Successful teaching at tertiary level depends on the ability to combine the theoretical and practical aspects of a subject and present them in a way which is both innovative and inspiring for students. As one of the five winners of the Teaching Excellence Award 2004/05, Cheung Ho Ming, a faculty member in the Department of English and Communication at City University of Hong Kong (CityU), clearly knows what it takes. She has been commended as an exemplary professional who brings together independent learning and quality teaching, which have enabled her students to achieve outstanding academic results.
As her department's resident IT expert, Ms Cheung's areas of expertise include visual and integrated marketing communications, advertising, desktop publishing design and production, and new media. Her expertise comes from over 10 years' industry experience. This has included project management work for the government, corporate communications, and course development for various universities. "My professional experience helped to develop and consolidate my knowledge of communication techniques and new media," she says. "It also equipped me with the management and leadership skills that are necessary in the classroom."
Ms Cheung has used her industry insights as the basis for developing courses which are known for being task-based and highly practical. Students of advertising and design, for example, have to apply their understanding of theoretical concepts and cultural values to their critiques of various commercial advertising campaigns. They must also manage their own advertising projects and use the creative design strategies and computer skills learnt during the course.
"Learning is serious and fun. Students are motivated to develop a balanced mix of professional knowledge, analytical and team skills, creativity and aesthetics — qualities which empower them to excel in the knowledge-based and fast-changing world of work," she explains. Portfolios put together during the course have helped to earn students numerous internship and job opportunities with local and international companies.
Ms Cheung is understandably proud at being nominated as an award winner. "I saw the rigorous selection process as a challenge and a chance to prove myself," she says. "It encouraged me to explore diversified teaching methods and additional ways for both the students and myself to improve." The result of these efforts can be seen in the development of a new online learning and assessment platform and other computer-aided learning channels. They have all been designed to promote dynamic and interactive learning among students, instructors and industry practitioners.
Ms Cheung points out that the focus on interaction and communication reflects the high demand for language and communication specialists in the business world. Such people are needed in the public and private sectors, marketing communications, advertising and public relations. "There is an ever greater emphasis on language and communication skills in the commercial world, and the career prospects for fresh graduates are very good," she adds.