Information Services Strategic Plan 2005-2010

by Dr. J.T. Yu
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The University Senate, at its meeting on May 24, 2005, endorsed the Information Services Strategic Plan 2005-2010 prepared by the Committee on Information Services and Technology. The focus of the plan is to use information technology to improve communications and access to information to support student learning, research and administrative operations. Four key areas are identified:

1. A Unified e-Learning Platform

The main business of the University is student learning. Thus, the first priority in the strategic plan is the full-scale deployment of information technology to support student learning.

The scope for using IT to support student learning has expanded greatly in recent years, so much so that a new term, e-learning, has been created to describe the new learning environment. E-learning is a platform for delivery of a wide range of learning resources that can be shared across courses, encouraging more active participation in learning by students, enabling a wider range of assessment activities and providing more timely feedback to students, and realizing a more evidence driven approach to student progress through their programmes.

The University has been using two vendor-supplied e-learning platforms, WebCT and Blackboard, for a number of years. In addition, there are also a number of home-grown systems being used. The Committee on Information Services and Technology agreed that a single e-learning platform should be adopted, and has subsequently selected the Blackboard Academic Suite as the software of choice.

Unifying the University's e-learning platform is important to our students; they do not have to learn and adjust to different sets of user interfaces and functionalities as they move from course to course. A common e-learning platform is also beneficial to the instructors; they can expect to receive better overall support for their work when the University can focus its efforts and consolidate its resources devoted to this area.

2. Knowledge Management

Nowadays, vast amounts of information are retrievable from the internet using powerful search tools. Reduction in the cost of data storage and communications bandwidth makes it possible for individuals to add their personal contributions to this effort. Thus, in this age of "information explosion", the University must review its strategy on the provision of and access to scholarly information to its members.

The library has always played a leading role in this area. The library's collections have been extended from traditional printed text to multimedia material and to online electronic resources. Through innovative knowledge management, reliable and user-friendly access to high quality scholarly information should be facilitated, regardless of the location of the information or of the user.

Besides content that is available from external sources, we should not forget about the content that is generated within the institution. These are the work by the academic staff members, in the form of scholarly reports, research output and course material; by students, in the form of dissertations and thesis, project reports and student course work; and by the institution itself, in the form of institutional documents, news reports, video clips of institutional events, conference proceedings, etc. These materials are of immense value to the institution, and we should make sure that they are properly collected, catalogued, and made accessible to the members of the institution.

In addition to the institutional content, every student and staff member of the University also holds a large amount of personal content related to their academic pursuits. Much of this information is now in digital form. The University should give consideration to supporting its members in the management of such content. This is particularly important for creating a student centred learning environment. One key module of this form of personal content management is the e-portfolio, a collection of a student's own learning outcomes selected and managed by the student himself and shared with other persons inside and outside of the institution.

3. Institutional Data Management

The University has successfully implemented the Banner system for the University's main administrative applications. Student management was first implemented in 1997, followed by Human Resources in 2000 and Alumni Development in 2002. As a result, a high level of data and applications integration has been achieved for the three main constituents of the University: student, staff and alumni.

Further development of the institutional database and administrative applications will be continued along the established line. Emphasis will be given to end-user self-service via the web, i.e., to allow students, staff and alumni to access institutional information and perform the necessary work functions directly through the web.

So far, our institutional database has supported only data in English. As Hong Kong is a bilingual city, and with the development of multi-lingual capabilities in database software, we need to start expanding our database to cover data in Chinese. We also have to develop applications that can handle Chinese.

A comprehensive database on the University's constituents is a necessary pre-requisite for the further development of IT applications in the University. Detail personal profiles of the constituents will be needed to support any kind of CRM (customer relationship management) functions that we would like to develop. Indeed, we need to know our constituents well before we can properly manage the two strategic developments mentioned earlier, e-learning and knowledge management.

4. Web and Portal Strategy

The Web provides one of the main communications channels both inside and outside the University. To the outside world, this can be a powerful tool to enhance the University's image and operational effectiveness. Indeed, more prospective students and members of the public will develop their first impression of CityU from our web presence than from any other source. Similarly, more students and staff members will turn to the University's web pages daily for information and services than to any other source.

The University must have in place a clear strategy on our web pages. To be effective, we should separate the external communications from the internal ones. The University's home page, the "cityu.edu.hk" site, should be promoted as the gateway for external communications. Internal communications should be organized through the University portal.

Efforts must be made to co-ordinate the "cityu.edu.hk" site, both in terms of style and content. Careful analysis should be conducted on who are likely to visit the site, and then to design and organize the contents of this site according to the needs of the likely users. Departments and offices should be invited to contribute to the site according to specified guidelines, so that, together, the site will tell a consistent and clear story about the University. An appropriate web content management system will be implemented to reduce the effort in maintaining and updating the information published.

All internal communications should be channelled through the University portal. With a single log-on to the portal, users should be able to access all the services and information that are relevant to them. Again, the information should be organized from the point of view of the users. Selection and presentation of the information and services in the portal can be customized according to the user profiles available from the University's administrative database.