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HKUx HKU02.1x Prof Lung

The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia, Part I, is HKU’s second Massive Open Online Course, to be launched in April, 2015.

This 5-week introductory course is for those who would like to explore and be fascinated by vernacular architecture. It covers topics such as native building materials, the interaction between people, culture and the vernacular, as well as the vernacular landscape, and it has a special emphasis on the built heritage of Asia.

It is a unique course in many ways. For example, the instructor, Professor David P.Y. Lung (Professor of Architecture, Lady Edith Kotewall Professor in the Built Environment), not only presents the course materials himself, but he also involves experts from both inside and outside of HKU in panel discussions, onsite interviews, studio interviews, etc. to share a diverse set of views and experiences.

Click here to watch the trailer if you cannot access Youtube

In addition, one of the most unique characteristics of this course is its visual richness. In order to present the content in a most direct and impactful way, the course makes great use of images and videos of the buildings, landscapes, rituals, etc. To gather the visual materials, the course staff often finds themselves in the field taking location images and videos.

The goal of the course is to help learners from around the world to develop an appreciation of the values and meanings of vernacular architecture in their local environments, and to apply what they learned in the course to protect and preserve their local built environment. With inputs from a diverse set of experts, visual richness, and well-designed learning activities, this course is shaping up to be another high quality, impactful learning experience brought to the world by the University of Hong Kong.

HKUx HKU02.1x Prof Lung

For further information about and to register for the course, please go to here


With social media and a 24/7 news cycle, how do we — as news consumers — make sense of what we hear and read? At a time when we are flooded with an abundance of information and disinformation, it is essential for each one of us to become a more discerning news consumer.

This six-week course will help you identify reliable information in news reports and become better informed about the world we live. We will discuss journalism from the viewpoint of the news audience.

Together, we will examine the following topics:

  • What makes news? The blurred lines between news, promotion and entertainment.
  • Why does news matter? Social sharing and the dynamics of the news cycles.
  • Who provides information? How to evaluate sources in news reports.
  • Where is the evidence? The process of verification.
  • When should we act? Recognizing our own biases.
  • How do we know what we know? Becoming an active news audience.

If you are interested in becoming a more discerning news consumer, please join us and sign up today.

HKUX 01 epidemics

Panel discussion on Ebola

The second week of December saw the official conclusion of the University of Hong Kong’s first massive open online course (MOOC) HKU01x: Epidemics. Led by Professor Gabriel M Leung, Dean of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, and infectious disease and public health experts from both the University of Hong Kong and international institutions such as the Harvard School of Public Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the course reached learners from 173 countries with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. In the end, more than 12 percent of the 10,290 enrolled learners earned a certificate of completion. This is a rather high rate as compared to the typical MOOC completion rate of around 5%, and goes to show the timeliness and quality of the course.

Prof David P. Y. Lung filming our next MOOC - The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia

Prof David P. Y. Lung filming our next MOOC – The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia

As to the reasons that the learners complete the course to earn a certificate, adding to the resume, boosting job performance, supporting employment and school applications were often cited. In addition, personal satisfaction through a sense of achievement is also cited as a motivator for completing the course. For example, one learner reported that s/he finished the course “For my personal satisfaction that I can do it at age 77”.

In the beginning months of the new year, the HKU MOOC Working Group, in association with the HKU01x: Epidemics course team and the e-learning Pedagogical Support Unit (EPSU), will review the experience of our first MOOC and dive into the collected data for more insights that will help inform teaching and learning in both online and face-to-face settings here at HKU. Please watch out for information on salon and seminar sessions in the coming few months and make sure to join us for more in-depth discussions.

Prof Chad Hansen filming in the Common Core Lounge for Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought

Prof Chad Hansen filming in the Common Core Lounge for Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought

While HKU01x: Epidemics is a undoubtedly a successful inaugural MOOC at this University measured by reach and impact, guided by the HKU MOOC Working Group, the EPSU instructional designers are working very closely with the course and video teams to ramp up work on three other courses, HKU02.1x: The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia, Part 1; HKUx03x: Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought; and HKU04x: Making Sense of News, which are all scheduled to launch in the first half of 2015. More and updated information of these courses can be found at the HKU’s edX page at https://www.edx.org/school/hkux and this blog.

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Professor Richard Levin Coursera

HKU had the fantastic opportunity to welcome the esteemed Professor Richard Levin (Coursera CEO and Yale President Emeritus) for a publically-open keynote speech on the 5th December. In this captivating and anecdotal talk, Professor Levin drew on his two decades of experience as a leader in higher education to discuss his common challenges and lessons from his time at Yale, his views on the state of higher education in Asia, and his recent decision to join Coursera.

Underpinning much of his discussion of the progressive internationalization of higher education was his view that cross-cultural communication is essential for anyone who aspires to leadership. Testimony to this belief is the work that Professor Levin undertook in Yale to establish a programme for undergraduates in Beijing and increase participation in international work and study programmes; his involvement on the board of the National Committee on United States-China Relations; and the creation of the first liberal arts college in Asia: Yale-NUS (National University of Singapore).


Alongside this growing need for cross-cultural communication as an integral part of the higher education experience are the changing assumptions about how the world works. He noted that international understanding is a core part of the 21st Century curriculum – a curriculum which has, to a large extent, become internationalized ‘by itself’. He drew on the example of one of the initial courses which he taught in 1974 on the topic of Industrial Organisation in a North American context. He reflected that, from a contemporary perspective, the scope of this course would no longer be sufficient as industries rarely exist within one nation. Multinational communication and industry is central to many of today’s workplaces. Perhaps this insight is one of the factors which led to Professor Levin’s pioneering of online learning environments which enable learners to communicate across contexts and potentially across cultures, too.

After a fascinating exploration of several of his experiences experimenting with online learning spaces in higher education, Professor Levin discussed how he saw the role of Coursera in providing quality education to a global audience. With more than 10 million learners, 875 courses, and 115 partners, this platform is certainly not short of numbers and, by extension, is likely to embody a huge range of cultures, perspectives and areas of inquiry. It seems logical therefore that any discussion today on the internationalization of higher education mention MOOCs and the way in which they can leverage interaction and learning within and across cultures through the lens of subject areas scaffolded by reputable tertiary institutions.


Professor Levin’s passion for this exciting new space was clearly shared by the audience, which consisted of students, faculty, leadership alumni, UGC, school principals, amongst other stakeholders. Questions sparked discussions on how Professor Levin saw the future of Coursera; censorship and quality issues; the possible changing emphases of professoriate evaluation as a result of MOOCs; and considerations of assessment reliability for those considering offering credit-bearing MOOCs.

This inspiring keynote gave us all the opportunity to reflect on the world in which we live from the perspective of educators and learners. In order to gain insight into the scope and impact of MOOCs, one need not look past the experience of one of Professor Levin’s colleagues who calculated that, in his first MOOC offering, he had a completion rate of 20,000 learners; around 2.5 times the number of learners he had taught in face-to-face mode over his career! A sincere thanks to Professor Levin and the Coursera team for so generously sharing your experiences and insights with us.

A post from the e-learning Pedagogical Support Unit (EPSU)

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