Research on Localisation Strategies for Imported Online Curriculum Resources

Han Yanhui

School of Foreign Languages, Open University of China, Beijing,100039

Abstract: During the 21st century, the rapid globalisation process has brought both opportunities and challenges to open and distance education. The opposite of globalisation is localisation. Importing globalised quality curriculum resources brings to light the issue of localisation. The Strategic Plan for the Open University of China points out that the requirements for importing excellent digital educational resources and cultivating globalised talents put forward in the National Outline for Medium and Long-Term Educational Reform and Development (2010-2020) are due to be implemented. The three pure-online educator training courses developed by the Open University of China(OUC) and Open University, UK(OUUK) (hereinafter referred to as “The Three Courses”) are an example of a successful attempt to do this. Effective localisation strategies deserve further study in order to offer new perspectives and suggestions for importing curriculum resources in the future. The semi-structured interviews common in the west were employed during the study. The qualitative research has led to localisation strategies such as  ‘limited localisation’ and ‘internationalised localisation’, which has not been formulated in the literature. The strategies will be helpful in guiding the import of resources from abroad by the OUC and other educational institutions and enterprises.

Key words: pure-online courses, localisation strategies, imported resources, open university

Chinese Library Classification Number: G434    Document code: A

* This paper is one of the phased research fruits of the “Research on the Localisation of Foreign Curriculum Resources” (Project Approval Number: G11AQ0009Z), a key project of the CCRTVU in 2011.

I. Introduction

In 2010, the National Outline for Medium- and Long-Term Educational Reform and Development (2010-2020)(hereafter referred to as “The Outline”) issued by the State Council clearly proposed that China should “learn from international advanced educational concepts and educational experiences to promote educational reform and development, enhance China’s international status, and increase the competitiveness of education in China …introduce excellent education resources; attract well-known overseas schools, educational, and research institutions and enterprises to cooperate in establishing educational, teaching, training, and research institutions or projects; explore various ways to leverage outstanding overseas education resources.”[1] In addition, The Outline points out that digital learning resources should be integrated through such means as direct introduction, reprocessing, purchasing, and cooperation, so as to realize the rapid expansion in quantity and continuous enhancement in quality …” [2]Learning resource construction is listed among the four key construction projects as part of the future construction of the OUC, in order to implement The Outline’s requirements for importing overseas digital education resources and training international people. Since the official launch of the three courses, which were aimed at training online educators (eTutors) and were jointly developed by CCRTVU (OUC) and OUUK since 2009, they have won unanimous praise from the trainees in the RTVU system and the online education schools in universities, as well as the staff in charge of e-Learning training within enterprises. The research on the localisation strategies for the three pure-online digital resources appears to be of particular significance, and their valuable experience and strategies will play a leading role in the construction of the OUC’s own “outstanding digital learning resources”.

When talking about localisation, we cannot exclude globalisation. In the 21st century, the pace of globalisation has been continuously increasing. The rapid development of information and communication technologies has had a tremendous impact. The knowledge-driven economic and social development as well as increased regional competition are creating educational reforms around the world [3]. There are many descriptions of globalisation and localisation; generally speaking they are relatively close in meaning. Here, we tend to adopt the widely quoted definition by Cheng Yin Cheong: “Globalisation refers to the transition, adaptation and development of values, knowledge, technologies and standards of conduct among countries and societies around the world. Insofar as education is concerned, the phenomena and features of globalisation mainly include the globalised network (such as the Internet), the technical, social, cultural and academic transformation and the flow among the aforementioned elements, as well as international alliances and competition, international cooperation and exchanges. The outstanding examples in the globalisation of higher education include web-based learning, international partnerships for teaching and learning in the levels of groups, classes and individuals, the transnational interaction and sharing through video conference systems, and so on”[4]. “The Three Courses” can be considered a typical successful example of web-based learning. However, when the teaching objects of “the three courses” are Chinese students in related fields, localisation is inevitably involved. Cheng Yin Cheong believes that “localisation refers to the transition, adaptation and development of related values, knowledge, technologies and standards of conducts happened from/to the local contexts. The features and examples of localisation include the localized network, the improvement of the external technical, social, cultural and learning initiatives carried out for local communities, the development of local culture and satisfaction of community requirements and expectations. The significance of localisation in higher education is to maximize educational correlation in the development of localisation and to provide support for communities and various resources. The development of new course content related to the technical, social, cultural and learning aspects in the society has gained more and more attention” [5] At the strategy level, higher education is still at the exploratory stage in terms of globalisation and localisation [6] A coherent globalisation strategy in higher education has yet to be developed, and the same can be said of a localisation strategy. In terms of globalisation, we can only borrow theoretical perspectives from the aspects of business, politics, and international relations, such as the World Systems Theory, Polity Theory, World Culture Theory, and Neo-Liberal Theory. Of these, World Culture Theory, whose central argument is that the world is becoming more and more convergent in culture and that Western culture seems to have become the basis of cultural influence and transition, is possibly the most relevant theory to the globalisation and localisation of higher education.