Distance education in Xidian University
Fan Changxin and Ding Zhenguo
Xidian University was founded in 1931 and approved as a State Key University of China in 1959. The main teaching and research fields in the University are concentrated on electronic science and technology, and it has 15 schools, one of which is the School of Distance Education.
This paper gives a brief introduction to Xidian University, and then describes the development, organization and teaching mode of the School of Distance Education which was established in 2002 and approved by the Ministry of Education as one of the experimental units of distance education schools in China. The School offers both academic and non-academic degree education and education run cooperatively with enterprises, and serves the university and society.
The School of Distance Education has established a teaching environment which includes live broadcasting rooms, a courseware production centre, a monitoring room, an online interlocution (question and answer) room, and a central server group. Also, mirror servers and online computer rooms have been established in an educational centre outside the Xidian campus. The School has developed two independent platforms for distance education and management -- the learning platform and management platform. The former is used for managing teaching and learning processes and the latter for, for example, recruiting students, educational administration, enrolment, examination affairs, textbooks and tuition.
Both synchronous and asynchronous modes are used by the School, with the asynchronous mode being the main mode and the synchronous mode the auxiliary one. The asynchronous mode is realized by using network courses and stream-media technology which is a kind of network video-on-demand technology which occupies less bandwidth during download. For the asynchronous mode, students access the Web server to get the courses which are already edited in advance (i.e. broadcasting courseware on demand). When students have questions, they can ask the instructors through email, or discuss them with other students using the Network Forum. In the synchronous mode, students and instructors access the network at the same time but from different places, and this mode is used for the live broadcasting rooms and answering online questions. Also, the teaching materials -- which are usually multimedia information including text, graphics, sound and video content -- and students' exercises can be sent using the network in real time.