Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

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



Educators, wherever we are, should keep up with the challenges and trends in higher education worldwide. One effective way to stay informed is to engage in dialogues with colleagues from around the world. On 20 June, 2017, we learnt about the top 10 challenges and trends in Australian universities in a seminar delivered by Dr Caroline Steel, Strategic Educational Consultant, APAC, Blackboard International ASCILITE Life Member Awardee and Past President Adjunct Academic, The University of Queensland.

The following is the list of key challenges and trends ranked by Australian academic leaders in a study led by Dr Steel:

10 Teaching and Learning Challenges 10 Teaching and Learning Trends
  1. Student career development and employability
  2. Student engagement and satisfaction
  3. Assessment and feedback
  4. Technology-enhanced pedagogical practice
  5. Student attrition
  6. Improving work-integrated learning
  7. First year experience and transition
  8. Personalized adaptive learning
  9. Academic adoption of educational technologies
  10. Academic misconduct
  1. Learning analytics;
    Unbundling qualification
    (both items ranked number one)
  2. Teaching quality standards;
    Fully online courses;
    Students as partners
  3. Mobile-enabled learning;
    Adaptive learning technology
  4. Digital examinations
  5. MOOC’s;
    Open Education Resources (OER’s)

Key Challenges in Teaching and Learning
Student career development and employability is considered to be the biggest challenge in the Australian higher education context. In the past, universities mainly focused on training students into critical thinkers. In today’s rapidly changing society, educators should take one step further to educate both the ‘thinker’ and the ‘worker’. Given the rapid development of automation, AI and cognitive computing, some jobs may no longer exist in 10 years’ time. Students may not be fixed to one career throughout their lives. To prepare students for this highly uncertain future, HE institutions should help them acquire various employability skills and develop cross/trans-disciplinary thinking.

The second challenge is student engagement and satisfaction, in both on-campus & online teaching. According to Professor Karen Nelson, an interviewee in the study, student engagement constitutes of three parameters: behavioural, cognitive and affective. The challenge for universities is to “create the educational conditions that will trigger emotion and motivation so that students are engaged.”

Major Trends in Higher Education
The two most prominent trends in Australian higher education are learning analytics and unbundling qualification.

Learning analytics is a potential game changer in higher education. ‘There is enormous potential in learning analytics,’ said Professor Martin Carroll in an interview for the study. However, even though analytics have been used by lots of industries in Australia, high education is falling behind. It is necessary for institutions to keep up with the trend and look for ways to use analytics to improve teaching and learning.

Unbundling qualifications is another prominent trend in Australian higher education. Universities are now looking into the possibility of unbundling qualifications and micro-credentialing as alternative ways to provide learning, so that learners can obtain the skills they need as quickly as possible. For example, instead of completing an entire MBA programme, some professionals may only want to learn certain components of the degree. If universities are able to repurpose some of the content, then more choices will be available to learners. After obtaining skills and credits from various programmes and fields, learners can demonstrate their expertise in their e-portfolios.

It is worth noting that, among the top 10 T&L trends, 6 are tech-related, namely

  • Fully online courses
  • Mobile-enabled learning
  • Adaptive learning technology
  • Digital examinations
  • MOOC’s
  • Open Education Resources (OER’s)

This finding is certainly encouraging as the use of technology enhances teaching and learning and better prepares institutions for the challenges in higher education. Technology allows flexibility in learning and makes personalized learning possible. Learning management systems and grading tools such as Turnitin make it easier for teachers to assess students and provide feedback. The blending of face-to-face lectures with e-learning tools, such as Mentimeter and Kahoot!, caters for students’ diversified learning needs, which potentially enhances student engagement.

What about Hong Kong?
We are embracing the same challenges in Hong Kong and are working along similar lines. Here at HKU, we strive to cultivate students’ employability skills (e.g. cognitive flexibility, negotiation) and develop cross-disciplinary thinking through events such as Inter-professional Team-based Learning (IPTBL) and Girls4Tech. To enhance student engagement, we are constantly designing new in-class activities, apps and games. To ensure the best learning experience for our students, our efforts in course development is paralleled by research efforts in learning analytics.

