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Implementation of modern educational technologies

Jeff James, John Jones and K. P. Kwan
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Activity in the production of multimedia educational materials is set to increase significantly at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) as a result of the allocation of a grant from The University Grants Committee for developments in innovative teaching. A Working Group on Modern Educational Technologies is overseeing the use of the grant money, and is particularly interested in ensuring that project activities are properly supported (technically and pedagogically), and that they stimulate further activity.

This paper will describe the strategic plan which was used for the implementation of new technologies at PolyU and will give a Diffusion Model which will be used for this implementation. It may be useful for other organisations which are considering implementing new technologies.


Universities worldwide are implementing new technologies into their curricula for a variety of reasons (Green and Gilbert, 1995); cost effective teaching and learning, enhanced learning environments, distance education media, and preparation for integration into the "information superhighway". Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has recently embarked on a major commitment to developing and implementing interactive multimedia technologies (IMMT) across its curriculum.

This paper will describe a strategic plan and will explain how concepts such as ownership, diffusion, change, and culture within organisations can lead to a model for implementation of new technologies.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

PolyU is one of seven universities in Hong Kong. It has the largest number of full time equivalent students (14000). The other universities are The Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, The University of Hong Kong, and Lingnan College. In November 1994 the Hong Kong Polytechnic became a full university due to an Act of the Legislative Council. However, the "polytechnic" name was retained because it was felt that the new institution should "...maintain the distinctive Polytechnic culture" (HKPU, 1995, p.3). The six academic faculties at PolyU are The Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles, The Faculty of Business and Information Systems, The Faculty of Communication, The Faculty of Construction and Land Use, The Faculty of Engineering, and The Faculty of Health and Social Studies.

Universities in Hong Kong are funded through The University Grants Committee (UGC) and it was the UGC's initiative to encourage and reward innovative approaches to teaching by providing a substantial amount of funding as well as allowing each university autonomy in determining how such moneys would be spent. PolyU's allocation was HK$3.6 million (HK$:Aus$ is about 5.8:1). The UGC has signalled a further amount of HK$150 million for similar purposes over the next triennium.

PolyU formed a Working Group on Modern Educational Technologies which had wide university representation. After these meetings, it was agreed to fund the following three items.

  1. Equip some classrooms with multimedia equipment, including video facilities and networking.

  2. Set up student electronic bulletin boards in all academic departments accessible from home or campus, allowing student/staff interaction, electronic assignments, and library access.

  3. Provide the facilities and funding for academic staff to develop CAL packages, with the goal of implementing IMMT across the curriculum.
The final outcomes listed above are the result of a strategic plan used to identify, justify, and implement these technologies. Gilbert (1995, p.48) emphasised the need for "the development of an effective strategic approach to the infusion of information technology into the academic life of the institution". He argued that to integrate new applications of information technology within a university effectively, a commitment by the institution and individual faculty members is needed.

IMMT strategic plan

The PolyU strategy to implement new technologies can be divided into two main categories - general aspects, and particular planning steps.

General aspects

  1. Create an environment which contributes to the enhancement of teaching and learning quality via IMMT while increasing the cost effectiveness of the teaching/learning process.

  2. Develop materials, current technologies and modem learning theory which will be used. Therefore, contributions will be made from academic staff (subject experts), and university support units.

  3. Focus on cultural, social, and organisational aspects of implementing IMMT in The University. Steps must be taken to help faculty adopt and implement new technologies. This includes ensuring that The University adopts flexible rules and regulations on course design and teaching arrangements.

  4. Adopt a course of action based on an optimised combination of two planning approaches; the short term approach which enables the exploitation of current technology, and the long term planning approach (based on predicting how technology will develop). The strategy will be to proceed with firm commitment but without excessive ambition and risk.

Particular planning steps

  1. Utilise CAL packages by purchasing existing appropriate packages and by developing in house software which will require funding for multimedia hardware and software.

  2. Utilise telecommunications facilities by upgrading existing network facilities, and creating electronic bulletin boards in all academic departments as well as providing video conferencing facilities.

