Administrating Cyber Class -- An Institutional Study

Crusher Wong, Eva Wong and J T Yu
City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

City University of Hong Kong started to use information and communication technology (ICT) to facilitate and enhance student learning in the late 1990s. In an attempt to move from an organic to a planned development, the first phase of a project for the enterprise-wide deployment of a unified e-learning platform for the entire University was launched in September 2005. By September 2006, full deployment was achieved, with every credit-bearing course having an e-learning component on the Blackboard Academic Suite. Now, every semester, over 2,000 Blackboard course sites are automatically created, populated and maintained with data drawn directly from the student information system. In the organic stage, the online course configuration, number of course sites and memberships were constructed based on participating teachers' individual needs, without any regard for large-scale deployment. Such freedom generated significant workloads for the academic staff and the technical support team, rendering the process inefficient, as a great deal of individual attention and intervention was required for the correct course sites to be set up and registered students loaded. For the planned adoption, we investigated the dynamics between physical and cyber class sections, and an indicator was invented to describe the many possible ways the Web component of a course could be configured. With the now streamlined operation, the burden of course administration is taken away from academic staff so that they can concentrate on developing course materials and student-centred activities. This therefore helps us to achieve our main goal of immersing students in an IT-supported environment which facilitates and enhances their learning. In this paper, the authors share their experience and discuss the pros and cons of this cyber class management model.