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Issue 46 - December 2005
Implementation of Information Services Strategic Plan 2005-2010
By Dr. J. T. Yu

The Information Services Strategic Plan 2005-2010 (ISSP) was approved by the Committee on Information Services and Technology (CIST), and then was formally endorsed by the Senate in May 2005. A retreat was held on July 20, 2005, to consider the implementation of the Plan. The retreat was attended by most of the senior staff members from the offices that are closely involved in the provision of information services, (namely, ARRO, CIO, DSL, EDO, ESU, CSC and LIB). The group identified the following five key areas of work, with some goals set in each area. The CIST subsequently approved these at its 8th meeting and its members were invited to suggest via email to its Chairman (CIO) and Secretary (Acting DCS) colleagues to join the working groups that may be set up in the future.

  • e-Learning
  • Knowledge Management Services
  • Web and Portal Services
  • Chinese Support in University database and services
  • Increase Information Access Through Mobile/Wireless Devices

A) e-Learning

e-Learning is the first item for attention as it is important in supporting the strategic development of the teaching and learning at the University. Since the adoption of the Blackboard Academic Suite (Bb6) as the unified e-learning platform for the University, work began with the conversion and migration of WebCT and Blackboard 5 courses into Bb6, setting up a production environment, training of users to familiarize with the platform, and cumulating in the launch of the Blackboard system at the start of Semester A 2005-06. In general, the new platform is well received by staff and students, with user support, service administration, server performance and reliability commended.

The launch of Bb6 in September 2005 was only phase 1 of the e-learning project. To maintain its momentum, concerted effort has to be expended to achieve the following goals:

  • e-Learning for immersion and as part of the default learning environment. Immersion is one of the four cornerstones of the IS Strategic Plan. The aim is to immerse our students in an IT rich environment to help them with their learning and to provide them with an extra edge on graduation as being "IT savvy". This is one of the elements essential to help our graduates excel in today's work environment. In order to achieve this goal, work to be carried out include:
    • Making all credit-bearing courses have an e-learning component with a tentative target of 60%-70% adoption by 2006, and full deployment by September 2007.
    • Using organizations and content management system (CMS) to facilitate other academic related activities such as programme management, hostel administration, intra-departmental communications and materials repository, and developmental courses deployment.
    • Replacing the current e-Portal with the Blackboard one for a more integrated environment which can offer pertinent academic services from AIMS directly through the Blackboard portal.
    • Enhancing the adoption and use of the e-learning platform with add-on software for purposes such as anti-plagiarism, animated or narrated presentations, and facilitating language learning.

  • e-Learning to trace and track student learning as part of the evidence for outcome-based teaching and learning. Outcome-based teaching and learning has been mandated by the UGC. An important element of outcome-based learning is to show evidence of student learning, particularly how students can reflect on what they have learned, applied the knowledge and skills to solve problems, and in the process, improve themselves. In order to achieve this goal, work to be carried out include:
    • Adopting student e-portfolio to help students to document and record their effort and progress at University.
    • Profiling student learning style and study strategies in order to provide targeted resources for students to help them transform into proactive learners.
  • Timely training for students and staff for better adoption of e-learning. For e-learning to be adopted and used appropriately to assist student learning, training for both students and staff is important and necessary. Training for students may be regarded by them as extra burden on top of the demands of their curricular work, thus more emphasis has to be put on making appropriate use of the online environment together with the one-stop-shop concept (like the revamped My Learning tab in the e-Portal) where students can easily browse through to find relevant training materials and activities for their purposes. Training for staff has to ensure that they can take advantage of the new features and functions provided by the e-learning platform with a sound pedagogical underpinning. Thus workshops such as functions and features of new versions of Bb and its CMS should be coupled with those for teaching enhancement.

  • Thinking ahead and making preparation so that teaching operations could be maintained in 100% e-mode in case of a major disaster that could lead to the closure of the campus.

The e-learning project is guided by a Steering Group consisting of Dr J T Yu (CIO), Professor Douglas Vogel (IS), Dr Jonathan Webster (CTL), Professor Lilian Vrijmoed (DSL), Professor Steve Ching (LIB), Dr Eva Wong (EDO) and Ms Maria Chin (CSC). The Steering Group will continue to lead the e-learning project along the line of the ISSP and progress reports will be submitted to the CIST periodically.

B) Knowledge Management Services

Knowledge Management Services is a key component of information services that aims to provide timely, reliable, user-friendly, and ubiquitous access to rich, high-quality, scholarly information in both electronic and traditional form. To achieve this goal, work to be carried out include:

  • Design and implement an organizational and technological framework for building an institutional repository infrastructure.
  • Identify/recommend/strengthen e-book and other forms of digital collections (including those subscribed from external sources or created from works of students and staff) and their related services for promoting both course learning and life-long learning. Publish excellent quality student works in e-book format and disseminate them worldwide through the Library's network. Identify and increase visual and interactive materials to supplement text information.
  • Identify any major disconnects between the Library and its users on the knowledge management services. Get ready to serve students who are accustomed to multimedia environments, working in groups, and multitasking as opposed to other traditional libraries that may still be text based, constructed for personal use, and perform work in linear fashion.
  • Design and conduct programmes to equip our students with technology and information skills appropriate for searching and accessing quality information for their academic work. In particular, promote students to make use of the information in the Library as their primary source while those obtained from the World Wide Web as secondary as the quality of the former in general is much more reliable, more in-depth, and better than the latter. Strive to provide user-centric and easy-to-use virtual services similar to Google for easy searching and accessing of information in the Library.
  • Identify and integrate Library resources into the Content Management System of Blackboard.
  • Make use of anti-plagiarism software to help students cite, organize and present their papers, and educate them to respect originality.

