Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

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We build. We innovate. We share. It is our team’s mission to support teachers in building useful learning resources and sharing knowledge with technology. One recent project is the enhancement of the Resources for Interpreting website (傳譯資源網), and the development of a mobile app “Newssary” instigated by Dr Eva Ng from the Translation Programme of the School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts. Dr Ng is also the recipient of Teaching Innovative Award for the University’s Teaching Excellence Awards in 2017.


The Interpreting Website
Funded by the Knowledge Exchange (KE) Office of HKU, this website provides free learning and training resources for anyone interested in interpreting. One star feature of the website is a glossary of bilingual Chinese-English terms on current affairs. It is a constantly udpated database of thousands of entries collected by students from the news over many years. This database is not only useful for professional interpreters, but also anyone interested in learning buzzwords in the news.


Website Enhancement
For all glossaries and databases, a user-friendly searching function is indispensable. The database now supports searching by Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. An intelligent search function has also been added recently. For example, if you input “appr h” in the search bar, it will prompt you with “Appreciate Hong Kong”. In other words, even if the input information does not correspond exactly with the entries in the database, you will still be prompted with possible matching items and related terms.

Our team further enriched the website by producing a video on what is interpreting. We also set up a server and advised Dr Ng’s team on website architecture and theme development.


The website received an overwhelmingly positive response from its users, ranging from academics, PhD candidates and members of the general public:

  • “[The website] has everything that an interpreter, or anyone who teaches interpreting, or anyone who wants to use it for client education would want.” – Professor Holly Mikkelson, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA
  • “It’s a wonderful contribution for today’s students and practitioners of interpreting and translation.” – Professor Claudia Angelelli, Heriot-Watt University, UK

In recognition for her contribution to the interpreting community, Dr Ng was awarded the Faculty Knowledge Exchange (KE) Awards in 2016.

The Mobile App
Furthering our effort in revolutionizing the website, we have successfully transformed the glossary into an app, “Newssary”, to increase the accessibility of this useful learning resource. One key feature of the app is game-based learning – it is not just a dictionary, but made interactive for users to learn new vocabulary items through games.

The app is now available on Apple Store and Google Play for FREE!

It is TELI’s mission to collaborate with teachers to create innovative e-learning resources. Interested? Contact us.

Further Reading


“Statistics point that 5 million gamers in the US spent more than 40 hours a week playing World of Warcraft in 2010 – which is [almost like] a full time job…” said Dr. Benny Ng at the ‘Benny and the Apps: Gamification and Student Learning’ seminar.

If you were given a choice, would you rather go to class or play games? Games may be the majority’s answer. Would a gamified curriculum motivate your learning?

Dr. Benny Ng gave a glimpse of why and how we can gamify teaching to engage students in ‘Benny and the Apps: Gamification and Student Learning’, a seminar held on April 5, 2017. The role of play and a 5-step gradual process to apply gamification were some highlights of the sharing.


“How would you feel when facing obstacles in reality?” Participants in the seminar mostly gave negative answers. Yet, Dr. Ng believes that challenges can turn into a positive force in games, providing incentives for players to keep trying. After all, play provides a freedom to fail, experiment, fashion one’s identity and put in continuous effort. The role of play facilitates better and enjoyable learning.

Answers by participants were directly reflected on a wordcloud through mentimeter

Participants were also asked what behaviours they hoped their students displayed in class, the most popular answers included ‘attentive, engaged, listen, motivated’. These match with characteristics of a gamer’s behaviour, such as persistency, risk-taking, attention to details, problem solving, urgent optimism, active learning, self-disciplined and resilience. In such a way, gamifying a class can motivate students to display the qualities mentioned by participants in the wordcloud.

A 5-step process to apply gamification was introduced:

  1. Understanding the target players and the context
    • Age group? Existent skill sets? Location? Duration?
  2. Defining Learning Objectives
    • Is the assessment rubric clear enough with actionable tasks?
  3. Structuring the experience
    • How can your content be broken down to stages/milestones?
  4. Identifying resources
    • What kind of gamifying resources may be needed?
  5. Applying game elements
    • What kind of self or social elements may be applicable? For example;
      Self: point, levels, time restriction; Social: leaderboards, interactive cooperation


Changing the terminology of your syllabus can already be a start – what about gaining ‘experience points’ instead of ‘scores/marks’, completing ‘quests’ instead of ‘courseworks’, or ‘mission’ instead of ‘instructions’?

Take the risk to innovate and test new ideas, find the fun element in what you teach. If education becomes a joyful experience, students will ultimately be passionate to pursue life-long learning.

Want to give it a try? Contact us.


