In recent years, RTVUs in China have shifted their focus from degree education to equal priority on both degree education and non-degree education; from school education to the simultaneous promotion of school education and social education; from teaching to parallel development of teaching and research; and from closed self-development to open coordinated development. Against this background, and faced with enrolment pressure and fierce market competition, in recent years, Qinghai Radio and TV University (RTVU) has created a new internet-based layout relying on the modern distance education network platform to advance employee education, community education, senior citizen education, and various other types of training.

“One body with two wings”: Simultaneous promotion of degree and non-degree education

Upon opening the Qinghai distance education service platform, you will see a range of quality e-learning teaching resources covering all the course teaching contents of 83 junior college and undergraduate programmes and specialties of adult higher vocational education, which greatly satisfies the learning needs of the students. The resources for 919 courses in 27 categories, including forestry, architecture, industry, computer, culture, and news media are available on the learning network for public need courses. Continuing education trainings for public need courses and specialised courses can be provided for about 60,000 professionals in six ethnic minority autonomous prefectures and the city of Haidong in Qinghai Province.

This is a major step that Qinghai RTVU has made on its way to leveraging the internet for its transformation.

For nearly 40 years, Qinghai RTVU has been providing high quality education to people who need to upgrade their educational level and has trained batch after batch of talented professionals “who are willing to stay behind and work hard at the grassroots level.”

However, with the rapid development of higher education and vocational education in Qinghai in recent years, the RTVU has been faced with a series of difficulties, such as small operational space, outdated disciplines and majors, declining enrolment, and weak research capacity.

What is the way out of this predicament?

“[Qinghai RTVU] must focus on the upper echelon, support the lower echelon, and win over the middle echelon. As required by the Party and government, we have to take the initiative. This is the only way for us to strive for transformational development”, vice president of Qinghai RTVU, Duan Hongwei, said.

The upper, lower and middle echelons mentioned by Duan Hongwei refer to the age structure of the learners, that is to say, the retired seniors, children in communities, and all the social public from all walks of life, which are all the RTVU’s potential teaching and support targets.

Through continuous exploration, the CPC Qinghai Committee and administrative leadership proposed making the development of degree and non-degree vocational training the body, support for basic education and non-degree vocational education the two wings, and the focus on community education and old age education as the extension.

With their direction clarified, the solution became increasingly clear. In the space of just a couple of years, Qinghai RTVU has reached out to many different professions and trades by aiming at the need for transformation and upgrading in traditional industries and the development of emerging industries. In addition, they have focused on technological improvement, skill optimisation, career shifts, and urban integration, including orientation programmes and on-the-job training for employees in various work institutions at different levels, continuing education for professionals, and vocational training for rural credit system of banks and film dubbing studios.

“It has been proven in practice that degree and non-degree education are like the two wheels of a car and the two wings of a bird. A university can’t be called a university if degree education is ignored. Likewise, a RTVU can by no means complete its mission or give play to its function if attention is not paid to non-degree education. Therefore, more attention should be paid to non-degree education while insisting on developing degree education in the RTVU’s transformational development”, vice president of Qinghai RTVU Xin Quanzhou said.

“Upgrade using the internet”: Simultaneous offline and online education

When I met with vice director Su Shaoyan from the teaching affairs office, he was discussing the school’s “six-network integration teaching reform” with colleagues in the online technology centre. This will be a highlight of Qinghai RTVU’s work agenda this year.

“Compared with regular universities, RTVUs use a modern multi-media approach and online education is just regular work for us. Therefore, we have made use of the mass of quality teaching resources and worked together to build online teaching teams and to develop and share course and learning resources. Unified instruction that supports the objectives is given through online tutorship, question and answer sessions, and assignment reviews,” Su Yan said.

So far, Qinghai RTVU has founded eight prefectural and prefectural city RTVUs, and 16 county level RTVUs and tutorial centres. Faced with the distinctive school situation of “multiple sites, wide coverage, and varied majors”, the 60 plus full-time and part-time teachers in the university were incapable of dealing so many classes simultaneously if on-the-spot teaching was required for all the majors.
Since 2014, Qinghai RTVU has reinvested 4.37 million yuan based on existing online resources. It has built a provincial public service platform of distance education that allows students to learn and take exams anytime, anywhere.

The students are the most direct beneficiary from the internet-upgraded teaching. Today, distance teaching platforms such as live classrooms, cloud classrooms, and two-way video systems have made two-way video interactive teaching a reality for the students. At present, Qinghai RTVU has conducted over 70,000 online education learning and examinations sessions; online continuing education has been provided to nearly 150,000 senior administrators in government institutions and provincial enterprises; and about 20,000 citizens can benefit from online courses at home.

Rebranding: Integration of self-improvement and external vitality

Due to its school running characteristics, Qinghai RTVU had formed its own isolated system devoid of exchange and contact with the outside world, upper level departments, and its peers. “The closed door of the open university” became a necessary obstacle to overcome.

“We must understand the characteristics of the internet plus era and the need for online learning among RTVU students to transform development and to increase the appeal of the RTVU education. We must continue to innovate our work methods to open up online education with new media and new technologies,” Qinghai RTVU Party secretary Pang Xiaoling said.

Qinghai RTVU has adhered to “complementary development”, enhanced its foundational disciplines by relying on the resources of the Open University of China (OUC) and universities in the province, independently developed the “bilingual Tibetan and Chinese” specialised major, and applied to include the major into the enrolment of the OUC major series. It the future, it will add specialised majors like ecological protection, tourism services, internet of things engineering, e-commerce, business Arabic, and the application of Tibetan computer technology. In addition, the university has promoted teaching through research. In the last three years, the university has been granted four national social science fund projects and 18 provincial research projects. Furthermore, a partner assistance and cooperation relationship has been established with Shanghai Open University and Jiangsu Open University to improve the university’s overall educational capacity.

By China Education Daily