After three years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become more and more popular, promoting the development of innovative educational approaches. Dr Han Dongkun, a lecturer from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, and his team designed and assembled 12 robotic arms from scratch to form the “Flipped online laboratory”, a new pedagogical approach to eLearning that allows students to use cross-platform remote control technology to operate robotic arms and laboratory instruments on campus in real time.
The idea of a Flipped online laboratory is that students can conduct online experiments with the help of flipped laboratory instructions, in which they first watch video of an experiment at home in advance, then build and control robots in real time during online classes. A feature of the Flipped online laboratory is that the robots controlled by students in the online class are not virtual; through the cross-platform, remote control technology, students can use their personal computers to control the computers in the lab remotely, further tuning and controlling the robot in real time.
Even though schools resumed face-to-face classes with the relaxation of pandemic prevention measures, the Flipped online laboratory still has practical uses. Dr Han initiated a collaboration with a college in the UK that allows students to remotely control the robots in each other’s laboratories using the technology, which has promoted academic and cultural exchange between the two places. Dr Han and his team have even created a more polished version of the technology, known as Flipped online laboratory pro, which incorporates automatic assessment of students’ performance in the lab.
Dr Han Dongkun’s teaching philosophy is student-centred. He adopts a technology-human hybrid system to enhance students’ creativity, motivation and learning effectiveness. His innovative teaching approach earned him a University Education Award 2022. Dr Han joined CUHK in 2017. His excellence in teaching has earned him multiple accolades, including the University Education Award 2022, the Dean’s Exemplary Teaching Award twice (2019 and 2021), and the Exemplary Teaching Award in General Education 2018.
He said, “Teaching is my chosen calling, providing me with love, imagination, passion and satisfaction. The most rewarding thing in teaching is to find that our pedagogy helps students learn faster and smarter. I would like to thank all my colleagues and students at CUHK for their unconditional support, which inspired me to develop innovative teaching methods.”
(extracted from the press release issued on 15 Feb 2023 by CUHK Communications and Public Relations Office)