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August 11, 2010

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Home » Metro » Education

Interest takes off in open courses

SOME students and office workers have latched on to a new trend - watching open courses provided by prestigious universities such as Yale and Harvard.

Many foreign universities started providing free online videos of some courses about a decade ago. But they didn't become popular here in China until recently when some domestic subtitle groups started added Chinese captions at no cost.

"I used to visit foreign university websites to watch open courses," said Zou Chenjun, an accountant working in a local firm after graduating from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics two years ago.

"But unfortunately I cannot understand them. So I quit," he said.

Now he enjoys the subtitled versions very much and plans to upgrade his financial knowledge by watching them regularly.

These subtitled videos, including Yale University's Financial Markets, and Philosophy: Death, became an instant hit on and other websites famous for sharing movies and TV series. Many students also share the classes on their FTP and, a social networking site.

Liao Shengqing, an associate professor at Fudan University's Journalism School, said he appreciated the efforts of the subtitle groups and may introduce some of the courses to his students. "The subtitle groups help Chinese overcome language barriers and enhance the fame and use of free study materials," Liao said.

He also reminded the groups about the possible copyright problems they may encounter.

"The open campus regulation states that everyone can use the studying material as long as it's not for commercial purposes," said Cean Fang, a member in charge of communications at YYeTs, a famous domestic subtitle group which is now busy translating Yale University's open courses.

"We did it completely out of interest and don't expect any reward. The subtitles are completely free and open to everybody."

Subtitle groups, usually consisting of movie fans, have introduced many overseas movies and TV series, including American, Korean and Japanese programs, to people in China. The self-organized group members don't get paid and users don't pay for their services.

The groups shifted translation efforts to the open courses early this year after China shut down several hundred online file-sharing websites, blocking millions of netizens from downloading the latest Hollywood blockbusters, popular songs, games and software.

To the groups' surprise, the academic classes from top grade universities have been as popular as American movies.

"We will try to interpret all the open courses and provide them for free," Fang said.


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