Impact of E-Learning During SARS Outbreak in Hong Kong

Impact of E-Learning During SARS Outbreak in Hong Kong

Eric T.T. Wong
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-249-7.ch009
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The potential benefits of e-commerce have been reported widely in the literature, and e-learning has been gradually accepted as a social tool for e-commerce at tertiary institutions (Parker, 2003). In this chapter the impact of e-commerce on the local community during a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Hong Kong will be briefly described, with an emphasis on the use of E-learning technology as a contingency measure in tertiary institutions. At the height of the SARS epidemic in April 2003, Hong Kong had 60 to 80 new cases of the disease each day. Hundreds of thousands of residents wore surgical masks in an attempt to avoid catching the virus. All schools and universities were ordered closed and governments invoked quarantine laws not used for decades to isolate those who might be carriers. Explained Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa in announcing tougher measures to curb the spread of the disease: “Hong Kong is currently facing its most serious contagious disease threat in 50 years.” As a contingency measure e-learning technology was employed in the local higher education. This chapter aims to identify some of the practical difficulties involved in an evaluation of the academic performance of two groups of engineering students taking an introductory course - one group studied via e-learning and the other studied through the traditional classroom approach. Preliminary findings showed that with limited time available for the course design and delivery, the examination result of the e-learning class was slightly better than the traditional class. With positive student feedback on the e-learning approach, this would imply that e-learning shows a potential for substituting some of the traditional course elements, especially for topics relating to higher-order thinking skills. To generalize these findings more studies with properly controlled experimental design would need to be carried out. Directions for future work are also suggested.

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