Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

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More updates from Dr. Pittman about his research, fieldwork and MOOC filming trip to Argentina. Less than 1 month until the start of the 3rd edition of Dinosaur Ecosystems. Join more than 7500 students who have already enrolled. Sign up at https://www.edx.org/course/dinosaur-ecosystems, and see you on Feb 7, 2020


Course trailer also available on Uvision



What is this course about?

Week 1 Teaser

Week 1 Teaser
Week 2 Teaser

Week 2 Teaser
Week 3 Teaser

Week 3 Teaser
Week 4 Teaser

Week 4 Teaser
Week 5 Teaser

Week 5 Teaser
Week 6 Teaser

Week 6 Teaser

What was it like being a dinosaur? Where did they live? Who did they live with? Were things anything like they are today? How do we even know all this?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in our upcoming Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Dinosaur Ecosystems! Starting from February 8th 2017, Dr. Michael Pittman of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Earth Sciences, together with Professor Xu Xing of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (Chinese Academy of Sciences), will lead you on an expedition to the Gobi desert to unveil a famous ancient ecosystem!

In this course, we will take you to Erlian, Inner Mongolia, and leading museums and institutions to explore:

  • dinosaur biology
  • how palaeontologists reconstruct ancient ecosystems using fossil and modern evidence
  • the traits and significance of a Late Cretaceous dinosaur ecosystem.

Our milestones
Dinosaur Ecosystems, the first MOOC offered by our Faculty of Science, was selected to be one of the 10 finalists for 2018 edX Prize for Exceptional Contributions in Online Teaching and Learning. It is also the first MOOC on dinosaur in Asia. It is the first time that we send crew members to the desert and world-renowned museums to film. Our course was also featured on the edX homepage, edx newsletter and various media reports and the HKU Convocation Newsletter Summer 2016 (Pg 15, MOOC in the spotlight: Introduction to Dinosaur Ecosystems).

edX global forum
edX prize finalistDr Michael Pittman attended the Global edX forum 2018.

Our course featured on the edX homepage!

List of media reports:

  1. Interview by Noreen Mir on RTHK Radio 3: Dr Michael Pittman – Dinosaur Ecosystems
  2. 港大首辦免費「恐龍證書課程」 網上教學無限年齡 [Translation: HKU’s free online course on dinosaurs open to all] (Sing Tao Daily 星島日報, February 6th, 2017)
  3. 免費讀港大網上課程:恐龍生態系統 [Translation: HKU’s free online course: Dinosaur Ecosystems] (Mingpao OL 明報OL, February 7th, 2017)
  4. Switch onto movie action with HKU online course (The Standard, February 7th, 2017)
  5. Tracking the last days of the DINOSAUR (China Daily Hong Kong, February 8th, 2017)

A Roaring Start
With the collaborative efforts from multiple parties, our course had a roaring start. The enrollment number jumped from 2,000 to 3,000 two days before launch, and even doubled on the next day. By the end of the course (as at March 27th), we had 8,996 learners from over 100 countries!


Learners’ Comments
Check out what our learners said about our course:

Sharing Knowledge, Sharing Joy
To celebrate the joyful success of our course, Dr. Pittman hosted a party on February 8th, 2017 with almost 50 HKU colleagues and members of the general public at Stephen Hui Geological Museum. More details here.

A fun drawing competition titled “The Year of the Dinosaur” was also organized to engage dinosaur lovers in the community. The following is a selection of fun dinosaur-themed Chinese New Year scenes designed by creative young minds:




Dinosaur Ecosystems @ Hong Kong Science Museum
To promote the course, we had set up, for the first time, a booth in the T. rex exhibition in Hong Kong Science Museum.

“T-Rex Revealed – The Augmented + Virtual Reality Experience” was a recent exhibition where you could interact with dinosaurs with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. Our course instructor, Dr. Michael Pittman, was the advisor of the exhibition.

Dr. Pittman also brought along souvenirs of our course to Science Alive 2017 on March 4th and 5th at the Science Museum. He gave a lecture on “Dinosaur Appearance: New Discoveries” and set up an exhibition counter introducing his research and our MOOC to the general public.

Left: One of our learners, Jason, travelled all the way from Macau (a 2 hour roundtrip) to meet Dr. Pittman!
Right: It was a delight to know that our young learners love our course poster!

For more photos, check out our Facebook photo album!


New Discoveries: Reconstructing Dinosaurs with Lasers
These few months had been a busy time for Dr. Pittman, who had to simultaneously teach a huge class online and work on his research. In February 2017, he “and his collaborators reconstructed the first highly detailed body outline of a feathered dinosaur based on high-definition images of its preserved soft tissues”. This important science discovery was published in Nature Communications and featured in various media outlets such as National Geographic and BBC News.

Dr. Pittman shared his discoveries in a press conference on March 1st, 2017.

