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Interpreting Vernacular Architecture in Asia

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About this course
This course is about architecture. But it’s not about grand structures such as monuments or royal palaces. Rather, it is about the built environment that the ordinary people live in. Instead of the architectural techniques, we use stories to understand the processes through which people make their building decisions.

We use Asia as the backdrop for the discussion of these topics. Partly because of Asia’s rich heritage and diversity, but also due to the unique complexity that the people in the region face as they go through rapid economic, social, and cultural changes.

In this examination of the connection between vernacular buildings and peoples’ cultural identities, we will review real-world examples and talk to experts in the field. At the end of this course, you will gain a unique perspective about the everyday environment that you live in – one perhaps that you’ve never had before. You will begin to understand and appreciate the value of the ordinary built environment around you.

Whether you are an avid architect or you simply just care about the built environment you live in, this course is for you.

What you’ll learn
Throughout the course, we will examine a wide range of topics, such as:

  • what is vernacular architecture
  • how climate and the availability of building materials influence building decisions
  • vernacular architecture in rural and urban settings
  • cultural sustainability and the conservation of the vernacular built environment.


HKU FinTech

Trailer and sneak previews


The University of Hong Kong (HKU) presents to you Asia’s first interdisciplinary Professional Certificate Program in FinTech on edX platform starting on May 15 2018.

FinTech – short for Financial Technology – is transforming the world of finance, especially in Asia at a rate never seen before. It is essential that professionals working in finance, technology, regulation or FinTech and students studying related subjects are equipped with in-demand FinTech knowledge and skills in today’s world of finance.

The FinTech Certificate Program compiles a series of three courses providing students with the tools to understand the interaction of finance and technology across the financial system as well as insight into the major technologies involved and the emerging business models and players in the industry. The first course Introduction to FinTech commences on May 15 and will be followed by two courses, FinTech Ethics and Risks and Blockchain and FinTech: Basics, Applications and Limitations, which will open over the coming year.

Each course brings together leading experts in FinTech from a range of backgrounds, including professors, market professionals and entrepreneurs. Designed by leading academics from a range of disciplines with input from industry leaders including among others SuperCharger, the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, PwC, the Asia Capital Markets Institute, the Standard Chartered Bank, Thompson Reuters, and other partners in financial services, FinTech startups and Techfins sectors. In each course, you will gain greater understanding of the key trends in finance, technology and regulation, to better prepare for not only the opportunities but also the risks and challenges, including to traditional financial institutions and business models and those working in them.


HKU FinTech

About this course
Over the past decade emerging technologies, paired with massive changes in regulations, have driven an unprecedented transformation of finance around the world. This process is happening more rapidly in China and Asia than anywhere else. This course is designed to explore FinTech fundamentals and help make sense of this wave of change as it happens.

New players such as start-ups and technology firms are challenging traditional players in finance, bringing democratization, inclusion and disruption. Companies engaged in social media, e-commerce, and telecommunications, as well as, companies and start-ups with large customer data pools, creative energies, and technical capacities, have brought competition to the existing financial infrastructure and are remaking the industry.

These transformations have not only created challenges but also unprecedented opportunities, building synergies with new business and regulatory models, particularly in emerging markets and developing countries. To meet these changes, 21st-century professionals and students must be equipped with up-to-date knowledge of the industry and its incredible evolution. This course – designed by HKU with the support of SuperCharger and the Centre for Finance, Technology and Education – is designed to enable learners with the necessary tools to understand the complex interaction of finance, technology and regulation.

In this course, through a series of video lectures, case studies, and assessments you will explore the major areas of FinTech including, beginning with What is FinTech before turning to Money, Payment and Emerging Technologies, Digital Finance and Alternative Finance, FinTech Regulation and RegTech, Data and Security, and the Future of Data Driven Finance, as well as, the core technologies driving FinTech including Blockchain, AI and Big Data. These will set the stage for understanding the FinTech landscape and ecosystem and grappling with the potential direction of future change.

