Address by Zhang Deming, President of Shanghai TV University
Collaboration and Innovation: New Advances with Old Traditions
Thoughts on Doctrines and Development of Shanghai TV University
Shanghai Distance Education Group, China
Shanghai TV University, China
The year of 2003 is turning out to be of extraordinary significance for Shanghai TV University. It is in this year that the number of the enrolled students has topped ten thousand for the first time, and it is in this year that we have been honorably ranked among the world open mega-universities. The year is now witnessing our modern open and distance education, the “towering ship” of the times, embarking upon a new crusade.
Shanghai, the so-called “Paris in the Orient”, has always been one of the most economically vigorous metropolises in China. Forty-three years ago, by resorting to television, the most highly developed technique at that time to broadcast our teaching programs, we set up this university on the Huangpu River and initiated a tentative inquiry and practice in open and distance learning ever since. Forty-three years later, the university, directly facilitated by the Municipal Government of Shanghai, has become one of the members of the consortium, Shanghai Distance Education Group, a new organization as the result of a successful merger of four institutions together with Shanghai Education TV Station, Shanghai E-learning Studio and Shanghai TV Technical Secondary School in an effort to optimize and integrate quality educational resources and to take an advantage position in size and dimension. Shanghai Distance Education Group with open and distance education as its principal cause has been firmly established for the concordant development involving the areas of teaching, media and industry.
For years, we have been dwelling upon and probing into two questions of strategic significance: with the advent of knowledge economy, information age and learning society, what historical mission should we assume and how can we bring forth a new phase to the development of distance education?
Doctrines and Pursuits
As an open mega-university, we firmly believe that its historical mission is to gear to the needs and demands of the city’s social and economic development and to propel and accelerate with our full strength the process of popularization and plebeianization of higher education so as to offer all citizens the opportunity to access higher education and quality learning resources.
Knowledge, skilled and qualified workers and professionals play a key role in the development of modern society. Education whose growing is interactively related to social development must actively adapt itself to social evolution and economic construction. As a span-new phenomenon in the field of modern education, the mega-university has to conform to this fundamental rule so that it will win much more pervasive recognition and support. This is also where our historical mission lies.
Since the policy of openness and reform was adopted in Pudong Economic Zone, Shanghai has witnessed an unprecedented historic leap with a wealth of achievements. After an annual two-digits increase in economy in a succession of over 10 years, Shanghai has set out to bring home EXPO, Fortune Global Forum, APEC, Formula I, Global Movie City, Maglev trains and many other “bests”. It is indisputable that the overall progress of Shanghai has brought about education a historical opportunity to grow.
For these years, Shanghai TV University has been taking the initiative in joining the Training Project for Highly Demanded Professionals in Shanghai. It has been sparing no efforts in setting up its curricula in subjects concerning different academic disciplines, running in succession such new courses as Business Administration, Computer Science and Technology, Logistics Management, Finance, Community Management, Management of Public Services and many others. In the past two years, it has also updated learning materials of about 180 courses and constructed online data banks for 405 courses. At the same time, with its efforts in perfecting distance education technology and learners support services, its has successfully completed the transition from the stage of using TV as the major teaching media to the stage of conducting distance learning via an integration of multimedia system of teaching and tutoring based on a computer networking platform. Besides, it has tentatively facilitated the interaction between specialized courses and professional training projects so as to intensify the training of multifunctional personnel with applied knowledge. As a result, the school has won great support from the society and the government, developing rapidly at a higher speed. Now that Shanghai is heading to becoming one of the world economic and financial centers as well as that of trade and shipping, as an open mega-university, we will adhere to our interactive way of development with that of the society. We are determined to become an irreplaceable force in Shanghai’s effort to construct a life-long education system in a learning city.
As an open mega-university, our second historical mission is to serve for the popularization of higher education in Shanghai. Historically reviewed, education has always been closely correlative with national and individual existence and development. Accordingly, it should be the shared ideal of all mega-universities to make the opportunity of higher education accessible for all average people so as to enable every one to “take off” in their life from the platform of the times.
It is known that Shanghai is a metropolis rapidly developing in its economy and society. It is also known that Shanghai is an extra large city with its 16 million residents and 3 million migrants. We have always held that all opportunities and resources of education should be accessible for all the people in Shanghai. With the support of the government in recent years, we have been making painstaking efforts in constructing Shanghai TV University into “a university without walls” in the Shanghai spirit of openness and commitment to excellence.