  3. Establish committees on teaching and learning, both university wide, and within departments. Also, establish an IMMT Club. [As Bunning (1993) points out, universities are participative in nature and as such, committees, clubs, and working groups are consistent with the ethos and act as communities for developing expertise.]

  4. Expand the duties of service units to provide support for IMMT development. The Educational Development Unit should be available for assisting developers with issues such as educational pedagogy. The Information Technology Services will provide hardware acquisition and maintenance as well as programming aid. The Media Resources Services Unit (MRS) will assist in high quality production of materials.

  5. Ensure a financial commitment from both internal and external sources.

Philosophy of the strategic plan

Underpinning all of the preceding aspects is a more generalised philosophy of implementation which emerged from the working group that was given the responsibility of developing the strategy. This philosophy (which derives from both the experience of those involved and an analysis of the history of significant innovation) can be encapsulated in three key principles as follows.
  1. Successful innovation is possible only if it is "owned" and understood by the practitioners who are responsible for its implementation and operation on a day to day basis.

  2. The practitioner teaching staff - rather than technology experts - need to form the "centre of gravity" for the innovation (though the latter group can form a useful resource, if they are prepared to operate within the perspective and framework that is sensible for the former). In effect, the teaching staff will act as learning agents for The University. This is likely to be an effective organisational learning strategy (Bunning, 1993).

  3. Innovation involves the dissemination and acceptance of insights, knowledge, expertise, and examples of good practice. Ibis, in turn, requires a solid framework within which networking can take place. In the PolyU initiative, this has been given substance by conceptualising grant recipients as "consultant developers", who are working on behalf of the university generally. This is different from the ethos that normally surrounds the award of research grants.
Implementation of new technologies in a grassroots framework as represented by the above three points is intended to ensure that these technologies will emerge as part of the general academic culture of PolyU. Hansen and Perry (1993) stress the need for instructors to be involved in materials development.

Innovation requires change within an organisation. Jones (1990) discusses many organisational change strategies; one of the most powerful occurs when the implementers are guided by their own self interest. Reward and ownership are strong motivators. Hansen and Perry (1993) point out the need for consistent rewarding of staff members for their involvement in the development of teaching materials. Development of materials and expertise by some members of the teaching staff, combined with help from support units and resources from The University, enables a "Diffusion Model" of university implementation.

The diffusion model

Figure 1 shows diagrammatically how PolyU plans to implement IMMT. At the core are eight successful project grantees. Lines interconnecting these indicate the close interaction expected between them during their project developments. This interaction is physically promoted by the establishment of a joint Multimedia Authoring Centre. This Authoring Centre is housed in the Educational Development Unit (EDU), but is maintained and under the control of Information Technology Services (ITS).

Figure 1

Figure 1: The diffusion model The four support units, EDU, ITS, MRS, and Audio Visual Services (AVS) are all available to support developments educationally, technically, and for design work. Experiences gained and expertise developed, and indeed enthusiasm for IMMT is expected to diffuse throughout the general university community, especially with the availability of additional significant grants for projects. Resultant software and those involved in the original eight projects can act as models and consultants for other projects.

Underlying the whole framework is support from The University. This support comes in the form of resources (physical and monetary) and encouragement. Part of this encouragement involves regarding the production of software packages, that are judged to be of sufficient quality, as equivalent to "refereed publications" for the purpose of promotions, tenure, and other personnel matters.

The model contains the ingredients that Gilbert (1995) mentions as necessary for integration of technology; commitment by the institution and staff, coupled with support by various campus organisations.

Implementation to date

In 1994 there was a university wide advertisement for grant applications for projects which aimed to develop IMMT materials. The Working Group on Modern Educational Technologies, in anticipation of successful grantees being the core resources of the new technologies model, decided that in awarding the grants, a number of elements should be considered:
  1. Preference should be given to team projects, in order to facilitate cross fertilisation of ideas and mutual support.

  2. Funded projects should be educationally as well as technically sound.

  3. There should be a framework of support and accountability within which grants are awarded. Support needs to be available in the areas of both instructional design and evaluation, technical backup, and furthermore, there needs to be some organisational arrangement within which lessons learned in the different projects can be continuously shared among all project teams.