His discoveries were featured in the following websites:

  1. Dinosaur hunting in Inner Mongolia: Gobi Desert a treasure trove for University of Hong Kong-led expedition (Post Magazine, September 12th, 2015)
  2. 港大古生物學家利用新技術準確重塑恐龍身體輪廓 帶羽毛恐龍真貌首次展現 [Translation: Major breakthrough in knowledge of dinosaur appearance: HKU palaeontologist reconstructs feathered dinosaurs in the flesh with new technology] (HKU Press Release, February 27th, 2017)
  3. Lasers flesh out dino-bird profile (Phys.org, February 28th, 2017)
  4. Laser light uncovers hidden secrets of feathered dinosaur fossils (PBS Newshour, February 28th, 2017)
  5. Ce dinosaure à plumes qui avait déjà tout d’un oiseau [Translation: This feathered dinosaur that already had everything of a bird] (Le Parisien, February 28th, 2017)
  6. 港大古生物學家以激光新技術 重現1.6億年前近鳥龍 [Translation: HKU palaeontologist reconstructs 1.6 hundred-million-year-old Anchiornis with new laser technology] (Apple Daily, March 1st, 2017)
  7. 港大首用激光技術 重塑侏羅紀近鳥龍真身(有片) [Translation: HKU reconstrcuts Jurassic-era Anchiornis with laser technology] (Hong Kong 01, March 1st, 2017)
  8. 港大古生物學家利用新技術重塑帶羽恐龍真身 [Translation: HKU palaeontologist reconstructs feathered dinosaurs with new technology] (Hong Kong Economic Times, March 1st, 2017)
  9. 港大教授以激光拆解化石 細膩還原近鳥龍 [Translation: HKU palaeontologist deciphers fossils and reconstructs Anchiornis with lasers] (on.cc, March 1st, 2017)
  10. 港大新技術首次根據恐龍軟組織影像重塑羽毛恐龍的身體輪廓 [Translation: HKU reconstructs feathered dinosaurs based on images of dinosaur soft tissues using new technology] (Metro Radio, March 1st, 2017)
  11. 港大用新技術 成功勾劃侏羅紀動物近鳥龍外貌 [Translation: HKU successuflly reconstructs Jurassic-era Anchiornis with new technology] (Singtao Daily, March 1st, 2017)
  12. 近鸟龙真面目还原 [Translation: Revealing what an Anchiornis really looked like] (Sinchew News, March 1st, 2017)
  13. Lasers reveal the secrets of a feathered dinosaur fossil (Popular Science, March 1st, 2017)
  14. Laser technique sheds light on pivotal Chinese feathered dinosaur (Reuters, March 1st, 2017)
  15. Lasers flesh out dino-bird profile (Paris AFP; Yahoo! News, March 1st, 2017)
  16. This Laser Reconstruction Of A Four-Winged Dinosaur Is Incredible (Gizmodo, March 1st, 2017)
  17. This Might Be The Most Accurate Dinosaur You’ve Ever Seen (IFL Science!, March 1st, 2017)
  18. Incredible Anchiornis pictures reveal what dinosaur that lived 160 million years ago really looked like (The Sun, March 1st, 2017)
  19. Scientists reconstruct a Jurassic-era dinosaur and discover how it moved (Mashable Asia, March 2nd, 2017)


Dinosaurs on TV!
Dr. Pittman and his 3D dinosaur model even made it to TVB’s Big Boys Club (兄弟幫) in April! In the two episodes titled “Unveiling the Secrets of Dinosaurs” (Part 1, Part 2), he shared fun facts about dinosaurs, his archeological experiences and how he uses lasers to reconstruct dinosaurs from fossils. In the latest episode titled “Precious Dinosaur Fossils”, he brought along dinosaur eggs and teeth fossils and explained how fossils were formed.


Interested to learn more?
Check out this interview of Dr. Pittman where he explained the importance of studying dinosaurs and producing this course.
Don’t forget to take a glimpse into the artistic process of crafting the MOOC.

This course is just the beginning of our exploration of dinosaurs. Stay in touch with us through our Facebook and Twitter!

Dr. Chi-Un Lei, Leon is currently an e-Learning Technologist in the Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI), HKU. He received his B.Eng. (first class honors) and Ph.D. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from HKU in 2006 and 2011, respectively. He is a HEA Fellow and an IEEE Senior Member. He is also the Vice Chairman of IEEE Hong Kong Section Education Chapter (2017-present). He was awarded with the HKU Professional Services Individual Award 2018, the Best Paper Award in IEEE TALE 2017, IEEE TALE 2013 and IAENG IMECS 2012, Best Student Paper Award in IAENG IMECS 2010 and IAENG IMECS 2007.

As an e-Learning technologist at HKU, my role is to support university teachers from various departments to adopt online/blended learning in their teaching. In the past three years, I have worked with instructional design colleagues to provide consultancy services and trainings to teachers at HKU, and supported them to develop e-Learning content based on their teaching subjects and needs. Our collaboration with various teachers and units is quite successful.

Providing E-Learning Consultancy Services to Teachers

Give advice on educational resources development

One of the services I provide is to evaluate the educational resources development process led by teachers and give advice on how they can develop more effectively. I often partner with teachers and provide regular assessment of their e-Learning content development. In the evaluation process, specific and easy to understand advice on the instructional design and technological considerations would be given to the teachers. Specifically, the goal of this evaluation process is to identify at-risk designs that may hinder learners’ learning, and I will then provide specific revision suggestions to teachers. This service can help to minimize learning hurdles. For example, I recommend teachers to use Mayer’s instructional multimedia principles in reviewing their instructional videos. This set of principles provides a guideline for teachers in learning how to reduce extraneous content and pinpoint essential learning content in their videos. Supporting teachers in creating an instructional video is not the last step. I also help teachers to analyse students’ video watching behaviour by conducting a course-level exploratory analysis. Abnormal watching behaviour can be identified and those moments can then be revised for a more effective learning in the next cohort. This practice has been adopted in MOOC and blended learning development and proven to be effective for courseware improvement.

Additionally, I have also worked with colleagues and teachers to develop a chatbot tutor and explore different gamification mechanisms such as a badge system. In particular, the chatbot tutor we have built helps to provide 24/7 personalized feedback tools for supporting large-scale class feedback. Based on these experiences, I have developed an automated learning design verification mechanism for teachers to conduct quality assurance process on their side.

