Chinese Culture MOOC – a hotbed of peer-to-peer learning

Dr Ting Guo, project convener for the Many Faces: Understanding the Complexities of Chinese culture MOOC, gives an update on the course’s continuing success.

The University of Exeter MOOC course “Many Faces: Understanding the Complexities of Chinese Culture” on the FurtureLearn platform has successfully completed its second run, which started on 8th April, 2019.

Funded by the University’s Education Incubator scheme and taught by experts in Chinese Studies, this four-week course explores some interesting topics on contemporary Chinese culture, from the changing images and worldview of China, and the burgeoning online writing and selfie culture, to the intersection between landscape and political ideology in contemporary China.CC headshotsAlthough it was the second run, this four-week course again attracted many learners around the world. About 809 learners participated in the course and the discussion boards were active with lots of interesting comments and experiences being shared.

With short video slips, interview, paintings and photographs, this course presents the image of China in different social, cultural and political contexts, aiming to expose the continuity and disruption within Chinese culture and the increasingly globalised but also different modern China. As one of the course participants comments,

“the approach taken on this course was ingenious and unconventional… it made me think about the material (provided by the course) in a fresh way.” 

The opportunities for communicating with other learners in the discussion sections are especially appreciated by learners. Those who have travelled to, lived in, or read about China, made generous input to the discussion section to help other learners. And those who do not have any experience or knowledge of China and Chinese culture were able to relate what they had learned about China to their own culture, and reflect on the cultural trends and products brought by the globalisation.

In an activity named “Feel it through translation/rewriting” (Week 3), in which learners were asked to translate or rewrite a poem, “Sundress”, by Wuxia, a female Chinese migrant worker. Around 40 participants in thirteen languages (including Spanish, French, English, Dutch, Slovak, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, German, Bosnian, Spanish, Irish, Afrikanns) contributed their rewritings and translations.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by so many versions of this poem, many learners found this activity enriching and thought-provoking. As one learner commented,

“this was a great exercise, what a creative and interesting idea. I haven’t posted my inferior poetry efforts, but I’ve really enjoyed everyone else’s thoughtful and interesting work, quite amazing actually, very impressive!”

The benefits brought by this kind of peer learning in this course has also been confirmed in feedback collected from the course’s online focus group. In the course survey, almost all of the participants highlighted the significance of their engagement in discussion with other learners while studying this course, and agreed that the knowledge and experience shared by their peers was extremely useful and eye opening.

All the participants of the survey studied the four-weeks along with other learners before taking the survey. The feedback collected is very positive, with 100% overall satisfaction rate and high marks for its clarity, engaging activities and up-to-date materials.

For more information on the Chinese Culture MOOC click here and scroll down to Education Incubator 2017/18 heading and click on ‘Using MOOCs to address Grand Challenges’.

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The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.

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