From the second to the twelfth of September 2010, an exchange delegation from the Open University of China (OUC) visited Japan and Korea. In Chiba, Japan, the delegation attended the second OUJ, OUC and KNOU International Seminar on Distance Education, with discussion centring on the professional development of teachers and support services for distance learning. In addition, the delegates visited the Study Centre of the Open University of Japan (OUJ) to learn about the centre's operations and management situation. The delegation visited the Korea Cyber University, exploring in depth the current status of Korea's online learning development and curriculum design. The delegation also explored avenues for future cooperation.
At the seminar, delegates of the three countries' open universities discussed support services for distance learning and teachers' professional development from a practical perspective. In regard to support services for distance learning, representatives from the OUC argued that research was needed on what kind of teaching and examination reforms could advance the development of open and distance education and more effectively motivate open university students. Representatives from the OUJ pointed out that in the face of an ageing and structurally unstable population, there was a need to adjust teaching strategies and to investigate how to better meet the needs of students. Representatives from Korea National Open University (KNOU) expressed concern over the high ratio of students to teachers, with a shortage of teachers being an evident problem. Representatives expressed a need to research how to promote student retention through the use of assistant counselors and other such methods. As for professional development among distance education teaching staff, representatives from the OUC felt that the professional development of teaching staff was mono-linear and lacked overall planning and effective management. They added that there was a need to research overall planning and mechanisms for the professional development of teaching staff. Representatives from the OUJ argued that the university was not supportive enough of professional development among their teaching staff and needed to look into different options for the professional development of teachers. Delegates from the KNOU remarked that there was no driving force for the professional development of teachers, and that they found the use of media and training methods unattractive. Accordingly there is a need to research by what means the enthusiasm and energy with which teaching staff participate in activities relating to professional development could be raised.
In the course of the seminar, the head of the distance education exchange delegation, the Party committee secretary and vice-president of the OUC, Ruan Zhiyong, pointed out that although distance education in China, Japan and Korea might vary in lesson content, teaching methods and modes of management, everyone attending the seminar had undertaken the same mission. Their obligations and aims were the same: to raise standards in popular education, and to meet society's need to enable citizens to study throughout life. For this reason further steps must be taken to strengthen research on specialized subjects for open and distance education, to develop substantive cooperation, learn from each other and develop in unison.
During the seminar, Ruan Zhiyong also held talks with the president of the OUJ, Professor Shi Hongguang, and the president of the KNOU, Professor Zhang Shiyuan. Ruan Zhiyong pointed out that several concrete points of the OUC and the OUJ Cooperation Agreement had yet to be implemented, suggesting that inter-university cooperation could be investigated and developed by a joint OUC-OUJ team. A new action plan could be built upon this foundation. When conditions permit, an agreement with the KNOU could be signed to confirm the substance and methods of cooperation between the universities.
Those attending the seminar also inspected the OUJ's Okinawa study centre and Korea Cyber University. Delegates from Korea Cyber University expressed interest in the development of the OUC's Chinese language teaching programme. The two parties drafted plans to cooperate on the research and development of resources for Chinese language teaching, expressing the desire to sign a cooperation agreement at an appropriate point in the future.
After discussion, it was confirmed that the 3rd OUJ, OUC and KNOU International Seminar on Distance Education in 2011 would be held in Beijing, with plans for an exchange of personnel, curricula and resources and a special research session on quality assurance.
By Li Yawan, the OUC