Korea : An Example for Successful Government and Private Industry Driven MOOCs

The Republic of Korea (Korea) is the most advanced country in Information & Communication Technology (ICT) worldwide. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) annually publishes its ICT Development Index and Korea has been ranked 1st in 2011 and 2012. Korea is a global leader in home and mobile internet access per capita and already rolled out a nation-wide 4G LTE mobile internet network in 2011. In October 2013, almost 27 million Koreans were 4G LTE subscribers according the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (a majority of the population). Taking into account the almost record-high tertiary education rate (OECD: 69 %) in addition to the intensive use of mobile Internet technology, Korea would be in the perfect position to be a global leader in digital education. Written by Christian Schneider, STC, swiss Embassy in Seoul


Strong Role of Korean Government

In Korea, the Government has been the main driver for pushing ICT in higher education. Since 1996, it has regularly published Master Plans on ICT in Education. First, the goal was on increasing the usage of computers in education and later on electronic and ubiquitous learning including improving accessibility to education via MOOC offerings.

In 1999, Korea even founded its own Government Institute, the Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) in charge of rolling out and overseeing ICT education from primary schools to universities.

Korean Government MOOC Platforms

The Korean Government’s policies produced a number of home-grown online education platforms, which are widely used by schools and students from primary school to higher education. Korea was an early adopter of online educational platforms and they are actively used tools of education today. While some platform act as information repository for Korean students, these platforms have become increasingly interactive.

  1. Edunet (edunet.net) for Primary & Middle Schools.

Edunet was started in 1996 and had 6.4 Million users in July 2013. Edunet features:Korea3

  • online textbooks for all levels and classes
  • model tests with answers
  • educational resources such as documentaries
  • photo repository
  • a guide to recommended apps for smartphones (see picture below


  1. Research Information Service System (RISS) (www.riss.kr)

The RISS has been established in 1998 and is Korea’s main channel for research information services. RISS had 2.57 million registered users in July 2013 and its usage recently expanded strongly.

RISS features a powerful search engine whereby subscribers can search academic articles, books etc from Korean and global sources. RISS also features a specially configured Mobile website (m.riss.kr) and also features Japanese and Chinese language search mechanisms. Through the RISS platform, research material is easily made available to Koreans.



  1. Korea Open Courseware (KOCW) (www.kocw.net)

MOOCS as a term is relatively unfamiliar in Korea, where the term “Open Courseware” is far more common. KOCW is the government-initiated MOOC platform for Korean universities and was founded in 2009.

KOCW offers online lectures and also course materials of courses from dozens of Korean universities and also TV documentaries. It is possible to search lectures via subject or university.


Korean University MOOC Platforms

As mentioned previously, Government has taking a leading role in and the universities have not been the main drivers in online education in Korea. This perhaps puts the Korean experience at odds with other countries.

Starting from 2001, the Korean Government supported and encouraged the foundation of Cyber Universities, offering distance-learning courses. Currently, 21 Cyber Universities are operating with a total admission rate of 34,340 students. Many reputable universities have opened their own Cyber Universities. Korea has a very strict entry allowance system for conventional universities based on the score of the Scholastic Ability Test (High School final exam) and for Cyber Universities, entrance policy is easier.

Conventional universities increasingly use “Open Courseware” platforms to offer lecture materials openly available online, sometimes including video files of lectures.

Sookmyung Women’s University has taken a pioneer role by initiating the Sookmyung Network for Open World (SNOW) platform. SNOW is an excellent platform integrating its own lectures with US universities such as MIT, Yale, Berkeley but also includes TED Talks and Seoul Digital Forum conference talks. All lectures are translated into Korean to make the talks more accessible to the local audience.

Private MOOCs in Korea

Apart from Government- and university-driven MOOC initiatives, private companies are also active and very successful in developing MOOC platforms in Korea.

Naver Open Lectures

Naver is Korea’s leading online platform for everything ranging from searches, shopping, weather, email, blog, gaming, cartoons etc. In short, the “Google of Korea”. Naver recently started a project “Open Lectures”, whereby it invites 50 well-known professors to deliver thought-provoking lectures on different topics and their effects with society throughout 2014.


Recently, a Wall Street Journal Article portrayed Kim Ki-Hoon, a “rock-star teacher” earning more than 4million US$ from off- but also online English language lessons. Teacher Kim is working for Megastudy, one of the largest Korean private tutoring companies.

Korea4Megastudy is listed on the Korean stock exchange and is one of the companies who benefit from Korea’s $17 billion annual spending on private education. Almost every child receives private education on top of public education in Korea, mainly to prepare for the strict university entry exam but also for further education during and after university.

In private academies (Korean: Hagwon) such as Megastudy, teachers are free agents and have to market themselves to the students. The more students sign up for their classes (online and offline), the more the teachers earn. It is their online presence, offering the teachers and schools a chance to profile themselves and attract more students.


– Korea offers an example for successful Government-driven online education & MOOCS

– For private education industry in Korea, MOOCs are financially very profitable

– Open education is used for internet portal companies like Naver to act as a multiplier and give a loud voice to Professors on societal questions

– Korean universities have been slow to catch on the MOOC trend and have barely used MOOCs to widen their international appeal

– Online education is intensively used to make foreign language materials more accessible to Korean students & the public