Results of Computer Centre User Survery 2000 


An academic computing services survey  was conducted at the end of last year from December 22, 2000 to January 31, 2001 to assess the requirements and satisfaction levels of the computer services provided by the HKU Computer Centre . This is a report of the results and findings of the user survey.

A web form of this survey was launched on our intranet so that this survey was accessible from the campus network, PC laboratories, ACEnet, Hallnet, from homes via the PPP connection, and from external networks via the VPN service. Users enter their responses in the form, and the data was captured in an Oracle database.  The data was then analysed with the SAS package (Statistical Analysis System) available on the HKUSUA server. The results of the analysis are then presented in graphical format using the Excel program.

About the respondents
The survey was participated by 727 respondents with 194 staff and 533 students. By ranking the number of respondents by faculty/departments, 60% of the respondents come from the faculties of Arts, Science, Medicine and Engineering. Table 1 shows the ranking of respondents by faculty/department and Table 2 shows the distribution of staff and students.

Table 1

Participating Faculties # of Respondents % of Total
Faculty of Arts 134 18.4%
Faculty of Science 118 16.2%
Faculty of Medicine 103 14.2%
Faculty of Engineering 83 11.4%
Non-Faculty Academic Units 68 9.4%
Faculty of Social Sciences  61 8.4%
Faculty of Education 32 4.4%
Admin Departments 29 4.0%
Faculty of Business and Economics 28 3.9%
Libraries, Service depts, residence halls 23 3.2%
Faculty of Architecture 20 2.8%
Faculty of Law 15 2.1%
Faculty of Dentistry 13 1.8%
Table 2
Staff/student status # of Respondents % of Total
Staff (teaching and non-teaching) 194 26.7%
Students (undergraduates and post-graduates) 533 73.3%
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Importance and Satisfaction of Overall Computer Services
Users were asked to  rate the following services on a scale of 1 to 5 with:
     Importance (1= not at all important, 5= most important, 0= not applicable)
     Satisfaction (1= not at all satisfied, 5= most satisfied, 0= not applicable)

For importance and satisfaction of each of the above services, counts of people who responded with ratings of 3-5 were added together.  This count was then expressed as a percentage of the total respondents (727).  For example, 661 responded with 3-5 to the importance and 631 to the satisfaction of the e-mail service,  and so, for the e-mail service, the important is 90.9% and satisfaction is 86.8%.

Table 3 shows the combined analysis of staff and students where the computer services are listed in descending order of importance.

Table 3

Computer Service Importance Satisfaction
E-mail service (Eudora, Pine... etc.) 90.9% 86.8%
Connecting to the Internet from the campus 90.4% 81.8%
Connecting to the HKU network via PPP dial-up 86.1% 45.1%
User Support (Help Desk and other help services) 76.3% 64.4%
Connecting to the LAN file servers 59.3% 53.9%
Training courses for users 55.0% 42.5%
Using microcomputers in PC laboratories 49.4% 43.7%
Using the Unix host computers 41.3% 41.4%
When the importance and satisfaction of staff and students were analysed separately, we see that the ranking is somewhat different between staff and students. The main difference is in the use of the PC laboratories which is important primarily to students. Table 4 shows the separate analysis of staff and student responses.

Table 4

 Computer Service  Staff Responses Students Responses
   Importance  Satisfaction  Importance  Satisfaction
E-mail service 96% 92% 89% 85%
Connecting to Internet from campus 88% 83% 91% 81%
Connecting to the HKUPPP network  80% 48% 88% 44%
User Support 81% 68% 74% 63%
Connecting to the LAN file servers 62% 57% 58% 53%
Training courses 63% 49% 52% 40%
Using the PC laboratories 23% 19% 59% 53%
Using the Unix host computers 37% 31% 43% 45%

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About Network Services
The following questions were asked about the use of the email service. Results of the analysis of responses are presented in the figures below.

Interestingly, the use of email programs Eudora and Webmail differ significantly between staff and students as shown in Table 5. The use of other email programs are about the same.

Fig 1 
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Fig 4 
Table 5
 E-mail program used Eudora Webmail Netscape/Outlook Pine and others
Staff 41% 19% 31% 9%
Student  2% 58% 31% 9%
Users were asked how many hours per week do they use the various venues to access the HKU network and the Internet. In Table 6, column 1 lists the various networks, column 2 shows the percent of total respondents (727) who use that particular network, column 3 shows the overall mean hours/week of network usage, columns 4 and 5 show the mean hours/week of staff and students respectively.  From this table, we can see that staff use the campus network more than students while students use the PPP network more than staff.  Also, for ACEnet and especially the Hall network, students use them more than staff.  For the VPN network, the use of it is about the same between staff and students

Table 6

Network Service % Total Respondents (727) Overall Mean Staff Mean Student Mean
HKU campus network 87% 12 hours/wk 21 hours/wk 8 hours/wk
HKU PPP network 83% 9 hours/wk 6 hours/wk 10  hours/wk
ACEnet  41% 5 hours/wk 3 hours/wk 6  hours/wk
Hall network  24% 22 hours/wk 4 hours/wk 27 hours/wk
HKU VPN network  20% 5 hours/wk 3 hours/wk 5 hours/wk
For the dial-up service, the peak usage period generally occurs between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. in the morning. During this period when all lines (over 800) are in full use, users may have to re-try a number of times before a connection can be made. Users are therefore asked how many times do they try before they get connected during peak hours. Figure 5 shows the overall responses while Table 7 shows the separate responses of staff and students, reflecting a congestion in the student lines.
Fig 5 
Table 7
 PPP tries for connection in peak hours once twice 3 times 4 times 5 times +
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About Host Computers
Host computers generally refer to HKUSUA for student accounts and HKUCC for staff accounts.  Users were asked what do they use their host computer account for.  56% of all respondents use their host account for e-mail. That is why the host computer is also referred to as the e-mail server.  In the following table, users indicate that they use their host computer account primarily for e-mail, for storing data files and launching their personal homepage. A smaller proportion of users use their host computer accounts for running packaged or custom-developed programs.

