On the day of its launch back in July 2013, Guokr MOOC Academy (mooc.guokr.com) attracted over 15k learners, making it at the time China’s largest MOOC community. One year later, this number had grown to 500k.
But in mid-August 2018, the website shut down. At the time, it listed 6240 courses from 40+ providers. Learners were allowed to export some of their data, such as notes and certificates.
In this article, we retrace the story of Guokr MOOC Academy.
2012: The Beginnings
Just like Class Central, Guokr MOOC Academy originated from the first MOOC wave. In 2011, three Stanford professors put their courses online, attracting in total over 350k learners. This wave led the following year to the creation of the three main US MOOC platforms: Coursera, edX, and Udacity. The New York Times would go on to declare 2012 the “Year of the MOOC.”
In late 2012, a group called the “MOOC Study Group” on Guokr, an online community launched in 2008 and dedicated to science and technology education, captured Guokr’s attention. The group had been created by an avid MOOC-taker and had attracted over 10k learners in just a few months.
Emboldened by this rapid growth and the MOOC euphoria, in July 2013, Guokr launched its MOOC portal, the Guokr MOOC Academy.
2013 – 2014: Fleshing Out the Portal
Gradually, the Guokr MOOC Academy started aggregating MOOCs from providers such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, and building features to allow learners to discuss, follow, rate, and review courses, but also share course notes.
Guokr MOOC Academy started expanding its team, updating its portal, increasing its course catalog, and tightening its relationship with universities in China.
In early 2015, they began recruiting interns and full-time employees. By the end of the year, they had “50 members including 20 engineers”, according to a Class Central source.
In June 2015, there were over 3000 courses on the platform and over 20k reviews and course notes. They even began offering rewards to incentivize reviewing courses and sharing notes. In partnership with Coursera, they also began hosting Coursera MOOCs directly.
But Coursera’s Chinese market didn’t grow fast enough. In mid-2016, Coursera stopped its operations in China. Their user base only recently reached 3 million learners in China, a number that pales in comparison to their growth in western markets. As China took a backseat to other markets on Coursera’s roadmap, so did Coursera’s Chinese partners, including Guokr MOOC Academy.
However, Guokr MOOC Academy’s catalog was skewed toward US providers: Coursera and edX accounted for almost half the catalog (respectively, 22% and 21% of all courses) while iCourse and XuetangX accounted for less than a tenth (respectively, 4.7% and 3.6%).
Starting late 2016, Guokr MOOC Academy began showing signs of turmoil and urgency: improper ads began plaguing the user experience and learners started voicing their discontent over the direction the platform was taking.
Compounded by the increasing popularity of China’s local MOOC platforms such as XuetangX, Guokr MOOC Academy’s catalog plateaued. In August 2017, the catalog reached 6240 courses and stopped expanding. A year later, in August 2018, Guokr MOOC Academy shut down.