Develop guidelines for online/blended course development

group photo
Besides providing consultation sessions to individual teachers, I have also worked with colleagues to develop guidelines for online/blended course development on an institutional level. For instance, we have developed an easy-to-use flipped classroom teaching package for implementing a DIY flipped classroom (https://hku.to/flipping_menu). The first version of this teaching package was well received by teachers and teaching support practitioners within and beyond HKU. After the first version was published, I observed that some teachers would like to know what kinds of classroom activities can be implemented and how they can be implemented, as well as what probing questions can be raised for discussions. Therefore, my team and I have revamped the package again and included examples on classwork activities and online/blended learning cases at HKU for teachers’ reference.

In addition, my colleagues and I have studied three different technological courses that adopted the flipped classroom approach for one semester in HKU, according to the “Seven Principles of Effective Teaching” framework. The guidelines of good practices gleaned from the cases would be a useful reference for teachers who are interested in conducting flipped classroom.

A Reflection on How I Support Two Teachers on a MOOC Production

My experience on partnering with two professors, who are both new to online course development, on a MOOC production can demonstrate how the consultancy service provided by my team and myself can support teachers at HKU to adopt online/blended learning in their teaching. In the production process of this MOOC, I first reviewed the professors’ teaching slides and developed several pilot videos with different visualisation formats. Students were then invited to watch these pilot videos with different visualisation formats, and their watching behaviours were collected and analysed. This video prototyping process is a great way to increase teacher’s involvement and improve the quality of the videos as we are able to identify better video design in the communication process.

After launching the first cohort of the MOOC, I helped to review the courseware again and found that social engagement and learners’ sense of belonging to the learning groups in this MOOC can be improved. Using both the frameworks of First Principles of Instruction and Community of Inquiry in analysing the course, I suggested the teaching team to make two improvements: 1) to create more section-level forums for stimulating discussions among students, and 2) include hints and detailed solutions for every MCs (150+ MCs in total). The teaching team agreed on the revisions, and the results have shown that the enrolment and learning retention in the second and third cohorts have been significantly improved. In addition, this MOOC development project was used as an exemplar in the Faculty for initiating their new e-learning pedagogy development plan.

Getting Teachers Out of Their Comfort Zone

It is completely understandable for us to feel nervous of trying something new. One of the major challenges I face in e-Learning development is to motivate teachers to start participating and experimenting. It can be challenging as e-Learning development requires teachers to apply both pedagogical and technological skills at the same time. I have collected showcase examples from various fields so that teachers who are new to e-Learning can learn from relevant course development in his/her own discipline. I would also introduce easy-to-use e-Learning tools and technologies with guidelines, training videos, showcase videos and templates in my consultation sessions and training workshops. For teachers who are more experienced and confident in trying more complicated tools, I would provide advice on teaching development grants application for further e-Learning development to them.

Collaboration is the key to educational development. At the end of the consultation meetings/trainings, I would always include a learning design sharing session where teachers can form into groups and share their own stories and teaching needs with colleagues. The learning design discussion facilitates teachers to identify their own goals in their e-Learning development. They found the discussion very inspiring and some of them even worked together in a cross-team project. In these learning design sharing sessions, I was also able to learn from teachers and better understand their needs and ambitions; some teachers wanted a small-scale pilot development while some aimed for an award-winning sophisticated development. Reflecting on what I have learnt in these learning design sharing sessions, I have suggested different teaching-support solutions; the proposals range from DIY production training for teachers and teaching assistants to large-scale e-Learning deployments supported by internal/external teaching development grants.

What’s Next?

group photo
My collaboration with teachers and units has inspired me to work on building copyright awareness at HKU. I have worked with teachers and various units on different institutional-level projects and produced videos on the topic of research data management and academic integrity. These videos have been used for educating teachers, staff and students on research integrity and academic honesty. These collaboration projects have led me to incubate a learning development project on copyright education. The aim of this project is to raise the awareness of fresh students and teaching staff on copyright issues encountered in their teaching and learning. If you are interested in learning more about this project, please see https://hku.to/Copyright_Classroom.

The TELI team and I will continue to provide support to teachers at HKU, including individual consultations and training sessions on various topics. For enquiries, please contact us at enquiry@teli.hku.hk.

Dear students

As you know, we’ll be putting many assessment tasks online in the examination period at the end of this semester. I’m sending you a set of FAQs to help explain some of the issues.

When is the examination period at the end of this semester?

We recognize that in this semester the learning process has been disrupted, and that some students require more time to prepare themselves for exams. We’ve therefore extended the examination period from Saturday 7 December 2019 to Friday 10 January 2020.

Will all courses switch to online assessment?

No. Some courses will not change because they do not have exams at the end of this semester. Others will not switch to online assessment because of professional registration requirements.

Does online assessment mean there will be an open-book exam?

Yes, unless specified by the course examiner(s), courses using online assessment will have open-book exams.

What new forms of online assessment has HKU created?

We have created the Online Exam (OLEX) system, which we will use solely for holding online exams. OLEX enables teachers to upload an exam paper and make it accessible to students enrolled in their course at a scheduled exam timeslot. It provides a platform for students to upload their answer papers and teachers to receive them in a WORD file (unless the course examiner gives special permission to use a PDF or ZIP file). Students are reminded to watch out for the exam end time as the system will not remind them. Please note that some teachers will continue to use Moodle for assessment and online examination purposes and will not use OLEX.

Will students need to register in advance with OLEX?

Yes. If your course requires you to use OLEX for online examination, you will receive an email on Wednesday 4 December 2019 asking you to register. Please register on the OLEX system by 14:00 on Thursday 5 December 2019.

