It is true, China Towns are everywhere, in London, in New York, in Paris, in San Francisco. On the surface, it is a neighbourhood full of Chinese restaurants. On the backend, it is a community of people sharing the same language, same culture who support and help each other. By forming a close group together in a foreign land, they gain collective power to handle a new environment, survive and thrive.
The same is happening on the MOOC space.
Taking MOOC courses in China is new and has its challenges. First of all, language. Most MOOCs are in English and most Chinese learners find it difficult to follow the lectures and intimidating to communicate with English native speakers. Secondly, video streaming issues. Youtube is blocked so any lectures posted on Youtube means deny of access for Chinese learners. We need to ‘climb the great wall’ (means getting VPN service). Plus internet speed is slow. The lecturer gets frozen on the screen like an ice cream in the winter.
Facing these challenges, learners formed ‘MOOC China Town’ to help and support each other in a Chinese language environment. They are in the format of online forum or QQ group chat. On the web forum, students share their review of courses, course note, ask tips how to climb the wall, how to get Chinese subtitle of videos. There are also long and excellent essays written to share their experience in online education. Some of them are so great that I reached out to them and make virtual friends with them. QQ group chat is another community for smartphone platform. Here the topics are more casual and extended to other aspects of life.
Seeing the great power of China Town in assisting us to learn better on MOOCs, I also have my concerns – would such community prevent us integrating with non Chinese MOOC learners, how would it affect our performance on social learning platform ? At which point, such supporting tool backfires? How shall I/we know when to rely on such community and when to retreat?