Right after the Spring Festival, when a festive atmosphere lingered, and a joyful smile still remained on people's faces, Luo Xia, a girl from Hefei, Anhui, seemed perplexed by something, and possessed a frown on her face.

It turned out that her company had just informed her that she would be sent to Shanghai for half a year. As a young girl, it was not easy for her to obtain an opportunity to work in other places. However, as a student of the Open University of China (OUC) for two years, it meant she would now be unable to attend the studies and examinations during herlast semester, if she left Anhui for Shanghai. Her dream to complete her OUC studies might be delayed for half a year. With such a contradiction, Luo Xia went to the tutorial centre she was studying at for help, hoping to find a solution. The centre, after understanding the situation, gave Luo Xia a clear answer: “You can go work in Shanghai. Don’t worry about your studies. We’ll provide network-based quality services and convenient learning assessment methods for you, Luo Xia, and many students like you.”

During the warm spring season of March, a young woman, slightly nervous and excited, was sitting on an express train bound for Shanghai. That girl was Luo Xia. On this train running ahead at full speed, Luo Xia finished her first formative test for the semester, a fierce case study and discussion with her fellow students. She took out her cell phone, opened the OUC’s Formative Test app, entered her account number and password, and soon, a concise and clear user interface unveiled in front of her. In the course discussion area, there were already many students talking warmly with the teacher. The last piece of doubt in her mind was soon lifted the moment she saw these familiar names. Though she was far away from school, the network helped eliminate that geographical distance. Despite the fact that it was the first time she had used a cell phone to participate in a network-based examination, the application’s concise and clear user interface eliminated her worries of strange testing methods. At that moment, Luo Xia firmly believed that her educational dream and her work would take off at the same time...

Soon, May had arrived, and it had been more than two months since Luo Xia had moved to Shanghai for work. During that time, she used her mobile phone to complete three more formative assessments, including strengthening knowledge points, and a comprehensive study of knowledge gained through various exercises, such as single and multiple choice tests, fill in the blanks, short answers, and case studies. All of these helped Luo Xia experience the advanced technology of network examinations, as well as the serious and responsible attitudes, professional disciplinary knowledge, and scientific design of papers by teachers. "Ring, Ring." A message pushed from the test platform app attracted the Luo Xia’s attention. She found a reminder that her case analysis in her last assessment was reviewed by the teacher, who confirmed her analysis method, but pointed out the lack of demonstration in the process, and other places for improvement. "Today, I learned another new lesson." Another heavy burden was lifted from Luo Xia.

June in southern Chinese cities is blazingly hot. Tension also arose from this season of testing learning outcomes. Because Luo Xia was in a foreign place, and was kept busy with her job, she felt worried that she might not have time for the final exam. Right at that time, a piece of good news came to her: in order to facilitate students taking exams, the OUC headquarters launched a flexible means for students, allowing OUC divisions to arrange final examinations at any time within a two month period specified by headquarters. Students could choose their own examination time within the time period specified by their division, take tests several times for a single course, and utilize the highest performance recorded. Luo Xia quickly took a screenshot of the OUC’s document on examinations, and sent it to her class teacher in Anhui through WeChat, and the teacher replied in the affirmative. To implement its spirit of making study convenient for students, the OUC’s Anhui branch would open a month's examination period, including weekends. Students could sign up and take examinations at any time, either at the division’s site, or at examination centres at the provincial level. With true inner joy and excitement, on a weekend morning Luo Xia set foot on a train bound for Hefei, and successfully completed the final exams for all of her courses that semester. Due to the fact that Luo Xia had participated actively in online tests, she had grasped a more solid foundation of knowledge, and her final exam results for the semester were significantly improved.

Luo Xia couldn’t help but share her feelings with her friends. The OUC’s network-based formative assessments (or process assessment, commonly known as homework) and final examinations (examinations held at the end of terms) were the solution to her time conflict between work and examinations. The newly implemented flexible test times truly reflected a humanistic approach to education. "Humanised examination arrangements, convenient assessment means, professional assessment content design, and serious and responsible teachers are all components of the network- based assessment I experienced, and a true portrayal of the OUC, my alma mater. Humanistic care, convenience, professionalism, and responsibility", said Luo Xia, describing her the OUC with a happy smile. (Adapted from a true story - Luo Xia is a pseudonym.)

By Luo Xiang and Pan Jiaoping , OUC