Identifying the gaps: research into ICT use in Hong Kong post-secondary education

Robert Fox
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

John Pearson
Education Technology Consultant
Melbourne, Australia

The Sutherland Report (2002) on Hong Kong higher education noted that changes in universities are in part driven by 'the impact of technological development on teaching and learning ... [and that] ... technology is challenging us to acquire new skills to harness its powerful but demanding potential to enhance teaching and learning ...' (p. 26). The Sutherland Report led to the recommendation that:

the UGC [University Grants Council, Hong Kong's funding body] and the institutions [should] jointly assess the need for staff in the sector to develop new skills to respond effectively to technological and other changes in higher education, and jointly support initiatives addressing these needs, including the dissemination of best practices across the sector (cited in Education Quality Work, 2005, p. 12)

The introduction of increasingly user-friendly web-based learner management systems (e.g. WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle and ILN) have made it relatively easy for teachers to establish online environments for their classes where they can build folders to contain curriculum resources, readings, sample assignments, PowerPoint slides, access to library facilities and digital resources, class photos, student self-written profiles, course and term calendars, class email lists, discussion forums, online chat rooms, announcements and news bulletins of faculty events, etc. However, the simple creation of such environments does not ensure that the facilities are effectively used or that the online environments support student learning (Fox 2007). As Taylor (2002, 33) notes, 'using the Internet as a mode of delivery will not automatically improve student learning' and both staff and students need help to re-evaluate teaching and learning when using online technologies.

Indeed, IT is often cited in the literature as an important lever for curriculum reform (e.g. Sanyal 2001; Wong and Li 2006), but despite substantial investments in infrastructure and staffing, the use of IT to enhance learning opportunities in higher education continues to return only limited outcomes (Oliver 2006). The reasons for this poor return on investment include: low levels of teacher uptake of IT for teaching (e.g. Kearsley 2005); inappropriate pedagogy when IT is used (e.g. Littlejohn 2004; Angeli 2005; Fox 2007); limited support and guidance for teachers; and limited collegial support between peers (e.g. Lakkala, Lallimo and Hakkarainen 2005). These problems all act to limit what many see as critical outcomes from a university education: learner self-sufficiency in IT use, broadly developed IT skills and competency, and a capability for lifelong learning and sustained technology competence (e.g. Challis, Holt and Rice 2005).

This paper reviews published local and international research on the use of ICT in higher education in Hong Kong since 2002, identifies the areas where most of the research has been carried out and indicates areas in which further work would be beneficial to assist Hong Kong universities move towards meeting the challenges recommended by the Sutherland Report (2002).