In 2012, the Open University of China was founded based on the existing China Central Radio & TV University. The Ministry of Education’s Approval for the Establishment of the Open University of China, founded through the China Central Radio & TV University proposed that the OUC should "further form an effective quality assurance system."

The quality assurance system is fundamental to ensuring learner development quality, the foundation for ensuring that the school’s quality assurance system is coordinated and effective. Quality construction is critical to the construction of a new type of university. The National Outline for Medium and Long-term Educational Reform and Development (2010-2020) clearly stated, "We should establish a scientific outlook on quality, and make the comprehensive development of human beings, and adaptability to social needs, a fundamental standard in evaluating educational quality." Constantly improving education and teaching quality is now a fundamental task for higher education institutions across China, serving as the starting point and driving force for educational and teaching reform.

From scratch to the first milestone

To improve of the general level of higher education in our country, and adhere to new national requirements, formulating quality standards has become a core component of the OUC’s quality construction work. The quality standard clearly outlines quality and school operations at higher education institutions.

After extensive research and demonstration, the OUC has identified ideal quality standards development: being consistent with OUC learner development characteristics, interactive with international distance education institutions, possessing a scientific and perfect goal.

After the goal is identified, building quality standards from scratch is a difficult problem. The CCRTVU, the predecessor of the OUC, developed and formulated a series of relevant rules and regulations, as well as management requirements, since implementing open education. These rules and regulations have played indispensable roles in ensuring stability in open education teaching processes and quality. To some extent, these rules and regulations, as well as management requirements, are the quality standards for distance open education teaching and teaching management. However, in considering the OUC’s transition orientation and quality assurance, these quality standards are not sound enough, and scientific and perfect quality standards that cater specifically to the OUC’s learners’ development are badly needed.

The founding of the OUC initiated construction of quality standards in 2013. Based on historical and practical experiences, as well as through study of foreign open universities’ quality standards frameworks and common standards, the OUC issued the OUC Quality Standards (Beta 1.0) and OUC Quality Standards (Version 1.0) in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Promulgation of "Beta 1.0" and "Version 1.0"

Everything begins with difficulty. For the OUC to build its own quality standards, it first had to practice "Kopimism" to learn from others. Over the course of a year, the OUC studied and referred to a number of related domestic and foreign distance education institutions and their quality standards framework, such as the AAOU, COL, EADTU, and QAA. The OUC also summarised the practical history of the CCRTVU’s quality standard system. Their hard work finally paid off with their research achievement titled Comparison Study on Quality Standards of International Distance Open Education, published by the CCRTVU in December 2014, marking the first step toward the construction of national quality standards.

Subsequently, the OUC established a framework to draft their own quality standards. The basic framework was based on comparative international research, as well as the results of historical practical research, and formed according to key links and steps in the OUC learner development process. To further framework building, the OUC began to widely solicit opinions from both the OUC headquarters and the open university system, holding several seminars, formulating many drafts, and finally publishing the OUC Quality Standards (Beta 1.0). In July 2015, the quality standards were officially released at a conference of the OUC Quality Assurance Committee. This was the first time the OUC clearly announced quality standards for the teaching process within its system, which provided the foundation for effective implementation of teaching monitoring and steady improvement of teaching quality.

The "Beta version" was created based on CCRTVU practices by referring to existing rules, regulations, and relevant standards. These quality standards require further revision and supplementation in the context of OUC transition positioning and development requirements. With its accelerated pace of construction, after six months of trial operation, in March 2016, the OUC began to collect opinions on the Beta version both from headquarters and branches, making revisions for the module unit. At the end of 2016, the OUC officially released its OUC Quality Standards (Version 1.0). This revision of quality standards modified the names of levels within the OUC system, revised various aspects of work requirements and processes, based on new documents and regulations released since the assessment of the OUC academic degree, and effectively promoted updates to the teaching management standard system, all of which accurately reflect the OUC’s current teaching quality requirements.

Upgrade to "Version 2.0" is expected

The goal of quality standards construction dictate that OUC quality standards must fully reflect its historical mission, as well as characteristics of the new university supported by information technology, and also guarantee the OUC’s future development. In 2016, development work on the “Quality Standards Version 2.0” began. Through literary research, the OUC identified and researched a network of educational institutions that includes colleges and universities, as well as vocational schools, whose quality assurance work have distinct features. The OUC then designed a learner development training template, and asked departments and research sections of certain branches to respond to a questionnaire. That investigation enabled the OUC to create a basic framework for its “OUC Quality Standards Version 2.0,” an expected upgrade to process standards and the OUC’s quality assurance system manual. The manual consists of the main standards, and a number of project modules, which include learner development, process guarantee, and evaluation standards, which jointly form a more sound system of OUC quality standards.

In the near future, a more scientific and perfect set of quality standards consistent with the OUC’s learner development characteristics and international distance education institutions will be presented to faculty and society at large, providing quality guarantees for every OUC learner’s development.

Written by He Dandan, OUC