More and more teachers are joining the ride in developing MOOCs (on edX and Coursera) and SPOCs to enrich students’ blended learning experience. To further open up learning opportunities to a wider range of learners, we are also exploring the possibilities of unbundling qualifications and MicroMasters and getting ourselves ready for e-portfolios. More initiatives will be in place to shape the T&L landscape in Hong Kong in response to challenges and trends in higher education.

What do you think? How will you respond to these challenges and trends? Share your views with us.

Further reading

  1. “Learning and Teaching Challenges in Higher Education in Australia: A View from the Top”, an Australian academic leadership study conducted by ASCILITE and Blackboard International in 2016


The International Conference: Assessment for Learning in Higher Education 2015 was held on the 13th to the 15th of May 2015 by the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). With the aim of sharing experiences, research, and practice in assessment and feedback in higher education, the Conference attracted educational practitioners, researchers, experts, and academics from around the world and successfully served as an international platform for dialogue on various teaching and learning-related themes.

Over 300 attendees came to the Conference, and more than half of this participation was from overseas: Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, China, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Africa, Chile, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Belgium, Finland, and the Netherlands. We received an overwhelming number of abstract submissions and there were over 100 oral presentations and 40 poster presentations over the three-day event, confirming the worldwide interest in teaching and learning in higher education and the timeliness and relevance of this conference.

On the 13th of May 2015, three pre-conference workshops were conducted by CETL academic staff together with overseas educational experts. Professor Grahame Bilbow, Director of CETL, and Professor Dai Hounsell, Former Vice-Principal of University of Edinburgh, presented on a community of practice project ‘Wise assessment: Towards a community of practice’. Dr. Cecilia K.Y. Chan, Conference Chairperson and the Head of Professional Development at CETL, and Professor Michael Prosser, Honorary Professor of CETL, conducted a workshop entitled ‘Evidence of student learning outcomes – Why and how?’. Finally, Dr. Susan Bridges, Associate Professor of CETL and Assistant Dean for the Faculty of Education, Dr. Michael Botelho, Clinical Associate Professor of Dentistry, and Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith, Director of Learning Sciences Institute Australia (LSIA) at Australian Catholic University, conducted a workshop entitled ‘Criteria, standards and judgment practices in assessing performance-based tasks in higher education: Opportunities from professional programmes’. These workshops were followed by a Welcome Reception hosted by the Conference Committee.

Professor Ian Holliday, Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, delivered the welcome speech for the opening ceremony of the Conference on the 14th of May 2015, and he reiterated the importance of assessment and feedback as well as the University’s commitment to teaching and learning. Professor Grahame Bilbow delivered a warm welcome to participants on behalf of CETL.

The two-day conference focussed on the following sub-themes within the broad framework of assessment for learning in higher education:

  1. Innovative Assessment Approaches
  2. Students’ Responses to Assessment
  3. Assessment and Feedback
  4. Institutional Initiatives in Assessment
  5. Assessing Professional Competencies

Professor John Biggs, former Professor of Education at HKU, Professor Royce Sadler, University of Queensland, Professor David Boud, University of Technology, Sydney, and Professor David Carless & Professor Rick Glofcheski, HKU were invited as keynote speakers to share their expertise on the main theme of the Conference, ‘Assessment for Learning’. The topics of their keynote speeches were, respectively:

The Conference Committee has received very positive feedback from conference participants, including expressions of interest in follow-up activities, and possibly another conference exploring other issues in assessment and learning in higher education.

This event was funded largely by the financial award provided by the Hong Kong University Grants Committee to Professor Rick Glofcheski, Professor of Law at HKU, on the occasion of his being named inaugural winner of the University Grants Committee Teaching Award.

For photographs of the Conference, please see Gallery.

Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, University of Hong Kong, June 2015


It would take an individual over 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global internet networks each month in 2018, with video consisting of 79% of all consumer internet traffic in 2018 (Cisco, 2014). Whilst this vast access and consumption of video by no means implies viewers are engaging with or learning from high-quality content, it does indicate that video is a dominant online modality for information ‘chunking’ and broadcasting. In light of this ubiquity of video, the ease in which technology can be leveraged to create viewing environments, and its potential as a medium to provide input, higher education (HE) has been integrating video into teaching and learning at a rapidly growing rate. Flipped classrooms, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), blended-learning classrooms and distance courses are a few of the many contexts in which video is employed as a tool for learning.

The University of Hong Kong is no exception to this trend. With the dual aim of engaging faculty members who produce videos for their learners and fostering interdisciplinary dialogue around this topic, on 11 February the E-learning Pedagogical Support Unit delivered a seminar entitled “Educational Video Production: Design principles for meaningful learning”. Key areas discussed were:

  1. the importance of adopting a learner-centred approach to multimedia design
  2. the need to reduce unnecessary cognitive processing in educational video production given the constraints of working memory
  3. a set of specific guiding principles proposed by Mayer (2012), which can help us achieve the above two objectives.

Using this theory as a starting point, participants had the opportunity to discuss issues which commonly arise in video production in their own contexts. For instance, what is the difference between video for education and entertainment? What is the impact of visuals and audio, and the relationship between these modalities, on student cognition and learning? Does adding graphics to spoken words help students’ learning? Is talking over PowerPoint slides more or less effective than a talking head alone? Does adding on-screen written text, which parallels spoken text, support or hinder learning?

Whilst the answers to these questions are not always clear-cut, the importance of generating informed dialogue around our design decisions is paramount if we are to produce videos which are engaging and conducive to learning. One need only glance at the seminar’s enrolee profile to see the breadth of interest in taking part in this dialogue.


The challenge perhaps now lies in further fostering communities of practice and supporting an ethic of exemplar sharing. So if you’re keen to share a clip you’ve created or ask for advice on one you’re currently working on, we would encourage you to contact an instructional designer in the E-learning Pedagogical Support Unit.



Cisco. (2014). Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2013-2018. Retrieved from CISCO: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/ip-ngn-ip-next-generation-network/white_paper_c11-481360.pdf

Mayer, R. (2012). Multimedia Learning (2nd edition ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Message from Faculty of Education

Community of Higher Education Research (CHER)

Do students have freedom to learn at university?

Presenter: Bruce Macfarlane
Chair: Anatoly Oleksiyenko
Discussant: Bob Adamson, HKIEd

20 May, 2014, 12.45pm-2.00pm
Room 203, Runme Shaw Building, HKU


Universities have become performative environments in response to the pressures of the audit culture. Whilst the implications for academic life are well documented, students are also subject to demands that audit their learning in increasingly behavioural rather than cognitive terms. Specifically, this includes rules on class attendance, (presenteeism), class and peer participation as part of learning and assessment regimes (learnerism) and requirements to demonstrate commitment to normative social agendas such as global citizenship and sustainability (soulcraft). Drawing on a recent survey of HKU students, it is argued that student performativity is transforming learning at university from a private space into a public performance with adverse consequences for student academic freedom.

About the speaker:

Bruce Macfarlane is Professor of Higher Education at HKU and Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Education. His books (with Routledge) include Teaching with Integrity, The Academic Citizen, Researching with Integrity and Intellectual Leadership in Higher Education. His new book, Freedom to Learn will be published in 2015.

~ All are Welcome! ~

The Community for Higher Education Research is designed to bring together researchers in any area of higher education research for exchange and critical dialogue.

Message from Centre for Applied English Studies

Dear All,

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Jane Sunderland from the Lancaster University, UK will give a talk at 4:30pm on 21st May 2014 (Wednesday) at CPD2.58. The title of the talk is “Gender issues for second language education: implications for English teachers in higher education”.

You are cordially invited to this seminar, the details of which can be found in the poster below. If it is not shown properly, please click here.

Since places are limited, please register for the talk by 9th May via the following link: http://hkuems1.hku.hk/hkuems/ec_hdetail.aspx?UEID=30248&guest=Y.

We look forward to seeing you in this event.


Centre for Applied English Studies
The University of Hong Kong


Message from Faculty of Education

Community of Higher Education Research (CHER) in Hong Kong

Are There Critical Issues that Urge Advanced Studies in Higher Education?

