Promotion to provincial and national level
The announcement of university-level Top-Level Courses is made public, and anyone can both visit the course website, as well as provide feedback. If there are no strong objections to the course during this period, the decision will be made to suggest the course for a higher level designation (provincial level, and then national level).
The first step is the provincial level. The provincial educational government is responsible for planning the distribution of provincial level Top-Level Courses based on the provincial plan for educational development and course development. Based on this, the provincial government will ensure the completion of the provincial level project, as well as the suggestion of courses for the national level selection. The courses that enter the provincial level selection process must already have been designated as campus-level Top-Level courses. The province then organizes an online blind peer-review by subject specialists, based on provincial evaluation criteria which may differ by province. The courses selected are made public, and awarded the provincial level designation, as well as a sum of money to support the further development of the courses.
The final step is the national level Top-Level Courses, organized by the national Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education is the highest level organization responsible for the organization and management of the Top-Level Courses Project, organizing the selection of different types of courses (undergraduate courses, vocational courses and online courses), providing guidance around the entire process of developing and evaluating courses, and supervising the annual evaluation and selection of courses at all levels. The selection of national level courses is similar to the campus-level and provincial level process, however the requirements for each indicator (course quality, course evaluation management, financial support, quality control, etc) are much stricter.
From the description above, we can see that the Top Level Courses are awarded different levels of designations (which to a certain extent reflect their level of maturity). The financial support arrives after the course has already been developed, which means that the university first has to use its own money to invest in course development, before the course can receive additional support when selected to higher levels. This is congruent with the original intent of the project, which was to stimulate universities to invest more in course development.
The three levels of Top Level Courses selection follow similar processes, and in practice, to improve the linkages between the three levels, most campus-level and provincial level selections employ the same standards as the national selection (Wang Long, personal communications). This also serves to raise the quality of courses at all levels. In addition, since the entire process of development, sharing, and peer-review of courses happens through the Internet, the educational technology demands are quite high. The focus on digitization of resources, teaching and learning in online settings, communication between students and teachers, generative assessments, etc., all help promoting the integration of information technology and teaching and learning in higher education.