Guest blogger series: Chaak Ming LAU
Mr. Chaak Ming Lau is a Part-time Lecturer at the School of Chinese, The University of Hong Kong. Lau specializes in computational linguistics and is the developer of the CantoSounds platform.

Gamification is a powerful tool to motivate students to learn. One recent successful example is the CantoSounds project 1 initiated by a team of Cantonese teachers from the School of Chinese. It is a versatile gamification platform for exchange students who often lament that Cantonese is a difficult language to learn. The CantoSounds team reached out a helping hand by providing self-learning online resources and gamifying the learning experience. The CantoSounds platform has been used in CHIN9511 Cantonese as a Foreign Language I and is now open for public access.

Creating a Versatile Gamification Platform for Self-learning

Canto1The CantoSounds platform now has over hundreds of videos and sound samples, as well as interactive learning materials, quizzes, and games, freely accessible online anytime. These materials are designed for self-practising pronunciation and romanisation outside class time, allowing teachers and students to focus on communicative language learning activities in class.

The system was rolled out in late January 2016. Through the system, students can watch videos demonstrating the explanatory of initials, finals and tones, click on images to listen to individual words, and do a simple quiz to test their understanding. All these actions give students game points. As they gain more points through progressive learning, they will be promoted to higher levels (from Newbie to Expert!). Learning is further gamified through providing different questions in every quiz quest, with instant feedback.

Creating an online gamification platform is not as difficult as one may think. The platform was built on WordPress with leveraging third-party plugins. For instance, CantoSounds used MyCred for the point system and WP-Pro Quiz for quizzes. A simple mini-game was embedded from the Quizlet flashcard platform. Less tech-savvy teachers can also update online content using WordPress’ ready-made editor backend.

Providing Extra Incentives via Gamifying the Learning Process

The team tested the platform with students in the course. In order to give extra incentives to students, 1% of the participation score of the course was allocated to the game platform. One mark will be assigned to students if they reach the highest rank (Expert, 1000 points) on the platform. Usually a mere 1% score cannot really motivate students, but the combination of course incentive plus gaming elements did a wonderful job in motivating students to hit the highest rank – Out of the 66 students who signed up, an amazing number of students (20) reached the Expert rank. This shows that students were attracted to use the system. With gamification, we can provide students with an engaging and “sticky” learning experience. This, we believe, is the power of gamification.


Gamification is a powerful tool to reshape students’ learning experience and maximize learning outcome. It is not only useful in facilitating language teaching, but can also be used in other courses. If you are looking for ways to motivate students to learn, gamification may be one way to try out.


  • Barata, G., Gama, S., Jorge, J., & Gonçalves, D. (2013, October). Improving participation and learning with gamification. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on gameful design, research, and applications (pp. 10-17). ACM.
  • Conquering the 4Cs: Creating Engaging In-class Activities
  • DomíNguez, A., Saenz-De-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., FernáNdez-Sanz, L., PagéS, C., & MartíNez-HerráIz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392.
  • Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: game-based methods and strategies for training and education. John Wiley & Sons.
  • MOOC: Gamification https://www.coursera.org/learn/gamification
1 The CantoSounds project is funded by the HKU Teaching Development Grant.

Flipping the classroom allows teachers to present instructional materials before class mostly via short videos, freeing class time for interactive activities in the face-to-face sessions. But, what is the definition of quality in-class activities? Dr. Lily Zeng and Professor Ricky Kwok shared their insights in a workshop on 8 March 2016.

The 4Cs

Ricky’s formula of engaging class activities comprises 4Cs:

Collaborative work promotes mutual scaffolding and peer-to-peer learning. For example, in Professor Rick Glofcheski’s Tort Law class, students had to analyze legal cases together.

It is also a good idea to balance collaboration with healthy competition in the classroom. We should provide students with a platform to race with each other and achieve a given goal within limited time. For example, In CCST9003 Everyday Computing and the Internet, students are challenged to solve a Rubik’s cube in the shortest time possible.

By giving students a chance to co-create content, we are prompting them to learn from each other. For example, Professor Benson Yeh asked students to design their own questions for the class.

Students should be given credits for their effort; where possible, their participation should be appropriately assessed. This will incentivize students to constantly improve their performance. For example, participation in the Interprofessional Team-based Learning (IPTBL) for health professional students would contribute to the grade of some students.


The 4Cs can take many different forms. One possibility is to engage your students with learning games during the lesson.

As Ricky pointed out in the workshop, “Gamification is all about how to engage students; how we can incentivize them to take desirable actions. And desirable actions in our context today, is to make learning happen; it’s to achieve the learning outcomes.” “With a good design, you can … engage your students [to] learn the things that you want them to learn. And if you can structure that learning activity as a game, then it will be even better.”

