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Expansion of massive open online courses in Asia

More organisations in Asia are joining the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform to provide web-based education aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the internet.

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Last month, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), one of the biggest universities in Singapore with 33,500 students, repackaged ‘Introduction to Forensic Science’ as a free online course for anyone in the world.

This general elective for undergraduates is a popular course that can accommodate 1600 students each time, but is always over-subscribed. With the introduction of this course on Coursera, a leading global MOOC platform, students - even those not enrolled at NTU - can learn about tools used by investigators, understand the inner workings of forensic science and how it applies to crime detection and law, all from the comfort of a home computer.

Other courses which NTU is lining up for the initial launch next year on Coursera include ‘Beauty, Form and Function: An Exploration of Symmetry and another on E-commerce and Technology’, which is slated for the later part of 2014.

NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said the University’s move to offer free online courses on Coursera is a strategic step forward to engage a wider international audience, given NTU’s rising international reputation.

Yesterday over in China, Coursera announced a partnership with NetEase, one of the largest Chinese internet companies and a major distributor of open online education content, to extend MOOC to NetEase’s wide-reaching audience in China.

This partnership commences with the launch of Coursera Zone, a Chinese-language web portal, as well as a video hosting agreement that makes video lectures much more accessible to users in China. This announcement signifies Coursera’s latest initiative to improve global access to education, particularly in non-English speaking countries.

Coursera Zone will significantly benefit Chinese students by providing a range of Chinese-language resources and services that help students in China navigate the platform. The offerings include Chinese-language course synopses, student testimonials, FAQs and discussion forums that cater to the specific needs and interests of Chinese students.

Beyond providing more Chinese language resources on Coursera Zone, NetEase will store video files from selected courses on locally hosted servers, significantly improving video quality for Chinese users.

“Ensuring the accessibility of quality educational content, regardless of a person’s location or native language, is at the core of our mission,” said Coursera Co-Founder and Co-CEO Andrew Ng. “With its wide-reaching technology platform and Chinese market expertise, NetEase will be an invaluable partner for us as we work to launch initiatives like Coursera Zone that open up Coursera to the millions of people living in China.”

Coursera is working with several other partners, in China and internationally, to reach the millions of potential Chinese users. University partners such as Peking University and National Taiwan University are expanding Coursera’s Chinese-language course offerings. Additionally, Coursera has recently partnered with Chinese social networking site Guokr and volunteer translator community Yeeyan to begin translating Coursera courses into Chinese.

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