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THU: MOOC Migration: To what extent does the MOOC model fit in China? (Sian Lovegrove)

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Dr Simon Ball
30 January 2014

MOOCs have migrated from the USA across Europe and to the Far East. But participation amongst Chinese students is still relatively low. Considering the value the Chinese put on western education and the lengths they go to do get into a foreign English speaking university why is MOOC take-up low?

Using interviews with students and UK government representatives, data gathered from Chinese social networking sites and published reports, this presentation seeks to answer the question 'To whate extent doe the MOOC model fit in China?'

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Debbie Grieve
11:39am 11 February 2014

Hi Sian, I am interested in Moocs and it's been interesting to see a shift by some of the more well known providers to a different model - from a number of articles I have read recently, it seems that many started out with a more philantropic approach and are now looking at a more 'for profit' model. An interesting shift.....

I didn't realise that the MOOC take up was so low in China and am keen to learn more about what you have discovered. 


Nicola Morris
11:21pm 11 February 2014

I was equally surprised to see low take up and wil be interested to see if this is cultural or a response to web access limitations. Have you given any thought to what might work in China (a variation of some thought?)

Nicola Morris
11:21pm 11 February 2014

I was equally surprised to see low take up and wil be interested to see if this is cultural or a response to web access limitations. Have you given any thought to what might work in China (a variation of some thought?)

Jonathan Vernon
8:03am 12 February 2014

Stats on MOOC participation are fascinating - in the West a huge surge of initial interest that collapses down to the 7% mark - about the % who commit to the end. Perhaps the Chinese participants are less prone to being caught up in the initial rush to sign up and those who do sig n in feel a greater desire to complete?

Cara Saul
4:40pm 12 February 2014

Like the other comments I had no idea MOOC take-up was so low in China - very surprising


Sian Lovegrove
12:28pm 13 February 2014

I don't think we need to concern ourselves about completion rates as people sign up for different reasons - not just to complete it... for curiosity, improve English, get more teaching and learning materials etc.

Hope you enjoyed the show. As soon as Simon launches the multimedia pane the whole Blackboard crashes which was behind the problem.


Dr Simon Ball
6:43pm 13 February 2014

Following the live presentations, we asked each speaker to respond to questions posed by audience members. In the short time available, it was not possible to put all of the questions submitted to the speaker for a response. We asked all speakers if they would respond to the unanswered questions here on Cloudworks. Here are all of the questions asked during the session:

  • In terms of certification would they be likely to recognise courses if some of the ideas for identifying student by their typing patterns etc were implemented?
  • What variations on the MOOC idea might work better in China?
    Do you have any plans for furtehr research?

Jonathan Vernon
4:54am 15 February 2014

There are genuine cultural differences between people, not just by nation of course - and there are always plenty of exceptions to the rule. I understand there is a desire by the Chinese government to encourage 'creativity' and therefore there is a massive investment in some of the creative industries we do so well in here in Great Britain. How come in 'the arts' we are global players: film, tv, popular music, art, fashion ... What is it that supports and manages students and trainees to the point that they can be confident in how they express themselves and finance it too? Is there a cult of the individual? Does it run deep? Historically, from politics to religion we have always had a sprinkling of people questioning, reinventing and interpretting? Coming back to MOOCs therefore, and the massive numbers who initially engage, is this born of a desire and need to feed our curiosity? We have and are permitted to have enquiring minds and original ideas and to express them?

Sarah-Louise Quinnell
11:03pm 15 February 2014

Hi Sian, 

As someone who is now working with an organisation taking MOOCs into Latin American Countries what would be your top 3 tips / things to focus on in relation to successful implementation?

Helen Johnson
10:01pm 16 February 2014

Sarah-Louise, where are you looking to implement them in LatAm? I'd be really interested to know how that goes as there is such a strong focus on F2F tuition. 

Helen Johnson
10:02pm 16 February 2014

Sian, please could you tell me what software you used to make your video, and especially the animation? I really liked it and can see a lot of applications if it's not too technical!