Developing a learning game may seem an impossible challenge to some. But don’t worry. TELI is here to work with you. You can always bring your rough ideas to us and we can brainstorm together. The following questions may help you get started:

  1. Which topic do you want to work on?
  2. Do you want students to play the game as pre-class or in-class activity?

It is possible to begin with a rough idea and develop it into something big. In fact, it is okay even if you don’t have any idea about gamification at all. Come to us. We will show you game prototypes we are currently developing and offer you suggestions.

Further reading

  1. Sharing by Rick Glofcheski on Flipped Learning
  2. The Successful Story of Professor Benson Yeh, a Teacher-turned-Entrepreneur
  3. Not just for fun: Gamify your class

Developing a learning game is not just about making the teaching materials an easier pill to swallow, but is also an attempt to create a resource so engaging that students will beg for more. In our Game Design Meetings, we figured that there are at least eight things to consider in gamification.

  1. Balance between fun and education
    Developing a learning game is different from preparing serious powerpoint presentations. While both aim at facilitating learning, the element of FUN is of particular importance in games.
  2. Have a good understanding of both the educational topic and the game mechanism
    To produce a game which is both fun and educational, it is of ultimate importance to figure out how to transform learning contents into gaming elements. Equally important is a good understanding of the type of game you intend to make, e.g., card game, collaborative multiplayer game, detective game, etc. The best way to familiarize yourself with a particular game mechanism is to try playing some related games.
  3. Form a diverse team
    It is important to have people with different expertise in your team to pool ideas and create a game for a diverse audience. Our Game Design Team comprises of instructional designers, multimedia experts, research associates, designers and programme developers.

    While it is natural to include professional gamers in the development team, it is also crucial to invite laymen to join. Sometimes an uninformed opinion can be valuable in shaping the game.
  4. Draw inspiration from existing games
    Existing games are successful for a reason. Try them out and learn from them. For example, if you want to develop a strategic board game, recommended games include Kingdom Builder, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Tickets to Ride, etc….
  5. Copyright
    When drawing inspirations from other games, be aware of copyright issues. Consult your local copyright office if necessary.
  6. Document all ideas discussed
    Take note of all crazy ideas in your discussions, whether they are related to the main theme, scoring mechanism, functions of a particular card, anything. A seemingly useless or silly idea may eventually become an important element of the final product. Keeping a log book of ideas also makes it easier to create ‘trailers’ and draft official documents such as game specifications in the future.
  7. Test out your prototype – again and again
    Once you have developed a prototype, try playing it. Does it work? Is it playable? Does it facilitate learning? Invite your colleagues and friends to try it out.
  8. Ensure every player has an equal chance to win
    Test the game repeatedly to see if every player has a fair chance to win. Unfair games may demotivate learners.

Developing an original educational game is challenging but fun. Contact us if you are interested in developing a learning game for your students at HKU. Have fun!


On November 24, 2015, Professor Benson Yeh, Director of MOOC Program at National Taiwan University rolled up his sleeves and recounted his entrepreneurial story to an audience largely comprised of University students and teachers. The setting up of BoniO, an educational gaming software firm, is not only a testimonial of Professor Yeh’s achievement in gamification; it is also a prime example showing that everyone/anyone is capable of creating something great. It is hoped that his example will be an inspiration to the younger generation and give them the courage in taking the first step towards their own startup.


Professor Yeh believes that a feasible startup idea has to spring from a problem and for his case, the problem was the need for authentic learning materials. In Taiwan, the standard question banks for student assignment are so overused that the answer guides have become very easily accessible to students. Tolerating such problem was not an option for Professor Yeh, so he came up with the idea of asking students to design their own questions for the class. As designing questions requires thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter, it motivates students to learn the issues better. What’s more? Professor Yeh and his team created “a very considerate and yet very evil design,” as he put it, to provide real time update on who has completed the assignment. In this way, students feel the pressure to do better and faster than their fellows. “That’s why they become very addicted to solving the problems.” Professor Yeh explained that this sense of competition lays the ground for gamifying learning materials.


Based on this “considerate and evil design”, Professor Yeh developed his social gaming platform PaGamO for his Coursera MOOC, followed by the software house BoniO to provide teachers all over the world with an infrastructure to gamify their teaching materials. Beyond this successful story, Professor Yeh has a greater and deeper agenda: “The reason why I decided to do that was mission.” He explained that in his 10 years of teaching in university, he has seen many super talents and geniuses choosing to work in big companies instead of creating a startup, simply because they do not want to take the risk of failure. The phenomenon is not limited to students, but applies to Professors as well. Professor Yeh would like to grow a successful story from campus as an inspiration for his University students and counterparts.