How will students access an online examination?

After registration, students will be able to log into an online examination at https://olex.hku.hk/exam/take-exam.html. Online access will open ten minutes before the scheduled exam timeslot.

Can students familiarize themselves with OLEX ahead of their online examination?

Yes. We have created a drill student website for OLEX: https://drill-olex.hku.hk/exam/register.html. Students may use this website to familiarize themselves with OLEX before the date of their online examination.

Will all students be able to access our online examinations?

Yes. For students currently resident in Mainland China, we have secured a leased line that will connect directly to an HKU server for online exams.

How will we make it clear to students that they must respect standard norms of academic integrity?

We have adopted an academic integrity statement that students will have to agree to before being able to access an online exam. This is the statement (if you do not fully understand the concept of plagiarism, please visit this webpage – https://tl.hku.hk/plagiarism):

  • I acknowledge that University examinations require all students to respect the highest standards of academic integrity. For the examination I am about to take, I make the following pledge:
    1. All the work will be my own, and I will not plagiarize from any source;
    2. I will not obtain or seek to obtain an unfair advantage by communicating or attempting to communicate with any other person during the examination; neither will I give or attempt to give assistance to another student taking the examination;
    3. For an examination which permits the use of calculators, I will use only an approved model as announced by the Examinations Secretary, unless otherwise prescribed by the examiner(s);
    4. I will stop writing immediately at the designated end time of the examination, and will make no modification to my script thereafter.
  • I understand that students who are suspected of violating this pledge are liable to be referred to the Disciplinary Committee, and may be subject to disciplinary action such as suspension of studies or expulsion from the University.

How will students answer the exam questions?

For most courses, students will be required to answer the exam questions in a single Microsoft Word file. However, for some courses students will be able to answer the exam questions by hand with the permission of the course examiner. At the end of the exam, these students will be given time to consolidate all their work into a single PDF or zip file. All students will be asked to upload a single file to OLEX.

Will students be able to ask questions about the exam paper in the first 30 minutes of the exam?

No, this will not be possible.

How will we ensure that students do not take longer than the allocated time for an exam?

The academic integrity statement makes it clear that when the end of the exam timeslot comes, they must stop – exactly as in a proctored exam. After the end of the exam, students must make no substantive changes to their file. In cases of doubt, we will check the file history.

How long will students have to upload their exam answers?

We will allow students a 30-minute grace period to upload their exam answers in a single file to OLEX. A receipt will be sent to each student’s registered email address. This time cannot be used to continue taking the exam. Again, in cases of doubt we will check the file history.

How can we ensure the security of exam papers and scripts?

All exam papers and scripts will be within OLEX, a system hosted at HKU. We are confident that this will generate the level of security we require.

If students fear their Internet connection will not be good, what can they do?

If you worry about your Internet connection, you can voluntarily capture (for instance by video or screen capture) everything you do from the start of the exam to the finish. Then you will have a full record of any problems encountered. In cases of real difficulty, we may invite you to submit to us the record you have made.

Will HKU provide support for students in navigating the online exam system?

Yes, later this week we will roll out an FAQs website. There is also a drill student website for OLEX: https://drill-olex.hku.hk/exam/register.html.

Will teachers know in advance which students have opted for letter grade and pass/fail?

Yes, it’s standard practice throughout academia for instructors to know in full the parameters within which they’re grading. Teachers know whether they’re grading a letter-grade or pass/fail course, so the same practice will apply to students within a course.

Will teachers grade to a curve with or without the pass/fail students?

It’s HKU policy not to grade to a curve. We use standards-based assessment, not norm-referenced.

Can students choose pass/fail for courses in the UG5?

Yes. However, the Common Core Special Proviso (https://commoncore.hku.hk/special-proviso/) only comes into play with six graded courses.

What impact will pass/fail courses have on GPA?

None. It’s already the case that students bring pass/fail courses onto their transcripts, for instance through academic exchange. Because of the special assessment arrangements adopted this semester, some students may have a few more pass/fail courses than usual. We will still do what we always do – calculate GPA on the basis of all graded courses.

What impact will pass/fail courses have on SGPA?

One impact is worth highlighting. If a student opts for pass/fail for all courses this semester, there will be no SGPA. It’s worth mentioning that such a student may be placed at a disadvantage for, say, student exchange. SGPA is a key factor in allocating exchange places.

If a student fails a pass/fail course and retakes it, will the retake have to be pass/fail as well?

Yes, the original decision taken by the student will stand for the retaken course.

If a supplementary exam is set for a course offered this semester, will the assessment be online?

Yes, the same conditions will apply to a supplementary exam as to the original exam.

When is the SETL deadline?

The SETL deadline is December 30, 2019.

As ever, please drop me a line with queries.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)

December 2, 2019

Related Items 

The teaching enrichment cluster is an ‘innovation powerhouse’ comprised of teaching support colleagues from multiple units, including colleagues from Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI) and 4 colleagues from the Faculty of Education, Architecture and Law. The cluster support teachers in revamping teaching and learning with innovative strategies and technologies, and offer services including instructional design, technology adoption, system development and big data analytics. To be specific, we provide responsive pedagogical and technical consultancies as well as development services to the Faculties and teachers in developing and implementing e-learning, presence learning and blended learning. Colleagues strive to create quality-time (e.g. learning support beyond classroom) and quality-space (e.g. engaging in-class activities) for teachers and students with the help of technology.

In this blog post series, we will introduce colleagues’ key initiatives in the 2018-2019 academic year in terms of pedagogical development and system development.

