From report to Ruth

The mystery of CORE

Around the same time as TLCP got started, China Open Resources for Education was set up. This is an NGO that was formed by an overseas Chinese who had connections with the MIT project. Several of the top universities in China are "members", and it is currently housed at the Open University of China. Initially they were active in translating MIT courses into Chinese, and also holding several conferences that promoted the development of TLCP in China, but these days they seem to be dormant. 

The international open education movement does not know much about TLCP at all - except for the fact that it exists, and is large. The Ministry of Education has never published anything about this in English (there isn't even an official English translation of the topic), and despite the fact that there are over 3000 academic articles about TLCP in Chinese, there has not yet been published a single article about it in English (it has been mentioned in papers about the OER developments, but never more than a sentence or two). CORE has stepped into this vacum with vigor, they have an English language website, and their leader Fun-Den Wang, who spent his adult life in the US, frequently appears at educational conferences "representing" TLCP. 

The result is that almost everyone in the open education movement, including high level leaders, believe that CORE is responsible for producing all the TLCP courses in China. This also fits nicely with the international model - in almost every other country, there is a national organization that coordinates the work of universities in producing open courses. However, CORE has no role in the production of TLCP, which is entirely funded and organized by the Ministry of Education, and in fact, the current coordinator for open courses at Beida (which has one of the largest portfolios of open courses in the country) had never even heard about CORE. 

As to the second question, what was CORE's involvement, and was there any inspiration from MIT etc whatsoever. It is hard to saw whether MIT had any impact initially - although I have not found any evidence that it had - but as for CORE, I can say conclusively that they played no role initially - the founding meeting was five months after the announcement of the TLCP project, and at the first meeting, TLCP was not mentioned with a word -- the meeting focused exclusively on translation and making available of foreign (mainly MIT) OCW into China (confirmed by two participants at the initial meeting).

comparison between TLCP and foreign OER projects

although part of the "outcome" of TLCP - the course websites, look superficially like course websites for OpenCourseWare, for example, TLCP is a very unique model. As mentioned above, it does not aim to expand access to education, or to build up a large repository of online learning materials to be used by students. Both the government statements, and the actual organization of the site, strongly suggests that they are meant to inspire other teachers, not to be used directly by students. It is also entirely funded by the state and the provinces, and it chooses courses based on peer review. In most other OER projects, it is funded by the university, and they will put anything up that the instructor agrees to - the fact that the instructor works there is already enough "quality control". TLCP also does not use an open license to allow reuse of its material (this is a complex issue given China's culture w/regards to copyright etc). 

influence by foreign OER models

People in China who research TLCP, and many of the professors participating, are certainly aware of foreign models, such as MIT OCW. There have also been a number of very good Chinese academic articles introducing these different approaches. People I spoke with said "We know what OCW is, and TLCP is not OCW! there are some similarities, but they are very different". However, my theory is that people's perception of TLCP's purpose and use has been shifted by their understanding of foreign OER projects. Without there having been an official change in policy, there seems to be a shift towards making the websites useful for students to use directly, whether by the Ministry of Ed, which began including "interactivity" in its criteria very recently (something that is not necessary if you just want to inspire other teachers), or researchers who write reports and research papers about how many students access the courses, how they use them to learn etc.