Secondary literature and online resources
There has been very little written about the Top-Level Courses Project in English. Usually, it is only mentioned as part of an article about OpenCourseWare or Open Educational Resources as an example of a large-scale project, but little is conveyed about the actual design, functioning, and purpose of the project (and indeed much that is conveyed is misleading, as we shall see in chapter six). In Chinese, however, there has been a large number of academic papers written about different aspects of the project, with the database China Academic Journals listing more than 3,500 papers directly related. It is a limitation of this thesis that I was not able to read a large number of these, nor did I find any good survey papers giving me an overview of the research and the field.
In my reading of these papers, I considered them both part of the general literature review that helped me find useful data and theoretical approaches, but also as “primary sources”. Given that many of the authors are academics directly involved in the production of OpenCourseWare, the literature can give insights into how they perceive the international movement, as well as the Chinese program, and what research questions they find relevant.
At the beginning of my research, I was fortunate to get help from a Chinese professor at North-West Normal University in the same field. She helped me select a number of articles that were relevant to my research questions, and this was a large help in gaining an initial understanding of the project. In addition to academic papers, and some MA theses, I reviewed policy statements by the Ministry of Education, and press releases by individual universities. These are fortunately mostly all online, and searchable. Since the online course material that is the final product of the Top Level Courses Project is required to be open to the public, I was also able to visit a number of courses directly, and look at the material. This thesis will not look at the specific contents of courses, or analyze the courses pedagogically or otherwise, but this exercise was useful to gain a better understanding of what the project “looked like”.