Taking Class from the Comfort of Your Home: HKUST X Minerva Scholars Program

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With the era of digital learning, university education is getting transformed to becoming more borderless and innovative.  Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is one of the leaders in the area and now, together with Saras, will elaborate the experience of the innovative the Active Learning Forum, an online platform that enables students and professors to have classes from anywhere they want.

 

Saras Sutedja

Saras in Hong Kong

When I was still in high school, I think of “university classes” as huge classes that look like movie theaters. It never crossed my mind that there is another way of taking classes other than listening to the lecturer talk for two hours or less, especially because I was going to be a “traditional” major student – Accounting! But one day, I got an email from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), the university that gave me an offer, about their new program that allows you to take some classes from anywhere you want – be it your own room, a nice café, or even on top of a mountain – as long as there is a good internet connection.

The program is called HKUST X Minerva Scholars Program – a partnership between the HKUST and the Minerva Schools at KGI, a San Fransisco-based university which has the idea of four years, seven countries with all classes conducted via the Active Learning Forum, an online platform that enables students and professors to have classes from anywhere they want. My first reaction when I got the email was “Wow, this is very interesting and new to me!”. It was new for the HKUST too, since my batch was going to be the first batch of Minerva X HKUST. After some considerations, I decided to apply for the program, got the interview, and I was in – the first batch of HKUST X Minerva Scholars!

As mentioned before, I can take the class from anywhere I want. The class size is small, with only 8-10 people per class. I think it is very good, since the class is nothing like a lecture and more like a discussion. Before class, students have to read the pre-class materials and what we do in the classroom is to discuss and ask questions about the things that we do not understand yet.

[Featured Photo] HKUST-Minerva Classroom

A snippet of the Minerva Platform

“What kind of things do you learn in the program? How different is it from your classes in HKUST?”
In the program, we learn lots of soft skills – how to get other people’s perspective, analyze things more critically, communicate clearly, and many more. This is very different from my HKUST classes since I do not learn any business or accounting courses. The things that I learn in the program are more widely applicable and not really field-specific – we even learn Python! I personally think that the stuff that I got from HKUST-Minerva can be applied to my HKUST courses and even my real life, since the method that Minerva uses enables the students to fully absorb what is being taught.

“If you like this system, why don’t you just transfer to the Minerva Schools at KGI?” you may ask.
Personally, I like this system (HKUST-Minerva) better since I still get to experience the university life where I can go to the huge lecture theaters and listen to the lecturer talk for one hour and a half. I can also meet new and real-life friends in my other classes, different from my real-yet-virtual friends in my HKUST-Minerva classes. And what is more interesting is that we can apply what we learn in our HKUST-Minerva classes in the HKUST courses, making us sliiightly better than our peers!

HKUST-Minerva friends

Building interpersonal relationship outside the Minerva Platform

“Does this virtual learning system affect your interpersonal relationship with your peers and professors?”
Since I am also a student in HKUST and all my friends and professors are from HKUST too, I get to meet them a lot, sometimes on daily basis. Especially for my friends who are in the same HKUST-Minerva class as me, we often see each other in the real classroom HKUST booked for us to ensure the perfect environment for taking our classes. We can also just bump into each other in the library and canteen, or just randomly ask the people in the WhatsApp group to have lunch if you want! The fact that we are still students in the same university allows us to still have that real-life connection even though we are only connected virtually in the classroom. What is interesting is I am actually closer with my HKUST-Minerva peers than my friends from other classes – since the class is very discussion based and small, we can know each other better. We are also close with our professors because of the small classroom – they know our names, our stories, and we know the same of them too. Every semester we have gatherings, not only with our fellow friends, but also with the professors and the other people working behind the scene! We get to mingle and just get to know each other better.

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Saras and HKUST x Minerva Batchmates

Because we are still taking the HKUST courses, we cannot really take the class from our own home country except if you are a local Hongkonger. I personally have taken the class from lots of places – my dorm room (well, I consider this as my home now, so technically I have taken the class from my own home..), the library, a classroom, a café, even my home back in Jakarta when I did not have any HKUST classes but I still had HKUST-Minerva classes! Even though this program is not easy (yes, you have to put a lot of effort to excel in this program), I think this program is very rewarding. It changes how I think, perceive, and communicate. And more importantly, it gives me the chance to meet my best friends in university – my HKUST-Minerva fellows.

Photos provided by author.

 

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Jakarta-born; Hong Kong-based; 50% Balinese, 25% Padangnese, and 25% Medanese – meet Saras (Amrita Saraswati Sutedja), an Accounting student in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Friendly, cheerful, and adventurous is how her friends describe her. She loves organizing and helping out for various events in and out of campus, even since high school – Hackathon, teaching English, musical theatres, you name it! On her free time, she loves to hang out with her friends, eat, and geek on the airline industry. She can be reached at amrita.sutedja@outlook.com