Friday, February 8, 2013

MOOC in Japan

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course with the traits of massive participation and open access. Some of the famous MOOCs are edX, Coursera, and Udacity. The United States is the center of this movement for education free from the limitations of people, place, and time. I personally like Harvard Law School Professor Fisher's copyright course provided in edX. (Although the official enrollment period is finished, as reported in Harvard Gazette, you can freely see the youtube videos through the Professor's personal website.)

As is often the case, Japan is somewhat behind the innovative trend of the MOOC, but that does not mean there is no MOOC in Japan. 

There is the Japan Open Course Ware Consortium, or JOCW, for the purpose of providing open course ware. Twenty universities are official members and they exchange information and try to encourage broad use of the course materials and lecture videos provided online.

One of the most important courses open for access via the Internet is the courses of the University of Tokyo, called Todai Open Course Ware. This is a site where the lecture videos, materials and textbooks are provided for free. You even do not need to register to enjoy the full world of courses.

Note that University of Tokyo is not the only university conducting the OCW project. Other members of JOCW are also doing well. For example, Kyoto University's OCW is also strong, such as Associate Professor Shikiko Kawakami's "Introduction to Japanese Classical Literature", which is worthwhile recommending.

However, there are two main things on Todai Open Course Ware that I think need improving. The first is that there are only a few lectures conducted in English. Although a substantial number of courses provide English course materials, most of the lectures are in Japanese. I only found one English lecture series which is "International Lectures on Frontier Physics 1" by Dr. Hirosi Ooguri(Note that one lecture by Prof. Michael Sandel is provided in English.)

There are many episodes of international/transnational collaborations and inspirations of diversity of participants in American MOOCs, some of which are shown in Thomas Friedman's well read essay. However, that is only possible when the lectures are conducted in English. Japanese lectures can, at most, draw only domestic attention. As a result, it is necessary to increase the number of lectures in English.

The other important thing is that the courses are one-sided. There is virtually no way for the participants to interactively communicate with the professors. (Of course, you can find out the email address of the professor and send an email but that's not a very efficient way.) In order for the course to be more exciting and meaningful, the interaction between the students and professors is essential. Also, I believe that teachers can learn a lot more from the feedback of the participants, especially when the lecture is conducted in English and a diversity of people can participate. Thus, it is also recommended that Japanese Universities should provide interactive communication such as a chat system, bulletin 
board, or with essays/exams.

DISCLAIMER: "IT Law issues in Japan" only provides general information about Japanese information technology law and does not, under any circumstances, constitute legal advice. You should first obtain the advice of professional legal counsel who is qualified in Japan before acting or refraining from acting based on this blog.

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