On Friday 18th October 2013 we spent a good part of the day with Tsinghua University in Beijing. This is a top Chinese university and they were very interested to hear from us about teaching, learning and research in MOOCs. Luckily, I’ve been involved with all three. This event was organized by Chinese Higher Education Association, Tsinghua University and Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy. We met with students and staff at the University who presented to us how they developed their own MOOC platform, using the OpenEDx code and heard about their own research into online education.

It was really interesting. They have not much experience of teaching online, not in the way that we have been teaching in the UK and they have even less experience of teaching MOOCs. However, what was so impressive is that they have created their own version of EDx in less than 6 months. They have enhanced the platform from the original, added 60,000 extra lines of code, to include searchable video (in many languages, including English); you can use Latex formula as if you were using a word processor (its more of a WYSIWYG view), auto-assessment has also been added. They are working very fast and have just 30 people looking into the platform. They have plans to develop this further.

Sun Maosong spoke to me after the presentations and mentioned that he was coming to Southampton in 3 months and that he had been invited by Wendy Hall in ECS. I told him that I was located within the same Faculty and so agreed that when he came over that I would look him up and say hello. He was interested on what I had to say about MOOCs, QA, teaching on a MOOC and how they can be used in a blended context. One thing of particular interest was that they were going through the exact same discussions about the value of opening up education to all, and that they were very interested in models of teaching. This is a cultural change for many of them and they are just now investigating their options.

On the way over to the meal that they provided for us, I walked a member of staff employed by the British Council to report on the discussions and had a great time explaining what MOOCs are and how they came about,. I also had a chat with an Associate Professor, Wei Xu, who had just returned from Berkeley had been working with Google. He was interested in MOOCs and big data. I have promised to put him in touch with Chris Gutteridge re the Open Data work at Southampton and he was very interested in that.

It was really interesting to talk to them all about their work and what we know already about online learning. They provided a wonderful lunch of many courses and we all received a beautiful silk scarf from our hosts.

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