By Colleen Kimmett
China is the number one country worldwide in terms of growth potential for massive open online courses, or MOOCs. This is something the largest North American MOOC platforms know well, and the past year has seen a flurry of activity to capture this market.
Tsinghua University became the first in mainland China to create online courses, available through the US-based platform edX since October – the same month that rival platform Coursera announced a partnership with National Taiwan University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
But the question of translation – how to make the selection of predominantly English-language courses accessible to a global audience – is a problem these industry pioneers are still grappling with. Providers like Coursera, edX and Khan Academy have brought Ivy League teaching to the world, but cultural and language barriers remain.
“There is a lot of action in China,” said Dr George Siemens, associate director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute in Canada. What has been lacking, he said, are home-grown platforms that can serve their native markets.
That is beginning to change.
A home-grown platform
Take Guokr, for example. This Beijing-based site is not a MOOC platform per se, but rather a platform for MOOC users: a growing community that has taken upon itself the hard work of translation.
Guokr – Chinese for ‘nutshell’ – launched in 2008 as a social network for science geeks and has since morphed into an online MOOCs community with ‘classrooms’ for more than 50 courses, in both English and Chinese, and 50,000 registered users from across the country.
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