What you’ll learn

  • The major areas in FinTech, including Money and Payment, Digital Finance and Alternative Finance
  • Major technological trends, including cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, AI and Big Data
  • FinTech Regulation and RegTech
  • The fundamental role of Data and Security in data-driven finance
  • Business and regulatory implications of technology for the financial industry
  • How regulations and RegTech are applied
  • Ways to analyse and evaluate what is driving technology innovation in Finance
  • How new technology impacts economies, markets, companies, and individuals

The key instructors of the course are:

Course Director
and Chief Instructor

Douglas Arner

Kerry Holdings Professor in Law,
The University of Hong Kong

Janos Barberis

SuperCharger FinTech Accelerator

Huy Nguyen Trieu

CEO of The Disruptive Group &
Co-founder of CFTE,
Center for Finance, Technology
and Entrepreneurship

Ross Buckley

Professor of International Finance Law,
University of New South Wales

Brian Tang

Managing Director,
Asia Capital Markets Institute

Henri Arslanian

FinTech & RegTech Leader,
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
- China & HK


Don’t forget to join us on Facebook or Twitter for more updates.

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Want to join learners from all around the world to learn about how Chinese philosophers view humanity and nature? Register this free online course at edX.
The course was very well received by learners in its previous two runs, and now the third run will begin on June 13 2017!

Highlights of the course

  • In the format of a dialogue, Chad Hansen, Chair Professor of Chinese Philosophy, Emeritus, HKU, analyzes and discusses the essence of Chinese philosophy from his unique perspectives
  • Various animations and visual aids were used in post-production of the lecture videos to further help students learn the course content
  • Knowledge check questions and learning activities designed to relate to student daily lives so learning is applicable

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Technology is bringing about a gradual but significant transformation in education. With the growing popularity of online learning, phenomena termed as nanodegree and MicroMaster have emerged over the years to provide a more focused and flexible alternative to regular institutional degrees. It may sound like these new form of credentials are posting a threat to the regular degree providers, yet in fact, prestigious universities around the world are leading this parade.


For universities:
MicroMaster programs serve as a convenient sneak peek to regular master’s degrees provided by universities. With essentially no registration fee and pre-requisite, MicroMaster programs can attract a pool of applicants who are potentially interested in universities’ regular master’s programs. The universities can also identify high-flyers from the MicroMaster programs for admission to their regular program to ensure intake quality.

For learners:
MicroMasters programs offer a focused and affordable “teaser” before they make full commitment to the regular master’s degree. They also have a choice of applying for a Verified Certificate costing US$150 per course, either to enhance their competitiveness in the job market or gain a better chance of getting admitted into the regular master’s program. MicroMaster programs are also credit-eligible – it can substitute part of the on-campus coursework.

For employers:
MicroMaster credentials are still new to the employers but Ryan Craig, author of “College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education,” predicted that human resource platforms such as LinkedIn will develop new functions catered to this new form of qualification in terms of certificates/skills listing and credentials verifications. MicroMaster programs are focused, efficient and mostly concentrated in skills that are in high demand in the current job market. It is a great way to address the discrepancy between traditional institutional degrees and expectation from students and their future employers.

MicroMaster is indeed a leap forward in achieving internationalization. By extending our high quality teaching and learning contents to a greater audience, we can create a greater ripple of impact in the Asian region and the world. Want to give it a go? Contact us at enquiry@teli.hku.hk and let’s make it happen!

Fast facts:
- 20 MicroMasters programs offered by 14 universities are currently available on edX edX as of February 2017.
- Most of the programs focus in the field of business, management, computer science and education.
- The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is offering a MicroMaster on International Hospitality Management.


Craig, R. (2015). College disrupted: The great unbundling of higher education.

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What does the future hold for vernacular architecture in Asia? In this concluding episode, we will try to look into this question and examine tradition, modernity, and cultural sustainability in the context of the Asian vernacular built environment. Register to take the course for free at http://tinyurl.com/architecturemooc and join learners from around the world on July 26, 2016. Find out more about it here!

Sneak Preview ( Week 5 )

Course Trailer

As vernacular architecture faces various threats, how do we make sure that the needs of both the current and future generations are met? In Week 4 of Vernacular Architecture of Asia, we focus on the conservation of the built vernacular heritage. Register to take the course for free at http://tinyurl.com/architecturemooc and join learners from around the world on July 26, 2016. Find out more about it here!

