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MOOCs on the Rise in China

Great Wall of China

China's government has gotten into the MOOC game, setting annual targets for how many high-quality massive open online courses should be produced each year. A recent set of articles on Class Central, which tracks the MOOC segment globally, reported that China currently offers more than 12,500 MOOCs on at least 10 different platforms.

The most prolific MOOC provider is iCourse, run by Chinese University MOOC, which launched nearly 600 courses during 2018 (and currently delivers 2,500 different MOOCs). The next closest one, Zhihushu, introduced 99 courses in that same period. (Worldwide, the count was about 2,000 new courses for the year.)

Unlike the focus in the United States on delivering a university-caliber education to people who are out of school, in China, MOOCs are specifically targeted to university students as a means for improving "equity in higher ed." According to Wu Yan, who leads China's Higher Education Department, "MOOCs are critical to reform China's traditional, cramming teaching model."

Two years ago, according to author Rui Ma, the Chinese government introduced a set of quality criteria by which it would bestow national recognition on the best courses. The government also set numeric targets: 500 nationally recognized MOOCs by 2017, 900 by 2018 and 900 by the end of this year. The goal: to reach 3,000 by the end of next year. However, noted Ma, the count has fallen a little short. So far, just under 1,300 MOOCs received the honor during the first two years, against a goal of 1,400. According to Ma, the government is "comfortably on track" to meeting its 2020 target. 

Five subjects make up about a quarter of the recognized MOOCs. The top subject was computer science, followed by "electronic & information" and mathematics.

The full discussion is openly available on Class Central's website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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