MOOCs may have gotten their start in America, but China is increasingly the new frontier. In the past week alone, Coursera and EdX, two of America’s largest MOOC purveyors, have announced that they are expanding their operations to include partnerships with Chinese Universities:
On Thursday, edX announced it’s partnering with 10 Chinese universities to launch the country’s largest online learning portal, called XuetangX. The universities will use edX’s open source platform to build their own courses in Chinese, as well as license courses from edX’s global university partners. […]“Almost any way you slice it, China is the No. 1 country in terms of the potential for growth and impact on students,” says Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera. “In terms of expanding our reach, China’s a huge market and helps us reach their market.”
EdX has also just inked a deal with the French education department, which will run a MOOC using the company’s platform. This approach in particular could point the way toward a new business model for these companies going forward:
These international partnerships also hint at a future in which MOOC providers are as much about serving businesses as they are about serving consumers. As I’ve written in the past, Coursera and edX are busy trying to figuring out ways to improve education on campus, a service for which universities are willing to pay. Nations have much deeper pockets. If more countries take France’s lead to launch their own online portals, that would not only help MOOC providers overcome the language barrier without doing the heavy lifting, but it also would enable these companies to charge for support services and for licensed courses from other universities.
It’s always been clear that MOOCs would head in this direction sooner rather than later. One of the key advantages of MOOCs is their ability to reach a global audience, so it makes sense that these companies would be making a concerted effort to push into the massive foreign markets where there are ample opportunities for growth. If this push brings them closer to profitability, so much the better.