We Aim to Establish Strong Links to Stakeholders

We see the high value of partnerships in driving teaching innovations. We aim to facilitate inter-disciplinary and cross-Faculty collaboration on education development which can make a greater impact on student learning. We worked side-by-side with teachers from different disciplines, thereby spreading the enthusiasm, discovering new perspectives in teaching development, and cultivating a new T&L culture.

Facilitating Sharing of Contents and School Credits across Universities

In the past, there were limited chances to experiment with the cross-institutional credit transfer mechanism. Yet, colleagues in the cluster have worked hard in overcoming this challenge and initiated a UGC-funded cross-institutional project titled “The Responsive University: Appreciating Content Sharing in General Education” in collaboration with PolyU, CUHK and HKUST. In particular, colleagues have engaged teachers and stakeholders to develop cross-institutional General Education/Common Core courses with innovative blended curriculum. In the 2018-19 academic year, a total of 10 shared courses from four different Hong Kong institutions were offered, and a total of 127 students joined the project. In this joint project, the four universities have also entered into an Agreement for Collaboration, under which eligible students in the participating institutions can enrol in one of the selected courses offered by other partner institutions respectively.

Teaching-Development Partnership for Introducing Mobile-Friendly Learning and Community Outreach
More often than not, teachers are not familiar with technical specifications of the process of developing educational solutions that bring about unsuitable learning strategies. During the academic year 2018-2019, we have worked collaboratively with colleagues from the School of Nursing to share the innovative pedagogical and technological solutions and seek out the potentials for immersive learning and community outreach.

The use of virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) technologies can create experiences that educate, engage, and excite learners. A VR-based app on dementia care was developed to cultivate nursing students’ clinical reasoning and clinical judgement in flipped classes in the University, such that students can experience situations that simulate the actual environments for medical training. Instead of advising disciplinary knowledge, we focus on creating a learner-relevant, effective and immersive learning experience, leveraging our expertise on user experience (UX), media design, system architecture and technical development.

Besides teaching and learning inside the classroom, we worked together to develop technologies for promoting tobacco control, HPV vaccination, and alcohol control. For example, we worked with teachers to develop mobile apps, AI-enabled chatbots and ecological momentary assessments supporting smoking cessation through different interventions. We also developed a simulation game to promote HPV vaccination for secondary school students.

We Aim to Show Great Enthusiasm for Continuous Improvements

Talents are important resources for a sustainable cluster development. Cultivating talents is crucial to stay responsive to the fast-changing needs of the University. Colleagues in the cluster are of diverse backgrounds coming from different countries/cities (including Uzbekistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mainland China and Hong Kong), and with different expertise (e.g. psychology, language, information technology, etc.). Therefore, we often organize activities to provide opportunities for colleagues to learn from each other, as well as to build up trust and team spirit for a more cohesive cluster. We continuously help colleagues to expand their capabilities and adopt data-informed/closed-loop development for delivering wider and better educational development services.

Cross-Disciplinary Hackathon
Colleagues from different fields teamed up and attended a half-day internal Hackathon. The event was for brainstorming proof-of-concept solutions to existing issues in e-learning within higher education (e.g. AI-powered teaching-student interaction app). At the end of the Hackathon, colleagues were required to give a presentation with a mock-up. Colleagues, coming from different fields and have not had worked together, now have the opportunity to collaborate closely and come up with effective solutions (e.g. EdTech apps).

Internal and External Professional Development Events
Colleagues are encouraged to attend technical and pedagogical training for mastering their skills that will accelerate their professional growth. For example, one of our colleagues had attended a one-week professional training at Harvard University, which aims to train educators in developing a design thinking mindset. She applied what she has learned in a mobile game app project for a Common Core course to further enhance the pedagogical value of the project. A couple of other colleagues have also been given the chance to attend an internal training course on teaching and learning in higher education. They have successfully completed the course and have a deeper understanding of in-class teaching and learning activities in the University. Besides attending external and internal training, there are also cross-disciplinary seminars. For example, multimedia colleagues were invited to introduce cutting-edge computer graphics and interactive technologies, and external researchers were also welcomed to talk about teaching development and evaluation practices. These seminars help to broaden colleagues’ horizons and inspire new ways of implementing teaching and learning.

Adopting Data-Informed/Closed-Loop Development
We constantly review and revamp our solution and development process through conducting stakeholder surveys and focus group interviews in projects. In particular, the cluster evaluated the quality of various technology-enriched pedagogies used in on-campus blended courses and generated insights to develop better pedagogical practices. Based on the findings, colleagues provide continuous assistance to teachers on creating new educational videos, collaborative classwork and assessment as well as revamping the existing ones for more effective teaching. Besides redesigning pedagogical practices, we have studied students’ motivations and expectations in participating in a cross-institutional teaching and learning initiative through qualitative and quantitative means. The findings of the study highlight some of the concerns and needs of students, and based on these, we have designed new posters and videos addressing their needs and concerns to promote this initiative. As a result, more students are aware of the initiative and more than 100 students are joining it now.

The pedagogical development cluster is an ‘innovation powerhouse’ comprised of teaching support colleagues from multiple units, including colleagues from Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI) and 4 colleagues from the Faculty of Education, Architecture and Law. The cluster support teachers in revamping teaching and learning with innovative strategies and technologies, and offer services including instructional design, technology adoption, system development and big data analytics. To be specific, we provide responsive pedagogical and technical consultancies as well as development services to the Faculties and teachers in developing and implementing e-learning, presence learning and blended learning. Colleagues strive to create quality-time (e.g. learning support beyond classroom) and quality-space (e.g. engaging in-class activities) for teachers and students with the help of technology.

In this blog post series, we will introduce colleagues’ key initiatives in the 2018-2019 academic year in terms of pedagogical development and system development.

