Editor's notes: "OUC's Reading and Essay Campaign" is the essay collection campaign held annually by the OUC. It was designed to encourage the teaching faculty of the OUC to form a habit of reading books, to inspire them to focus on profound thinking and bold innovation. Through the activity, it is expected to enhance the teaching staffs’ ideological quality as well as the working level of the OUC. We will compile a selection of excellent articles from the 2016 Reading and Essay Campaign, and readers can access these articles from this website.
China's examination system has a long history. It can be traced back to as early as the Sui Dynasty. Since that time, successive dynasties selected talent through the imperial examination system. After over a thousand years of evolution and development, examinations are widely used in today's modern society. They play an indispensable role in talent selection, appraisal, and diagnosis. However, ever since the appearance of the examination, they have been a source of great debate. Many people have complicated feeling about examinations, some think highly of them, some criticize them, some welcome them, and some hate them. Whatever their attitudes are towards examinations, education in ancient and modern times both at home and abroad still relies on examinations. The difference is that the test concept, methods, means, and tools are not invariable, but are changing with the social demands and the development of education.
In July 2012, the Open University was founded and replaced the China Central Radio and TV University. The OUC emancipated the mind, and made reforms and innovations to promote the strategic transition from a radio and television university to an open university. As an indispensable link in RTVU teaching, the examination has always been closely related to major and specialisation design, course construction, student enrolment, teaching, quality standards, and educational systems. Compared with a radio and television university, the OUC has made a great difference in goal development, learner development models, and school management models. The examination model of RTVU has not been applicable to the education demands of the OUC. The OUC's Construction Plan clearly stated that the learning evaluation model should be listed as one of the four key reforms.
In order to build a new model of learning evaluation, in recent years the OUC has taken a series of examination reform measures, and has made phased achievements. To compare the examination changes that happened before and after the founding of the OUC, this article compared several aspects of the open education examinations carried out from 2011 to 2016 to demonstrate the changes in the following aspects.
(I) Examination Concepts
For a long time, the RTVUs have been deeply affected by the "examination-determined assessment" learning evaluation model, which over-emphasised the final examinations, leading to the result that both tutors and students were busy dealing with examinations and ignoring the quality of teaching and student development. Open universities should thoroughly get rid of the bondage of traditional examinations, and think deeply about the purpose of exams while considering their own educational goals and characteristics. They should analyse the examination contents and the examination method. The OUC should fully consider the fact that learners at different levels with unique learning needs have a differentiation in their learning goals, habits, time, and abilities. The university should set up a "student-centered" examination service concept. The aim of the examination is not limited to assessing students' academic performance, but is to give full play to its role in guidance, evaluation, and teaching improvement, as well as supervising, urging, motivating, and cultivating students' autonomous learning. Students should not have to focus on “cramming for examinations,” rather they should be allowed to focus on developing their interests and autonomous learning ability. In addition, the OUC should promote students’ coordinated development of knowledge and capabilities in order to guarantee the quality of the OUC’s talent training.
(II) Examination Design
Since the Ministry of Education (MOE) approved the implementation of the RTVU open education programme in 1999, the MOE has required that "the course examination change from the traditional single summative (final) examination to the examination form of combination of formative evaluation and summative examination". After more than a decade of development, open education at the RTVU generally adopted the combination of formative evaluation and summative examination in the curriculum evaluation design. However, in this model, the formative evaluation contributed only a low proportion to the comprehensive grade (hereinafter referred to as "formative examination ratio"). The formative examination ratio of most of the examination subjects was only about 20% to 30%. The tutors and students focused more on the summative examination.
The OUC's Construction Plan clearly states that they should strengthen the formative assessment, "gradually realising the diversification of evaluation model, shifting from a summative examination-focused model to the formative assessment-focused model". In recent years, the OUC has vigorously promoted the reform of curriculum evaluation, and put forward the integrated design principle of teaching, learning, and assessment, focusing on performing course examinations throughout the teaching process, adopting the combination of formative assessment and final summative examination effectively, and highlighting the formative assessment. To contrast the examination design before and after examination reform, this article selected the 2012 spring semester before the founding of the OUC and the 2016 autumn semester after the OUC was founded to make a comparison of the formative assessment proportion in the unified national examination for the courses in these two semesters, and then made a statistical analysis of the results. It can be concluded that on the whole, the proportion of the formative examination has notably increased, and many subjects adopted a 100% complete formative assessment.
The increasing proportion of formative assessments reflected that in the course examination design, the OUC has focused more on formative assessment. By improving the learning assessment process, the OUC can get timely evaluation and feedback on the student learning process. This results in an enhancement in the teaching management process as well as an improvement in student learning ability and quality. Consequently, there is an overall advancement in talent development.
(III) Examination Subjects
Since the OUC was founded, many new majors have been set up to cultivate various applied talents for all walks of life. In the 2011 spring term, for example, 92 majors were set up, and in 2016 autumn semester, the number of newly set up majors has reached as many as 148. With the increasing number of majors, the number of newly opened courses has also been increasing. Considering the fact that the time for course setup in separate branches is different, some students may be absent from the examination or may fail the examination and need to retake it. Therefore, all the courses of open education adopted the "rolling" examination, i.e. , the OUC held exams for courses in the current semester and those in past semesters. Written examinations and online examinations for courses are available for students to choose. Therefore, in the past five years, the number of examination courses in each semester has been increasing. The number has reached 1,420 in 2016 for the autumn semester. The increase in examination subjects has increased the workload for the personnel of examination affairs management of the universities, and also brought on some management challenges.
(IV) Examination Time
Formative assessment tasks are generally accomplished in stages during the teaching process. Formative assessments can be carried out autonomously by students according to their own schedule. The tasks do not need to be handled at a specified time and place. For the summative (final) examination, except a few subjects that adopt open testing such as delivering a piece of work, an essay, or a big project, most of the subjects adopted a written or online test. That is, you need to independently take a proctored examination at a specified location. The examination time arrangement is affected by many factors, such as the teaching cycle, examination subjects, the number of applicants, and the examination site capacity. To minimise the conflict among examinations, work, and family for adult learners, the OUC has made various reform measures in examination means, organisation, and implementation. They have arranged suitable times for written and online tests.