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University of London helps more than 4.8m Chinese students through its expertise in distance learning


The Centre for Distance Education (CDE) at the University of London (UoL) is helping the Open University of China (OUC) develop its approaches to online education through online staff development – benefiting the learning experience of its nearly 5m students.

Student speaking with a lecturer

OUC has commissioned CDE to help develop its approaches to online education. With 4.8 million students, OUC is the largest single provider of higher education in China, employing a blend of face-to-face sessions and online/distance learning.

‘Designing for learning in online and distance education’ is a bespoke short course, designed and delivered by CDE Fellows. It launched on 13 September for 250 OUC staff and will be delivered and supported entirely online, in partnership with local tutors in China.

Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper, Head of the Centre for Distance Education at the University of London, said: “We’re pleased to be sharing our experience of delivering distance learning to students with other institutions such as the Open University of China. The University of London has been successfully delivering distance learning degrees for more than 160 years, and never has getting that offer been more important than now.”

Distance learning gives students the best possible opportunity to study at a time and pace to suit themselves, and we’re pleased to be supporting the training of 250 staff at OUC, which will ultimately benefit the learning experience of more than 2.7m students.

Specifically designed for those teaching in OUC, the 12-week long staff development course is designed to develop expertise and practice of distance teaching pedagogy, online learning design, learning, assessment, and programme development.

The OUC staff on the course will learn through reflection on their own experience, peer and tutor feedback and through engagement with the role of theory in their practice. They will be involved in the following types of learning activities:

  • Critically reflecting on their own teaching practice and their students’ learning
  • Implementing and interpreting pedagogic ideas in their own subject discipline
  • Engaging in discussion with peers within the process of inquiry
  • Evaluating teaching practices and attainment in relation to goals
  • Interpreting and interrogating teaching and learning practices through the lens of theory
  • Identifying their own development needs.

This professional development course builds on a successful collaboration that began in 2019 when two visiting scholars from OUC attended CDE co-sponsored by the Sino-British Fellowship Trust, based in London, and the China Scholarship Council.

Their aim was to research open and distance learning practice at the UoL and to share experiences of running large scale open and distance education programmes in China and around the world.

CDE was selected chosen because of its expertise in distance education and the reputation of UoL as a leading provider in this field. UoL was the first university to undertake distance education anywhere in the world and there are currently 50,000 students across 190 countries studying at a distance for a UoL degree.