We Aim to Use Resources in a Better Way to Benefit the University

The cluster deploy and invent cutting-edge development practices for a more effective education solution development. This enables us to support teachers and units to teach more efficiently by minimizing learning and administrative hurdles encountered by teachers and students.

Introducing Easy-To-Use Learning Tools for Collaborative Teaching and Learning Activities
To maximise quality class time, the cluster has been actively exploring pedagogical tools that best suit teaching and learning. The cluster has subscribed to online product services and shared the subscribed services with teachers who are interested in using them for lessons. Tools include Mentimeter (anonymous in-class polling), Flipgrid (video-based formative assessment), SurveyMonkey (class feedback surveying), G Suite (collaborative writing/presentation), GradeMark (rubric-based essay marking), Camtasia (screen-capturing and video editing), and Zoom (synchronous online discussion). These tools empower teachers to better engage students in class with significantly minimized logistics. For a more effective adoption, we also provide pedagogical advice on adopting appropriate e-learning tools and designing relevant face-to-face activities.

Developing Management Systems for Reducing Institutional-Level Administrative Efforts
The cluster also supports the University Teaching and Learning Quality Committee (TLQC) to develop technological solutions for achieving teaching-learning missions. For instance, the cluster has developed the teaching development grant (TDG) submission system (https://tdg.hku.hk/) and a TDG Resources Hub (https://tdg.hku.hk/hub/#/) for the University’s Teaching Development Grant Scheme. The TDG submission system provides a standardized interface for submitting, endorsing and reporting applications. Meanwhile, the Resources Hub serves as a repository of TDG resources which facilitates the sharing of information and deliverables of TDG as well as the collaborations among teachers for cross-displicine teaching development. These two systems can significantly minimize the administrative burden for teachers, administrators, and Faculty-/Institutional-level management teams.

Introducing Asynchronous Video Screening Mechanism for Streamlining Admission Process
Previously, the admission process for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE – English Teaching) by the Faculty of Education involved face-to-face interviews with applicants. However, it is a challenging task to arrange face-to-face interviews for large numbers of applicants within a short admission period. Colleagues have worked with teachers to streamline the initial stage of the admission process. Applicants can upload a 3-minute video to illustrate their perspective on teaching and learning. Then the admission board could review the videos and shortlist applicants for the face-to-face interview.

We Aim to Meet Challenges Head on

Colleagues in the cluster supported teachers in experimenting with innovative pedagogical practices and learning technologies. These allow teachers to free up valuable class time for more interactive classroom activities where students can develop higher-order thinking skills more effectively under the teacher’s in-class mentoring.

Optimising Learning through Gamifying a Large-size Flipped Classroom
Colleagues have worked with teachers to address the most critical and long-lasting problem in large-class teaching: the one-way delivery of information in lectures and the passive learning style created by such delivery. Low attendance rate, lack of participation and interaction, and distracted students are often observed in such lectures. Most critically, the passive learning style hinders the development of critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and collaboration – the most essential 21st-century skills for today’s students.

Colleagues introduced a systematic design of a gamified flipped classroom series in “Electronic Technologies in Everyday Life” (CCST9015), replacing one-way lecture delivery with high energy, high bandwidth information transaction, and peer-supported knowledge co-creation. Specifically, students follow a “hybrid learning pattern” repeatedly throughout the course: online lectures – online knowledge check quizzes – small-class tutorials – large-class group work – online roundup video summary. In each repetition, students acquire, practice, apply, analyze and evaluate what they have learned, and co-create new knowledge with their peers. Colleagues also support the teacher to “spice up” face-to-face time with group-based gamified activities. Moreover, a course-based board game has been developed to connect the course content with daily scenarios that students often encounter, such that students can apply knowledge in solving real-life problems. Students become more vocal in asking questions, increasing their interactions with teachers. This pedagogical practice is unique with the first-of-its-kind board game ever produced. The project has also been shortlisted for QS Reimagine Education Award 2019, a global education competition with more than 1500 applicants. This indicates the gamification pedagogy has been endorsed by professional parties.

Developing Authority-Endorsed Educational Tools for Supporting Interactive Pedagogies
We continue to support teachers exploring and implementing innovative educational tools. In order to support video-intensive blended learning pedagogies and enhance the student learning experience, we have adopted the Open edX system (https://learning.hku.hk/), first developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, with modifications for HKU. Using this system, teachers can design courses and update the content while interacting with learners. They can easily transfer and manage content across platforms, and adopt third-party tools for enriching the learning process. During the 2018-2019 academic year, 25 courses were hosted on this platform, reaching over 6000 users in total. Based on the experience gained, we partnered with Professor Michael Botelho on developing the “Video Vox” platform (https://vox.hku.hk) to inspire more meaningful peer feedback. Vox allows new interaction possibilities with video content, which facilitates students or teachers to start an asynchronous expert-student dialogue in a discussion thread format.

We Aim to Implement New Ways of Working

Colleagues make unremitting efforts to adopt a systematic, disciplined and quantifiable approach for the better development and delivery of educational solutions as a well-designed solution can benefit thousands of staff and students. We hope the developed solutions can be easily replicated and scaled, as well as respond to the dynamic nature of teaching and learning needs.

Improving the Quality of Solutions Holistically through Adopting Technical and Pedagogical Development Guidelines
The objective of the evaluation approach is to increase the educational value of the developed solutions while minimizing technical hurdles. With this in mind, we analyse the adoption of learning tools pedagogically (through Chickering and Gamson’s learning design framework) and technically (through agile learning design framework). We have also adopted a rapid iterative approach, “Agile Learning Development”, in the context of learning which allows the developers to modify each iteration based on teachers’ feedback (a “sprint” concept). The adoption of all these practices help the developed solutions to be more learner-relevant. In addition, a case study based on this approach has been presented to and appreciated by professionals in an international meeting which indicates its potential in the development process.

