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China: MOOCs in high demand, with over 10 million learners expected by end of 2016

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China’s Ministry of Education estimates that by the end the year, the number of students in the country enrolled on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will go over 10 million.

In 2014, the number of MOOC learners was a mere 1.5 million, but over the past couple of years, MOOCs have seen a sharp increase of enrollments, almost doubling over the past year alone.

According to a white paper released by the ministry earlier this year, higher education institutions have emerged as the main driver behind the rise of online learning within the country, developing around 1,200 of available courses.

Universities have been collaborating with online education providers to develop the courses, which have proven popular among high schoolers preparing for university or for new students.

Among the most popular MOOCs is a prep course for the gaokao, China’s grueling university entrance exam.

However, the report noted that despite the focus on higher education-related modules, prospective online learners would actually like to see more vocational training courses.

The report included an online survey of over 760 MOOC learners, which revealed that about 61 percent of respondents said they were keen on taking vocational courses compared to the 44 percent who said they were interested in degree or diploma level courses.

Commenting on the ministry’s findings, Kevin Prest and Liu Xiaoxiao of British Council China said that there was “room to introduce quality content” from overseas countries such as the UK.

“The white paper predicts that the future development of the MOOC industry in China will include the expansion of service value not only to the online learners, but also schools and businesses – with more vocational and professional training courses for employees or adult learners,” they said, as quoted by The PIE News.

Around 83 percent of the survey’s respondents were aged between 18 to 35, with nearly half within the typical college-going age (18-25 years old).

Up to 22 percent of respondents said they had paid for their course, spending between 201 and 300 RMB (US$30-45) on average.

When asked about the factors that influenced which MOOC they chose, 70 percent of users said they prioritized the curriculum’s quality.

The country’s largest MOOC platform, XuetangX, announced that it had surpassed five million registered users in October, with nearly seven million enrollments since it was founded in 2013. 

Image via Shutterstock

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