MOOCs in China

Hong Zhao & Chang Zhu, EU-China Higher Education Research Center, VUB

10 September, 2013


In 2012, there is an “avalanche” of education that is the MOOCs which is shorted for Massive Online Open Courses; a form of long distance learning that is not only braced by the traditional open universities but some highly ranking universities. It is originated from North Americas, but now China is also pledging to it.

In the area of MOOCs, there are three main platforms: Coursera, Udacity, and edX. In the May of 2013, the edX announced that there are new additions of online courses from 15 universities, among them 4 are from China, they are Peking University, Tsinghua University, Hong Kong University and Hong Kong Technical University. Despite that, many universities in China, they are trying to promote MOOCs. According to Li Xiaoming, the secretary of president of Peking University, in September of 2013, the first batch of Peking University online open courses will be released on the Internet and in the coming 5 years they try to raise the amount of courses to 100. Students of Peking University who take MOOCs can receive the same credits with those students who take the traditional courses, and for students from outside of the university, they may receive a certificate from Peking University. For Tsinghua University, it already established the massive online open education research center. Recently it is working on developing 30 of new generation of online courses, which will be combined with traditional education to make it as blended learning.

However, China still faces the challenges in MOOCs. The first challenge is to improve quality of teaching. Each university has its own excellent courses, but whether they are good enough to be MOOCs is still a question. The second challenge is that promoting MOOCs means collapsing down the wall of traditional education which may cause many problems under the current situation in China. The third challenge is the choice of the right business model. Producing MOOCs can be labor and capital intensive and a lot of input is needed. Under this circumstance, an appropriate business model is needed for the sustainable development of MOOCs. In addition, the accreditation of the certificate is still an issue. Certificates received by following MOOCs should be accredited by commercial organizations.


China is accelerating in the process of promoting massive online open courses. The leading players want to regard MOOCs as a trigger of Chinese education reform.