Introducing Emerging Development and DevOps Methodologies for Automating System Development Process
We aim to increase developers’ productivity and improve their efficacy as well as minimize development errors. To achieve all these, the cluster has recently deployed a cutting-edge DevOps methodology “Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery” (CI/CD) for developing learning management systems (e.g. Vox https://vox.hku.hk/). CI/CD automates testing and deployment processes. Automated testing results and logs are accessible to all developers in the team. This greatly improves team communication while reduces the time spent on running and logging tests manually.

Instead of using conventional virtual machines, colleagues have also adopted a lightweight “Docker” container technology for deploying systems for staff and students (e.g. Vox https://vox.hku.hk/, TDG Resource Hub https://tdg.hku.hk/hub/, HKCPD Hub https://hkcpdhub.hku.hk/). This technology allows more flexibility for developing systems that cater a versatile learning environment with different learning and administrative needs. For instance, it allows an application to be deployed in almost any operating systems. This technology also increases the effectiveness of system testing on the production server, and creates a more responsive system deployment. It has been proven that the overall capability and scalability of the services have increased compared with the traditional deployment approach.

The cluster has also adopted other contemporary technologies (e.g. VueJS) for productive development. All these have resulted in: increased development speed and more software release iterations, fewer bugs, reduced overhead spending and hence more time to innovate, happier users and developers.

Online Teaching and Learning for Final Weeks of Semester 1, 2019-20

Dear students

Thank you for working with us to transition to online teaching and learning for these final weeks of Semester 1, 2019-20. I am writing to you now about assessment.

Our core principle for all course assessment is fairness to each and every member of the class, whether in Hong Kong or outside. To deliver on this principle in the current circumstances, we believe we need to offer you an array of choices for each course you are taking. Just occasionally this is not possible because of professional requirements. For the vast majority of our courses, however, it is possible and we intend to make it happen.

Full-year courses

As final examinations are scheduled for May 2020, these courses will continue without amendment.

Single-semester courses: teachers

We are giving teachers the flexibility to make changes to their assessment arrangements and inform their students through Moodle and/or by email by Friday 29 November 2019:

–          Scope of course assessment: This may be adjusted in some cases.
–          Summative/final assessments: Most proctored final examinations will be converted to alternative tasks submitted via Moodle or HKU email with Turnitin reports.

Single-semester courses: students

We are giving students the flexibility to choose one of the following for each of their courses by completing a simple form and submitting it to their Faculty Office:

–      Continue with Letter grading for the entire course (contributing to GPA).
–      Change to Pass/Fail grading for the entire course (not contributing to GPA).
–      Opt out of the course entirely through a new Late Drop option.

When thinking through these options, students should bear in mind several issues (if you are in doubt about any of them, please seek academic advice from your teachers, course coordinators, programme leader or academic adviser):

–      Some of the above options cannot be made available for some courses, mostly for reasons of professional accreditation.
–      Core or compulsory courses have to be completed by all students taking a programme, so the Late Drop option should be exercised with extreme caution.
–      Courses that are prerequisite for subsequent courses within a programme affect academic progression, so again the Late Drop option should be exercised with extreme caution.
–      The Common Core Special Proviso for GPA calculation operates only when there are six graded courses (https://commoncore.hku.hk/special-proviso/).

To process your course choices, we will ask you to complete and submit a simple form by 5:00pm, Friday 6 December 2019. Your Faculty will contact you soon about online submission arrangements. No late submissions will be accepted. Any student who does not submit a completed form by the deadline will have unchanged course assessment arrangements for all courses taken in Semester 1, 2019-20.

I appreciate your understanding as we seek to fulfil our teaching commitments and facilitate your learning in the closing weeks of the semester. As ever, please feel free to contact me with any queries.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)
The University of Hong Kong


Related Items 

Promoting and Enabling Technology-Enriched Learning: Challenges and StrategiesThis is an event organized by Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI).

Details of the event:

Date : 4 December 2019 (Wednesday)
Time : 12:45pm – 2:00pm
Venue : CPD-2.58, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong
Speaker : Dr Leon Lei, Ms Emily Leung, Ms Sharon Keung, Ms Louie Cheng


In this digital age, students are familiar with videos as they often learn through videos inside and outside the classroom. The challenge for educators is understanding and exploring how best we might produce teaching videos and use videos as a means of assessment effectively.

This workshop will give a brief introduction to the potential and affordances of videos in teaching and assessments. We will introduce:

  • examples of how videos have been used in HKU courses for teaching and assessments;
  • multimedia production support resources in HKU; and
  • tips on DIY production of videos and animations.

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • identify the opportunities, challenges, and tactics of producing instructional and/or animated videos for teaching and learning;
  • use videos for teaching and assessment
  • reflect on practices and considerations in incorporating videos in their learning design.

For enquiries, please contact us at enquiry@teli.hku.hk.

Basic Video Production for Assignments and ProjectsThis is an event organized by Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI).

Details of the event:

Date : Class (A) 4 November 2019 (Monday); Class (B) 12 November 2019 (Tuesday)
Time : 12:30pm – 1:25pm
Venue :  MB121, Main Building, The University of Hong Kong
Speaker : Ms Emily Leung, Ms Sharon Keung, Ms Louie Cheng, Mr Edmund Lau

Class A Registration

Class B Registration

Video production may sound like a daunting task to some, but it is easier than you think! Whether you are a Windows or Mac user, you can now produce videos for any assignments with just a smartphone or a laptop.

