University programme is a stepping stone for professionals who want to gain practical knowledge of online business As the number of internet users increases by the day in Hong Kong, organisations are increasingly turning to online platforms to improve their business efficiency. The result is that electronic business and knowledge management is playing a vital role in ensuring that companies and other organisations remain competitive and profitable. The City University of Hong Kong added a knowledge management component to its master of science in electronic business programme two years ago. 'We are trying to build a forward-looking master's degree programme which anticipates the future management needs of businesses in Hong Kong,' said Robert Davison, programme leader and associate professor. 'So they should employ people with this kind of degree.' Some might argue that knowledge in this area was unimportant right now, Professor Davison said. But he warned that in five years this kind of knowledge would be crucial in making sure an organisation remained competitive. The programme is designed to help students build on what they already know as they move into a position which focuses on electronic business and knowledge management. 'We look at how they can take their practical knowledge from working in an organisation and how they can extend that,' Professor Davison said. What sets this particular programme apart was the teaching staff, Professor Davison said. 'The people in the department come from 10 different countries and so we bring in a very international perspective. 'They bring their cultural experiences from wherever they come from, or wherever they studied, so that when they teach, they're not just teaching standard textbook material, their teaching is based on their experience, consulting and research.' Adopting a global perspective, the programme tries to take in students from different countries. And in the coming year, students will be from Hong Kong, the mainland, Kazakhstan and West Africa. The programme is both full-time and part-time and provides flexibility for people who are interested in pursuing further studies in this field. Full-time students can complete the programme in a year, while it takes two years for part-timers. 'They're using it as a stepping stone to transform their career or transform their life into doing something else and so that's quite a different motivation,' said Professor Davison, who does not favour the traditional textbook method of teaching. He prefers using a mix of websites, case studies and academic journals or articles to enhance his teachings. 'I don't want to focus purely on the American view of e-business or knowledge management, I want to take a more global perspective,' he said. Those interested in entering the course should be interested in electronic business and the internet before applying. They should be computer literate and be comfortable with using computer-based resources. They also have to be inquisitive, interested in asking questions and challenging existing ways of doing things, and be prepared to come up with new ideas and solutions for existing or future problems. The programme requires a different learning style that is more reflective and analytical. 'If you want to come and sit in the corner and say nothing, please don't come,' Professor Davison said. 'If you're interested in learning, discussing, debating, arguing and disagreeing, then I think you will get more out of it.' Dinah Danning Wang, a former student, who used to work for the mainland's central government as an information technology consultant, said: 'People should take the course if they are serious about further studies because it trains people to be professionals in the business world and helps them to have a higher standing in society.'