Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

e-learning Blog    > HKU Online Learning & MOOCs    > CETL    > UG Research Fellowship



Trailer and sneak previews


About this course
“If history is our guide, we can assume that the battle between the intellect and will of the human species and the extraordinary adaptability of microbes will be never-ending.” (1)

Despite all the remarkable technological breakthroughs that we have made over the past few decades, the threat from infectious diseases has significantly accelerated. In this course, we will learn why this is the case by looking at the fundamental scientific principles underlying epidemics and the public health actions behind their prevention and control in the 21st century.

This course covers the following four topics:

  1. Origins of novel pathogens;
  2. Analysis of the spread of infectious diseases;
  3. Medical and public health countermeasures to prevent and control epidemics; and
  4. Panel discussions involving leading public health experts with deep frontline experiences to share their views on risk communication, crisis management, ethics and public trust in the context of infectious disease control.

In addition to the original introductory sessions on epidemics, we revamped the course by adding:

  1. new panel discussions with world-leading experts; and
  2. supplementary modules on next generation informatics for combating epidemics.

You will learn:

  1. the origins, spread and control of infectious disease epidemics;
  2. the importance of effective communication about epidemics; and
  3. key contemporary issues relating to epidemics from a global perspective.

Who is this class for
This is an introductory course suitable for all learners, with no prerequisite required.

Join the fight against epidemics now.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for more updates!

(1) Fauci AS, Touchette NA, Folkers GK. Emerging Infectious Diseases: a 10-Year Perspective from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Emerg Infect Dis 2005 Apr; 11(4):519-25.

Related Items 


South China Morning Post recently interviewed our teachers on how e-learning has taken off at HKU and will bring unprecedented learning experience to learners both on and off campus. The first MOOC, an introductory public health course entitled Epidemics, showcased the University’s strength in the global context, and was “hugely successful”.

The initiative turned out to be headlights into how online learning can be widely and effectively incorporated into on-campus education. The article highlighted the valuable statistics collected from MOOCs. Leveraging a treasure of both quantitative and qualitative data collected from an impressive number of MOOC learners, teachers were able to evaluate and refine course materials and assessments, which can then be repurposed for their on-campus counterparts, laying the groundwork for “flipped classroom” teaching.

The data also provided insights into how some e-learning tools for on-campus students can be improved. For example, compared to the underused Moodle online forum, the MOOC discussion forums encouraged students to ask questions in a comfortable way since they allowed a certain level of anonymity.

New and exciting online courses are on the way to provide e-learners an ever better expereience. Read the article to find out more.


Six months ago, HKU launched its first MOOC HKU01x Epidemics with over 10,000 enrolled students and 1,226 certificates of completion earned. Comparing this MOOC learner certification rate of 12% with the average of around 5% (Jordan 2014), a picture of a successful course begins to emerge. To celebrate that success, the E-Learning Pedagogical Support Unit (EPSU) led a seminar presenting varied perspectives from some of the major stakeholders in designing and running Epidemics.

DSC06946The seminar attracted a full-house and Dr. Joseph Wu, who led Epidemics, fittingly spoke first, sharing the professors’ perspective. And what a perspective it was, with 11 professors – all top-tier scientists from the field of infectious disease research – delivering lectures on the MOOC, along with invited experts such as Professor Peter Piot (from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) who spoke in one of the course’s highly topical panel discussions. In addition to the contributions of the professoriate team, Joe highlighted two further key factors: HKU School of Public Health’s influenza research program, with its highly interdisciplinary approach; and long-standing collaboration in terms of research and teaching between the school and other world-leading institutions such as Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

DSC06963Dr. Chao Quan spoke next about his role as lead TA in Epidemics, sharing the support and coordination perspective. Chao also spoke of inter-professional collaboration between the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and EPSU colleagues and additionally highlighted how TAs can support professoriate staff during course preparation – for example in helping to prepare short lecture scripts for the MOOC instructional videos – and during the course run by being active in moderating the discussion forums.

Two instructional designers from EPSU were up next. Dr. Jingli Cheng considered the learners’ perspective, sharing some fascinating initial results gleaned from Epidemics entrance and exit surveys, with the following highlights:

  • A score of 4.6/5 in terms of  overall satisfaction  with the quality of the course
  • 92% of participants would recommend the course to others
  • 53% of those earning a certificate intend to include it on their resume
  • US learners were the most represented on the course (23.2%) with Hong Kong in second place with 11.2%
  • A detailed analysis of the raw learning data revealed some interesting findings about the effectiveness of course materials

Darren Harbutt followed Jingli, presenting the instructional design (ID) perspective. Darren outlined the ID approach for Epidemics and contrasted it with the slightly different roles assumed in other upcoming HKU MOOCs. The other main takeaways from Darren’s input focused (once again) on the benefits of inter-departmental collaboration and the importance of adaptive and responsive workflows.

