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27 February 2012
Teaching & learning
CityU takes new initiatives to embrace mobile technology
 

City University of Hong Kong (CityU), in support of its Discovery-enriched Curriculum and the growing importance of mobile technology, has redesigned its entire public website to be mobile-friendly and implemented a mobile-learning scheme that allows interactive learning anytime, anywhere.

CityU is currently the only tertiary institution in the world that has made its entire public websites, consisting of hundreds of websites and hundreds of thousands of web pages, to be mobile friendly. It is one of a very few in the world that is using the new HTML5/CSS3 technology. The recent revamp is a response to the increased usage of smartphones and tablets throughout society.

The planning and design of the project started in early 2011, using the latest mobile web technology which automatically reconfigures and resizes pages according to actual needs, making it more convenient for anyone with a mobile device to find information.

Smart phones and tablets have become essential tools for many modern professionals, said Professor Arthur Ellis, Provost. Since the CityU public website is an important source of information about the University, it makes sense to ensure its websites are readily accessible through mobile technology, he added.

“We see this as part of our efforts to prepare technology-savvy students for a world shaped increasingly by globalisation and technology,” Professor Ellis explained.

The benefits go well beyond mobile device support, according to Dr Andy Chun Hon-wai, CityU’s Chief Information Officer, who coordinated the recent project.

In line with CityU’s commitment to social responsibility, the new platform ensures CityU’s web pages are easily accessible to anyone, including low-vision, blind or disabled users, Dr Chun explained. The CityU websites have been optimised to work with assistive technologies, such as screen readers and Braille devices, for people with special needs.

In addition, CityU is keen to promote interactive learning using mobile devices, launching new grants to develop mobile apps for the University’s innovative Discovery-enriched Curriculum. Amounting to HK$5 million total, the grants will encourage the adoption of innovative technologies and mobile-learning to support teaching, learning, research, administration and other general uses.

The Central IT team will provide mentoring, technical advice, non-sensitive data, and/or interface. The University may develop/refine the funded apps for University-wide deployment, with the agreement of the project team.

The mobile learning pilot scheme launched in March 2011 provided about 400 iPad and iPod Touch devices for students to borrow. The scheme was well received by teachers and students, and the number of logins to the online learning platform has recorded a drastic increase. According to Dr Chun, “students logging into our learning management system through a mobile device now account for 30% of total logins; it was 10% just three months ago. By the end of the year, I expect this figure to surpass 50%.”

Based on this encouraging experience, the School of Law implemented a school-wide 1-to-1 mobile learning project in October 2011. The iPads bought by the students were subsidised, while teaching staff at the school were provided with training to help them make full use of relevant apps according to the needs of different courses.

Dr Rebecca Ong, Assistant Professor in the School of Law, coordinated the project. Law students have to read a great deal during their studies, she said, but while copies of law books and journals are limited to use in the library, students using iPads and related apps can read reference materials and take notes anytime, anywhere.

Viewing video clips of court proceedings and interviews between lawyers and clients will allow students to learn the proper procedures at their own convenience, too.

Many practicing law professionals and judges in the US read documents on iPads in court, Dr Ong added. Promoting the application of new technology at CityU also enables law students to embrace this new trend during their studies.

 
 
 
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