Sian Lovegrove
3:52am 17 February 2014 (Edited 5:46am 17 February 2014)

Helen - technical details here

I used good ol' powerpoint to make my video. Use the animation function to enter/exit text and images as usual. Then go File>Save/Send>Creat a Video. Drop down 'recorded timings and narrations' and select 'record timings and narrations'. Somewhere it will ask you to select a format - I just selected WMV format. It's very simple but takes a long time to 'compile' after you've finished recording... about 30 minutes for my 10 minute presentation. But you get a nive little video which you can upload to Youtube.

For the animation I got a student at the Art University to do it. I don't know what she used but it ended up being in MP4 format.

For the video of the case study I used my 'point and push' (Lumix digital camera) on a little tripod. I used a resolution which was too low but was worried about running out of disk space if I used a higher res. Next time I would have it better lit.

For the editing of the interview and subtitles I got the video into Sony Vegas Pro and did it there. It remarkably easy to use. I also put the music to the animation there too.

Q1 - In terms of certification would they be likely to recognise courses if some of the ideas for identifying student by their typing patterns etc were implemented?

The Open University of China uses final examinations in order to legitimise their qualifications. This seems to me to be the most effective and easiest option. Mind you, I work in the examination field and there are a lot of impostors used. We are always catching people with fake ID's sitting exams for other people. It's a big problem here so I think nobody would trust a typing pattern system.

Q2- What variations on the MOOC idea might work better in China?

Education in China is not fun. It is something to be endured not enjoyed so unless there is a good reason for someone to take a course it's not attractive to them. If it leads to a better job or university place all well and good but they do not generally learn just for fun. It is predominantly outcome focussed hence their willingness to pay someone huge amounts of money to sit exams on their behalf. No certificate no hope.

Q3 - Do you have any plans for further research?

If research would lead to my getting a job in this field or if someone paid me to do it I would do it. But probably not just for fun (I am outcome focussed too!).

If anyone missed it, get my video here Presentation.wmv

Thanks to all for your kind comments and interest in my presentation.


Helen Johnson
1:05am 18 February 2014

Thanks very much for the information. I'm just starting to look into making videos of demonstrations, etc, so this is really useful. I had no idea you could make it directly in Powerpoint.

Clem WIlkinson
3:57pm 18 February 2014

Was really hoping I was going to be able to hear your presentation but, technology and timing put a stop to it. So, thank you for the link :) There was a student from China on one of my MAODE modules; and it was a challenge to arrange synchronous group work.  So happy to see you're managing that technological side of things.

Education in China is not fun.

It's quite amazing or, shocking (depending on how you look at it), the amount of time students spend studying here in Taiwan once they start Primary school (6 years old). Although I know some local parents who appear to be trying to find a balance in life for their children. Afterschool classes are very common, as it the high volume of homework set.

However, online tutoring (from all the advertising I see) does appear to be a growing market.

Sian Lovegrove
11:51am 19 February 2014


Yes, most students whose parents can afford it pay for extra classes and privtae lessons in the evening (on top of their homework which is mighty in itself). In fact high school teachers rely on these extra private lessons to boost their incomes. Many also go to weekend schools, some poor junior school children work 7 days a week. And the vast majority of Chinese students wear glasses from all the studying (and computer games!). It's damaging their health and making a nation full of dull characterless people.

The problem is, if they don't do all that extra work they'll fall behind the others in the race for jobs. There are not enough jobs to go around and competition is fierce. And of course there's only generally one child and the future of the whole family is on the shoulders of that child (and of course his wife's family).

It's a crazy system - hard to know what the answer is. But the upshot is that they see learnign as a means to an end, not fun, just something to be endured in order to give all the people who are relying on them, a decent life. I feel sorry for them - it's a miserable existence.

Jonathan Vernon
10:21pm 20 February 2014

I'm reading a book on teaching at university and the authors suggest that in China unless the class is an effort it can't be worth doing - so no splarzy, easy MOOC for them.

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