Computer News No. 126  Mar-Apr 2007

Results of Computer Centre User Survey 2007

  1. Introduction
  2. Importance and Satisfaction of Essential IT Services
  3. About Email Services
  4. About Network Services
  5. About Server Computers
  6. About PC Security
  7. About PC Laboratories, Centrally Administered Lecture Theatres and Classrooms
  8. About HKU Portal
  9. About WebCT Electronic Course System
  10. About User Support Services
  11. Overall Remarks about the Survey

1. Introduction

Computer Centre has conducted a web-based user survey from January to March 2007 to obtain users' feedback on the services provided by Computer Centre . The results and findings of the user survey is reported in this article.

A total of 709 valid respondents participated in this survey. They include academic, non-academic and technical staff members, postgraduate and undergraduate students. The respondents are grouped into staff and students for comparison of responses between these two groups.  Table 1 shows the count in each group and the percentage of total respondents in each group.

Table 1: Status of Respondents 

Status of Respondents Count in Group % of Total Respondents
Staff Teaching and research 105 240 33.9%
Administrative 84
Technical 51
Students Postgraduate 132 469 66.1%
Undergraduate 337

2. Importance and Satisfaction of Essential IT Services

Users were asked to rate the importance and their satisfaction of the essential IT services. The rating scale used was from 1 to 5, with 5=most important/satisfied, 1=least important/satisfied.

Table 2 lists the essential IT services and their importance to our users.  First, the total number of respondents for each service is listed. Then, the percentages of each rating is listed.  The percentages of ratings 3 to 5 are added together to reflect the overall importance. Then they are presented separately for staff and students to reflect the difference in requirements for staff and students.  The significant differences between staff and student responses are in the importance of PC laboratories (for students) and in training courses (for staff).

Table 2: Importance of the IT Services to Staff Members and Students

Importance of IT Services Total Rating=1 Rating=2 Rating=3 Rating=4 Rating=5 Rating=
(3 to5)
(3 to5)
(3 to5)
Email service 697 0.1% 0.9% 2.7% 13.3% 82.9% 98.9% 100% 98.5%
The HKU Portal 696 0.7% 1.6% 10.5% 24.1% 63.1% 97.7% 97.0% 98.1%
Network  from campus 679 0.9% 1.9% 5.9% 13.0% 78.4% 97.3% 98.3% 96.6%
Network  from home 658 2.1% 3.6% 14.0% 19.0% 61.1% 94.2% 92.3% 95.3%
Using server computers 452 7.7% 10.6% 26.8% 25.0% 29.9% 81.7% 86.8% 79.3%
Using PC laboratories 488 8.8% 6.8% 21.5% 25.6% 37.3% 84.4% 64.4% 89.4%
User support services 527 5.3% 5.7% 24.1% 33.4% 31.5% 89.0% 93.1% 87.0%
User training courses 465 13.3% 15.7% 30.1% 22.2% 18.7% 71.0% 80.6% 66.4%

Table 3 lists the satisfaction levels of the IT services. The numbers and percentages are presented in the same way as in Table 2.

Table 3: User Satisfaction of  IT services

Satisfaction of IT Services Total Rating=1 Rating=2 Rating=3 Rating=4 Rating=5 Rating=
(3 to5)
(3 to5)
(3 to5)
Email service 690 2.3% 11.9% 24.2% 44.5% 17.1% 85.8% 86.3% 85.5%
The HKU Portal 689 2.2% 6.8% 28.2% 42.8% 19.9% 90.9% 88.1% 92.5%
Network  from campus 666 2.3% 9.5% 21.6% 39.0% 27.6% 88.2% 91.1% 86.9%
Network  from home 638 6.9% 9.1% 32.4% 35.9% 15.7% 84.0% 81.8% 85.2%
Using server computers 410 2.7% 6.3% 41.2% 38.5% 11.2% 91.0% 89.9% 91.5%
Using PC laboratories 451 6.7% 11.3% 38.6% 33.7% 9.8% 82.1% 85.9% 81.2%
User support services 487 7.6% 11.3% 36.8% 31.4% 12.9% 81.1% 75.2% 84.1%
User training courses 391 7.2% 15.3% 39.4% 27.9% 10.2% 77.5% 80.0% 76.2%

