China: Revving up for e-learning market opportunities

2 min read

The e-learning market has been reshaped by the widespread of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) set up by a large range of top players globally: from the established Ivy League universities to the most daring projects set up by innovative outsiders like Udacity or Khan Academy. Many powerful projects achieved great results in a very short time.

Udacity, for example, provides dozens of online courses with video lessons, assessment tests, serving a worldwide community of 160.000+ students in 190 countries. Coursera project, launched by more than thirty universities (Princeton, Columbia University NY, University of California San Francisco, University of Pennsylvania Georgia Tech and many others), became an established social entrepreneurship platform with the aim to spread worldwide a top class education to millions of students, without any cost or obstacle.

China is a high-potential market that could be extremely sensitive to a professional approach on e-learning and m-learning technologies. On April 29, 2014, the Ministry of Education set up its online education centre managed by Tsinghua University. It built an online course platform based on edX, one of the most famous e-learning platforms created by Harvard University and the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 2012.

The two institutions had been trying to merge business opportunities with the philanthropic mission of all MOOCs projects and involving top academic professors like Anant Argwal, a former Computer Science and AI Laboratory Chief, the first president of EdX. Tsinghua University started to work with and provide courses to edX in May 2013, and has been providing 25 online courses, to a growing community of 120, 000 registered users.

The most interesting disruptive potential is coming from innovative outsiders too. Morgan SpA, an Italy-based communication and software agency, recently set up a startup company in China to export its DESY platform (Digital Education System) specifically designed to build a knowledge network and easily set up courses or prepare didactic papers in harmony with a traditional or digital audience.

DESY is gaining a growing pool of customers in Italy among institutions and corporate clients. It allows teachers to upload and share their elements (like images, charts, descriptions, comments and articles) to build virtual lessons to be shared in a virtual classroom or compose a specific playlist. The platform generates a viral knowledge sharing process inside a network. This allows students, teachers and users generally to pick elements inside the network, mix them, add their personal contribution, then create new contents in a positive synergy of academic efforts.

The most innovative characteristic is undoubtedly the user friendly interface and the community approach, extremely relevant while targeting a Far East market and deeply connected to the relational mindset of Chinese customers. The appealing design and social-network style graphics show new ways to communicate knowledge in harmony with the latest mobile era habits.

Interesting opportunities are heating the e-learning market in China, and a good mix of established models and innovative systems could open up new horizons.

Tony Simon

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