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MOOCs shake up online education

Reporter: Zhao Lingfeng 丨 CCTV.com

05-15-2016 04:58 BJT

Millions across China are now learning new skills through Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, as the online education industry takes off in China.

On the track to success. Zhang Jinyin is taking Chinese history lessons online during his gap year.

"These courses are free. There are no boundaries for time or place. And no need to sit in on classes I'm interested in," he said.

On the way to his 32rd course credential. The MOOCs he’s enrolled in range from marketing to logic, and from English writing to linear algebra. And many of these, he says, are good preparation for graduate school. And some are just handy for other aspects of his life.

"I'm volunteering for an organization called Raleigh. We went to some remote areas to help the locals. The medical class I completed online proved to be very helpful in this case," Zhang said.

Millions like Zhang in China are learning through MOOCs. What started in the US has caught on fast here. Xuetang X, backed by Tsinghua University, now has over 2.7 million users. That's 200 times the number of undergraduate students at the prestigious university.

Dozens of others, such as Peking University and Shanghai Jiaotong University, also run their own MOOCs. And international providers including Coursera, Udacity and edX have entered the market as well.

A MOOC industry forum in Beijing drew both Chinese and overseas educators. Professor Anant Agarwal from MIT is the founder and CEO of edX.

"I've met so many students who have taken my courses. We see a huge appetite of learning engineering and computer science," said Anant Agarwal, CEO of EDX.

And professor Agarwal says the invention of MOOC could be one of the biggest shake-ups to education in centuries

"If you look back at the history of education students all over the world. could get access to some of the best.." said Anant Agarwal.

A lot of learning taking place here on campus is also possible online. Millions have joined the MOOC trend and have been benefiting from it. And this in turn could benefit the nation as well.

Professor Yuan Si, a veteran educator, is now in charge of the online education research center under the Chinese Ministry of Education.

"The two biggest goals on a state level regarding the development of education are quality and equality. MOOC can boost such equality on the premise that quality is ensured," said Yuan Si, director of Research Center for Online Education.

As for the future of MOOC, Professor Yuan says we're only limited by our imagination.

"I don't want to say the system would be the biggest snag for MOOC's development. Innovation and imagination serve more crucial roles. We must be brave to think and try. Our thinking must keep up with the technological development. In that case, I think the future for MOOC is bright," Yuan said.

And that fits right in with Zhang Jinyin’s philosophy.

“I think I will keep taking MOOCs even after I start work or beyond. Live and learn, that's what I say,” Zhang said.

And now thanks to MOOCs, that's a mantra that everyone can live by.

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