Table 8

What do you use the host account for # of Respondents % of Total
Store data files
Personal homepage
Run packaged programs
Run self developed programs
Users were asked how many hours per week do they use their host computer, if they find the disk space allocation for their host account sufficient, and about the backup and restore service for their host accounts.  Results of the analysis of host computer services are presented in the figures below.
Fig 6 
Fig 7 
Fig 8 
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About Microcomputer Laboratories
This section assesses the users' satisfaction of the PC's in the laboratories.  Students were asked many hours per week do they use the microcomputers in the PC laboratories, their satisfaction of the laser printing service in the PC laboratories. And if the users had joined our computer equipment maintenance service, how they would rate our maintenance service.  (Please read about our technician service in another article). Results of analysis of the microcomputer laboratories are presented in the figures below.

In Figure 10, the rating of the printing service in the PC laboratories is done mostly by students as this question is responded by 70% of the students and only 19% of the staff.

In Figure 11, we see the rating of our PC maintenance service.  Although this question was originally intended for users of our technicians' service for repairing the PC's in the staff's offices, many students used this opportunity to give us feedback on the PC maintenance service in the PC laboratories. This service is rated by 22% of the staff and 33% of students.

Fig 9 
Fig 10 
Fig 11 
Table 9 shows the usage (hours per week) of the PC laboratories which are used predominantly by students.

Table 9

PC lab usage (hours/wk) Never < 2 hours 2-6 hours 6 hours +
Staff 79% 13% 3% 5%
Students  28% 37% 27% 8%
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About User Support
User support services are venues where users go for solutions of their computer problems, and user training courses organised by Computer Centre . In the following table, we see that there is a difference between staff and students in where they go for help.  The Help Desk is the main source of help for both staff and students.  However, staff tend to call the hot-line to make enquiries while students tend to visit the help desks located in the student laboratories.  For other venues, the CCBox (help service via e-mail) is used more by staff than students while the FAQ's (frequently asked questions) available on the web are browsed more by students than by staff.

Table 10

 User Support  Help Desk CCBox Call hot-line see FAQ
Staff 30% 17% 38% 13% 2%
Students  55% 7% 5% 31% 2%
The Help Desk and CC Box were assessed on the timeliness of response to users' enquiries, their ability to solve users' problems and our staff's attitude. Users were also asked about the usefulness and timeliness of the the Centre's newsletter, the Computer News. The training courses organised by the Centre were also assessed.  Results of these user support services are presented in the figures below.
Fig 12 
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Fig 16 
Fig 17 
Fig 18 
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Fig 20 
The next question is to assess the awareness or use of the Centre's newly developed services by our users.  The new services include the WebCT for e-courses, the wireless LAN for networking, electronic signatures for signing in the university's electronic transactions, the use of the Internet2 research network and the video conference facility.  As these are still emerging technologies, the uses for them are low.  Below are their responses.

Table 11

New Technology # of Respondents % of Total
WebCT e-courses 187 26%
Wireless LAN 88 12%
Electronic Signatures 74 10%
Internet2 Research Network 65 9%
Video-conference 61 8%
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This web survey has proven to be a convenient way to conduct a user survey which is accessible to both staff and students of the University.  The previous Computer Centre survey was conducted separately among staff and students. In the last survey, staff members were polled using paper survey forms and their responses were keyed in the computer by data entry clerks.  In this survey, data was input directly into the computer by both staff and students, thereby saving much effort and paper.  Although we would like to see more respondents in our surveys, this survey was responded by more users (727) than in the last couple of times (677).

Many users have responded freely to the open-ended questions where they were asked for suggestions for improvement for the various computer services. Click here for a list of users' suggestions on how to improve these computer services.

From the analysis of the categorial data and the written comments, we know that the needs of staff and students are different in some specific areas but similar in most areas.  The greatest need in academic computing is still in the area of information services and email communications.  The PPP dialup network is an important service to all and there is a need for improvement of this service for students. This means that we must focus our efforts on maintaining a fast and reliable network infrastructure and develop more convenient modes of access to the network.

In the area of user services, the first line for enquiries is still the Help Desk and the hot-line phone.  More resources need to be put in the Help Desk during busy seasons (e.g. at the beginning of a new term).  Computer training courses should be made more available to students.  This means changing the present training schedules to suit the students.  The FAQ's need to be updated more with timely and accurate information and its use promoted among staff users. The student laboratories need improvement in upgrading the PC's and providing a better laser printing service for the students.

We will continue our efforts in seeking additional support from the University to implement the highly demanded facility enhancements and service improvements which have major resource implications.

We thank all the respondents for taking the time to answer the questionnaire and giving us your feedback.

Mabel Chau
Tel: 2859 8934
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