THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF TELI
Looking back, a message from the Provost’s Office changed everything. It was April 2014. The thing was, for a few years I had been providing technical advice to the former VP-PVC (T&L), who just stepped down at the time and a replacement would not be in place until at least 6 months later. So the thinking was it would be “natural” for me to take care of the e-learning tasks, among a plethora of T&L endeavors, during the transition period. One such task was to deliver 4 MOOCs to edX within a year or so!
I have been lucky all along in that I have the privilege of supported by very capable HKU colleagues. In that “Day 1” period during which TELI was as yet non-existent, I was blessed with the fortune of assisted by fabulous people like Mr. Pashur Auyeung, Ms. Trudi Chan, Mr. Ray Lau, and Ms. Rebecca Leung. The list stopped there. Yes, we just had a handful of colleagues in the “team” (should be called a makeshift cluster, comprising people from different HKU units), although HKU did have a few more instructional designers in the EPSU (E-Learning Pedagogical Support Unit), who mainly provided consultation services, rather than hands-on production support.
Big question here: How could we deliver the 4 MOOCs that we promised edX? More important question, I figured, was: What’s the point in doing this, from HKU’s strategic point of view? I asked this because of an inspiring line from the former President and VC: “We are all transient.” My interpretation was: We needed to do something meaningful real quick, given that we had very limited time. Indeed, what should be the fundamental motivation for HKU to produce MOOCs? My idea was 3-fold:
- We need to show that HKU can do high quality e-learning work;
- We need to exert critical impact on HKU’s e-learning infrastructure; and
- We need to change, maybe just a tiny bit, the T&L culture by forming a closely knit community in embracing a new way of teaching.
Simply put, we needed to empower HKU so that the university can continue to assert its leadership up against such “disruptive” trend of e-learning signified by the advent of MOOCs. Nevertheless, against such high-sounding “backdrop”, the big operational question still stood — How could we deliver the MOOCs, given that HKU had absolutely zero experience and embarrassingly small resources toward producing such artifacts of e-learning? Sure enough, struggles ensued, and we experienced a whole lot of “learning by doing.”
Fast forward to now, the TELI team (an official department of which I am the Head), established in October 2015 endorsed by Senate according to HKU’s 2nd E-Learning Strategy (the 1st one was in 2011), has 60+ full-time colleagues, specializing in the areas of instructional design, e-learning technologies, video production, system design and implementation, education research, collaborations/partnerships management. We have produced 14 MOOCs, all of which are highly successful. A case in point: one of the HKU MOOCs, Dinosaur Ecosystems, was selected to be one of the Top-Ten courses in the edX platform, out of 2500+ active MOOCs on the platform.
The more exciting outcome is that TELI has grown into an EdTech innovations powerhouse capable of integrating video production, graphics design, software/app development, data analytic, and community building, toward generating genuine T&L and even social impacts, within and beyond HKU. This is evident by the fact that TELI is sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust with funding in excess of HK$30m in designing and implementing a distributed computing system serving 26 NGO service centers to deliver public education and family programs/services.
In the near future (again, to remind you: “We are all transients.”), surely TELI will continue to provide its high-quality technical hands-on services for HKU Faculties and Departments so as to empower them to create more quality time and quality space, so that HKU can become a better place for learning. EdTech will continue to be the defining character of TELI. There is no doubt in my mind that TELI’s sustained leadership in e-learning, regionally and internationally, will lead to more unprecedented T&L and social impacts!