In joint efforts with township governments and administration departments, we have set up an open learning system consisting 57 distance learning centers spreading in every corner of the city. The construction of learning resources bank has been facilitating distance autonomous learning and thus alleviated inconvenience for ten thousand on-job adult learners. In cooperation with relevant governmental departments and social organizations, we have established a college for the disabled, which offers a systematic teaching program for 163 learners. Shanghai Traffic Safety School (783 thousand people trained), College for the Aged (over one million learners) are among other programs or projects. As for our various vocational skills training courses, there are ACCA training program in collaboration with Britain and Hong Kong (more than 70 thousand trainees), Project for Test for Computer Literacy and Skills (3.46 million testees) and so on.
In general, many years’ practice in distance education has spoken to us the truth, eloquent in itself that the true value of education only lies in its accessibility to the majority and that it will never be extensively supported by people unless it is geared to the public.
The third historical undertaking of a mega-university is found in its ability to serve for an overall improvement of human beings. The years when people only received education for once in their youth with a lifelong benefit have forever passed. With the rapid emergence of new academic disciplines and new industries, the paces with which new knowledge is in and old knowledge is out are at an inconceivably high speed. Therefore continuous learning has become a life-long demand for every individual. In Shanghai today, as in other places of the world, pursuit of knowledge is becoming an overwhelming upsurge.
The gross retention of enrollment for higher education in Shanghai has already amounted to 51% and this fact, together with the two million participants of non-degree training programs annually, shows that the objective to popularize advanced learning in Shanghai is to be realized. In recent years, participants of non-degree training programs held by Shanghai TV University have reached 500 thousand in number annually and enrollment in degree courses for higher education is increasingly on the rise. By the end of this October, we have already turned out more than 100 thousand graduates at all levels.
We have realized that for a university to be engaged in facilitating life-long learning, not only its teaching contents have to be designed to keep pace with or even take the lead in social development, able to be arranged in the time span of a learner’s entire career life, but also its education should help individual learners with a mechanism of self-betterment and self-perfection so as to cultivate their ability in a sustainable development. In light of this, with their learners in the largest number, equipped with abundant learning resources, open education philosophy and information technology, it is justifiably compulsory for mega-universities to assume the honorable undertaking.
Strategies for Future Development
The Mega-universities have come forth in the process of the popularization and informationalization of higher education. The increasing demand of life-long learning has engendered diversified modes of schooling and thus intensified competition and accelerated decentralization as well as convergence of learning resources in education. The emergence of mega-universities out of the large-scaled operation of resources in higher learning, an inevitable requirement for the sake of development of education itself, echoes the aspirations of our society and our times. And this enlightens us on the point that the further development of a mega-university will not be achieved unless it rigidly follows the ensuing four basic strategies.
1. Making open mega-universities even larger in size
This idea is rooted in the special role of mega-universities in the process of the popularization of higher education. It is a common sense now that we owe the transference and continuity of human civilization to education and knowledge means a new life for people. With rapid development of society and economy, the demand of higher education both in quality and in quantity is increasingly on the rise. In line with this, it is only the open and distance education, a combination of ideas and modern information technology could be able to rapidly adapt itself to the requirements of the times. Mega-universities can not only retain their comparatively large scale and thus obtain benefits merely from the large size to offer people more opportunities to receive education but also bring into full play their advantages in operation mechanism and modern information technology to the effect that they can amass and assemble quality educational resources to offer first-class education service. Thus they would be able to provide strong support in people’s fair competition and reciprocal improvement.
. To render open mega-universities even larger in size, the idea and concept of open and distance education must be emphasized in the first place. Mega-universities must assume the task to accelerate the popularization and plebeianization of higher education, offering all people its service and support in the process of their learning. Secondly, we should be open-minded and cooperative in absorbing advanced educational theories as well as drawing on quality learning resources. In recent years, in running educational programs or projects, we have successfully cooperated with universities from America, Australia, South Korea, Japan and from universities in other places of China. What we are going to do next is to head to the internationalized context and try to bring in more and more high-quality learning resources from abroad.
2. Making open mega-universities striving with strengths and vitality
The precondition of this strategy is found in the fact that we are living in an era when competition and cooperation co-exist. Only through its efforts to strive in strength and vitality can a mega-university win the competition, can it have some possibilities to cooperate with advanced resources, can it take its position in the arena of higher education and exert its influence.
