OUHK in search of IT specialists
The rapid adoption of interactive technologies in education has created a demand for professionals to develop and maintain information technology (IT) systems. As digital white boards with internet access replace traditional chalkboards in the classroom, IT specialists are also developing solutions that allow technology users to communicate with teachers, tutors and other students, submit assignments, and obtain feedback online.
'The use of IT has not only led to a richer and more interactive learning experience, it has also made it more convenient for our students to choose where and when they study,' says Chung Siu-leung, director of the Centre for eLearning at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK).
Since adopting an e-learning platform in 2007, the OUHK has been able the offer overseas students the opportunity to enrol and participate in its courses from afar.
'New advances in hardware and software applications are making mobile devices and smart phones indispensible tools for e-learning,' says Chung, adding that many of his technicians are heavily involved in developing applications for these devices.
Last year, the OUHK followed in the footsteps of other tertiary institutions - such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, and Open University UK - by becoming a member of Apple's iTunes University (iTunes U), which makes its educational resources available for public viewing and downloads.
'iTunes U provides the OUHK with a convenient way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video and other content,' says Chung. 'Through e-learning, our students can review course work and study at a [convenient] pace.'
As demand for e-learning continues to expand, so will the need for technically inclined staff. OUHK is currently looking for analysts and programmers to join its technology unit.
'With increasing use of our e-learning platform, we expect to continue expanding,' says Chung.
These IT professionals, he says, need to be familiar with Lotus technology, Java and new mobile applications. But while technicians need experience, Chung adds, they do not necessarily need to have worked in the education sector.
Also making a push on the IT front, the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) has launched a new pilot programme designed to expand information literacy and strengthen learning effectiveness. Projects involving the use of technology tools have been designed for application in primary, secondary and special needs schools.
The EDB says the projects have been structured to help students to visualise difficult academic concepts. Social networking and other blogging features are also being explored to enhance interaction among students, teachers and peers. Technology is also being used to help teachers research learning resources.
As noted by Kenneth Chen, Hong Kong undersecretary for education, the focus of these efforts is very much on student-learning, the adoption of innovative pedagogies and ensuring that the diverse needs of the local school community and parents are met.
For professionals interested in learning more about what technology might help bring to the classroom in the future, Microsoft's 'Partners in Learning' Forum - formerly the 'Innovative Education Forum' - on March 12 may be an opportune time to get updated and touch base with industry professionals.