Online Courses Get High Marks

Online courses get high marks

History of Chinese Theater, one of 20 online courses introduced by the Ministry of Education, is seen on a student's computer. Gong Lei / Xinhua

Following hot on the heels of overseas distance learning initiatives, the Ministry of Education is introducing online courses from China's universities. Zhang Yue and Guo Shuhan report.

'Supposing that you are taking an elevator with distinguished guests invited by your company. When the elevator door opens, whom do you think should get out first, you or the guests?" Liu Bing, a 26-year-old postgraduate student from Anhui province, thinks for a while and answers, "Usually, we should let the guests get in and out first to show respect." But the teacher has a surprise in store: "It is better to get in and out first so that you can guide the guests," she says with a laugh.

It sounds like a classic classroom situation, but actually Liu is sitting in front of her computer in her dormitory and watching an online lecture on modern manners taught by professor Yuan Difei at Hunan University, which is a long way away.

Distance learning is not a problem for Liu.

"For me it's no different from a real class," she says in a telephone interview, while the lecture can be heard in the background.

"Many elements mentioned in the lecture, such as how to introduce guests at a dining table in the right order and how to dress properly for an interview, are no less crucial than the skills learned at school."

Liu will graduate in six months, and is busily preparing for the job market. She thinks the lecture can help her behave correctly in an interview. She loves watching lectures with a cup of coffee to hand, a luxury that is seldom allowed in real class situations in China.

She is among the hundreds of thousands of Chinese netizens who now have access to free online university courses.

On Nov 9, 18 Chinese universities quickly moved to offer distance-learning courses to the public. It is the latest effort by the Ministry of Education to enable college students across the country to access lectures from top scholars.

Of the first batch of 20 courses, most featured humanities subjects and are available on NetEase, China Network Television (CNTV) and

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