Sneak Preview ( Week 4 )

Course Trailer

Does the city you live in have “slum” areas? Have you ever thought about how they are built and how they meet the needs of the people who live there? In Week 3 of the Vernacular Architecture of Asia: Tradition, Modernity & Cultural Sustainability, we continue our examination of the urban environment by focusing on these “informal settlements”. Register for the course for free at http://tinyurl.com/architecturemooc and join learners from around the world on July 26, 2016. Find out more about it here!

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Course Trailer

Can urban environments also be vernacular? In Week 2 of the Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia, we will examine the broader and more complex issues in the urban built environment. Register for the course for free and join learners from around the world on July 26, 2016. Find out more about it here!

Sneak Preview ( Week 2 )

Course Trailer

We begin the Search for Vernacular Architecture: Tradition, Modernity & Cultural Sustainability with a look at the rural vernacular. In the first pisode, we will focus on the different aspects of the rural vernacular environment in Asia, and the ways in which these environments communicate meaning. Register for the course for free at http://tinyurl.com/architecturemooc and join learners from around the world on July 26, 2016. Find out more about it here!

Sneak Preview ( Week 1 )

Course Trailer


Course starts TODAY!
Join us and think along with Classical Chinese masters as they explore and debate how and where we can find ethical guidance in nature.

Philosophy can be a daunting subject to teach, as it often involves the explanation of complex and abstract ideas, and encouraging students to think creatively and independently. The challenge becomes more pronounced in the context of online teaching, where students learn remotely and independently in front of their own computers. How do you engage the students and maintain their attention span, while doing justice to the intellectual depth of the subject? Such was the challenge we faced.

Course Instructor Professor Chad Hansen is a brilliant philosophy teacher. His lectures are always intellectually challenging and interesting at the same time. So how did we turn his course into a MOOC?

It has been a long development process with lots of trial and error.

At first, the production had a humble beginning. We just tried to film Professor Hansen without much preparation work to see how it would go. Chad is such a good speaker that he could speak on any topic effortlessly without a need of script and prompter. However, the result was not good. The clips filmed were too long and were difficult to be sliced into chunks to put into the edx platform. We realized that a very careful planning of table of content and flow is extremely important before you could even start. Our instructional designers then worked with Chad to divide his course material into many 6-10 minute long knowledge unit. Many researches showed that the optimal length of online educational video is 6 minute or shorter if you want to keep student engagement.


Then we tried to film again strictly according to the defined knowledge units – clip by clip. We asked Chad to speak directly into the camera, as if addressing the viewers himself. The result was not bad, but that could not capture the dynamic and engaging character that his lectures are well known for – something was clearly missing.

Finally the production team tried a new and risky method – we put Professor Hansen in a small classroom setting and surrounded him with real students and three cameras. We shot it like a mini-concert in order to capture his signature performance naturally. The result was great and dynamic. One learner said in the discussion forum: “I envision this as an idealized college scene – a professor and a small group of students sitting in the green lawn discussing great thoughts concerning humanity”. This was exactly what we were trying to capture.

After capturing all footages, we tried to work backward to make storyboards. Instructional designers digested the clips and designed what highlighted text to be put on the screen. Our multimedia designers worked with Chad and his teaching assistants to create interesting and relevant visuals animations to present those abstract philosophy concepts. The goal was to create a right mix of intimacy and authority.


Also we understand students lose easily in a sea of video clips with subject matter they are not familiar with. We did a few things to give a sense of structure throughout the course.

  1. Each week has an introduction clip and an conclusion clip.
  2. Each clip has an opening with the title of the knowledge unit.
  3. Each clip has a clear ending. The same piece of music chimes in when Chad is going to conclude the clip.
  4. We kept typography and graphic style strictly consistent. Each style got its structural meaning.

Besides the visual part, we believe the audio part is equally important. The audio level should be consistent with relatively free of noise and little ambience. The audio quality should not be muddy or overbright. The room we used to film was not good in terms of acoustic properties. It was huge with big ambience. There was also a lot of noise from air conditioners. We used special audio software to process every word in each video clip. We removed the noise, reduced the ambience and made EQ ( Equalization ) adjustment to make sure Chad’s speech sounds clearly in mediums that most learners will watch on – laptops with small speakers, mobile phones and headphones.


The balance between education and entertainment is a hard one to strike. And we hope that we are able to make the learning experience as informative, enlightening, and enjoyable as possible.

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