The above tables show that the email and network services are the foremost important to our users and that users are mostly satisfied.  In comparing importance and satisfaction of these services in Table 2 and 3 respectively, we can identify areas for improvement for better user satisfaction.  In the following sections, we shall report on the survey results of each service in detail.

3. About Email Services 

The bar chart diagrams below show the users' responses to the questions on email.  The questions are printed in the chart titles.  In the annotation, the "n=..." is the number of respondents to this question.  Each bar is also labeled with the frequency count.  In the charts of comparisons between staff and students (bar charts of two colours), the responses are reported as percentages in the respective groups.

From Chart 1, we see that reading email via HKU Portal is by far the most popular.  From Chart 2, we can see that MyEmail via HKU Portal is used by 88% of the students but only by 50% of the staff who also use Webmail directly and client programs such as Outlook or Eudora. 

Chart 3-6 show that our users in general find a high satisfaction level of the most popular email software Webmail, either through MyEmail of the HKU Portal or access it directly.  Also the virus-filtering and spam-filter of the central email servers are at a high satisfaction level.

Chart 1

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Some users responded that they use other email programs or forward their HKU email to another email provider. Other email programs used were: Thunderbird/Netscape Mail, Apple Mail, UNIX mail, or email forwarded to other email services at Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc.

4. About Network Services

This section reports on the results for network services which include the office/laboratory network, the hall network, the network in centrally administered classrooms, the ACEnet and the wireless networks.  

The overall response is shown in the Chart 7 below.  Staff and student groups were compared in their use of the network in Chart 8.  92% of staff members use the network in their offices while students use the network in PC laboratories, residential halls, as well as the roaming networks.  The satisfactory level of the users in using these networks is high as shown in Chart 10-14.

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4.1 About Network Services from Home

The network services from home were assessed and the ratings of the HKUPPP and HKUVPN services are shown below. The overall responses are shown in frequencies in Chart 15, and percentages of staff/student groups are shown in Chart 16.  We can see that most users are connected from home directly via ISP broadband.  The satisfaction level of the HKUPPP and HKUVPN services are in general high.

Chart 15

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5. About Server Computers

Server computers refer to the University's web server WWW.HKU.HK, the Unix servers HKUCC and HKUSUA for general-purpose computing, the HPCPOWER and HKUHPCC servers for high-performance computing, and the Unix server BIOINFO for bioinformatics research.  The satisfaction level of using the servers are high in general.

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6. About PC Security

The section focuses on PC security and network abuse due to disseminating computer viruses or trojan horses (spyware), and how the users manage to clean up their infected computers.  While Computer Centre has been emphasizing on PC and network security in orientation seminars, in our web site, in our documents, and in email alerts, the importance of Windows Updates (which include Windows Firewall) and installation of anti-spyware on our users' PCs are not satisfactory.  In the future, getting the responses in the past year will give us more insight into how users understand the importance of PC and network security. 

  Chart 28

How do you protect your PC against computer viruses?

% Total Respondents

Install anti-virus program 80.0%
Install anti-spyware program 34.4%
Perform Windows updates 54.4%
Install Firewall 40.0%

7. About PC Laboratories, Centrally Administered Lecture Theatres and Classrooms

PC Laboratories

Chart 29-30 show that the majority of the respondents use the PC laboratories quite often.  The PC laboratories at Run Run Shaw Building and at the Library Building Old Wing are equally popular.  The respondents find the laser printing services, the hardware and the software facilities satisfactory.

