MU Connect issue 1 (Jan 2022) page 20 and 21

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Down-to-earth professor integrates

Online and Offline Worlds

Dr Eric Lau Kin-wai

Assistant Professor
Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration
Dr Eric Lau is more than a university professor. Both a Youtuber and a mystery customer, he devotes much of his spare time to public service and traverses the online and offline worlds.
Dr Eric Lau Kin-wai
Assistant Professor Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration
Dr Eric Lau is more than a university professor. Both a Youtuber and a mystery customer, he devotes much of his spare time to public service and traverses the online and offline worlds.
Dr Eric Lau Kin-wai
Assistant Professor Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration
Dr Eric Lau is more than a university professor. Both a Youtuber and a mystery customer, he devotes much of his spare time to public service and traverses the online and offline worlds.

Earlier while Dr Eric Lau was watching a live boxing match and leaving comments on the Internet, he came upon his students and they soon realized they spoke the same language. Dr Lau enjoys interacting with students as their peer and welcomes being addressed as Eric or by his social media nickname Lau Bob. ‘I’m active on multiple social media platforms with my accounts open to all my students,’ says Dr Lau. ‘We communicate often, which helps narrow the gap between us.’ The professor makes friends on his personal platforms and seeks updates on new trends to keep up with the young generation.

Helping students build self-confidence

A university teacher today, Dr Lau once got bad grades during his junior secondary years and was even looked down upon as being unable to be promoted to senior forms. He was later guided by an inspiring teacher and finally found his direction for development — it was when personal computers had just become popular that he found a path for himself. ‘Learning about computing involves a broad scope of knowledge. I kept reading and seeking advice, and gradually made some achievements which gave me a sense of accomplishment,’ he recalls. Dr Lau’s academic performance subsequently improved by leaps and bounds, and was even ranked in top places. This experience was what inspired him to motivate his students today.

To encourage students to speak up in class, the professor uses a specially designed form to record the number of questions a student asks and answers, and then returns the information to students with short comments for their reference. In addition to monitoring students’ learning progress, this approach also aims to promote their growth. ‘Knowing that I quantify their performance in class, students become more motivated to improve themselves. Making a small achievement each week and accumulating them throughout the semester, students will gradually develop a sense of accomplishment,’ he reckons. Having served in the University for three years, Dr Lau recognizes students’ determination but also notices their lack of confidence. ‘We must inject more positive energy into them to help them regain self-confidence. Practical application will gear them up for the workplace.’

Putting social media to good use

In addition to contributing in the academic field, Dr Lau is also committed to public service, shouldering responsibilities in many different positions. To name a few, he was a censor of the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration, an adjudicator of the Obscene Articles Tribunal, and is currently a member of various committees under the Communications Authority and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Dr Lau has also been serving as the chairman of the preparatory committee of the annual event Farmfest since 2008. For over a decade, he has been paying efforts to spice up the event through social media. Apart from helping farmers promote their products, he also shares his experience in the classroom and has even invited students to participate in the activities, giving them opportunities to let their creative juices flow.

In the face of the epidemic, Farmfest 2021 was held online, with promotion done mainly via social media. Four students in Hotel and Sustainable Tourism Management joined Dr Lau in organizing the event and earned his praise. ‘I marvelled at their impressive performance when they did live broadcasts with an artiste. Their social media posts, such as those calling for carbon reduction, contained rich content and prominent messages,’ he acclaims. The students’ online promotion campaign received recognition and brought them the Silver award in the Public Health, Safety and Awareness (including Charity) sector of the Digital Media Awards 2021, defeating competitors from the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Dr Lau is now planning to involve more students in the next edition and further encourage the use of social media in their publicity campaign.

The down-to-earth teacher also applies the marketing concepts he teaches in his daily life by, for example, filing a complaint when he encounters an employee offering incompetent service. ‘Perhaps I’m too involved, but I can’t see the prospects of Hong Kong’s service industry if I, as a teacher of marketing services, weren’t that involved,’ he explains. Thanks to Dr Lau’s persistence, when one of the ‘targets’ of his complaints realized that he was a university lecturer, the company actually invited him to give a lecture to its staff to explain how frontline services are closely related to a company’s operations. On another occasion, the professor even turned himself into a mystery customer by invitation, in which he deliberately arranged a dispute on a flight. He wrote and directed the scene, and acted it out together with a passenger he invited for the purpose of testing the flight attendants’ response and adaptability. Dr Lau speaks of this unforgettable experience with a grin: ‘Finally, the incident was handled by the captain!’ He believes that the airline should have worked out an enhancement plan to improve their frontline service.

Every adventure requires a first step

This mystery customer is also a filming enthusiast who, from time to time, uploads his videos on social media. ‘Out of curiosity, I enrolled in a TV production and directing course offered by a TV station while studying in university,’ says Dr Lau. ‘Back then I even bagged an award with the short film I made.’ From studying to teaching, Dr Lau has always had the intrepidity to take an extra step forward to make things happen. ‘I was an introvert when I was young, but as I grew up I realized that a bystander would only miss out on good opportunities,’ he continues. He once wrote an article on the topic ‘A thousand-mile journey begins with a single step’, which later became an inspirational quote for his students. ‘To realize your dream, you must take the first step,’ he affirms sincerely.