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Digital education alliance inaugurated in Shanghai

By Zhao Yimeng in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-31 09:11
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A worker displays a digital device for first-aid education during the Future of Digital and Smart Education exhibition in Shanghai on Tuesday. The exhibition is being held on the sidelines of the 2024 World Digital Education Conference. TAO LEI/FOR CHINA DAILY

The World Digital Education Alliance was inaugurated on Tuesday during the 2024 World Digital Education Conference in Shanghai, aiming to promote international cooperation and exchange in the field.

Liu Limin, president of the China Education Association for International Exchange, said during the inauguration that the digital transformation of education is a collective endeavor in global educational reform and an innovative way to enhance education quality.

He said that currently, 104 universities, international education organizations, and enterprises from 41 countries and regions are involved in the alliance.

Co-hosted by the Ministry of Education, the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO and Shanghai People's Government, the conference, which ends on Wednesday, explores practices and innovations in digital education.

Simona-Mirela Miculescu, president of the 42nd session of the UNESCO General Conference, said digital education is a powerful complement to traditional learning methods, enriching and transforming education.

"Digital education holds the immense potential to improve the quality and relevance of learning and to promote inclusivity," Miculescu said.

It also proved to be a crucial tool for providing learning continuity during times of crisis, given the experience of COVID-19 pandemic, she added.

Milan Kuzmanovic from the Serbian embassy in China attended the conferences for two consecutive years and was impressed by how the online learning platforms in China enable students to have greater access to education.

"I had a chance to learn about how students in different areas in China have the opportunity to learn from the best professors in the best universities by joining the uploaded online courses," he said.

China has been ramping up efforts in recent years to promote the development of global digital education and the international cooperation of online education. It has established the largest library of education and training resources in the world, according to the education ministry.

"The country has the world's largest scale of Massive Open Online Courses and its MOOC system has become an international brand among the world's higher education," said Song Yi, an official with the ministry's department of higher education.

In 2020, Tsinghua University initiated the Global MOOC and Online Education Alliance, the first multilateral international organization in digital higher education with members including 17 renowned universities and six online education institutions from 16 countries.

So far, 341 global courses have been launched under the alliance, with nearly 25.4 million learners participating, Song said.

"About 88 Chinese universities have provided nearly 300 high-quality MOOCs to more than 3,000 higher education institutions in Indonesia," he said.

In the fall semester that has just concluded, some 500 Indonesian college students joined the classes of students with the same majors in 25 Chinese universities.

Song added that Xi'an Jiaotong University in Shaanxi province has cultivated talent in railway transportation in dozens of countries through online courses covering 100,000 learners, while Southern University of Science and Technology helped 13 countries including Cambodia and Kenya build smart classrooms.

Moreover, the Global MOOC and Online Education Conference has been held four times since 2020 as an important platform for global exchange of MOOCs. Last year, the conference was held in Milan, Italy, marking the first time the event was held outside China.

Colin Bailey, president of Queen Mary University of London and a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, said China and the United Kingdom have a long partnership in digital higher education.

Last year, the UK-based digital education platform FutureLearn was involved in the MOOC alliance.

"We are exchanging courses across the whole curriculum from medicine and dentistry, science and engineering, business, economics and law," Bailey said.

The future of digital education lies in collaboration, and "we will work together to produce techniques that enhance education for the next generation," he said.

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