Today we visited Beijing Normal University (BNU) and had a discussion with representatives from their Continuing Education department that handles e-learning. They have 30,000 students studying in the Continuing Ed department and most of those take some (or only) e-learning classes.
BNU is ranked #8 overall of the 701 Chinese universities. They are now a comprehensive university with roots back over 100 years as a teacher's college.
Some of the more interesting comments were:
- In e-learning they have about a 70-80% degree completion rate. This far exceeds the degree completion rate in the U.S. but falls far short of the face-to-face degree completion rate at BNU where 99% of the students finish a degree within four years of starting (that's what they said, so I believe it).
- Only students who score in the top 20% on the college entrance exam can get into Chinese Universities, and this includes departments like Continuing Ed through distance learning. Therefore 80% of the college-eligible students don't get the privilege of going to Chinese higher education institution.
- Only the top students (of the top 20%) get into the traditional face-to-face programs, then the next tier of students get into Continuing Ed and take the e-learning courses. The school officials can't imagine why any student would pass up the F2F opportunity by choosing e-learning instead.
- E-learning in China is clearly viewed as being inferior, which is largely, but not completely explained by the lower caliber of students who get into the e-learning programs in the first place. Still, e-learning is viewed there as an inferior way to learn.