C) Web and Portal Services

The University's website and its portal are the main external and internal communication channels respectively. To establish effective communication, we need a web presence that effectively represents the University and that provides the most reliable, and up-to-date information possible. To achieve these goals, work to be done include:

  • Design a web architecture(s) for both the University web (accessible by public) and the internal web (e-Portal and classified websites accessible only by the university community) which will present University's information in an attractive and meaningful manner to targeted users as well as effectively support standard communication functions of the University. Standards, policies and best practices need to be defined for the structure, format, system/network management and security such that information can be delivered reliably and presented in a professional and consistent manner.
  • Maintain information accuracy as well as a high quality and coherent web presence by appropriately categorizing and segregating information. The whole web content information lifecycle needs to be carefully defined. Proper guidelines and best practices on issues such as user authentication, identity management, access rights and information security audit are also required to ensure all web service providers comply with the university regulations.
  • Identify and recommend various training and support programmes to in-house web developers for maintaining web standards across departments. Criteria should be defined to measure the effectiveness of the web pages and of the review mechanisms, to audit the existing and new web pages to ensure compliance with the current web standards.
  • Convey to the University community the direction of development of the University websites to facilitate further discussion.

D) Chinese Support in University Database and Services

Following the University policy regarding Chinese language on the Homepage in that the internal code should be "Unicode" and the default display should be in "Traditional Chinese", the institutional database engine has been configured to accept UTF-8 (an algorithmic mapping to represent Unicode data) and is now ready to save Chinese data. However, further work still to be done includes:

  • Identify what kinds of institutional data are to be kept in Chinese in addition to English. Currently, Chinese names of students and staff, department name, programme title and award title are kept in various local databases or documents. As more students come from Mainland China, the need to store contact addresses in Chinese instead of English has become obvious. It is suggested that this data, once identified, will be put into the institutional database in order to ensure a single source of origin and easy access by users.
  • Identify what sort of information services should be provided in Chinese. For information services in the University serving internal users, viz. students and staff, it may not be cost effective to have them all bilingual. However, for services to external users, say parents of students and prospective students who might be more comfortable reading Chinese, it would be helpful to incorporate Chinese language capabilities in the service.
  • Identify standards for translating English terms into Chinese. There are variations in translating English terms into Chinese. For clarity, it will be beneficial to adopt some standards for the University. The glossary adopted by the HKSAR or UGC may be good references.
  • Identify which standard character set shall be adopted. The HKSAR has developed the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set (HKSCS) which has been included in the ISO 10646 standard (the ISO 10646 standard is widely adopted by popular operating systems and is working closely with the Unicode Consortium to ensure synchronization). HKSCS contains special Chinese characters that are commonly used in Hong Kong and are required by the Government and the public in electronic communication. It is essential to choose a font set that supports this HKSCS to be adopted by the University and set the adoption policies to cater for version changes. Moreover, it is also necessary to sort out the criteria and approval procedure for the creation of characters that are missing from the set.
  • Identify what have to be done to ensure characters displayed and printed correctly at end users' PCs. Displaying or printing Chinese characters correctly at a PC is always a difficult issue to tackle. The problem may lie with the insufficiency of characters in the Chinese character sets used on users' PCs. If this is the case, there might be the requirement to allow users to download the University's character sets for their individual use.
  • Identify what areas the University can collaborate with other institutions so that incompatibilities or inconsistencies can be eliminated or reduced when Chinese documents are exchanged amongst institutions.
  • Invite colleagues with expertise in this field to join the working group.

E) Increase Information Access Through Mobile/Wireless Devices

The University needs to develop a strategy to increase the information access using wireless and mobile devices. Some of the major issues need to be considered prior to its implementation are:

  • Identify a limited number of types and brands of mobile devices (m-devices) to be supported such as: PDA, tablet PCs, notebook, smart phones, etc. This will include selecting service plans and means of connecting to the Internet as well as choosing and purchasing these devices.
  • Identify the applications/usages/services and the information to be provided through these m-devices.
  • Identify and standardize the software for these m-devices.
  • Identify and standardize suitable infrastructure/platform(s) as server(s) and the necessary interfaces for synchronizing information between these servers with the selected m-devices.
  • Identify the process to review regularly the impact to the current IT strategies and provisions brought about by the m-devices and to adjust these strategies and provisions accordingly.
  • Include security into part of the operational plan implemented to support wider access of mobile/wireless devices.

Also in this issue...
The Joint ERP Development Centre Project
Policy on the Registration and Use of University Domain Names
Provision of Email Service to Alumni and Former Staff
Security Assessment Service: Analyze Network Security Performance
Protect Yourself Against Phishing and Identity Theft
A Brief Introduction to Microsoft Outlook


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