Universities to provide free online courses

10:21, August 04, 2011      

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Liao Kaili, a girl from a poor rural family with three children in Henan province, dreams of "never leaving the campus".

"What a wonderful dream it would be for me to listen to a professor's lectures while living in Beijing," the 18-year-old told China Daily.

Liao had to give up an offer of a place in high school, as her parents needed her to get a job to support her little brother who is still in primary school.

However, the dream of attending a university will no longer be so remote for Liao as about 20 of China's top universities, such as Peking and Tsinghua universities, plan to open 100 online courses to society in the autumn term.

To improve the quality of education and balance teaching resources among different regions, the number of online open courses will increase to 1,000 during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period, said the Ministry of Education.

The first batch of online open courses from Chinese universities were launched in April, after similar courses from Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Oxford had become popular across China.

Inspired by this, domestic universities, like Fudan University in Shanghai, have started to make their lectures and courses available to the public on platforms such as v.163.com/open.

A series of lectures about ancient Chinese philosophy by Wang Fansen, a famous history scholar, are now available.Fudan holds more than 2,000 lectures annually. In the past five years, the university has recorded more than 500 lectures, some of which will be gradually opened to the public, according to the university.

However, people doubt whether the domestic open courses will be competitive with foreign open classes.

"I prefer to listen to a foreign professor's open course unless it is about China's history or culture," said Huang Wenwen, a graduate from the communication and new media department of the City University of Hong Kong. "The professor's good presentation skills and the courses' special features give foreign open courses an advantage."

China has provided high school lessons to the public for several years, but the influence has been limited as the courses are "hard to understand".

"Although those online lectures have been very popular in China, domestic open courses have a long way to go to have an impact on society," said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a Beijing-based non-profit private educational policy research body.

However, some university professors argue that online open courses are resources shared by the university and its teachers.

"The free open courses are an infringement of the intellectual property rights of teachers," said Chen Lidan, a journalism professor with Renmin University of China.

Source: China Daily


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