William G. Tierney
University of Southern California
HKU Visiting Research Professor

“A Conversation about the role of higher education in fixing failed states”
(with Anatoly Oleksiyenko, reporting on cases from Ukraine and Russia)

Date: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Time: 12.45-2.00pm
Venue: Room 401-402, Meng Wah Complex, HKU
Chair: Gerard A. Postiglione


Failed higher education is most likely to lead to failed state. The opposite can be also true. Looking into the previous studies on the subject and bringing into the conversation the cases of Ukraine and Russia, the discussants will push the boundaries on theoretical perspectives in the field, examine potential problems, and contemplate on opening opportunities in fixing failed states with the help of academic excellence, accountability, and public-private partneships.

About the speaker:

William G. Tierney is Director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, University Professor and Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at the Rossier School of Education. Former President of the USC Academic Senate, he chaired the Ph.D. program for the USC Rossier School of Education and chaired the University Committee on Academic Review. He also served as President of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He has recently been elected as President of the American Education Research Association. His research interests pertain to organizational performance, equity, and faculty roles and rewards. Professor Tierney teaches courses on the administration and governance of higher education and on qualitative methods. He is currently HKU Visiting Research Professor.

~ All are Welcome! ~

The Community for Higher Education Research is designed to bring together researchers in any area of higher education research for exchange and critical dialogue. The seminar is co-organized and supported by the Higher Education Partnerships FRT, SIG “Higher Education” of the Comparative Education Research Center.

Message from Knowledge Exchange Office

The British Council and Education for Good have the pleasure of inviting you to the following event:


Date: Tuesday 25 March 2014
Time: 9.00 a.m – 2.30 p.m.
Venue: 3/F, British Council, 3 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong

Professor Alex Nicholls, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (Read bio)
Mr Chris Mould, Partner, Shaftesbury Asia (Read bio)

Dr K K Tse, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Education for Good CIC Ltd (Read bio)

Join the speakers and leading local authorities on social enterprise from Hong Kong’s universities to discuss approaches to social entrepreneurship teaching and learning in the UK and other countries. The forum will provide a platform for cross-disciplinary learning and identify opportunities for collaboration.

The forum will cover:

  • Overview of initiatives to nurture social entrepreneurship in HK higher education institutions
  • UK academic provisions on social entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  • Examples of business collaborations from Shaftesbury Partnership, including Tesco and Johnson & Johnson

By registration only. Lunch will be provided.

Register to attend

For further information, please contact:
+852 2913 5100

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 2.57.38 am

Due to the large number of participants anticipated, the venue will be changed to T5, Meng Wah Complex.

Professor Dai Hounsell, Vice-Principal for Assessment and Feedback, University of Edinburgh

Against a background of curriculum transformation in higher education and calls for greater accountability for quality, there is a growing interest, nationally and internationally, in evidence of excellence in students’ learning. Two closely interwoven questions are raised. How can university teachers best use assessment and evaluation to capture the breadth and depth of learning outcomes being demonstrated by students? And how can the students’ distinctive achievements be communicated more widely, within and beyond the campus? The seminar will explore these twin questions, with particular reference to recent curriculum change at HKU.


Seminar 2: Evidence of Experiential Learning

Date: 6 December, 2013 (Friday)
Time: 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Venue: T5, Meng Wah Complex

The second seminar focuses more closely on the enhanced opportunities for experiential learning which is one of the hallmarks of the quality of undergraduate education at HKU. It considers how excellence in experiential learning can be captured and communicated, focusing particularly on strategies that are complementary to traditional forms of assessment and feedback, including those that capitalise on advances in communication technologies.

