Computer scientist kicks off UQ’s Teaching and Learning Week

Ricky Kwok... digital literacy is important for students and teachers

Ricky Kwok... digital literacy is important for students and teachers

Ricky Kwok’s computer science research career “accidentally” swerved into academic leadership, but the combination of expertise now makes him one of the world’s top e-learning experts.

On Monday week (28 October), the University of Hong Kong’s Associate Vice-President (Teaching & Learning) will deliver the keynote address at The University of Queensland’s 2019 Teaching and Learning Week.

“After 20 years of teaching I ‘converted’ to e-learning and reinvented myself,” Professor Kwok said.

Professor Kwok said his address at UQ next week - titled Learning begins at the end of your comfort zone - would give insight into his e-learning experiences, and into applying technology in pedagogy.

“I’ll look at topics like online interaction, classroom activities and embracing artificial intelligence (AI),” he said.

“All of us teachers should be helping our students better equip themselves in their AI-proliferated world,” he said.

Professor Kwok said in general, the global higher education sector was not adapting well to the “digital revolution”.

“The inertia is too massive. We’re not seeing enough innovation at the teaching-research nexus that genuinely treats students' learning as the absolute top priority,” he said.

“Too often it is just window-dressing or lip service to e-learning.”

Professor Kwok said developing teachers’ digital literacy was as important as developing those skills in students.

Asked about how his transition from computer science teacher to university executive came about, Professor Kwok says: “I was too talkative or vocal in a meeting with the former Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (T&L) on some learning data interpretations!”

“A couple of months later she ‘invited’ (read: ‘dragged’) me into some of her committees/working-groups related to e-learning,” Professor Kwok said.

“I continued to be talkative/vocal for a couple of years and, at some point, even after she stepped down in 2014, the Provost asked me to chair a MOOC committee.

“Later, when a new VP and PVC (T&L) assumed duty in January 2015, he ‘invited’ (read: dragged) me to work alongside him as the Associate Vice-President (T&L), with one single mandate - e-learning.”

“As to the ‘why’, I quote Forrest Gump: ‘... I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just … keep right on going!’ “

Professor Kwok earned his Master’s degree in 1994 and his PhD in 1997, both in Computer Science from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He had completed his Bachelor of Science at the University of Hong Kong in 1991.

Before returning to the UHK in 1998 as an assistant professor, Professor Kwok spent a year as a visiting scholar at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

He also worked as a visiting Associate Professor in the Internet and Grid Computing Laboratory, Department of Electrical Engineering-Systems at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he conducted research on Internet security problems such as DDoS defence and traceback, worm containment and signature generation.

From 2007 to 2009, he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University, where he taught courses and conducted research in the areas of wireless sensor networks, high-performance computer architecture, reconfigurable computing systems, and heterogeneous computing.

Ironically Professor Kwok’s “accidental” career change opened a vast area of interesting computer system research problems “with very meaningful application in education”.

“All my PhD students are working on e-learning related computer systems issues,” he said. “I’m proud to say our team's work has generated impact, potentially leading to global culture change.”

Asked generally about the biggest problems in teaching today, Professor Kwok has no hesitation before responding:

“Teaching needs to be properly - or at least fairly - incentivised and recognised,” he said.

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