A case about cross-institution collaboration in Chinese medicine education – Yum Tin Pui and Chen Jianping


Chinese medicine, a mysterious practice of healing veiled with the profound culture, is gaining attention from healthcare workers, researchers and educators worldwide nowadays. Because of the close connection with the community and academe, it is going with the flow of globalization inevitably. The interactions between healthcare service, research and education taking place in this context are culturally sensitive.

We are interested in exploring new possibilities for our students to experience these cultural issues and build up their culture competencies. A cross-institution collaboration in Chinese medicine education could be a good opportunity. The benefit brought from the cross-institution collaboration might possibly enable students to become more competent in these globalization changes (Lu, Tsai & Tseng, 2014).

Learning design

“Cross-institution Online PBL in Chinese Medicine Education” is an educational innovation project involving students and teachers from HKU and Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (CDUTCM). Problem-based learning (PBL) was conducted in a blended mode with Moodle in the seven-step approach. Students were required to clarify concepts, define the problem(s), analyse the problem(s), classify information systematically, formulate learning objectives, undertake self-study, and discuss with peers (Van Til & Van der Heijden, 2000).


Like every other project, we experienced challenges in the process. These challenges were examined by our teams carefully. They are categorised in two areas: diversity in students’ backgrounds and complexity in institution administration.

We all understand that our students are unique and the differences should be accommodated during teaching and learning. But the diversity in student body will greatly increase the challenge while we are putting students from different institutions together in one community. Language abilities, information technology competencies, socio-economic backgrounds and learning styles are obviously different among students from HKU and CDUTCM.

Also, technology could be limited by the organisational structure of institutions. The time allocation for teachers in this project was limited. Also the organisational structures of the two institutions were different. Great efforts have been made in contacting and liaising with different parties within the institution and between institutions to construct a mutually beneficial platform.

“WE” are the solution

Our team has suggested some solutions including a flexible design, early resources identification, communication supported with advanced technology, and standardising the differences previously. Although students from both institutions showed significant differences in terms of information technology competency and frequency of using Moodle, the result shows that students learnt co-constructively through sharing and discussing their pieces of work with others on Moodle.

“WE” include students. Students should not be recognised as subjects of an experiment, but partners who walk with us in the journey of educational innovation. It is important to inform them of the details of the project including the processes and the ideas behind. Feedback and support from students were received in this case. A flexible design not only allowed spaces for negotiation, but also co-design of the project between our team and students. Students might show better engagement if they find ownership of the project (Hanauer, Frederick, Fotinakes, & Strobel, 2012).

“WE” include administrative and support staff. There is no doubt that we worked with different administrative and support staff to overcome technical and administrative issues. Besides content and pedagogical experts, administrative and support staff also offered their expertise. They should be valued and identified as members of the project. But materialistic reward might not be easily available for their effort. Why not a thank you card? (Jung & Shin, 2015)

“WE” include teachers from partner institutions. Teaching practices might be very different across institutions due to the cultural context. It could be a chance for us to learn and adopt different practices. We could also reflect on our practice under this cultural interflow between teachers from different institutions.

“WE” include the university. The university provides various resources including funding and communities of practice. We would like to acknowledge the support from TDG and also the matching fund from the Bau Institute of Medical and Health Sciences Education. In our case, we also worked closely with Tracy from CETL, who is keen to offer her expertise in a subject area different from us. The integration of expertise from different subject areas is probably the foundation for constructing innovative ideas. Those ideas have been further consolidated in the cooperation process, which finally contributed to the success of the case.

Concluding remarks

“This type of PBL give me the feeling about learning Chinese Medicine, closer to the clinical case. We may gain more in the learning process. Please provide more of this type of PBL in the future.” from a HKU student.

“It provides me a different way of learning. It allows me to understand the way of learning from the others in order to correct mine.” from a CDUTCM student.

These quotes have encouraged us to keep exploring new opportunities and good practices in teaching and learning. WE are the solution because WE are not alone.

A case about cross-institution collaboration in Chinese medicine education – Yum Tin Pui and Chen Jianping


The project ‘Cross-institution Online PBL in Chinese Medicine Education’ was funded by the Teaching Development Grant and matching fund from the Bau Institute of Medical and Health Sciences Education. (Principle Investigator: Dr. JP Chen, School of Chinese Medicine, HKU).


  • Chen, J.P., Yum, T.P., Ye, Q.B., & Jia, B. (2016). Cross-institution collaboration in Chinese medicine education: Challenges and Implementation. 2nd Asia Pacific Conference on Advanced Research. Melbourne, Australia, 27-28 February 2016.
  • Hanauer, D. I., Frederick, J., Fotinakes, B., & Strobel, S. A. (2012). Linguistic analysis of project ownership for undergraduate research experiences. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 11, 378-385.
  • Jung, J., & Shin, J. C. (2015). Administrative staff members’ job competency and their job satisfaction in a Korean research university. Studies in Higher Education, 40(5), 881-901.
  • Lu, P. Y., Tsai, J. C. & Tseng, S. Y. (2014). Clinical teachers’ perspectives on cultural competence in medical education. Medical Education, 48(2), 204–214.
  • Van Til, C. & Van der Heijden, F. (2000). PBL Study Skills: An Overview. Department of Educational Development and Research, University of Maastricht.
  • Yum, T.P., Zou, T.X.P., Ye, Q.B., Peng, H. & Chen, J.P. (2016). Cross-institution online problem based learning in Chinese medicine education. 2nd Asia Pacific Conference on Advanced Research. Melbourne, Australia, 27-28 February 2016.
Mr. Yum Tin Pui
Mr. Yum Tin Pui

Research Assistant
Faculty of Education
The University of Hong Kong

Corresponding author –

Dr. Chen Jianping
Dr. Chen Jianping

Associate Professor
School of Chinese Medicine
The University of Hong Kong

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