In the constantly changing digital age, improving teaching and learning through the application of information technology, big data, artificial intelligence and so on has become a global trend in education. Professor Catherine SUN Tien-lun, Academic Vice President of Hong Kong Shue Yan University (HKSYU), said in an interview with Shue Yan Newsletter that through reinventing liberal arts education in the Digital Era, HKSYU envisions the possibility of offering students a unique and efficacious education.

HKSYU is a liberal arts university and its Strategic Plan 2021-2025 encompasses the 5P’s of Programmes, Practices, Profile, People and Place. Professor SUN believes that these five developmental goals are equally important and closely intertwined, and they must be rolled out in a balanced manner to achieve the vision and mission of HKSYU.

With respect to “Programmes”, apart from launching innovative and quality programmes to meet the needs of the community, HKSYU has also made attempts to integrate digital technologies and alternative pedagogies such as web-based learning and laboratory-based learning in the existing academic programmes. “To equip students to meet the demands of industries and markets, we must be student-oriented when launching programmes and place the highest priority on students’ learning needs.”

Professor SUN also pointed out that to maximize students’ learning experience, programme revamping at HKSYU is an ongoing affair, and the inclusion of applied data science in teaching, learning and research promises to further enhance this experience. Taking the students of the Department of Journalism and Communication (JMC) as an example, she mentioned that the industry has always thought highly of JMC students and found them to be well-equipped with skills and practical experience when they joined the workplace. However, to survive in the current market, students also need to know how to utilise big data and other immersive technologies to collect and present information and write news stories. Therefore, the university must keep pace with the times in setting up and revamping programmes to increase students’ competitiveness in the job market.

As for the undergraduate programmes, HKSYU recently launched the Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Media and Immersive Technology and hopes to be able to offer the Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Applied Data Science Programme in 2022/23 subject to the accreditation by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) this October. In the area of postgraduate programmes, HKSYU plans to launch a Master in Play Therapy Programme next year subject to the validation by the Programme Validation and Re-Accreditation Committee (PVRC) and a Master of Social Work Programme in 2023 subject to HKCAAVQ validation. As is consistent with the Strategic Plan 2021-2025, all these new programmes intend to incorporate digital elements in their teaching, learning and research.

In “Practices”, HKSYU strives to improve its various operating systems and practices and has developed a service-oriented and effectiveness-centred culture. Professor SUN believes that while attempting to strike a balance between pursuing a career and nurturing personal interests, students are inclined to take on cross-disciplinary learning. With this trend in mind, HKSYU will further strengthen its existing Minor Programme and improve the collaborative link between departments. Along the same vein, discipline-specific internships will continue to be set up to give students some much-needed work experience before they formally plunge into the workplace.

As for “People”, Shue Yan endeavours to motivate every member of the university community to be committed, vibrant, and responsive to change. “We hope that students can pass on Shue Yan’s motto of ‘cultivating virtues of benevolence; broadening horizon and knowledge’ from generation to generation.

At present, all departments have their own succession plans to promote and cultivate department heads and faculty members.” Professor SUN stressed that to connect all stakeholders to participate in the development of Shue Yan is also one of Shue Yan’s goals. Among the stakeholders are donors who have brought to Shue Yan not only financial support, but also the recognition of the community.

In terms of “Profile”, Professor Sun opined that although throughout the years HKSYU has always opted to maintain a low profile, yet the emergence of the social media has prompted the university to consider the need for promotion. She felt that without appropriate promotion, the public would not be cognizant of HKSYU’s many achievements. Furthermore, through promotion, she hopes to share with the community the Confucian educational ideology which HKSYU has been uploading since 1971.

To consolidate the university’s reputation and further make known to the community the various excellent practices in teaching, as well as the many outstanding researches with social impact, measures are being taken to step up efforts in publicity. “We are committed to optimising academic programmes and improving the world rankings of Shue Yan to pave smoother pathways for students to further their studies here in Hong Kong and abroad in the future. On a micro level, we are also paying closer attention to the quality of our printed material and advertisements on public transports. We hope that in addition to promoting Shue Yan, students will also take pride in being a member of the university community”.

In the arena of “Place”, HKSYU has been continuously improving its facilities to enrich the campus life of teachers and students, promoting the collaboration between HKSYU and the community, and serving the community. Professor SUN said, “The university needs more space to develop teaching and research facilities, and I hope that there will be new places for expansion in the future. I also hope to further promote the development of sports and music at Shue Yan by such approaches as providing more training facilities for school teams and more venue for practicing music.”

With the opening of big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and other laboratories, a number of technologica l and interdisciplinary researches have been launched. Professor SUN said that these interdisciplinary researches have impacted the community positively and realised the transfer of knowledge. “It is also one of our strategic goals to use limited resources to bring about social impact and demonstrate how at Shue Yan we actualize the ‘life-on-life’ ideology”. Professor SUN hopes that students can visit the laboratories on the fifth floor of the Research Complex and even utilize the facilities there. They will surely be inspired by the possibilities of our digital future and in time exude a deeper connection to digital humanities.

Source: 50th Anniversary Special Issue