Wu Wancai, Senior Auditor, Deputy Director of Organization & Personnel Department, Gansu Open University
Overseas Based University: the University of Nottingham
Advisor: Simon McGrath
Study Area: Comparative Research on Quality Assurance in Distance Education between China and the UK
Learning UK's Experience to Serve the Cause of Open Education in Gansu Open University
—A Report about My Visit to the University of Nottingham
I'm Wu Wancai, from Gansu Open University, one of the members who participated Sino-British Distance Education Project in 2007. I have enjoyed myself immensely and benefited greatly from this study in the UK. I appreciate the Sino-British Fellowship Trust giving me this good opportunity to study here. Thank you very much.
Outline of Activities
During I stay at the University of Nottingham, I attended or conducted the following activities:
- Conducted research work
My research subject is Comparative Research on Quality Assurance in Distance Learning between China and the UK, now I finished my research report. The report examines the similarities and differences between the OUC and OUUK, comparing external and internal quality assurance in the two distance education institutions. Through this comparative research, the report concludes with a list of recommendation for quality assurance in the OUC.
- Read books and online resources on distance learning
During I studied at Nottingham University, I read a lot of books and online resources on distance learning, such as Material Development in Distance Education, Quality Assurance in Distance Education, Distance Learning Principles for Effective Design, Delivery, and Evaluation, Open Education Policies and Practices, Learning Support in Distance Learning and so on.
- Attended lectures arranged by the Centre
I listened to lectures such as Lifelong Learning Management, Education Research Method. In class, I tried to participate in their activities, discussed questions with teacher and students. At the same time, I absorbed something interesting, such as teaching skills, teaching methods, teaching mode and so on.
- Meetings with distance education experts
I met with Prof. Bernadette Robinson, Prof. W J Morgan, Prof. Josie Taylor and Tony Fisher, learning and exchange viewpoint on adult education and distance education with them.
- Took part in seminars held by the Centre
During I stay at the Center, I took part in seminars on education held by the Center, such as Formal Learning and Informal Learning, Higher Education and Labour Force Market in China, Sino-Africa Education Cooperation and so on.
- Visits to distance education institutions
I visited the Open University in the UK, the Open University in the East Midlands, and the Adult Education Centre of Nottingham University. During my visit, I listened to the introduction of the university, discussing questions with staff at all levels, exchanging viewpoint with them.
Enlightenment from My Study
In the process of my study, I came to understand the great difference between Chinese and British distance education, such as internal quality assurance, training of part time tutors, and the monitor of assignments, we may get some enlightenment from the experience of British distance education.
- Enhance internal quality assurance
The Open University of the United Kingdom (OUUK) is subjected to the national "quality framework" for qualification. At the same time, OUUK has set up its own Quality Assurance (QA) Framework, which is consistent with the national Frameworks for QA in Higher Education and Credit Guidelines for Higher Education (HE) Qualifications. The QA Framework of OUUK provides a guide to the structural and procedural arrangements for internal quality assurance. The OUUK also set up a centralized total quality management system to coordinate and oversee the implementation of QA activities university-wide based on policies and guidelines formulated by QA-related boards or committees. Such as Quality Assurance and Enhancement Committee and Academic Governing Body. Combining internal quality assurance with external plays an important role in ensuring high quality of distance education in OUUK.
China OUs should learn from OUUK, comply with external quality assurance policies and rules, setting up internal quality framework, integrating external quality assurance system into the general university policy, providing a guide to the structural and procedural arrangements for internal quality assurance in OUs of China. At the same time, set up a centralized total quality management system to coordinate and oversee the implementation of quality assurance activities in OUs of China.
- Pay attention to part time tutors development
In OUUK, there are 8000 part-time tutors. Large numbers of tutors create the need to ensure quality and consistency across the university. In OUUK, tutors are carefully selected, trained and monitored thoroughly to ensure consistency of the quality and level of teaching. The OUUK has established staff development programme for its tutors. The programme aims to treat tutors as equal professionals, giving tutors payment for up to 2 days per annum of training and development. The OUUK also produces an extensive range of staff development and reference materials for its tutors. New tutors are paired with peer mentors with whom they can discuss their work and arrange mutual attendance at each other's tutorials.
Part time tutors play important role for quality assurance in open distance learning. In recent years, China OUs attaches great importance to full time academic staffs development, launched pragammes for full time academic staff development, but lack of training for part time tutors. OUs in China should pay attention to part time tutors development, set up mechanism of part time tutors training, make training plan, implement training activities for part time tutors, including concept of modern distance education, modern education technology, rules and regulation of OUs, and teaching practice.
- Improve the monitoring of assignments
To ensure that marks given by different tutors are consistent with each other, The OUUK pays attention to the monitoring of assignments. Various statistical aids are provided to course teams and regional staff to enable them to compare the grading profile of an individual tutor with the average grading offered by all tutors and also to trace situations where tutors are late in their marking. All courses have external examiners who work with internal members of Examination and Assessment Boards to provide external scrutiny of its assessment methods and processes and to provide direct experience of relevant standards in other universities. Assignments grading quality of tutors is monitored by staff appointed as monitors. Now, in the OUUK, a new electronic assignment mode is used in assignment management, monitoring can be undertaken electronically where assignments are submitted in this mode.
Assignments assessment is a way to review and evaluate the learning process of learners. China OUs pay attention to the monitoring of student assignments in recent years, but there exit some problems in assignments assessment, such as assignments feedback from teachers is not in time, marks from different tutors are not consistent with each other, and lack of monitoring of assignment grading quality. OUs in China should improve the monitoring of assignments, establish rules of assignments monitoring, and appoint staff to monitor assignment grading quality at branch school of OUs in China, provincial level OUs in China inspect assignment quality from branch school. At the same time, make full use of modern education technology. Build up online assignment mode to manage and monitor assignment.
The four-mouth study has ended, I benefited a great deal from this study. I have improved my research ability, widened my eye shot, established friendship with some distance education experts, and further enhanced my understanding on distance education both in theory and practice. This study is not only useful to my own development, but also helpful to the development of Gansu Open University, I will bring what I have learnt to my working practice to serve the cause of open education in Gansu Open University.