In this workshop, we will teach you how to produce videos with your mobile device at no cost. You will

  • Learn to use free-editing tools, including YouTube Studio, DaVinci Resolve and iMovie.
  • Practise producing a short video and receive feedback from the instructors.
  • Learn about free online resources and multimedia production support services available at HKU.

This workshop is designed for beginners, so don’t worry if you have no experience in video editing. Join us!


  • This workshop is recommended for students with no prior experience in video editing.
  • Please bring your own device for filming and editing. You are recommended to install DaVinci Resolve 16 beforehand.

For enquiries, please contact us at enquiry@teli.hku.hk.


Week 1 Teaser

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Week 2 Teaser

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Week 6 Teaser

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Register now! 課程登記指引

HKU Online LearningWhatever you know and wherever you are we invite you to join us on a journey to consider how the local and the global intersect to make Hong Kong cinema an integral part of popular culture around the world as well as a leading force in the development of world cinematic art.




Highlights of the course

  • Develop your critical and historical thinking skills through analyzing the interconnected relationship between the global scene and local lives in HK films;
  • Broaden your perspectives on identity issues through finding the familiar in the foreign in Hong Kong cinema;
  • Deepen your perspective on the impact of globalization on your own society through analyzing Hong Kong cinema.


  • 通過分析香港電影業的本地市場與國際舞臺之間的關係,培養您的批判和歷史思維能力;
  • 在香港電影中不熟識的場景尋找熟識的細節,從而拓展您對身份問題的了解;
  • 通過分析香港電影業,讓您更明白全球化對社會的影響。

The course was awarded the 2017 MOOCr Awards – Bronze Award (Course Management and Promotion) in the 4th Greater China MOOC Symposium.


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Further Reading

  1. Gina Marchetti, Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park and Stacilee Ford (2017, March). Enter the Future: Behind the Scenes of a New MOOC, Viewfinder (No. 106), pp.8-9.
  2. Gina Marchetti, Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park and Stacilee Ford (2018, January). MOOCs Turn Local into Global, AsiaGlobal Online. Retrieved from http://www.asiaglobalonline.hku.hk/moocs-turn-local-into-global/
  3. Film Matters Magazine (9 February 2017). New HKU MOOC: Hong Kong Cinema Through a Global Lens Premieres on 7 February 2017.
  4. 翟啟豪:港大免費網上課程 全球視野看港片影響力 [Translation: Free HKU online course – Hong Kong Cinema Through A Global Lens] (HK01, 9 February 2017)
  5. Amy Nip. Switch onto movie action with HKU online course. (The Standard, 7 February 2017)
  6. Enid Tsui. University of Hong Kong launches MOOC to teach film buffs how Hong Kong cinema conquered the world (South China Morning Post, 6 February 2017)
Related Items 

Some say online teaching is nothing more than putting lecture videos and assignments online, but Ms Charlotte Chang, e-Teacher-in-Residence at TELI and founder of Ms Charlotte Academy, sees it differently. In a presentation entitled “A Teacher’s Journey into Online Education: Taking the Leap, Reflecting in the Process, and Reaping the Rewards”, Charlotte reflected that her journey started when she noticed the inefficiencies of traditional classroom teaching and realized that, with online education, she could enjoy quality interaction with students while “distilling” her lessons and curriculum and presenting only the most ideal parts.

Taking the Leap

Charlotte pointed out that the adaptation of curriculum teaching into online materials was not simply a process of repackaging, but rather a comprehensive upgrade of the whole teaching package. As such, adaptability and suitability were her key considerations when she was creating her online teaching content: for example, how could she structure, time, and sequence the lecture videos in order to aid student understanding the most?

After transitioning to online teaching, she gained a wider student reach, but that didn’t mean that she has to repeat her core teaching content again and again; instead, she let students study the videos and materials at their own pace, thereby saving a lot of her teaching time and allowing her to keep the teaching content and student learning experience fresh and updated all the time.

Charlotte""Ms Charlotte Chang shared her insights about online teaching.

Reflecting in the Process

Charlotte summarized her journey of creating online lectures and teaching materials in 6 steps:

  1. conceptualizing the structure and flow of the lessons,
  2. writing the video script,
  3. adapting lessons into video scripts,
  4. storyboarding,
  5. filming, and
  6. post-production of the filmed lessons.

She highlighted that her lesson contents were not the only parts of the course enhanced through the use of multimedia; rather, the whole production process allowed her to explore alternative ways for content delivery and presented chances for her to keep refining and improving her pedagogical approach and her curriculum.

Although she found it challenging to transition from interpersonal and interactive classroom delivery to on-camera presentation, she emphasized that the advantage of producing video lectures was that teachers could capture their best contents and show students only their best teaching moments.

Reaping the Rewards

After stepping out of the traditional classroom setting, Charlotte found that students who adapted to online learning were more proactive in asking questions and reaching out to her for feedback and advice. Furthermore, she shared some examples with the audience and reassured them that online teaching indeed offers teachers higher-quality and more intimate interactions with students and contributes to a more fruitful teaching and learning outcome for both teachers and students alike.

Ricky""Professor Ricky Kwok, Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) of HKU, responded to questions from the audience.

Food for thought

Towards the end of the lecture, audience members raised some questions for further discussion:

  • Why do we need to and how do we educate or persuade teachers to pursue e-teaching?
  • How can we consider whether a particular course would be compatible with the online course format of structured videos?

The full lecture video is as below:

If you need more advice on structuring and planning your online course content, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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