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Online learning trend to enliven Chinese education

By Ji Shaoting, Wang Wen and Nick Yates (Xinhua)

19:54, April 02, 2013

BEIJING, April 2 (Xinhua) -- A new trend for free online teaching is set to explode in China, as the world's most populous country has both a strong tradition of respect for education but uneven education resources.

"Massive online open courses" (MOOC), designed for large-scale interaction and open access at no cost, have become a rising power in China's education landscape. While MOOC has been labelled a "tsunami" of education by the president of California's Stanford University, educators in China have credited it as the most important invention for their field since the Internet.

One of the biggest providers of MOOC alongside other American operations like Udacity and edX is Coursera. Since launching in April 2012, Coursera has picked up more than three million users, and the largest MOOC forum in China has more than 12,000 members. When Andrew Ng, the Chinese-American academic and co-founder of Coursera, came to Beijing this week to deliver a lecture at Tsinghua University, interest was further piqued as to the potential for his creation.

"The biggest revolution of MOOC is the interactions between students and teachers as well as other students," says Ng of a system that offers materials including videos and tests together with community-building user forums.

While Stanford is among a number of partner universities with which Coursera promotes its services in the United States, Ng is currently seeking similar relationships in China. In an interview with Xinhua, he says his hopes are high as the country's educational institutions and companies are hungry for ties with experienced U.S. education platforms.

"Coursera wants to embody the Confucius value of making no social distinctions in teaching; providing education for all people without discrimination. Education for everyone is our goal," explains Ng, whose positions at Stanford include acting as associate professor with its Department of Computer Science.

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