e-Learning forum introduces campus-wide "Blackboard"

Shiona Mackenzie

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Dr Jerry YuChief Information Officer (CIO), explained the decision to adopt the Blackboard Academic Suite -- Blackboard Version 6 -- as the e-Learning Platform of the University at an open forum on 5 May, with a straightforward account of the strategic e-Learning project's objective and its significance to the University community. This project forms an integral part of the University's Information Services Strategic Plan 2005-2010.

"The Plan focuses on using IT to improve communication and access to information to support student learning, research, and administrative operations," Dr Yu said.

In 2001, CityU adopted a centralized and consolidated information system to manage the ever-growing information demands on teaching, administration and research. The system successfully accommodated CityU's 25,000-plus users. Dr Yu, who, in addition to personally leading strategic IT initiatives, also oversees the work of the Run Run Shaw Library, Computing Services Centre and Enterprise Solutions Unit (ESU), said there was a need for the University to revolutionize its IT infrastructure: "Electronic-based education generates vast amounts of information and consumes large volumes of data that can be difficult to manage." That fact remains.

Today, as an exemplar in the application of IT, CityU continues evolving its campus environment, within which IT functions as a natural support to academic and administrative activities. Multiple locally-developed systems, such as the one developed by the Chinese Civilisation Centre, are used on campus. However, the University community will benefit immensely once a common e-learning platform has been established. "Our main business is student learning. Therefore, our first priority in the next five years is the full-scale deployment of IT to support this,"  Dr Yu said. "Deployment of a single e-learning platform will focus the University's efforts, bringing together the constituents and consolidating the resources devoted to teaching and learning."

"Blackboard 6 enhances teaching and learning by creating a seamless environment within which students and instructors can thrive.  Instructors can more easily structure, and provide access to, relevant learning materials while students participate individually, as well as in collaboration with other students, in a fashion consistent with their learning style and preferences," added Douglas Vogel, Professor (Chair) of Information Systems, Department of Information Systems, Faculty of Business. The Blackboard Academic Suite was overseen by a Steering Team, comprising: Dr Yu; Professor Vogel; Dr Eva Wong, Acting Head of Digital Academic Resources in the Library; Dr Jonathan Webster, Associate Dean (Research and Administration) of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; Ms Maria Chin, ESU Systems Manger; and Professor Lilian Vrijmoed, Dean of Student Learning.

Dr Yu concluded that an educational paradigm shift from "campus-centered, instructor-centric, directed learning" to "network-centered, student-centric, experiential learning" has already begun and Blackboard serves the needs of the University's "end-users" -- students -- efficiently and effectively. "Our objective," he said, "is helping CityU meet the future needs of education for professional careers, where new technologies are rapidly transforming the workplace, and create a quality life for faculty and students in a student-centered learning environment supported by technology."

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