  4. Project teams need to be accountable for the progress of their work: this is not intended to be "punitive", but rather to ensure that help can be offered as needed, and outcomes optimised.

  5. There should be a requirement that project teams make their growing expertise available to others on campus via seminar presentations, workshops, end of project reports, and access to materials produced.
Of twenty-five grant applications from forty-eight staff members requesting eight million dollars, the following eight projects were successful:
  1. Multimedia Quantum Chemistry Courseware (Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles).

  2. Computer Aided Instruction for Common Statistical Distributions (Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles).

  3. A Pilot Study of Self Paced Subject Learning Based on Hypermedia Environments (Faculty of Business and Information Systems).

  4. Development of a Virtual Reality CAI Package for Teaching Mechatronics (Faculty of Engineering).

  5. Development of a Computer Aided Interactive Learning Program on Global Maintenance Distress and Safety Systems (Faculty of Engineering).

  6. Production of an interactive Multimedia CAI Package on Computer Numerical Control Machining (Faculty of Engineering).

  7. Development of "Virtual Radiography": Computer Aided Educational Software (Faculty of Health and social Sciences).

  8. Joint Project to Develop Interactive multimedia/CAI Software Packages for improving Teaching/Learning in Four Different Areas: molecular Biology, Concrete Technology, Statistics, and Geology.
The project listed eighth above, took the approach that there was an inherent efficiency in using a single development team and the sharing of computing resources to build educational software for four different disciplines in different faculties (Faculty of Construction and Land Use and Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles).

Apart from the nearly two million dollars for the eight projects, PolyU is in the process of completing a Multimedia Learning Centre and an Authoring Centre. The Learning Centre will be a common facility open to students and staff where CAL packages can be used by students individually and classroom sessions requiring multimedia facilities can be held. It will have forty PCs with multimedia capabilities, a video projector, and it will have access to the campus local area network.

The Authoring Centre will house equipment purchased with grant money and will be the working centre for project research staff. Additional equipment will include printers, a scanner, and video digitising equipment.

Additionally, The University has demonstrated its commitment to developing a culture for ~ implementation by agreeing to recognise quality CAL packages as valid scholarly output comparable to refereed research publications.


Presently, modern technology may be assumed to mean IMMT. However, strategic planning needs to be performed in order to implement any changes in organisations. The major constraints to new implementations are not technical, but rather, social and organisational. An approach which creates a climate of cooperation and support, and diffuses technology into the culture of the environment is conducive to change.

It is hoped that this paper, apart from providing insight into new developments taking place in one Hong Kong university, may be useful to any institution planning the implementation of new technologies.


Bunning, C. (1993). Organisational Learning Systems. Doctor of Business Administration thesis, International Management Centre, Brisbane.

Gilbert, S. (1995). Teaching, learning, and technology. Change, 27(2), 47-48.

Green, K. and Gilbert, S. (1995). Great expectations: content, communications, productivity, and the role of information technology in higher education. Change, 27(2), 8-18.

Hansen, E. and Perry, D. (1993). Barriers to collaborative performance systems in higher education. Educational Technology, 23(11), 46-52.

HKPU (1995). The Hong Kong Polytechnic University: An introduction. Student handbook.

Jones, J. (1990). Facilitating change in institutional practice through action research. In O. Zuber-Skerrit (Ed), Action Research for Change and Development. Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 256-269.

Authors: Dr Jeff James, Senior Officer
Educational Development Unit
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Ph: (852) 2766 6290 fax: (852) 2334 1569

Dr John Jones, Director
Educational Development Unit
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Ph: (852) 2766 6320 fax: (852) 2334 1569

Mr K. P. Kwan, Senior Officer
Educational Development Unit
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Ph: (852) 2766 6287 fax: (852) 2334 1569

Please cite as: James, J., Jones, J. and Kwan, K. P. (1996). Implementation of modern educational technologies. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 187-191. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ek/james.html

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