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When Professor Gina Marchetti and her team launched the MOOC ‘Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens’ in 2016 on the back of a successful Common Core course, they were determined to make it more than another online programme. They wanted to push down boundaries between the global and local classrooms and see what each group could learn from the other.

“MOOCs are great for institutional publicity and they also allow people to understand what you do in terms of your research, but people have not taken them seriously as an on-campus way of providing students with an understanding of other learners from around the world. What we wanted to do was use our MOOC to get students to engage with their peers abroad,” she said.

Their first step was to introduce a point during both courses when the students could share comments and open a window to other views. The obvious choice was Jackie Chan, who is a film star both in Asia and the West. The Common Core and MOOC groups were each asked to reflect on Jackie Chan in specific ways and upload their comments on the MOOC for all to see.

The Common Core students were asked what they felt people outside Hong Kong may not understand about Jackie Chan – the comments ranged from the pride Hong Kong people take in him to condemnation of his perceived arrogance and political positions.

The MOOC students were asked to consider what puzzled them about Jackie Chan and Hong Kong cinema in general that local people might help clarify. Examples of the responses included a Singaporean who felt the confined environment of Chan’s martial arts sequences seemed to be something particular to Hong Kong, while an American pondered how the ‘other’ in Hong Kong films was the West but in Chan’s American films, he was the ‘other’.

“These sorts of comments encourage HKU students to think about the numerous ways in which a global star like Jackie Chan can be understood differently inside and outside of Asia,” said Dr Stacilee Ford, who is part of the Common Core and MOOC team and also teaches a related course called ‘History through Film’. “We’ve tried to customise the questions to encourage dialogue and enhance local-global interaction.”

Crossing the transcontinental divide

Dr Ford also extended the dialogue when she used the MOOC to ‘flip’ one of her history classes. Students were asked to complete a unit of the MOOC before class and use the class time to discuss the content. Three students, from Hong Kong, France and South Korea, were then invited to join the Weekly Round-up of the MOOC, a filmed discussion of the week’s content led by moderator Dr Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park, who is also part of the Common Core and MOOC team. The topic was Bruce Lee and the discussion gave a new kind of global take on his fame.

“The French student mentioned growing up watching Bruce Lee films where he speaks French, in Paris, and she thought she was fantasising. But I explained that when Bruce Lee died, everyone wanted to find a new Bruce Lee, including a French producer who created a fake French Bruce Lee. So that was not a false memory that she had,” he said.

The MOOC has also been a learning experience for the teachers, who have had to adapt their teaching style to a video format and bridge the gap between local students who are mostly straight out of high school and MOOC students who are usually older, working and better educated.

Another challenge is that they are able to require local students to follow and participate in the MOOC, but cannot make the same demands on MOOC students. This limits interaction possibilities. Professor Marchetti therefore is seeking one or two universities overseas that could pair up with the Common Core course for one or two MOOC units for a structured transcontinental discussion.

“I am hoping someone teaching Asian or Hong Kong films in say, England or the US will be willing to flip the materials on a film like in the same week as we do, so our learners can engage with peers elsewhere and use their experiences to reflect on the local-global connections. We could then put those reflections onto the MOOC for even more people to participate. That’s my big dream, but we haven’t done that yet,” she said – although maybe not for long. Professor Marchetti hopes to have such an arrangement in place by this September, when the next round of the MOOC will be launched.

The ‘Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens’ MOOC is on the edX platform; the next session will start on September 11, 2018. Further information can be found at its dedicated Facebook page

Three members in the ‘Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens’ Common Core and MOOC [massive

open online course] team – (from left) Dr Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park, Dr Stacilee Ford and

Professor Gina Marchetti.



‘Take Two’ For Hong Kong Cinema Course

A Common Core course that evolved into a MOOC (massive open online course) has become an experimental ground for getting local and overseas students to engage with each other.


What we wanted to do was use our MOOC [massive open online course] to get students to engage with their peers abroad.

Professor Gina Marchetti