For details and online registration of seminar 2, please go to:


Seminar 1: The Evidence Challenge

Date: 3 December, 2013 (Tuesday)
Time: 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Venue: T5, Meng Wah Complex

In reviewing the challenges of capturing and communicating evidence of excellence in learning, the seminar will:

  • invite participants to explore what kinds of learning-and-assessment opportunities would seem to align well with what types of learning outcomes
  • provide illustrations of such opportunities drawn from real-life course and subject settings in established universities
  • highlight key steps that need to be followed in designing and implementing valid and robust assessment-for-learning initiatives

For details and online registration of seminar 1, please go to:


About the Speaker
Professor Dai Hounsell is currently Vice-Principal for Assessment and Feedback (part-time) at the University of Edinburgh. From 2009 to 2012 he was the University’s Vice-Principal for Academic Enhancement, and Professor of Higher Education from 2000-2012.

He has published widely on assessment and feedback and many other aspects of university learning and teaching, served in various editorial and refereeing roles, and led several multi-institutional higher education research and development projects with external funding. In 2007 he was awarded a Fellowship by the Society for Research into Higher Education.

Throughout his career, a key concern has been with evidence-informed approaches to the advancement of excellence in university teaching and learning, within and beyond his own institution. He has coordinated initiatives for the Quality Assurance Agency and Universities Scotland (Integrative Assessment 2005-07), the Higher Education Academy (Innovative Assessment Across the Disciplines 2006-07) and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (Leading Change in Assessment and Feedback, 2012-13). Internationally, he has advised the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, the South African Academic Development Association, and the Netherlands & Flemish Universities Quality Assurance Agency. Since he and his wife Jenny created the Enhancing Feedback website three years ago, it has attracted 27,000 visitors from across the world.

Conference video: Change and Challenges debate


Professor Amy Tsui, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Teaching & Learning), made a keynote presentation entitled “Re-imagining Undergraduate Education” at the “International Conference on Enhancement and Innovation in Higher Education: 10 years of Enhancing the Student Experience” organized by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Scotland on June 11, 2013.

9073903095_0f45af70ef_oIn her presentation, Professor Tsui outlined the journey of undergraduate education reform at HKU, what has been achieved and what challenges lie ahead. She also spoke on the centrality of learning from real life situations to develop students’ knowledge, skills and values to bring about change for a better world.

The conference brought together over 500 delegates from 25 different countries, and was structured around a number of areas relating to enhancement and innovation in higher education, such as curriculum innovation, internationalisation of the curriculum, impact of national policy on quality enhancement, teaching postgraduate students and supporting enhancement through quality processes.

Keynote presentations and a selection of the conference materials are available on this website

Date : February 19, 2013 (Tuesday)
Time : 12:45pm – 2pm
Venue : Room 321, Run Run Shaw Building
Speaker : Dr Iris Vardi

The analysis of marks, grades and student satisfaction ratings often dominate the educational landscape, and are an important part of ensuring a quality education. But do they give us sufficient understanding of what students actually learnt, how we can improve that learning, and how we can express that learning to the students and others? This seminar looks behind the grade and satisfaction ratings to explore different types of learning, how (and if) they can be made visible, and how they can be identified and acted upon at the class, course and programme levels. The seminar will also share how student learning in a large newly re-constructed first year core course was examined, tracked, reported, and used to improve student achievement. In so doing, it will also explore the challenges in identifying, tracking and reporting learning.

This seminar is for academic staff who want to get to the bottom of what their students believe, know and can do, and use this information to make improvements to their course and programme outcomes.

For details and online registration, please go to http://www.cetl.hku.hk/seminar130219.

For enquiries, please contact Mr William Yieu by email wyieu@hkucc.hku.hk .

About the speaker
Dr Iris Vardi has been involved in education for over 25 years. She has worked with a variety of disciplines at the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and Edith Cowan University, and has published and presented extensively both nationally and internationally. Her research and work in different teaching methodologies, critical thinking, assessment and feedback has improved student learning outcomes and student satisfaction across a range of disciplines.

Dr Vardi is the author of the 2012 Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) Guide Effective Feedback for Student Learning in Higher Education, the author of the upcoming 2013 HERDSA Guide Developing Students’ Critical thinking in Higher Education, the winner of the HERDSA 2012 Conference Creative Presentation Award, and the recipient of a 2012 HERDSA Fellowship which recognised her “important contribution to higher education at the local, national and international levels”.

Related Items 
Page 1 of 212

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