Over the years since the Top-Level Courses Project was launched in 2003, an ecosystem of services and providers has grown up around it. The Ministry of Education organizes a number of conferences and training sessions, as do provincial boards of education. As described in the case studies, universities themselves will organize internal training, both bringing experienced course developers together with teams that are beginning to develop Top-Level Courses, and also inviting external experts, and promoting exchange between different universities.
China Open Resources for Education, a non-profit organization that will be described more fully in the next chapter, has held a number of national conferences around Open Educational Resources and the development of Top-Level Courses. There are also a number of commercial actors in this space, both providing web development and hosting services, creating Content Management Systems that are tailored specifically to Top-Level Courses, and providing training for teachers in developing Top-Level Courses.
For example, given that most Top-Level Courses involve capturing lectures, AVA Electronics sells an integrated solution that can coordinate recording from several videocameras, capturing the presentation slides, and automatically publish this in an acceptable format. Similar lecture-capturing platforms are well-known in North America, but the interesting part is that this is being marketed as a “Automated Top-Level Courses Recording System” (AVA 2010).
And when it comes to specialized software, there are many options. For example, Hubei Huaqin Education Software Company, which markets a large number of specialized platforms for purposes such as “government news portal”, “membership management portal” and “online learning portal”, has a specialized portal software for applying for and promoting Top-Level Courses. They also promote a portal for coordinating the work of evaluating Top-Level Courses according to the changing requirements each year (Huaqin 2010). Tsinghua University has also developed a portal for Top-Level Courses, which is widely used (Han Xibin, personal communications). There is even Skyclass’ “3D Top-Level Courses portal”. On their website they warn that traditional course websites often make evaluators tired, having to flip back and forth between materials, whereas the 3D portal will encourage the use of the right side of the brain, and will leave a deep impression on course evaluators (Skyclass 2010a).
There are also many companies that offer to custom-build Top-Level Course portals. One of these, a company called Five-Pointed Star Technology, proudly presents screenshots and links of already built courses that were successful in gaining the Top-Level Courses designation on their homepage (Five-Pointed Star 2010). As for training, the Higher Education Institutions Teacher Online Training Centre, a part of the Higher Education Press, offers more than 30 different fee-based courses on how to develop Top-Level Courses. The courses last 2-3 days, and are held at various locations around the country, with some addressing general aspects of the development process, but most being discipline-specific (Jiaoshi wangluo peixun 2010). Skyclass (2010b) also offers a number of courses, primarily structured around their software offering, but also aiming to introduce the new Top Level Courses evaluation criteria.