Chen Weihong, Associate Professor, Faculty of Teacher Education, The Open University of China (OUC)
Overseas Based University: the Open University
Advisor: Uwe Baumann
Study Area: Teaching & Learning of Mathematics and Curriculum Design for Tertiary Institutes in the UK
Thanks to the Sino-British Fellowship for sponsoring my visit in the U.K. Special thanks to Mrs Ely for her kind assistance on a daily-life basis. Thanks to China Scholarship Council for providing my return ticket from China to Britain. Thanks to the Education Section of Embassy of P. R. China for all their support in my life and study here. Thanks to The Open University for providing me great working and research opportunities. Thanks to my supervisor Mr. Uwe Baumann and all my colleagues in the Faculty of Educational and Language Studies of The Open University. And a big thanks to the OU Worldwide, their kind help have enhanced the quality of my research.
As an instructor in Mathematics, the purpose of my visit was to get a better understanding of the curriculum in the British higher education system. In China my classes are designed for students from non-maths disciplines such as Electronics, Mechanics, Civil Engineering, Accounting and Finance. In such courses where we call "General Courses", I teach on Calculous, Linear Algebra, Probability, Statistics and etc. As currently these courses are undergoing amendments both in structure and in contents, we require solid understanding on the Western counterpart to make the new system more beneficial to our students and our society. To achieve my objectives, from the end of July to the end of November I have done the following activities:
- Interviewed experts of The Departments of Mathematics and Computing
The Departments of Mathematics and Computing offer programmes of study in Mathematics, Statistics and Computing which are very highly rated by students. All their courses are offered through Distance Learning techniques, and are fully supported by local tutors. The Departments are also the focus for Research activity. During my 4-month stay at The Open University, I consulted the staff tutors at the Department of Mathematics and Computing. Professor Brannan introduced to me the curriculum in The Open University and other relevant universities. Mr Golodrei from the Oxford Study Centre introduced to me the system to facilitate the students' election of their courses. From my observation, the curriculum and combinations of subjects at The Open University is very flexible, catering the different needs of students from all levels and academic backgrounds, which is different from our system where a common Mathematics course is taught to all students. What The Open University teaches is also different from our system. They emphasize on applications instead of just theoretical and systematic knowledge, they study on cases and their Mathematical implications then lead to conclusions. All these have broaden my horizon.
- Attended staff training
I participated an Italian course (L195) training session for teachers, where I was introduced about the structure of the course team, the course resources, the course website, and tutorial support. Through small team discussions, we formulated the standard of the Assessment, and demonstrated them in OU’s workshops.
- E-learning activities through intranet and Library system
In the OU library, I found all the course related textbooks and teaching materials. I have also read lots of books and periodicals on education and educational technology that I could hardly find in China. The library website provided profound information in just a click away.
- Visited regional centers of the Open University in London
The regional centers of the OU in London helped me in understanding the Open University's tutorial system. Helen and Sarah introduced to me the operation of OU, in respects of course election, teaching and assessments. The comprehensive tutorial system is the key to the success. I have come to understand why the OU is one of the most successful distance educational organizations in the world. From all these activities I could appreciate the accomplishment The Open University has made in higher education, especially distance education. I will surely benefit from my research at The Open University.
Apart from my academic endeavors, I have also visited London, Cambridge, Oxford and Scotland. I went to the universities, churches, and some museums there. I was very much impressed by Britain's rich history and culture (both modern and traditional), and the beautiful natural scenery.
What exceeded my expectations is that I made friends here and also enjoyed the fine foods. I cherish our friendship and thanks to them for helping me with my English. I sure will keep contact with them when I go back home and hope to do something constructional in future.
My visiting at the Open University has broadened my horizon and enhanced my belief in distance education. The OU is an excellent example of the open and distance learning system which has become an indispensable part of the mainstream education. The quality of my teaching and research in the OU will be improved and so will the whole team of my colleagues.
The four months' experience in the U.K has also seen a solid improve of my English skills. My students at OUC will benefit from it too.
For all the above reasons, I consider my visit a very fruitful one. I do appreciate this opportunity.