Coursera.org, a website offering a new generation of online courses, was launched by two Stanford professors in April 2012, since when the number of students subscribing has sky-rocketed. By integrating interactivity, coursework, examinations and certification in a format that is made available free of charge around the world, Coursera courses are different from conventional courses. The fast-paced studio-quality video recordings used by Coursera are also different from conventional classroom videos. Video time can be reduced by up to a half, with the same educational content, and because the videos are fast-paced, short and very watchable, the massive online open course (MOOC) has already become part of mainstream education in other countries.
In view of this, MIT and Harvard have together set up edX, a new-generation MOOC platform. Coursera and edX are both free of charge. Coursera currently has 4 million students, and edX has around 1 million. While Coursera can be freely viewed in mainland China, edX is still blocked by the Great Firewall and so has few Chinese students. Overall, the Coursera platform is the current world leader in massive open online courses.
In order to guarantee course quality, Coursera currently issues individual invitations to the world’s top universities. Each institution provides a small number of high-quality courses to showcase their top-flight education. This February, NTU became the first university in Taiwan to be invited to join Coursera. Over the past eight years, NTU has invested massive resources to improve teaching and learning in its courses. In Asia, only the University of Seoul can compare to NTU in terms of the scope of its Center for Educational Development. After eight years of hard work, NTU has already made considerable progress, and being invited to join Coursera and disseminate courses alongside world-leading educational institutions marks a major milestone in NTU’s development.
Several courses have already been planned by distinguished NTU course conveners who have experience using IT in their teaching and the proven ability to design courses that enthrall students. The courses, which include both humanities and science and engineering subjects, started to appear online at the end of August 2013. On 31 August, NTU became the world’s first provider of Chinese-language MOOCs: “Ancient Chinese Historical Figures: Qin Shihuang” (with Professor Lu Shih-Hao of the Department of History) and “Probability” (with Professor Yeh Ping-Cheng (Benson) of the Department of Electrical Engineering). In the following months, these will be gradually supplemented with other courses such as “Introduction to Optics” (Professor Chu Shi-Wei of the Department of Physics) and “Machine Studies” (Professor Lin Hsuan-Tien of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering).
NTU is the first university in the world to offer a Chinese-language MOOC, a fact which has greatly impressed Chinese speakers. The two courses launched at the end of August already have 10,000 to 12,000 subscribers. This is the first time in Chinese history that a professor has delivered an interactive lecture to thousands of students, so there has been an enormous response on China’s main websites. For his “Probability” course, Professor Yeh Ping-Cheng of the Department of Electrical Engineering has also launched the world’s first MOOC to be combined with a competitive multiplayer online game. This is seen as a pioneering step in the new era of online education which will effectively increase students’ learning motivation. The innovation has been well-received by Coursera and received a lot of attention in the Chinese press: China’s Xinhua, Yangtse Evening Post, Southern People Weekly and Guokr have all done feature interviews. Yahoo! Japan also saw the waves made in mainland China by NTU courses as a major cross-strait story.
According to NTU’s MOOC managers who have spoken with students in China, the latter have been thriving in the MOOC independent learning environment. Chinese students have already been watching videos of the best courses from renowned universities for some time now, and their expectations towards online courses are rather high. Chinese universities are now also investing a lot of resources in creating the new generation of open video courses; thus, NTU is focusing on creating unique MOOC course videos. By inviting outstanding teachers with engaging teaching skills to make high-quality course materials, NTU will lead the way in producing Chinese-language MOOC in the Chinese-speaking world.
NTU courses on Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/taiwan