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In a highly-engaging seminar organised by Information Technology Services, Professor Jeff Haywood (VP, CIO & Librarian, University of Edinburgh) shared his experiences, lessons learnt and predictions relating to MOOCs and university education.

Professor Haywood began his talk by outlining where digital education was at ten years ago: mainstreaming virtual learning environments (VLEs); employing learning activity management systems (LAMS) as a main model for course design; integrating e-portfolios into teaching and learning; and underpinning reflections of the use of technology with the ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’ rhetoric. Since then, there has been a substantial explosion in online applications and identities, evidenced by the open educational resource (OER) movement and the leaps in interconnectivity of people and information. No wonder then that MOOCs have entered the educational arena alongside a range of other innovations and paradigms such as gamification, virtual worlds, e-textbooks and adaptive learning.


Professor Haywood explained that these technologies and approaches are likely to move through a ‘hype cycle’, and that perceptions and actualisations of MOOCs, like other innovations, are likely to shift over time. It was therefore incredibly interesting to hear about how MOOCs are being leveraged at the University of Edinburgh to, amongst other things, build institutional reputation as an early adopter, explore new pedagogical ‘spaces’, share development experiences, and increase the university’s reach. With 16 MOOCs built and 19 MOOCs under construction, the University of Edinburgh has drawn on a huge amount of data to reflect on ways in which learners are engaging with this online environment and forecast probable MOOC developmental pathways. A few of these pathways could include: MOOCs being integrated into the university curriculum; MOOCs as an auto-cohorted group study; or MOOC content and curriculum taught by another college, university or tutor as a small private online course (SPOC).


Professor Haywood closed the seminar by taking a step back and proposing the question of what the ‘traditional’ university will look like in the coming years. The growth of technology-rich teaching and elearning environments which include on- and off-campus components for a broad range of learner types appeared to be a key theme in this discussion. Many thanks to Professor Haywood for sharing his valuable insights and we look forward to future collaborations!

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

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Message from Working Group on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Keynote Summary


You are cordially invited to join the following keynote talk delivered by Professor Richard C. Levin, Coursera CEO and President Emeritus of Yale University:

MOOCs and the Internationalization of Higher Education

Speaker: Professor Richard C. Levin
Date: 5th December, 2014 (Friday)
Time: 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre P2, Chong Yuet Ming Physics Building, HKU
All are welcome

In this keynote talk, Professor Rick Levin will reflect on a career of over two decades of leadership in higher education. He will discuss common challenges and lessons from his experiences at Yale, his views on the state of higher education in Asia, and his recent decision to join Coursera.

About the Speaker

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Poster Download

Richard C. Levin is the Chief Executive Officer of Coursera. He is the Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics and Director of the Project on U.S.-China Relations at Yale University. He recently completed a twenty-year term as Yale’s President, during which time the University invested over $5 billion in the renovation and construction of its facilities, advanced economic development and home ownership in New Haven, purchased and began to develop a 136-acre campus in nearby West Haven, strengthened its programs in science, engineering, and medicine, established a goal of reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions by 43%, and undertook a major set of initiatives to internationalize the University – extending need-based financial aid to international students in Yale College, making international experiences the norm for all undergraduates, and planning and opening Yale-NUS College in Singapore as a model of liberal arts education for Asia.

Professor Levin serves on President Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology. He is a director of American Express and C3 Energy. He previously served on a bipartisan commission to recommend improvements in the nation’s intelligence capabilities, and he co-chaired a review of the nation’s patent system for the National Academy of Sciences that led to the passage of the America Invents Act of 2011. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Professor Levin and his wife Jane have four children and seven grandchildren.

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On 28 October, HKU welcomed Professor Armando Fox (the Director of MOOCLab, EECS, UC Berkeley), Professor T.C. Pong (Senior Advisor to Executive Vice-President and Provost, HKUST), and Professor Bob Fox (Deputy Director, Learning and Teaching Unit, School of Education, UNSW) to share their insights on a range of topical MOOC- and SPOC-related issues from their own contexts. From HKU, Professor Nancy Law (Deputy Director of the Centre for Information Technology in Education, HKU) and Professor David Lung (Lady Edith Kotewall Professor in the Built Environment, HKU) shared their in-house perspectives and experiences. The key themes discussed included the potential benefits of auto-grading; the interplay between SPOC (Small Private Online Courses) and MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) development; leveraging big data to enhance learning; enabling a positive washback from online to on-campus learning; and forecasting possible future directions of the ‘MOOC movement’.


