Published On: Sat, Aug 22nd, 2015

How Coursera Cracked The Chinese Market

Coursera announced in Jul that they crossed 1 million registrations as China became their second largest market, overtaking India. Most U.S. consumer Internet companies have a tough time violation into China.

Cultural differences and a Internet firewall are a outrageous separator to entry. Even tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter have pulled out or found themselves on a wrong side of a Chinese firewall. So how did Coursera, a relatively young company, grasp this poignant milestone?

Partnerships, Partnerships, Partnerships

“Partnerships are some-more vicious in China than anywhere else in a world” — Eric Feng, CTO Flipboard @ KPCB CEO Workshop

To boost their China footprint, Coursera has partnered with a series of internal companies and universities. The internal partnerships customarily revolve around dual things: translations and distribution.

To focus a website and interpret a content, Coursera partnered with Guokr, a Chinese amicable networking site, and Yeeyan, a interpretation community.

For distribution, Coursera partnered with NetEase to emanate a Coursera Zone on, a NetEase-hosted, Chinese-language portal to To urge opening for a Chinese users, Coursera also stores internal copies of a videos on NetEase servers.

Earlier this year, Coursera announced a partnership with Hujiang, China’s largest Internet training platform. Coursera skeleton to build a possess online temperament and village within a Hujiang height in sequence to entrance a 80 million active users.

Coursera has 5 partner universities in China: Fudan, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Peking, Xi’an Jiaotong and Nanjing. Combined, these universities offer some-more than 50 courses, many of them in Chinese. In all, Coursera has some-more than 125 courses in Chinese (native + translations) on a platform.

A Credible Connection

Before apropos a CEO of Coursera, Rick Levin was a President of Yale University, portion a longest reign in a school’s history. One of a hallmarks of his reign was cultivating relations internationally, generally in Asia, and quite with China.

Under his presidency, Yale conducted a series of corner initiatives with and for Chinese universities, including assisting settle general work/study programs in Beijing, and hosting a university care module for leaders from 14 of China’s tip universities.

Levin met dual Chinese presidents (Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao), has an titular appointment during Fudan University and was inaugurated to a house of a National Committee on United States-China Relations.

Thus, Rick Levin brought connectors and credit to his purpose during Coursera with honour to a China strategy. It would substantially not have been formidable for him to trigger conversations during a really top levels during prestigious universities, though some-more critical is his knowledge in operative with university and supervision leaders on issues that were critical to them.


When a NetEase partnership was announced, a tiny series of Coursera’s partner institutions opted out of a arrangement. Penn, that owns an equity interest in Coursera was one of those universities.

Penn was endangered about domestic and educational leisure and wanted to ensue cautiously. It seems that Penn’s concerns were addressed and now their courses are accessible on NetEase. In fact, Wharton only launched their Business Foundations specialization in a Chinese language.

A few university leaders in China were endangered about “foreign ideas” being alien around MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). There were also concerns of MOOCs, by trait of being cheaper, competence means a fall of earthy universities.

The Ministry of Education is relocating brazen with MOOCs, and is enlivening higher-education institutes in China to emanate some-more of them. The method also skeleton to “set adult an investigation complement to manipulate a training routine and operation of a platforms, preventing damaging information from being disseminated.”

Thanks to Charlie Chung for contributing to this story.

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