Coursera Continues Expansion, Launches Online Courses in China

Coursera, a fast-growing massive open online course (MOOC) provider, is now bringing its popular online education platform to China. Coursera has teamed up with China-based NetEase to offer online courses to millions who read, write and speak Chinese, according to Christina Farr of Venture Beat.

Under the partnership with NetEase, Coursera will offer courses through open.163.com, an educational web site run by NetEase that also features content from TED and Khan Academy. The Chinese language web portal has been dubbed ‘CourseraZone.’

In July, Coursera raised $43 million in funding and the company’s founders intend to use the money to guarantee affordable education for anyone with an Internet connection, and the Chinese market is vast. Coursera is working with the volunteer translator community Yeeyan to translate the most popular English-language courses into an accessible format.

To help break into the Chinese market, Coursera has partnered with several universities, including Peking University and National Taiwan University. and signed a web hosting agreement to make sure that courses are easy to download for people living in China.

“With its wide-reaching technology platform and Chinese market expertise, NetEase will be an invaluable partner for us as we work to launch initiatives like Coursera Zone that open up Coursera to the millions of people living in China,” Coursera Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Ng in a statement.

Coursera could face a difficult time penetrating into the Chinese market. The company, however, has joined forces with a number of native organizations, a move that is likely to accelerate growth in China.

MOOC providers are looking for every opportunity to develop a viable business model to generate revenue for operations. Taking a MOOC is free for students and cheap for those who seek a credit, but it isn’t cheap for those who create it. Building a MOOC with professional cameras and video editing can cost up to a quarter-million dollars.

Both Coursera and edX are currently working to test different business models. Coursera is piloting a signature track on which students pay $50 for verification that they completed the coursework.

China is home to over 1.3 billion people, nearly 600 million of whom have internet access — and that percentage is growing. In the last year, the average Chinese internet user has increased their time spent online by 10% to an average of ~20 hours per week.

Traditional desktop and emerging mobile technologies are both growing more popular in China, and both platforms fit within the developing online education sector. Though slightly more internet users in China are men — 55% male, 45% female — adding over a billion potential students to the MOOC market.