Advice from Professor Benson Yeh to potential future entrepreneurs:
(1) Find good problem – “A good problem is one that troubles many people… You offer good solutions and many people are willing to spend money for your product… Start to train yourself to observe other people.”
(2) Build your HR database – “Making a good team is very important, but forming a good team requires time… Now is the time for you to start building your good team.”
(3) Have good presentation and marketing skills – “If you don’t have some visibility; if you don’t have some reputation, even if you have good startup, it’s very difficult for you to get funding… Go out there and let other people know.”

In a nutshell? Challenge yourself further, think outside the box and have fun.



Seminar by Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative

Speaker: Professor Benson Yeh Ping-Cheng, Director of MOOC Program, National Taiwan University
Date : 24 November, 2015 (Tuesday)
Time : 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Venue : Rm 201, 2/F, K.K. Leung Building, HKU

About the Speaker

Professor Benson Yeh Ping-Cheng, Director of MOOC Program at National Taiwan University, is a pioneer in designing and experimenting new pedagogical initiatives. His award-winning educational social game, PaGamO, is a breakthrough in gamification. Based on this initiative, Professor Yeh started BoniO, a software production house with investment from the Foxconn Technology Group. Professor Yeh believes that education in the future lies in gaming and that every generation should have their own story of entrepreneurship.

About the Seminar
In this seminar, Professor Yeh will share his experience in writing his own story of entrepreneurship in order to encourage teenagers to go for their dreams. The setting up of BoniO was out of two major intentions. By recruiting mostly young graduates in the team, Professor Yeh aims to allow teenagers to have hands-on experience with entrepreneurship. He aspires to ignite the passion and courage in the next generation to put their business plans into action. Another purpose of BoniO is to make an impact on education; more specifically in the mode of learning. He believes that education of the next generation has to be closely tied to gaming; and in order to provide sustainable and easily applicable tools for teachers in gamifying educational contents, it is essential to start up a business.

For enquiries, please contact Miss Bonnie Yu by email yka0201@hku.hk.

The brains and builders behind the Knowledge and Education Exchange Platform (KEEP) visited HKU to demonstrate this one-stop e-learning aggregator on September 21, 2015.


Professor Irwin King, one of the Principal Investigators of KEEP, and also his team from CUHK, demonstrated on how learners can easily fish out relevant education content in a sea of learning materials around the globe. On the other hand, the platform is a hub where teachers are encouraged to share ideas on pedagogical innovation. In the near future, the KEEP team will be focusing their work around learning analytics, gamification, social learning and mobile learning. “We really believe that active learning and more engaged learning is the way for the future, and we want to encourage that,” said Professor King.


Professor Ricky Kwok, Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) at HKU, also made use of the occasion to share HKU’s initiatives in gamification with examples of making the Rubik’s Cube a pedagogical tool in a course on everyday computing, and also designing a game for the MOOC on Epidemics (which is currently on offer). “It’s all about how to engage and incentivize participants to take desirable actions […] we want to make learning happen, that’s why we want to try the gamification idea,” said Professor Kwok.


The two parts of sharing triggered intensive discussions on the floor. The audience was curious to learn the tricks to engage course learners from the beginning to end and to further investigate in how gamification can be meaningfully incorporated in different disciplines.

Related Items 


Organized by Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative


  • Professor Irwin King, Principal Investigator of KEEP,
    Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Engineering, CUHK
  • Professor Ricky Kwok, Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning), HKU

Date : 21st September, 2015 (Monday)
Time : 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Venue : Room 223, 2/F, Knowles Building


Logo_KEEP_horizontal_color_700x215_rgbKEEP, the Knowledge and Education Exchange Platform, is an initiative developed by The Chinese University of Hong Kong in collaboration with all UGC-funded institutions in Hong Kong. KEEP serves as an e-learning aggregator, providing a single gateway to online learning and diverse education content around the globe. In this seminar, Professor Irwin King, Principal Investigator of KEEP, is going to walk participants through the platform, introduce its major features, and share on how KEEP showcases innovative technologies in education.

The second part of the seminar will focus on the latest development in one aspect of pedagogical innovation at HKU – gamification. From the blending of animation into our Chinese Philosophy MOOC to the development of serious games in our upcoming e-learning modules, the Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI) team at HKU has been trying to bring a new dimension of immersive learning experiences for our students. At his presentation, Professor Ricky Kwok, together with our tech and multimedia teams will discuss best practices in gamification, and present their work in this area to-date. They will share the challenges encountered in balancing entertainment and education, driving competition in game-based learning to inspire achievement of learning outcomes, and creating a gaming space that might draw learners closer together.

