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On 26 June, China’s nationally-funded OpenCourseWare platform (icourses.cn) incorporated 120 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The platform, launched in November 2011, currently hosts 266 open online courses, mainly in the form of videotaped lectures from selected universities, which are openly accessible to all without any registration. The new batch of courses differs in that each of the courses is accompanied by a virtual learning community. In this virtual setting, learners can seek academic advice from their peers or teaching staff via Weibo (mini blogs) or discussion fora. They can also access digital reference material from The China Academic Library and Information System (CALIS), a nationwide academic library consortium consisting of 74 university libraries. Furthermore, the new system enables learners to access the courses by using different mobile devices such as tablet computers and smart phones.
According to China’s 12th Five-year plan, a target of 5 000 courses from Chinese higher education institutions will be made accessible to the general public during the policy period. Although these courses can be watched anywhere around the world, they are clearly made for internal consumption. The chosen subjects, the pedagogical style and the language of teaching remain Chinese-oriented, despite the move to integrate more interactive elements in the online learning process.
Nevertheless, more outward-looking Chinese MOOCs may soon appear on MIT’s and Harvard’s edX platform as Peking University and Tsinghua University have now the state’s blessing to offer courses on edX.