Since 2012, building on its experience with Shaanxi Normal University (see History), WoLearn, as a CETIS spin-off, has been developing a model of collaboration between Chinese and UK academics based on open online courses. The idea for this came out of the developing MOOC movement, where academics and Universities started investing time and money in developing freely available online courses. At WoLearn, as believers in open online learning, we sought to enhance and develop a use for this work as a contribution to finding a pathway to sustainability of the open learning movement.
We identified a demand in China for internationalisation of the curriculum and saw that if we could bring together Chinese and UK academics around this need, together with the online materials being developed, there could be a benefit to both parties. Chinese institutions are able to internationalise the curriculum for their home taught students. Academics and institutions are able to develop their understanding of online pedagogy and make valuable connections with Chinese academics to build partnerships and to market and recruit students for their higher degree programmes.
We make this possible through our strong contacts in China and the use of our online platform, based in China, that allows for easy initial partnership building beyond the constraints and boundaries of institutions. Also, the model in its initial stages has no requirement for credit or certification and can be thought of in the same way as providing a guest lecture, thereby providing a space for working relationships to be gradually built up. It thus also provides a way to address the risks often associated with more formal institutional level teaching partnerships.