At University of Hong Kong (HKU), every member of the audiovisual team is required to go through InfoComm International’s CTS (Certified Technology Specialist™) programme. To date, this leading Asian institution counts 10 CTS-certified professionals and one CTS-I, the specialised certification for AV system installation.

In this Q&A, Antoinette Kelly, the university’s associate director for Learning Environment Services, explains that staff certification is part of the university’s core strategy to boost in-house technical capacity and morale — both essential to pioneering new learning experiences. She also gives a preview of the upcoming InfoComm on Campus event at HKU on 23 May 2017.

Q: Under your leadership, HKU has become one of the very first universities to require CTS certification for its tech staff. Can you talk about why this is so important for HKU? 

A: When I arrived at HKU, many decisions about AV facilities and classrooms were being made by people outside the department, usually hired consultants. I wanted my team to be involved in the design and implementation process so that they would be the "local experts" and the first points of contact for HKU colleagues’ AV requests. I also wanted them to take the lead in redesigning and refitting existing facilities. 

In order to achieve this, everyone needs to have good knowledge of the field. The InfoComm training provides this platform for us. 

Q: What changes have you seen since the certification requirement was enforced? 

A: We currently have 10 CTS certifications and one CTS-I, and we have a further nine technicians taking the examination between 1 March and 20 April.

As the team becomes more skilled and qualified, they become more active in project work. Our user satisfaction rate is extremely high and the university has recently delegated technical responsibility for all its performance venues to us, giving us a much wider brief. This has an incredibly empowering effect on our staff in their day-to-day work.

Q: What were some of the challenges in implementing this change? 

A: Time pressure is a challenge. My staff has heavy workloads, so we have had to try to timetable some slots in their working week for preparation and study.  Language has also proven to be an issue. My team comprises native Cantonese speakers, so some of the English terminology and context can be difficult. 
To help, we have study groups led by staff members who already have certification and good English skills.

Q: What advice do you have for other universities regarding staff training?

A: I think staff development needs to be high on the list of any organisation's priorities if they want to keep up with today’s fast-changing technology. Not only does it provide you with new skills and opportunities, but employees also feel valued that they are being invested in, and good staff morale is hugely important.

Q: You took a very active role driving the 2016 InfoComm on Campus event. Can you share why InfoComm on Campus is important to your work and to HKU?

A: InfoComm on Campus is a good opportunity to share experiences and network with colleagues working elsewhere in the higher-education sector and build new relationships in the area of AV/IT support. It also gives us an opportunity to show our users and managers at HKU the value we are adding to our services.

Q: What was the biggest highlight for you at the 2016 event? 

At the inaugural event last year, we were expecting 30 delegates, but 88 people arrived representing 23 local and overseas higher-education institutions.

Learning spaces and technologies are a hot topic at the moment and as the AV and IT services continue to merge, people are looking for solutions, best practices, and case studies to learn from.

Q: What will attendees gain from attending this year’s event?

A: I think anyone supporting teaching and learning — whether working on frontline services in a technical role or as a manager — can benefit from this event on a number of levels.

The value of getting together to network with your peers cannot be underestimated and usually serves to prove that we are all facing the same challenges and are not alone! A robust and relevant event programme and discussions with knowledgeable speakers drawn from abroad and locally is also key. We are aiming for each attendee to learn at least one thing new or walk away with a great new idea to implement.

About InfoComm on Campus:

InfoComm on Campus is a one-day program focusing on cross-disciplinary collaboration and evolving technology for creating the classroom of the future. This year’s event takes place at the University of Hong Kong on 23 May 2017. Learn more or sign up.