Open Access Capstone
Universities by tradition are established to teach, conduct research, and provide services to communities. With the computer and modem, the classrooms and ivy-covered walls of today's colleges are becoming artifacts of education "as it used to be." What we call "non-traditional" today because they are delivered through various distance learning technologies (computer, videotape, correspondence etc.) will become the preferred delivery system for education in the 21st century. Especially in developing countries, open universities are playing a more important role than tradition ones to make higher education available to more people--especially adults--principally through a system of open access and distance education.
Launched in 1981, the Self-Taught Higher Education Examinations Program (SHEE) is a component of the higher education system of china. SHEE, run by the National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA), provides an alternative way to obtain diplomas for people who cannot access the general universities and colleges. It is a form of higher education combining independent study, social assistance, and state examinations. It has been claimed as the world's largest self-study higher education system with 56 of every 10,000 people in the country having attended self-study examinations for the equivalent of a college diploma. All the citizens of the People's Republic of China (PRC), regardless of sex, age, ethnic group, race, or level of education, can take the examinations. Basically, SHEE is not only an examination system but also a type of open university of distance education system. One of its apparent weaknesses is that there is not a campus with the education. The examinees or the students lack enough guidance in their learning process. It is hard for them either to find partners to communicate or facilities such as libraries and labs to utilize. Under these circumstances, the promotion of learning assistance has become the focus of the system.
The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) is the Global membership organization of educational institutions, national and regional associations, corporations, educational, authorities and agencies in the fields of open learning, distance education, and flexible, life-long learning. Founded in 1938, the mission of the ICDE is to help provide education for students and children living far away from schools. The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) has become over the years the global membership organization in the field and is now (in 2002) present in 142 countries. The majority of its membership is composed of educational institutions at all levels (schools, colleges, universities), but it also includes national and regional associations, corporations, educational authorities and agencies, active in open, virtual and distance learning.
Universitata Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) (Catalonia, Spain) is a virtual university with a global and pioneering focus. UOC offers use of information and communications technologies (ICT). This enables it to overcome barriers imposed by time and space and to offer model of education based on personalized attention for each student. At the UOC, students, professors, and administrators interact and cooperate on the Virtual Campus, making a university community which uses the Internet to create, structure, share, and disseminate knowledge.
Since 2001, ICDE, UOC, and NEEA have worked on a project entitled "Developing EU-China e-learning Model and Capacities," which has been financially aided by the Council of Europe. The purpose of the project is to promote the e-learning in China by introducing the leading technology and experience in distance education and e-learning of European countries. The project consists of three phases: (1) a study comparing and contrasting the distance education systems and current situations in China and EU, (2) development of a model for virtual education in China, where three questions regarding three aspects are answered: content, teaching methodology, and delivery technology, (3) the development and testing of a platform.
The current paper will track and summarize the research activities conducted during the project and explore the education theory and models involved in the project. The advantages and disadvantages, feasibilities and difficulties of e-learning will be discussed as well.