Three types of qualitative research methods will be used in this study:
1) literature review of the Chinese academic literature, about the global open education movement in general and about the Chinese OpenCourseWare project specifically.
2) textual analysis of government reports and policy documents, and policy documents and evaluation reports from individual institutions of higher education.
3) open-ended key informant interviews conducted with three groups: a Ministry of Education official, people in leadership positions at institutions involved in the Chinese OpenCourseWare project and professors who produce content for the Chinese OpenCourseWare project.
The literature review will serve a dual function. I will consider it as part of a broader literature review to find useful data and theoretical approaches, but I will also treat the Chinese scholarly literature as a “primary source”, since many of the authors will be academics directly involved in the production of OpenCourseWare, and the literature can thus give insights into how they perceive both the international movement, as well as the Chinese program, and what research questions they find relevant.
Many Ministry of Education policy briefs and reports, as well as institutional policy documents and evaluation reports are publicly available on the Internet, but when conducting key informant interviews I will ask for any other relevant documents that I access. In addition to the data itself, I will analyze the way the program is presented, what terminology is used, and to what extent, and how foreign models of OpenCourseWare are referred to.
To gain a deeper understanding of how the OpenCourseWare program was conceived of, and functions, from different levels, I will conduct open-ended key informant interviews.
This project will involve two kinds of institutions. First, the national Ministry of Education in China. There, I will interview an official responsible for the Chinese OpenCourseWare project. Secondly, I will recruit several universities that participate in the national OpenCourseWare project. Ideally, I would like to visit three different institutions, one top-level university, one mid-level university, and one university that has worked closely with MIT. I will not perform any comparison between these three institutions, rather I will examine them to gain a nuanced understanding of the OpenCourseWare project. Faculty and the leadership at a top-level university might have different priorities and needs than faculty and leadership at a mid-level university. In addition, MIT has worked directly with a few universities, and there I might find people who understand the international context better, and have a different view of the national project.
I will identify institutions that have been active participants in the OpenCourseWare project, and fall into these categories, using the China Quality OpenCourseWare website jingpinke.com. Since it might be difficult to obtain institutional approval, selection will also be based on availability.
Within each institution, I will seek to interview one member of the institutional leadership, to obtain the institutional view of OpenCourseWare; asking questions such as why has the institution has chosen to participate, what are the advantages to the institution, how does this fit into other policies and strategies within the institution, and are there any documents available that might be relevant to my research. I will also interview two-four professors who have been involved in production OpenCourseWare materials, asking questions such as what is the purpose of this project, why did you want to get involved, has this had an impact on your teaching practice and have you ever used OpenCourseWare materials produced elsewhere. After having gained institutional consent, I will ask the university president or vice-president to help me identify the individuals mentioned above.
In total, I hope to interview one official from the Ministry of Education, 3 institutional leaders, and 2-4 professors at each of the three different universities I will visit, which gives a total of 10-15 interviews. Each interview will be half an hour to an hour long, and will be conducted in the person's office, or in another place convenient to the interview subject. In these interviews, I will probe for an understanding of the international model, and their understanding of the national model and its purposes. I will further ask why the institution or the individual is interested in participating in this program, and also about how the OpenCourseWare project interfaces with other policies and projects regarding course evaluations and improvement of teaching quality in the institution. I will further ask them about their own use of OpenCourseWare material produced elsewhere.
A Ministry of Education official responsible for the OpenCourseWare project will be recruited based on availability to be interviewed. Universities that are involved in OpenCourseWare production will be identified according to the three categories: top- level university, mid-level university, and university that has had direct contact with MIT. I will seek to be introduced through a contact, or I will directly contact the institutional leader. I will request institutional consent to conduct research at their institution, and also request the institutions help in identifying a person in a leadership position related to the Chinese OpenCourseWare, as well as two-four professors involved in the production of OpenCourseWare materials, based on availability to be interviewed.
There are two consent processes: one for institutional consent, the other for key informant interviews. For institutions, the letter will request consent from the chosen universities to conduct interviews with staff members and faculty. The researcher will explain the nature of the study, which is to better understand the Chinese OpenCourseWare project. The
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consent form will explain that the identity of the institution, as well as of the individual, will be kept anonymous. The researcher will explain that the study will not evaluate the institution’s performance.
For participants, they will be given a consent form prior to participating in the interview, which outlines the expectations of their participation. The consent form will contain the researcher’s contact information, the supervisor’s contact information, and the University of Toronto Ethical Review Board’s contact information. Participants will be informed that the project aims to better understand the Chinese OpenCourseWare movement, and interviews will take 30 minutes to an hour. They will be told that the researcher wishes to tape record and transcribe the session. Permission to do so will be requested, and signed approval will be necessary before the interview is tape recorded and transcribed. If the participant does not want to be tape recorded, the researcher will request that notes be taken during the interview.
The consent letter will emphasize that participation is completely voluntary and that participants will be free to withdraw at any time during the interview. It will also state that the study will not evaluate the teaching quality or other aspects of the participant. They will be informed that they may also refuse to answer any questions that they are not comfortable with. They will be informed that the information will be retained in an encrypted file on the researcher's laptop and data will be treated as confidential, as their names will not be used in the final study, in publications or in presentations. The researcher will review the information in the consent letter with the participant before the interview, and give one copy of the letter to the participant for his/her own record.
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For Ministry of Education official
• What are the main features of the MIT OpenCourseWare project? • How was OpenCourseWare introduced to China? • What was the purpose of setting up the China Quality OpenCourseWare project? • Could you describe the project? • How has the project changed since it began in 2003? • Where do you see the program going? • Are there any documents available to me that describes the Ministry of Education
policy on OpenCourseWare or any evaluations conducted?
For persons in leadership positions at universities involved in the China Quality OpenCourseWare project
• How did this university become involved in the China Quality OpenCourseWare project?
• What are the benefits to this institution from participating? • How does the institution support faculty involvement in the OpenCourseWare
project? • How does the OpenCourseWare project support improving the quality of teaching
at this institution? • What do you know about the MIT OpenCourseWare project? • Are there any systems in place at this institution for evaluation or improvement of
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For professors involved in OpenCourseWare creation
• What do you know about the MIT OpenCourseWare project? • Describe the China Quality OpenCourseWare project. • Why did you decide to participate in the China Quality OpenCourseWare project? • Describe the OpenCourseWare course that you have been involved in creating. • What kind of institutional support did you receive in the application or production
of this OpenCourseWare? • Have you ever used OpenCourseWare produced at any other institution?