We believe that the strength and vitality of an open and distance university finds expressions in its doctrines and concepts which are pragmatic with a vision of future, in its leading team ready to guide and encourage innovations, in its adequate and outstanding teaching staff with superior capacities both in teaching and in research, in its advanced distance education technology, in a certain number of choice subjects and courses, in a strong learners support system, and in its good infrastructures .
In light of these considerations, we have recruited many eminent teachers from other institutions to work for our university in recent years. We have opened up courses in new academic disciplines and subjects, invested large sums in improving conditions of the school, such as purchasing equipments in distance education technology, establishing our own Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) in cooperation with telecommunications departments of the city and constructing learning resources bank in order to meet the economic and social developments of Shanghai.
We have invited celebrated experts and scholars to engage them in the construction and development of the university. Ever since 1997, we have invited as our advisory professors Mr. John Daniel, Mr. Wichit Srisa-an, Mr. Otto Peters, Mr. Desmond Keegan, Mr. Borge Holmberg, Mr. Wang Yibing, Mr. Yang Fujia (academician of CAS) and Mr. Wong Shilie (academician of CAS) and they have all contributed greatly to the reform and development of Shanghai TV University.
We have realized that team work exerts greater power than individual efforts, and so we hereon offer the proposal as follows: let’s render the summit as a starting point for world open mega-universities to seek for establishing a mechanism which will enable us to collaborate in educational projects and share our resources, to establish a communicating platform on which mutual development through association between the strong will be more easily achieved.
3. Founding open mega-universities on original and novel concepts and ideas
Innovation supplies inexhaustible source for social evolution and it is also the essential motivation for open mega-universities to inspire activation, give full play to their own edges and elevate their positioning of influence in open and distance education. Mega-universities have to try to break away from the trammels of conventional ideas in education, and they must encourage innovation and creativity in theory, system and mechanism and speed up reform in their teaching contents, modes and methods so that they can complete the change of their role in education, assuming the unshirkable mission entrusted by history.
All our efforts must be taken not only to cultivate people with creative thinking and innovative ability, but also to facilitate innovation of education itself. Aiming to move in the right direction and orientation of the social development, we must foster new ideas and creative thinking, raising the spirits in pursuit of excellence. The learning contents of ours must be targeted for the newest achievements in the forefront of related academic disciplines and our teaching modes must be integrated with advanced technology and the computerized networking environment.
We will invite the most outstanding teachers to give lectures and we will also lay down regulations to provide security in our system to make sure that the school could maintain its vitality in its educational activities with creation and innovation. With support of the Municipal Government of Shanghai and with an open, cooperative concept, we are constructing a large education base and service platform for our experimental practice, investing large sums of money in building up a new campus —the “Learning Plaza”, which is to be completed by the end of next October. Covering an area of 42 thousand square meters it is to function as a hub in field of education in Shanghai with its radiations all over the country to be finally connected internationally. The 18th annual conference of AAOU will be held here in this new campus.
4. Building up open mega-universities on firm and solid foundations
The vitality of a university is, in the final analysis, seen in the extents it can propel forward human civilization and social progress. This propelling capacity mainly takes its shape in two types: physical and spiritual, and in forms of three products: the advanced technology, the progressive culture, and people armed with both. What mega-universities are required to do is but the most fundamental although their ideal and target present themselves encouraging. We have to base ourselves upon social demand and spare no efforts in creating brand-new teaching contents and modes required by people in their life-long learning, trying to meet the need and demand of the people, the government and the market. We must attach great importance to the process of teaching and management so as to satisfy our students, our society and our government by offering them high-quality education with our unique features. We are now realizing that there are two problems to be focused on: how to guarantee our educational quality in terms of academic performance on a large scale and how to normalize the criteria in quality control and encourage individualized learning at the same time. For many years, we have been attempting to find resolutions and our efforts are proved viable. For the former, we have adopted a policy of non-selective open entrance with strict teaching process and testing system and for the latter, we have combined standardized criterion of teaching quality with wealth of learning resources to encourage autonomous learning. Actually, we have never stopped our thinking and exploration in constructing a new and instructive standard for quality assessment in line with the nature of life-long learning and open and distance education. I hope that this summit will offer us a chance to dig in depth together with other open mega-universities to find some solutions of originality to the problems.