Professor Ricky Kwok brought the event to a close outlining how HKU is leveraging MOOCs to feed forward the insights gained into the bigger E-learning picture and highlighting once again the power of collaboration, within HKU and between institutions to help promote sustainable MOOC development and ultimately achieve the outcome of improved student learning.

Overall, a timely and well-received seminar and a moment for all those involved to reflect on the successes of the past while considering future improvements, with collaboration and teamwork emerging as key themes. Have you registered yet for the second iteration of Epidemics?


Jordan, K. (2014). Initial Trends in Enrolment and Completion of Massive Open Online Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(1), 133-160.

Resources (HKU Portal login required)

Presentations in PDF: Dr. Joseph Wu / Dr. Chao Quan / Dr. Jingli Cheng / Darren Harbutt / Professor Ricky Kwok

Guest blogger series: Joseph Wu on Coursera Partners Conference 2015

coursera conference

Joseph WuDr. Joseph Wu is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine. His primary research is in influenza epidemiology and control, particularly focusing on pandemic preparedness and response. The MOOC developed by his team, Epidemics, attracted over 10,000 enrollees in its first offering.

I led the production of HKU’s first MOOC Epidemics which was launched on the edX platform in September 2014. In this Coursera meeting, I participated in one of their design labs to exchange experience and views about MOOC production with other MOOC developers (whom I presumed were mostly using the Coursera platform). The facilitator from Coursera asked us to share a few pain points in our MOOC development and operations. It turned out that my major concern was not quite among the top concerns from others.

The points that we discussed most were real-time management of questions and complaints from learners, justification of the value of MOOCs to senior management in universities, the lack of beta-testing support, etc. These are factors that are geared towards learner experience, visions and strategies for MOOC among universities, and the design of MOOC platforms. My major concern was more about the seemingly unrecognized burden and stress borne by the in-house MOOC production team members who are often graduate students and research staff of the MOOC developer drafted to venture into this unchartered territory of MOOC education. To them, many aspects of MOOC production such as copyright clearance, sourcing for graphics and animations, filming, video assembly and editing, translation, and beta-testing are not really their primary interests, expertise or responsibilities. Furthermore, given that most institutions are still trying to position themselves in this new realm of MOOCs, there is no or very little existing in-house support (in terms of both technical expertise and financial resources) readily available to help the team with MOOC production. My impression is that with a few exceptions such as Rice University and John Hopkins University, most universities have not yet figured out clearly how MOOC will be integrated into their teaching and learning strategies. Without a consensus on the value and cost of MOOC within an institution (or even a department), it is difficult to have a fair and objective assessment of students and staff involved in MOOC production and operations in their performance evaluation. The value and cost of MOOCs themselves are difficult to assess. The requirements and outcomes for MOOCs vary substantially depending on their nature and scope. For example, teaching computer programming would presumably be less demanding on speaking techniques and illustrative graphics but more demanding on real-time interactions and tutorial, while teaching history would require captivating eloquence and graphics that we expect in a BBC or CNN documentary program. On outcomes, computer programming MOOCs tend to have a lot more learners than MOOCs on history, so using the number of enrollees as a performance metric (which is often done for showcasing popularity) is unlikely to be fair when comparing MOOCs from different disciplines. These are issues that need to be addressed upfront in order for the production of MOOCs within an institution to be sustainable.


Hello everyone!

At this time, The University of Hong Kong course HKU01x, Epidemics is available from your edX Dashboard, and the staff would like to officially welcome you!

You’ll find materials for the first week on the Courseware page, including both video lectures and quizzes.

Please take some time to go to the Course Details page to view the course’s learning outcomes, syllabus, assessment and grading criteria, and become familiar with course policies.

I will be your course lead and I hope you will all have a great time learning about epidemics!

On behalf of the staff, welcome, good luck, and have fun!

Gabriel Leung and the HKU01x staff

What do food production, international travel, exotic animals, used tires, industrial air conditioning have in common when it comes to epidemics?

Join us in the HKUx MOOC on Epidemics to find out more

Related Items 

Copyright © 2018 The University of Hong Kong. All Rights Reserved Contact Us