After the education reform started in 2009 in Hong Kong, there were some major effects on the Higher Diploma Programs offered by the Applied Science Discipline, Institute of Vocational Education (IVE). First, the duration of the Higher Diploma Programs was shortened to two years. Second, the science knowledge background of DSE graduates became diversified owing to the change of the curriculum of senior secondary education. Third, more new students of Higher Diploma programs came from secondary school with Chinese Language as the medium of instruction (MOI), but the MOI of the Higher Diploma Programs is in English.
The Applied Science Discipline could foresee that new students might face difficulties in their learning not only for the above-mentioned issues but also because the teaching and learning environment is significantly different at IVE compared with that at secondary school. After discussions with the Student Development Office at IVE (Chai Wan), a Learning Communities Program supported by the Student Development Office was initiated and piloted to help new students of the Higher Diploma in Environmental Science in Autumn 2012. The program was re-run in 2013.
The concept of the learning community was introduced around 1990 with the goal to advance the collective knowledge and in that way to support the growth of individual knowledge . The Learning Communities Program introduced here aimed to help new students of the Higher Diploma in Environmental Science to adapt to the learning environment at IVE, especially for those students who were relatively weak in science knowledge or from secondary school with Chinese Language as the MOI. The objectives of this program were to enable new students to develop learning skills in Applied Science subjects and facilitate their learning process by explaining concepts and encouraging open communication with student mentors from senior level.