E-Learning in China: Progress, Challenges, and Research Issues

E-Learning in China: Progress, Challenges, and Research Issues

S. Raymond Ting (North Carolina State University, USA), Angela C. Smith (North Carolina State University, USA) and Emily Gomez (North Carolina State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2924-8.ch001
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In recent decades, China has advanced in economic development and expanded education by developing e-learning through technologies. The development of distance education, including e-learning, has evolved in three stages: correspondence-based education, radio-and TV-based distance education, and e-learning or online education from 1998. E-learning is a new method of distance education in China, which integrates the use of computer network, satellite TV, and telecommunications technologies. However, China faces a lack of teacher and technology professional resources. There are gaps in urban vs. rural, public vs. private, and government-based programs vs. NGOs programs. Also, cultural influences are significant, such as social stability. Chinese government focuses on national security and maintaining social stability while simultaneously adopting new technologies for e-learning. More studies on online learning are needed, including teacher acceptance and development as well as design and learning support, to create a sustainable path for comprehensive e-learning in China.
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As China advances its economic development and becomes the second largest economic country in the world, online learning and education has progressed in different ways (Ding, Niu, & Han, 2010). Since the 1950s, Chinese universities have offered correspondence-based education through postal communication and printing technology. From the 1960s, radio and TVs offered distance education through broadcasting in cities and some rural areas. Since 1998, e-learning or online education started with some pilot services in major universities, which were integrated with the use of computer network technology, satellite TV technology, and telecommunications technology.

Even today, many rural areas still depend on correspondence or broadcasting-based distance education because of a lack of resources or technology support (Ding et al., 2010). Meanwhile, in major cities, partnerships between public schools and private enterprises are established to offer online education or services. Usually, these partnerships are only among independent or elite public schools. In a vast country like China, gaps and uneven developments in different regions have been a major barrier in advancements of education, in general, and online education, in particular.

In urban cities like Beijing, there are populations of over 20 million with ample resources. In rural areas such as the northwest or west (provinces like Gansu, Tibet, and Xianxi), there are fewer resources, including teacher shortages and inadequate equipment and technology support. These issues create an uneven development of online education in China. In 2009, only 1.6% of a 700-million strong rural population registered in e-learning programs (China Internet Network Information Center, 2010).

There is another huge concept concerning Chinese cultural influence. While China opens its door to the world, especially for economic development, it remains one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Culture simply represents the way of life for people. This influences how Chinese government continues to focus on stability, which has been key to Chinese society for thousands of years. In particular, the Chinese government is concerned about national security when classes go online (Hao, Zhang, & Yu, 1996). Students surf the web and teachers communicate with their peers around the world. Therefore, the balance between innovation and stability has been a constant struggle in China. Sometimes, innovation is a top priority for Chinese government. At other times, control and stability is more important for the country.

Online learning and e-learning are two similar terms. E-learning refers to the use of electronic devices for learning, including the delivery of content via electronic media such as internet/intranet/extranet, audio or video-tape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, or CD-ROM (Zhang, Zhang, Duan, Fu, & Wang, 2010). Online learning refers more specifically to the use of the internet to deliver education or training programs. Online or e-learning moves the traditional instruction paradigm to a learning paradigm (Jönsson, 2005). In this chapter, the authors will review online learning and education in China from different angles: background and e-learning history, K12 and urban areas, higher education, technology and e-learning materials/programs, rural areas, and research. The first author is a scholar and consultant for education and student services in China. He has studied different topics in China, including career planning and services, higher education, and student learning and development in K12. The author team is experienced in online education. They teach and administer the online master’s and graduate certificate program at a southeastern major university in the U.S.A.

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