Trail of Plant Learning” project which is now made available as an elective course “BIOL4510 Hong Kong Flora and Vegetation” for the students of the School of Life Sciences. The course aims to provide students with a safe and interactive learning platform where they can explore plants and the natural environment through computers, mobile phones, and VR goggles. Students are required to first complete a pre-survey on plant identification, and followed by a VR trail of plant learning class, in which flipped classroom materials are at students’ disposal. Upon completion of the VR trail of plant learning class, a post-survey is conducted to examine student performance. Dr. Lau brought concerns about the effectiveness of self-learning to the fore. In particular, he raised questions of whether students are merely practising rote learning or whether they do digest and absorb the concepts. As such, he highlights the importance of class discussion and debriefing sessions after each post-survey. Dr. Lau reflected that there is a need to maintain and enhance students’ motivation. His strategies include (1) involving students to work on a flipped classroom project which is assessed, (2) explicating the fact that contents covered in the VR trail of plant learning class will be tested in the examination, and (3) connecting his class and taught contents with students’ future career development and postgraduate studies. When asked if he would continue his good practice of using new technologies after the covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Lau answered this question with a resounding “YES”. He remarked, “I will use the VR technologies until my retirement!” Besides the adoption of VR technologies to his undergraduate course, he also extends the impact of VR plant learning to primary and secondary school sectors. Opening up the resources to general public is also on top of his agenda.
VR Trail of Plant Learning (https://syhuherbarium.sls.cuhk.edu.hk/vr/)
The evaluation forms below are used as a pre- and post-test on student knowledge on plant identification.