Professor Armando Fox kick-started the discussions by recounting how he and his team redesigned a software engineering course in light of workplace demands identified by software companies, such as dealing with legacy code and working with non-technical customers. Innovations to the course included the integration of auto-grading strategies which encouraged learners to iteratively improve their code based on computer-generated feedback. The MOOC was also run as a SPOC for on-campus students, enabling a four-fold increase in student intake, providing more learner practice, redirecting teaching assistants’ attention from grading to higher-value forms of feedback, and ultimately increasing course ratings.

This potential of MOOC development to positively impact on on-campus learning was a theme which emerged at several points, notably in Professor T.C. Pong’s presentation on “BOOCs: Blending Online and On-Campus Courses”. He drew on the example of his MOOC “Introduction to Computing with Java”, which was initially offered to on-campus students in a ‘flipped classroom’ mode, to explain the positive correlation between students’ performance and the amount of time they spend viewing the lecture videos. For the flipped classroom, it was seen that smaller class sizes performed better for in-class activities but no difference in performance was seen for online activities. This interesting finding hints at the potential of MOOC resources to enhance out-of-class learning materials for on-campus learners in order to create high-value interactions in in-class settings.


In addition to the idea of MOOCs serving as a catalyst for developing blended or ‘flipped’ courses, Professor Pong spoke about tools being developed by HKUST to enable learning analytics. This resonated with Professor Nancy Law’s presentation, which explored the challenges associated with leveraging the unprecedented scale of online data to improve learning and teaching. She proposed activating a pedagogical design cycle to position education as a design science which generates theory from practice. The importance of appropriate assessment models, the integration of interdisciplinary expertise, and the need for policy and governance on data privacy and data sharing were also discussed. Preliminary explorations on analysing large amounts of data have been undertaken in HKU’s Common Core Curriculum, generally characterized by large class size and diverse student background. Lessons learnt from this context aim to inform discussions on how to scale up analyses against the backdrop of the challenges she mentioned earlier.

Participants had the opportunity to hear Professor David Lung’s experience of developing the MOOC, “The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia”. He highlighted the need to begin planning and preparation with a substantial lead time in order to assemble and work across teams to adapt subject matter for a MOOC audience, develop media content, deal with copyright issues, and design a pedagogically-sound learning experience. The potential benefits of this process on existing university courses were reiterated by Professor Lung. In the context of a MOOC on Architecture, he noted that he had developed a data bank of media artefacts for future use and further developed professional and student networks, amongst other benefits.

The event ended with an engaging round-table discussion which expanded on the core issues by drawing on expertise of participants from a range of contexts. Professor Bob Fox shared the institutional workflows associated with MOOC development at UNSW and summarised several of the recurring themes when he emphasised the importance of using MOOCs to incubate innovation and generate data analytics to support the student learning experience.

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


Speakers: Professor Ricky Kwok, the Chairman of the HKU MOOC Working Group
Date : 30 October 2014 (Thursday)
Time : 12:45pm – 2:00pm
Venue : Room 321, Run Run Shaw Building

Organized by Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL)


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is touted as being able to bring seismic change to higher education. While such change still remains to be seen, MOOCs have already polarized the higher education community. Indeed, some people wholeheartedly embrace MOOCs as the ultimate form of e-learning or even the real killer-app of the Internet but many others dispose of the notion and treat MOOCs as another bubble waiting to burst. Big questions such as “What values do MOOCs bring back to campus?”, “What is the business plan to make this sustainable?”, etc. keep baffling all major stakeholders of universities.

HKU, like many other world-class universities, has joined edX to deliver MOOCs. In this talk, the speaker, currently overseeing the development of HKU MOOCs, will share his views on the MOOC phenomenon, issues (pedagogical, coordination, etc.) involved, and opportunities available.

About the Speakers:

Ricky Kwok is Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at HKU. His research and teaching interests are mainly about large scale distributed computing systems. Currently Ricky is serving as the Chairman of the HKU MOOC Working Group, which advises the Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) on pertinent issues about MOOCs, such as strategic directions, courses development, and technical matters.

For information on registration, please contact:
Ms Ivy Lai , CETL
Phone: 3917 8996; Email: laichun2@hku.hk.

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