Back in 2003, the Chinese government launched its answer to MIT’s OpenCourseWare project. The “National Quality Course Plan” scoured China’s vast university system and selected 3,000 best-of-breed courses in various subject areas. Then, millions of dollars were earmarked to put lectures and related course materials online, with the hope that other professors could draw inspiration from these resources. But, things didn’t go so well. Apparently roughly 50% of these materials never made their way online. And the materials that did were rarely updated. (More on that here.) Will the project get renewed? Jeff Young, a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, went to China to find out. His report (read it here) is part of a month long series of dispatches that takes you inside Asia’s wired classrooms and high-tech research labs. You can read Jeff’s daily posts from Singapore, China, South Korea, and India throughout this entire month.
Update: One of our readers wrote a thesis on China’s opencourseware initiative and offers much more detail on what went right, and what went wrong. You can download Stian Håklev’s thesis (for free) here, and be sure to check out Stian’s other brainchild, Peer2Peer University, otherwise known more simply as P2PU.
The reality is a lot more complex than this. The project lasted from 2003-2010, and in this period, it enabled over 12,000 open courses (3,000 got the national level distinction, which is the highest one, but there were a large group of courses getting provincial designations, and university level designations).
The main impact of the project wasn’t necessary in the availability of this material, but in the process to create them – professors had to create teaching groups, reflect on their material and update their class teaching, increase the use of technology in their teaching etc.
I just released my MA thesis about this project, where you can find a lot more detail about how the project was created, how it is grounded in the Chinese higher education development during the last fifty years, and case studies from two universities, talking to professors and administrators about the impact of this program: http://reganmian.net/top-level-courses