Will the Internet spell the end of education as we know it? It all depends on whom you talk to. For Robert Biscontri, lecturer at the Department of Accountancy, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), the Internet can streamline administrative tasks, but it will never replace the traditional classroom. 'During tutorials we can get right into the material because administrative problems have already been handled,' Mr Biscontri said. 'It's a tool that helps students interact with one another as well as with staff. They can work in groups from remote locations.' PolyU's Department of Accountancy has adopted LearningSpace by Lotus as a tool to enhance the teaching and learning environment. The department does not see it as a replacement to face-to-face contact between students and teachers. 'Personally, I prepare course materials at the beginning of the semester, and I make them available [to students via the Internet] week by week,' Mr Biscontri said. The advantage was that students could go over the material carefully and come to class better prepared to participate in discussions. They could also e-mail questions to the professor that they wanted to be addressed in class. More than 1,000 students are currently accessing the department's system. 'By deploying Lotus LearningSpace, Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Department of Accountancy will be able to teach more students with the same number of staff while increasing the reach and improving the quality of its part-time and distance learning courses,' Desmond Kwok, managing director, LotusDevelopment Software (HK), said. City University of Hong Kong (CityU) decided to launch a compulsory course in Chinese civilisation at the beginning of this academic year on-line. 'By September, we will have 4,000 students. How can we teach so many students? We're going to teach them in an innovative way - on-line,' Professor Cheng Pei-kai, director, Chinese Civilisation Centre, CityU, said. Despite the Internet's advantages, few academics at this stage believe it will ever do away with the need for teachers. Professor Kao May-ching, newly-appointeddean of Arts and Social Sciencesat the Open University (OU), said quality distance learning programmes constantly demanded a certain amount of personalised instruction. Referring to OU's own courses, she said: 'There are always face-to-face tutorials and the opportunity for discussion with tutors.'