I. Learner composition
By the end of 2013, there were 3.6763 million active students in the Open University of China (OUC), accounting for 10.37% of active students in universities and junior colleges in China’s higher education sector (including regular institutions of higher education, adult education and online education); the total enrollment of 2013 was 1.088876 million students, accounting for 9.64% of active students (11.292355 million) in universities and junior colleges of China’s higher education sector (including regular institutions of higher education, adult education and online education).
The OUC learners ranged in age from 18 to more than 80. Of them, the largest age group was 18-25, accounting for 44.41%; and the second largest was 26-35, accounting for 38.69%. The proportion of married learners was as high as 61.66%.
The OUC education system covered a wide area with learners all over the desert border areas (proportion of active students: 2.78% in Xinjiang and 2.34% in Gansu), immense forest and grassland areas (proportion of active students: 2.15% in Inner Mongolia, and 1.70% in Heilongjiang), minority ethnic areas (including Xinjiang, Guangxi, Ningxia, Tibet and Inner Mongolia), and the western area (including 14 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, such as Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Tibet and Xinjiang), adding up to 35.66% of the active students (numbering 1.308621 million).
The learners were dominated by on-the-job employees, and they mainly worked in the field of tertiary industries. 76.81% of the active students had jobs (excluding freelancers). The learners were highly concentrated in some industries, and about 62.61% of the employees were engaged in tertiary industries. Of them, the largest group was in education; the second industry was dominated by manufacturing (such as textile and automobile); and the employees in traditional primary industries accounted for 1.26%.
The former radio and television university system has formed an education network covering urban and rural China. The students (at or below prefectural city level) accounted for 67.10% of the active student total. Data from a sample survey showed that the OUC learners living and working in rural areas accounted for 93.29%, but 34.42% of them still had their household registration in townships and villages. It was obvious that their residence was separated from their household registration. Among the active students, those of the One-College-Student-per-One-Village Programme accounted for 5.45% (196,597 students), those from the army accounted for 2.83% (103,982 students), and the disabled accounted for 0.2% (5,984 students). Of the learners, students from special groups, such as army officers, and students from rural areas and other regions lacking educational resources accounted for a relatively high proportion.
Job position mix
The learners were mainly employed as ordinary workers. Sample survey data showed that ordinary employees accounted for 75.00%, middle-level leaders accounted for 13.35%, and decision-making leaders accounted for 11.65%.
II. Motivation of learners
The learning motivation section in the questionnaire is made up of 19 items, including 19 categories of learning needs, which belong to three dimensions, namely cognitive drive, self-enhancement drive and affiliated drive. By adopting the five-point Likert scale, the general options are divided into Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree, Strongly disagree and with a score of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 respectively. The higher the scores, the higher and stronger the learners’ motivations are. Analysis of the investigation results showed the learning motivations of the learners are of a diversified nature, and the major learning motivations are to satisfy the need to improve self-quality and to adapt oneself to the needs of social life.
The learning motivations are generally strong and several items of learning needs are highly scored.
Generally speaking, the learners have strong learning motivations, and 8 items of learning needs are scored at or above 4. They are respectively the needs to improve self-quality, to adapt oneself to social life, to get a diploma, to improve one’s individual competence, to seek knowledge, to realize self-accomplishment, to find jobs and improve jobs, and to enrich life (by the high-to-low order of the average scores). In contrast, some emotional motivations, such as to realize self-respect and emotional needs, are scored rather low (nearly or lower than 3 scores), which are not the major learning motivations.
Inner motivation predominated among OUC learners, including the needs to improve self-quality, to adapt oneself to the needs of society, to improve one’s individual competence, and to seek knowledge. The learners have a strong self-enhancement drive.
With the increase of age, the intensity of learning motivations are weakening.
The mean value of learning motivation scores of learners below 20 years of age was 3.95, while that of learners at or above 40 was 3.68. The difference of motivations among the learners of different age groups lay in the needs to improve income, for the improvement of family life quality, emotion, change of social status, social exchanges, the expectation of parents and others. Young people at or below 30 years of age thought highly of the needs to satisfy the expectations of parents, to improve income, and to improve the quality of family life. They have an even stronger desire for knowledge. All of them displayed more external motivations.
Learners from different industries had somewhat different learning motivations.
Learning motivations of learners from different industries were somewhat different. Learners from the primary indistries have the strongest learning motivations, and their mean value of learning motivations was 3.92; the next came the learners from the tertiary industries, with a mean value of learning motivations of 3.87; the group with the weakest learning motivations were those from the secondary industries, and the mean value of their learning motivations was 3.82. Due to the fact that the majority of the learners were from the secondary and tertiary industries, a comparison was made on the differences of the two categories of learners in their response to the 19 items of learning needs. According to the difference tests of learning motivations from the groups specified by employment fields, the independent sample t-test was used. The results showed that students engaged in different fields were significantly different in their needs to improve income, to realize self-respect, to get a job or to improve a job, to obtain a diploma, to serve society and to acquire knowledge.
Learners from different areas put emphasis on different learning motivations.
The OUC is a new type of university whose education system covers different regions and industries. It is mainly made up of the headquarters, branches, schools and learning centres. Areas for each-level education institutions are differently distributed. It was the same with the groups to be educated. In general, the Branches have been established in municipalities directly under the Central Government and provincial capital cities, Schools have been set up in prefectures or prefectural level cities, Centres in counties or county-level cities and townships. And different levels of institutions would be geared to learners in different areas.
Learners from different areas (divided into the 6 categories of municipalities directly under the Central Government, provincial capital cities, prefectures or prefectural level cities, counties or county-level cities, townships and rural areas) were differentiated remarkably in the needs of 11 items, including the needs to satisfy the expectations of parents, to get a promotion or a professional title, to serve society, to change social status, to improve income, to acquire knowledge, to realize self-respect, to meet one’s individual interests, to get a job or improve a job, to meet emotional needs, and to get a diploma. What was more, this kind of difference presented some characteristics of linear changes.
The intensity of learning motivations showed a weakening trend in the 6 items of needs to satisfy the expectations of parents, to get a promotion or professional title, to change social status, to improve income, to meet the emotional needs and to get a diploma in the order of municipalities directly under the Central Government, provincial capital cities, prefectures or prefectural level cities, counties or county-level cities, townships and rural areas. The intensity of learning motivations showed a strengthening trend in the 5 items of needs to serve the society, to acquire knowledge, to realize self-respect, to meet one’s own interests, to get a job or to improve a job in the order municipalities directly under the Central Government, provincial capital cities, prefectures or prefectural level cities, counties or county-level cities, townships and rural areas. Learners from urban areas paid more attention to the needs for promotion and professional titles, the change of social status and the expectations of parents; while learners from rural areas paid more attention to the needs to serve society and to acquire knowledge.
(The article is extracted from Distance Education in China (No. 9, 2014); writers of the report are Wang Ying, Zhao Tingting, Zhu Yu, Wang Li, Wei Shunping, Qi Kun and Zhang Fenglong)
Author: the project group of Research and Practice on Quality Guarantee System of the Open University of China