Beyond its dreadful effects on human health, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the ways in which large swathes of the population work, study, and interact. In keeping with its ethos of impactful engagement with the community in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area (GBA), Lingnan University responded to the crisis by launching a number of research projects to examine the specific effects of coronavirus mitigation policies.
The eight studies, which were organized by the University’s Vice-President, Professor Joshua Mok under the campaigning banner “Fighting COVID-19 @ Lingnan University”, have now been completed. Besides providing insights that can help the region cope with the current dangers and difficulties, the studies also point to implications for a post-pandemic world.
The delivery of education has been significantly disrupted by lockdowns and related policies, and two of Lingnan’s projects examined the effects these changes have had on students. One study led by Professor Mok, which looked at the impact of the shift to online learning, found that more than 60% of Hong Kong university students judged web-based learning to be less effective than face-to-face teaching. Among the main challenges respondents identified were their own lack of self-discipline (59.98%) and a poor learning atmosphere (56%).
The other, led by Professor Padmore Amoah, looked at the experience and wellbeing of non-local students during the pandemic. Nearly 90% of respondents – who came from 26 countries and regions across the globe – said the coronavirus outbreak had caused “moderate to extreme” disruption to their learning activities, and 45% reported feelings of loneliness.
The Joint Research Centre for Greater Bay Area – Social Policy & Governance was co-founded by Lingnan and the South China University of Technology. Together, the two universities looked at GBA residents’ assessment of COVID-19 prevention strategies and found the Mainland population judged the responses of their local governments’ to be more effective than those pursued in Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, more than 60% of respondents believed any Hong Kong or Macau citizens diagnosed with COVID-19 in their cities should enjoy the same free medical services as local residents.
In their project examining work-from-home (WFH) initiatives, Prof Ada Wong, Associate Professor of Teaching, School of Graduate Studies, and Dr Frankie Lam King-sun, Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, found that over 80% of their respondents would like to continue to WFH on at least one day a week once the pandemic is over. In addition, 64% said the practice helped reduce work stress, and just under half said it bolstered family relationships.
Two of the other studies investigated the effect the pandemic was having on the elderly in Hong Kong. Their findings showed that not only were the elderly finding it harder to access the services and support they needed, they were also experiencing a greater sense of isolation and loneliness. On a positive note, and one with potentially longer-term implications, over 60% of respondents were willing or very willing to try online medical consultations when the necessary technology is fully developed.