China / Society

Shanghai schools invest in online teaching methods

By WANG HONGYI in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-24 03:29

As college students increasingly turn to free online courses, Chinese educators are seeking to implement the latest developments in online learning for primary, middle and high schools.

The development of the Massive Open Online Courses model in recent years has made higher education more accessible and effective for many adult learners.

Now, officials from the Shanghai Education Commission are working to establish an online study platform based on the MOOC model for primary and middle school students, to be launched later this year.

"On this platform, students can finish some of their study tasks, which may include some courses. This may help reform the education method and improve students' interest in learning," education commission official Ni Minjing said.

The platform is still under construction and more detailed information will be revealed later, he said.

The popularity of MOOCs helps teachers in what is known as "flipping" their classrooms. Traditionally, students hear lectures in class and are assigned to read textbooks and homework outside school. Flipped classrooms allow students to learn new content online watching video lectures, usually at home, freeing time in class to interact with teachers and finish work under their guidance. Educators say this is a more effective way to study.

A growing number of educators and schools have tried new teaching models to push education reform.

In 2013, a research center for MOOC at East China Normal University announced an alliance of 20 prestigious high schools to promote flipped classrooms.

Education videos from the member schools will be uploaded to an online platform to be shared.

"The flipped classrooms model was already formed as early as in 2000, but it didn't spread quickly because of the limitations of online education resources. But the boom of MOOCs in recent years has brought educators new opportunities to promote the teaching model," said Chen Yukun, a professor at East China Normal University and director of the MOOC research center.

"The immediate task for the school alliance is to create more high-quality online videos, which are necessary education resources for flipped classrooms," he said.

However, education official Ni said primary and middle schools should be careful when promoting such new teaching models

"Unlike high school students who have a certain independence and the ability to select, the self-learning ability of students in primary and middle schools is very different," he said.

The term MOOC was created by Canadian researchers in 2008. George Siemens of Athabasca University in western Canada developed and taught the first ever MOOC that year. This form of online courses later becomes a trend globally.

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