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PC in Centrally Administered Lecture Theatres and Classrooms

Chart 35-36 show that among the respondents, frequent users of PC in classrooms are staff as expected.  The respondents find the hardware and the software facilities satisfactory.

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8. About HKU Portal

Chart 35-36 show that most of the respondents at least access the HKU Portal a few times a week.  More students access it daily.  The respondents find the ease of use, response time and richness in functionalities satisfactory.

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9. About WebCT Electronic Course System

The students and instructors were asked different questions for their feedback on the use of the WebCT system. Their responses to the questions are displayed separately in the charts below.

Student Responses:  

About half of the respondents has 1-3 WebCT courses and 1/3 has 4 or more WebCT courses.  Most of them access the courses several times weekly or monthly.

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Instructor Responses:  Only 34 instructors actually have one or more WebCT courses. Therefore only their responses are used in the analysis of the remaining questions on WebCT for instructors.  The respondents find that the support is very important while the user training is satisfactory.  Some find that the user training is insufficient.

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Table 5 lists the features of the WebCT system which the instructors find most useful, the number of respondents, and then the percentage of the total WebCT instructors (34) in descending order of usefulness. 

Table 5: Useful features of WebCT

Which features of WebCT do you find most useful? Respondents %  WebCT Instructors
Posting course notes 29 85.0%
Sending email to class 27 77.0%
Automatic account creation 22 65.0%
Assignments 15 44.1%
Discussion forums 11 32.3%
Group projects 7 20.6%
Student grades 6 17.6%
Others 2 6.0%
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10. About User Support Services

Table 6 shows where users go for help for IT problems.  The channels for help are: the Help Desk at room RRS-104, the CCBOX (via email), the enquiry hotlines (Help Desk 2859-2480) and (Computer Room 2859-2496), FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions posted on the web), and Computer Centre Office at room RRS-223.  Respondents may choose more than one channel.  Responses are analysed separately for staff and students and reported as percentages within the respective groups in the table below to reflect the different preferences for help between staff and students.   More staff makes call to the Help Desk and email to CCBOX while more students visit the Help Desk in person.  The FAQ is a popular channel.

Table 6: Where users go for help for IT problems 

Where do you go for help for IT problems? Help Desk
CCBox Call Help Desk
Call Computer Room
see FAQ CC Office RRS-223
Staff 7.5% 34.1% 49.1% 17.9% 39.5% 7.5%
Student  28.3% 15.1% 11.7% 5.1% 48.4% 12.7%

The quality of our user support services are rated by the respondents and are depicted in the following bar charts:  The satisfaction level of the various channels are in general high. 

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11. Overall Remarks about the Survey

    This user survey has provided us with useful information about our users requirements and their satisfaction of the current IT services.  As in user surveys done in the past, the recent survey revealed that email and network services remain to be the foremost important IT services to our users. While we are pleased to see that most users are very satisfied in these two areas, we will continue to improve these two services with new technologies and enhanced functionalities, e.g. an enhanced webmail version which handles multi-lingual email better.  Spam filtering continues to be a challenge as spammers are finding new ways to spam everyday. We will continue to improve our PC laboratories, user support services and other aspects.  Owing to limited space, the crowdiness of PC laboratories is often a problem and we request our users to cooperate to work tidily so that all users can have a good working environment.  The opening hours of the Help Desk at Room RRS-104 has been extended and it is now open during lunch time.  Users can also leave phone messages at the Help Desk phone 24 hours a day after office hours, and the calls will be followed up the next working day.

    The free-text comments and suggestions made by our respondents are consolidated and edited for brevity and consistency of style. Please click the following links to see the users' comments.  Some of these comments are actually enquiries or questions for the Help Desk. If you had submitted an enquiry which you had not found the answer yet, please send it to

    On behalf of Computer Centre , I would like to thank all those who have participated in this survey which enables us to work together in bringing about more enhanced computer services to make the best use of IT technologies to support the teaching, learning and research activities of the University.