Online Education: No Longer Lost In Translation

Amidst live-streamed commencement ceremonies and webcasted graduation speeches, the debate over online education comes up more often than usual. Learning remotely through educational resources associated with top universities – Udacity, Coursera, and edX among the leading providers – has become very popular. Coursera-1-300x173_001 Some students choose to receive their degrees online. For those who live in various parts of the globe – Eastern Europe, the Middle East or Africa – online is the only way to access the teachers from top schools. For non-English learners it can be a challenge, but it seems that they will have more options very soon. Coursera, one of the most popular providers for MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) has recently partnered with eight countries to translate its lectures for students around the world. The company will translate selected courses into many popular languages such as Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, Ukrainian, Kazakh, and Arabic. Each Coursera Global Translation Partner will begin by translating 3-5 select courses, with the majority of translated courses being available by September 2013. This month, Coursera announced its Global Partnership with Victor Pinchuk Foundation for translation of its courses. A pilot translation collaboration of Coursera and Digital October took off in Russia earlier this spring. “Many of our students are already taking advantage of user-generated subtitles in our courses, and we believe that having translations will significantly improve the learning experience for non-native English speakers,” Coursera Co-Founder Andrew Ng said in a press release. The Eastern European hunger for knowledge spans everything from Information Technology and Statistical Molecular Thermodynamics to Psychology and Financial Markets. Russia and Ukraine are one of the largest suppliers of non-US–based unique visitors for online course providers like Coursera and Udacity. For instance, since the beginning of this year Coursera received more than 1.1 million users from Russia. Online education raises many questions for Americans: will colleges go online? How do you justify high tuition costs if anyone can study online? Skeptics may even worry about dissolving the exclusivity of the Ivy League schools. “The weights will be different and just how it plays out in different environments,” Larry Summers, the 27th President of Harvard University, commented to Forbes at a panel discussion on the revolutionary nature of online education in Davos. “But fundamentally, more of what is best will reach more people and that will spur the good to be better and will provide more people with more access.” The impact made by technology and innovation is much larger in the countries that traditionally don’t have access to the top schools and up-to-date courses.  Coursera’s new translation partnerships will open up new doors for international students and guarantee there will be a flood of new, non-English speaking users.   Forbes

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