Gateway to a brighter future

by Judy Ngao

James Liu, programme leader of MSc programmes in computing
and associate professor, department of computing
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Photo: Lewis Wong

Computer knowledge is essential to most professions, and it is to any employee's advantage to have some understanding of systems and functionality

All business operations can benefit from the use of different technologies to expand additional business channels and platforms.

"In difficult times, many companies lay off people and streamline their operations to make room for future expansion," notes James Liu, associate professor, department of computing, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). "A cross section of businesses will make building an IT platform a priority."

With this foresight, Hong Kong CyberU (HKCyberU), the online arm of the PolyU, launched its master's programmes in information systems, e-commerce, and software technology a few years ago.

"These programmes offer professionals a chance to improve their skills to take up higher positions when the economy recovers," says Dr Liu, who is also the programme leader of the MSc programmes in computing.

Double recognition

To meet the soaring demand for computing professionals and to advance the development of the software industry in Hong Kong and mainland china, a double-degree arrangement is in place. Students may obtain a master's degree in software technology, awarded by the PolyU, and one in software engineering, awarded by the mainland-based Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Science (GUCAS), in the shortest period of time. "Graduates will be qualified to work in China," Dr Liu confirms.

Leveraging HKCyberU's state-of-the-art online learning infrastructure, study takes place outside the traditional classroom boundaries, allowing working students to pace their studies, acquiring recognised professional qualifications without having to be present on campus. Real-time chat rooms, video conferencing and discussion forums facilitate around-the-clock communication between students.

Assignments and projects are often done in small groups, allowing students from different commercial backgrounds to apply knowledge related to their particular jobs, Dr Liu says. "Students get the chance to deal with real-life situations. Many subjects are closely related to the actual business world outside. We call this 'scenario analysis'."

Graduates of the e-commerce programme will be equipped to contribute towards the planning, development, deployment and management of electronic commerce systems and applications effectively.

Meanwhile, those graduating from the information systems programme will have the necessary skills to identify appropriate IT-driven opportunities and incorporate these into strategic thinking processes. "They will also be able to act as internal consultants within their organisations, to improve organisational practices, productivity and profitability with regard to the evaluation, development and implementation of information systems technology applications," Dr Liu adds.

"Statistics show that information systems and e-commerce are our most popular programmes. Software technology is more technical and requires a background in software engineering," he expands. "Over the years, most of our students in software technology have been from the mainland. This is because the supply of software engineers in mainland China does not meet the demand."

Since there are many programmes in the marketplace, students are advised to consider the curriculum, flexibility and cost of each programme before making their decision. "It's up to students to pick the right programme, and they can enjoy the flexibility to make a switch as they progress," Dr Liu emphasises.

Key competence

Although these programmes are particularly helpful for people specialising in software technologies, the university also welcomes people from other professional backgrounds.

For instance, managers can benefit from some training in the field, as this gives them insights into the sort of skills they require from staff and helps them to measure job applicants' computer literacy.

Entrance requirements for the information systems programme include an honours degree in business or a management-related discipline plus relevant management experience.

Applicants for the e-commerce programme should have an honours degree in computing, information technology or e-commerce, or an honours degree in an engineering discipline with relevant work experience in e-commerce or information technology.

As for people applying for the software technology programme, they should hold an honours degree in computing, computer science or the equivalent, with sufficient work experience in software development or engineering.

Applicants' previous studies and subjects already completed are recognised through a credit transfer scheme, which means a saving in time and cost. HKCyberU also offers incentives such as merit scholarships and membership to alumni groups.

"These programmes will not only strengthen their skills but also prepare them for further studies in the years to come," Dr Liu concludes.


Taken from Career Times 19 June 2009, p. A8
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