The Hypermedia And Self-learning Centre

YEUNG Yau Yuen, LAI Yiu Chi and LEE Yeung Chung
Department of Science
Hong Kong Institute of Education
10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong

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The educational values and rationales for establishing a virtual centre of interactive hypermedia resources at the Hong Kong Institute of Education for self-learning on the Internet are described in this paper. The special features of this centre are outlined and two samples of courseware called "Changjei Cyber Classroom on the Internet" for learning a Chinese computer input method and "Diversity of Living Organisms" for providing rich multimedia resources to supplement the study of a biology topic are described in some details. This project can definitely help to enhance the teaching and learning quality in various dimensions and the ways to achieve this target are briefly discussed.

Keywords: hypermedia courseware, self-learning, Internet.


From an educator's point of view, the main merits of the Internet for educational usage are that it could remove the temporal and spatial constraint of classroom teaching, effectively present or transmit abstract ideas and factual information through the multimedia features of the World Wide Web (WWW) documents and enable the nonlinear mode of learning which resembles the association operation of human mind as being provided by the hyperlinks of WWW documents (see, e.g. Yeung and Ng (1996), Sloane (1997), Ng et al. (1997) and Yeung et al. (1998)). Besides, the WWW format could provide cross-platform compatibility for different computer operating systems so that one version of courseware could serve for all type of computer users, saving much courseware development efforts. Furthermore, anytime collaborative learning and experience sharing could be fostered by means of the discussion forum (or newsgroup) held on the Internet. With those benefits in mind, we have initiated a large project to make use of the most advanced information and educational technology to put the concept of teaching through the Internet into real practice at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) by developing a number of self-learning materials packages in various subject disciplines. This leads to the establishment of the HAS Centre which is a virtual centre of interactive hypermedia resources for self-learning on the Internet (see Fig. 1 and website at

The subject areas selected for the HAS Centre bear something in common, namely the extensive use of (chemical/mathematical) formulae, graphs, photos and/or diagrams which require quite intensive efforts of treatment before we could establish the corresponding WWW homepage. Furthermore, audio, video, 2D/3D animation and interactive simulation, which require both advanced audio-video equipment and computer support, are well-known to be essential for effective self-learning of those subjects. Therefore, special technological knowledge and support are commonly required and could better be shared amongst team members of different disciplines, leading to the development of many non-computer staff with certain amount of expertise in information technology for education. Apart from these, students in certain courses are required to do project presentation or report in form of the WWW home-page which will be posted on the HAS Centre for other students to read, to appraise or to criticize. During the teaching practice period in schools, our HKIEd student-teachers could also share with their classmates and supervisors about their experience, feeling and self-reflection on their own teaching, making them not to feel lonely or helpless even though they are physically dispersed in different schools. This kind of experience sharing is very important in attaining the widespread usage of technology for improving the quality and range of teaching and learning in Hong Kong tertiary institutions as envisaged by the University Grants Committee

Figure 1 Home-page of the HAS Centre

(see UGC Report 1996, Besides, the creation of Chinese self-learning materials in the Internet will be very unique all over the world and could certainly help to solve the problem of lacking Chinese references for post-secondary students in Hong Kong.

Samples of Courseware

As an example done under the supervision of a Computer lecturer at HKIEd, the HAS Centre contains a completed courseware called Changjei Cyber Classroom on the Internet whose aim is to provide on-line training materials for student teachers on the Changjei Chinese input method. The course contents include:

The special features of this WWW courseware are that:

To remedy the slow speed of data transfer on Internet and the on-line cost, two CAL packages, entitled Changjei Classroom (a drill and practice CAL package) and Changjei Pocket Dictionary (a tool for finding Changjei codes by different methods) have been designed for the students to learn Changjei Input Method off-line and they are downloadable from the HAS Centre.

Another Internet courseware called Diversity of Living Organisms is being developed under the supervision of a HKIEd Biology lecturer. This topic is a basic theme of biological sciences and is included as an important component of a number of introductory science modules offered to both science elective and non-elective students of the HKIEd. This self-learning courseware will enable students to gain further understanding in the diversity of living

Figure 2 An example page showing various interactive features of the Changjei Cyber Classroom On the Internet courseware

Figure 3 Cover page of the Diversity of Living Organisms courseware

things and their classification after attending some introductory modules on classification of living organisms. The materials are organised in such format that renders learning of complex factual information on classification easy and interesting by utilizing various multimedia technologies, making it distinguishable from any ordinary Biology textbook. The materials of the package are presented in form of short notes, diagrams, photographs, sound animations and interactive activities, with hyperlinks between related pieces of information, thus allowing the key concepts to be learnt as a coherent whole rather than in isolation from one another. The main frame could be represented by a tree-like structure (see Fig. 3), as appears in the main menu of the home page of the package. In the main frame, the contents are organised into six categories. The main menu is preceded by a cover page which introduces users to the intentions, aims and the organisation of the courseware materials. Each of the six categories in the main menu contains texts that introduce users to the specific area of interest. Texts are mainly presented in form of short notes for easy reference, but diagrams, photos, video-clips and sound animations are also important features to enhance understanding and arouse interest of users. Diagrams are mainly presented as hypertexts to explain key structures characteristic to a major group or sub-group, while photos are included to illustrate representative members of sub-groups. Special characteristics in relation to the functioning of representative organisms are illustrated with video-clips. The descriptions of the major groups are hyperlinked to other categories. This is to facilitate quick reference to additional information relevant to a particular group but is placed in other categories.


Those materials contained in the HAS Centre are being used to supplement or replace the lecturing in certain selected subject modules at HKIEd. Questionnaire survey and/or quality interview have been conducted to assess the students' attitude towards this new mode of learning. Furthermore, the teaching and learning quality in HKIEd could be enhanced/improved through the following processes/mechanisms:

Finally, further educational research will be conducted to evaluate the impact of this virtual centre on the teacher education program at HKIEd and the learning effectiveness and efficiency of this approach. It is hoped that the HAS Centre could serve as a prototype of using hypermedia for Science, Computer and Mathematics education in Hong Kong and in the Great China regions and we could then gradually build up an international website of Chinese resources for education on the Internet. It will help to promote the concept of using Internet for education not only within the HKIEd but also in Hong Kong secondary and primary schools as mediated by the HKIEd student-teachers.


Financial support from the Teaching Development Grants of HKIEd is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are also due to Mr. Lee Shui Nga and Mr. Wong Chi Fai for their technical assistance.


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