Learning on a cloud

By Wong Yat-hei

Studying large amounts of data can help with everything from revision to job searches

By Wong Yat-hei |

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(From left) Solomon Yan, Ding Lam, Ron Tam and Alfred Lai have analysed data to make studying for the DSE easier.

One of the biggest challenges when learning a second language is picking up enough vocabulary.

To help those taking the DSE feel more confident about the English exam, computer students from the Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) have developed an award-winning app which helps students identify which words are most likely to appear on the paper.

But what makes the app so groundbreaking is that the creators have tapped into the "cloud". That's where information can be stored and then accessed from anywhere in the world.

The cloud is a way of storing huge amounts of data, far more than you could fit on one computer. Analysing "big data" can teach us things we never knew before.

The DSE English Learning App is the work of four final year computer systems administration students from the Department of Multimedia and Internet Technology at IVE.

Solomon Yan Chun-shan, Alfred Lai Chun-yin, Ding Lam Chun-wai and Ron Tam Hoi-kit wanted to create an app which would make studying for the DSE easier.

The students studied 22 years of HKCEE and HKALE English exam papers to develop the app. To analyse such a large amount of data would normally require a super-computer which would be too expensive for them.

But by using cloud computing, the students could carry out complex analysis of large amounts of data.

"It was the dream of many IT students to have their own super-computer," says Lai. "Now this dream has come true with the use of cloud technology.

"As long as you have a device, you can have your own super-computer. It is extremely flexible as the service is charged at an hourly rate."

The app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times since January. The students have worked through Data-HK, an online platform which aims to expand the data-sharing trend in Hong Kong.

The project has been awarded the gold award for "Best Student Invention (College & Undergraduates)" at the Hong Kong ICT Awards.

"We live in the information age. Collecting data is easy," says Yan. "The challenge is putting the data into use. By [analysing] public data made available by the government, Data-HK makes data sharing easier."

And the English app is just the start; the students also have plans to start their own technology business.

"We are applying for [money] from the Hong Kong Science Park. There are many hidden resources in data, and our goal is to unleash their potential," says Yan.

The quartet is currently looking at other public information with the hope of developing more apps in the future.

"We also went through thousands of recruitment adverts for IT jobs, to find out the skills employers most desire. This can help teachers design the curriculum."

With the cloud, almost anyone can gain access to a super-computer. We just have to want to find the solutions to life's problems.

Find out more at data-hk.com