Coursera, edX strike MOOC deals in China

In deals that were announced within days of each other, two of the largest providers of massive open online courses (MOOCs) are bringing their wares to China.

A recent study showed low MOOC registration rates among Chinese students.

Unrestrained by borders, oceans, and student visas, MOOCs have been touted for their ability to reach students all over the world, but most prominent MOOC courses are designed for an English-speaking – primarily American – audience.

Now, the courses could be seeing a push to truly go global — a marked shift in the proliferation of the experimental online courses.

Anant Agarwal, president of edX, and Jining Chen, president of Tsinghua University in Bejing, unveiled a new partnership today between the non-profit MOOC platform and the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The announcement came just days after Coursera publicized its partnership with Chinese internet company NetEase.

“There’s suddenly a billion new learners that now have access to high quality education,” said Johannes Heinlein, senior director of Strategic Partnerhips for edX.

With record numbers of Chinese students enrolling at American universities, the announcements are not wholly surprising. China, as of 2012, was sending nearly 200,000 of its students to the United States.

Their interest in American MOOCs, then, seemed inevitable, a study released earlier this year noted.

But that same study, which examined the first MOOC ever offered by edX, found that only 622 of the 155,000 students registered for the course were from China. For comparison, 13,044 of the students were from India, a country whose number of students attending U.S. colleges has steadily dropped in recent years.

See Page 2 for details on how the partnerships differ and why the companies are focusing on China.

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