The University of Science and Technology has become the first Hong Kong institution to offer students the chance to earn credit towards a qualification through a distance-learning platform known as a massive open online course.
HKUST has linked up with education-technology company Coursera to launch a pilot scheme this summer in which students will be able to fulfil part of their graduation requirements through such a course - known by educators as MOOCs.
MOOCs, which offer students around the globe the chance to study with academics from some of the world's top universities, have grown rapidly. Leading institutions including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offer them.
Professor Pong Ting-chuen, chairman of the university's taskforce on e-learning, says HKUST plans to incorporate MOOCs into a fifth of its courses within five years. "It is the future of teaching and learning," he said.
While other Hong Kong universities are also planning MOOCs, HKUST's course in the science of gastronomy is the only one so far in which students can earn credits. The course was launched last year, with no credits offered, and has had about 100,000 enrolments so far, including 60 HKUST students.
To gain credit, students will also have to do six weeks of face-to-face work on campus.
Pong said MOOCs allowed for more international exchanges between students.
"If students abroad want to experience our education, they can do so through MOOCs and after that, come to HKUST to get credits if they want," Pong said. "HKUST students can do the same at overseas institutes."
The university is also launching three courses on another online platform, edX - founded by MIT and Harvard - between June and September.
The University of Hong Kong and Chinese University also plan to introduce MOOCs this summer. HKU's course - in epidemics, taught by dean of medicine Professor Gabriel Leung - is now open for registration.