About the Speakers:

Professor Irwin King is the Associate Dean (Education) of the Engineering Faculty and Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, CUHK. He is also the Director of Rich Media and Big Data Key Laboratory at the Shenzhen Research Institute. His research interests include machine learning, social computing, Big Data, data mining, and multimedia information processing. Recently, Professor King has been an evangelist in the use of education technologies in eLearning for the betterment of teaching and learning.

Professor Ricky Kwok is Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) at HKU, assisting the Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) in various endeavors related to e-learning (e.g., MOOCs). He leads the Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI) team which consists of e-learning technologists, researchers in learning analytics, specialists in systems development, and multimedia talents.

Please send enquiries to Miss Cherry Lai
Email: cherry.lai@hku.hk.


Seminar: Peer-to-Peer Teaching & Learning

Dr. Benson YEH, National Taiwan University
Venue & Time: CPD 3.04, 18 May 2015 12:30pm – 2:00pm

CCCHow can we keep students engaged in class? How can we make our students motivated to learn? These are the most challenging questions for teachers nowadays. Dr. Yeh developed a series of Peer-to-Peer teaching and learning schemes following his unique teaching teaching philosophy: “For the student! By the student! Of the student!”. In this talk, Dr. Yeh will explain how his schemes work and show the amazing results from his students’ course work.

Seminar: Gamification in E-learning

Professor Toru IIYOSHI, Kyoto University
Venue & Time: CPD 3.04, 19 May 2015 12:30pm – 2:00pm

Although gamification in education is not a new idea, the evolution of increasingly media rich, open, social, and intelligent learning tools, environments, and educational approaches—enabled and enhanced by information and communications technology (ICT)—is rapidly transforming the landscape of learning and teaching. This seminar delves into some of the critical pedagogical, cognitive, motivational, and emotional aspects of technology-supported gamification in education by reviewing and examining the past and present practice as well as foreseeing some of the future possibilities that will help further advance individual and collective capacity development and education systems in the 21st century society.

Public Seminar: Flipping the classroom – A new way to better learning

Dr. Benson YEH, National Taiwan University
Venue & Time: CPD 3.04, 19 May 2015 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Flipped classroom has attracted attention in recent years. However, how to conduct flipped classroom effectively remains a question to many teachers. How should a teacher motivate students to watch videos in advance? How can a teacher teach well without giving any homework? There are many doubts about flipped classroom for teachers without the experience.

Dr. Yeh is one of the most renowned teaching innovators in Taiwan. He developed a total solution “BTS Flipping” for flipped classroom. He has been invited to give more than 200 talks last year on “BTS Flipping”. Dr. Yeh’s talks have motivated tens of thousands of teachers in Taiwan to start flipping their classes.

About Dr. Benson YEH, National Taiwan University

Dr. Yeh has pioneered many educational experiments and designs:

  • He is the first to win the Overall Award and E-Learning Award in Wharton-QS 2014 Stars Awards: Reimagine Education, the “Oscars” of innovations in higher education.
  • He is the first to teach a MOOC course in Chinese with 48,000+ students.
  • He is the first in the world to design a MOOC-based multi-student social game to enhance the learning experience of MOOC students.
  • He is the first to design various experiential learning schemes that enable college students to be graded by elementary school students on their presentation skills.
  • He is the first to create and promote the style of designing mathematical problems with creative literary writing.

Since 2010, Dr. Yeh has been the strong advocator of his teaching philosophy: “For the students, By the students, Of the students”. It states that students can be motivated to learn if teachers can share more responsibility with them (e.g., by letting students design their own homework problems. Dr. Yeh’s speeches have motivated many teachers to start thinking differently in teaching. His new book on education, “Teach for the future” has been one of the bestsellers in Taiwan.

About Professor Toru IIYOSHI, Kyoto University

Toru Iiyoshi is Director and a professor at the Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education (CPEHE) of Kyoto University where he also serves as Deputy Vice President for Education. Previously, he was a senior scholar and Director of the Knowledge Media Laboratory at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies of the University of Tokyo, and Senior Strategist in the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Prof. Iiyoshi’s current areas of research and development include educational innovation and technology, open education, technology-enhanced scholarship of teaching and learning, and future of higher education systems. He works with various national and international initiatives, projects, and organizations in an advisory role to provide vision and leadership in the development and distribution of innovative educational technology. Prof. Iiyoshi is the co-editor of the Carnegie Foundation book, “Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge” (MIT Press, 2008).

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