Distance education in China has been huge for decades, with correspondence courses available for rural students. But in recent years, there's been an explosion of online education, with university partnerships, open and free offerings, and lots of educational technology developments. As online education grows in China, these are some of the things we expect to see.
More open communications systems:
Social networks like Facebook, YouTube, and Ning are typically blocked for Chinese students, but in the future, we can expect to see these opened up for more widespread use. Chinese educators, online and beyond, are learning that some of the most valuable educational resources and opportunities from the U.S. are available through these blocked communications systems. Even U.S. President Barack Obama has suggested that the Chinese do so, even if it presents a problem for government policies.
Chinese students will pursue American online education degrees:
Schools like Lasell College in Newton, Mass., are increasingly targeting Chinese students to pursue online studies. Others, including, Babson College, Northeastern, and Cambridge College are partnering up with Chinese universities. Through these partnerships, Chinese students are able to earn American degrees, often without even visiting the states.
More rural students will be able to complete a college education:
Students in remote and under-developed areas are increasingly benefiting from online education. As broadband Internet reaches far-flung communities in rural China, more students can get on board with a world-class education offered online. In addition to formal online education, many of these rural students take advantage of "nonformal" educational opportunities through online resources like Massively Open Online Courses (commonly known as MOOCs).
Blackboard will become more common in China:
Thanks to a 2011 investment in Chinese online learning company CerBibo, Blackboard is now available in more than 270 different Chinese education institutions. With this development, Blackboard is increasingly available to online and distance learning outlets throughout China. Technology offered through this reach into China includes the Blackboard Learn learning platform, web conferencing, mobile learning, and mass notification technology, allowing for huge growth in Chinese online and distance education.
Cloud-based education will be offered for a variety of disciplines:
The Chinese Ministry of Education recently awarded a bid to Ambow Education Holding for the purpose of creating the first national cloud-based education data platform for China. Through this platform, millions of teaching students will be able to take cloud-based classes as part of their preparation to become school teachers. This platform promises to offer rich media content, collaboration, communication, and a fully enriching learning experience, all in the cloud. As this technology develops and teachers become comfortable with using it, we can expect to see cloud-based learning branch out into other educational disciplines.
Chinese online education will continue to attract investors:
Online education is huge in China, but there's still lots of room to grow. With big U.S. companies like Blackboard, and a slew of American colleges and universities offering online education options to Chinese students, it's clear that investors are interested in China's online education potential. Some of China's hottest education stocks are in educational technology and online education, including China Education Alliance, which provides online education and on-site training in China, distributing educational resources online.
More off-campus learning stations will open:
Rural students often take advantage of online education opportunities through the use of off-campus learning centers. These distance education stations offer an Internet connection and resources for learning online to students who may not have access at home. The Ministry of Education has approved 68 schools to offer modern distance education so far, and we can expect for more to open in the near future as more online education resources are offered and demand for these centers increases.
Chinese universities will increasingly jump on board the online education bandwagon:
Distance education has historically been quite popular in China, but in recent years, there's a growing interest in online education not just from the Western world, but resources created in China as well. Schools like Southwest University in Chongqing are beginning to offer their own online education options, thanks to a government online education pilot that has grown to at least 68 universities in the country, making it possible for more Chinese and international students to take advantage of Chinese online education.
Open education will grow as well:
In addition to traditional online education, free and open courses from Chinese colleges and universities will increase. Several Chinese universities are members of the international Open Courseware Consortium, sharing their open education offerings with the world, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology offers three different courses on the open education website Coursera. China has its own open education organizations as well, including China Open Resources for Education, which promotes open education sharing among Chinese and international universities.
There will be a surge in mobile learning:
Thanks to mobile learning resources like Coursera, more Chinese students will be able to study anywhere and everywhere. Experts in Chinese education expect to see many students learning through mobile devices and Facebook, and we're already seeing a huge trend in Chinese Coursera use. According to the site, China is the 10th biggest country in Coursera enrollment, with thousands of students already enjoying more than 200 different free courses on the site.