OpenLearning partners with Alibaba to capture Chinese online education market

OpenLearning Alibaba Cloud mainland China online education ASX OLL
OpenLearning is attracting interest from education providers around the world as travel bans and social distancing measures have expanded the appeal of online courses.

OpenLearning (ASX: OLL) has inked a deal with a subsidiary of internet giant Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) to capitalise on the current online education opportunity stemming from the coronavirus pandemic in mainland China.

The higher education software-as-service (SaaS) company today announced it has entered into a partnership with Alibaba’s data intelligence backbone, Alibaba Cloud, to offer students in mainland China high-speed access to online courses through OpenLearning’s cloud-based platform.

OpenLearning, which listed on the ASX in December after raising $8 million through its initial public offering, said more than 10,000 students in mainland China have already taken courses on its platform.

It claims it is the first online learning platform in Australia to utilise Alibaba Cloud’s technology for domain name server (DNS) acceleration, providing it with a key competitive advantage in the Chinese market where online course platforms have reportedly been “substantially slower”.

OpenLearning also sees the deal with Alibaba as an opportunity to increase revenue by being a gateway into the market for education providers.

“Based on the current data, universities worldwide will suffer a multi-billion-dollar combined revenue loss due to COVID-19 from the decline in international student enrolments and campus closures,” OpenLearning chief executive officer and managing director Adam Brimo said.

“We believe that OpenLearning is well-positioned to support higher education providers by providing a platform to design and deliver high-quality courses to students worldwide – protecting their core business and enabling them to generate new revenue through short courses and micro-credentials,” he added.

Coronavirus forces Australian universities to increase online delivery

OpenLearning said it has attracted interest from education providers worldwide as travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 outbreak has expanded the online delivery of courses.

These travel bans have prevented a large number of international students from entering Australia before the start of the 2020 academic year and universities have been seeking to use learning platforms that are accessible from within mainland China, the largest source country for international students globally.

At the start of March, the University of Sydney announced it is facing a shortfall of more than $200 million due to coronavirus. Last week, the university also cancelled events hosted on its campuses including graduations and stated there would be no face-to-face teaching on campus from next week.

In Western Australia, Curtin University is moving all lectures online from this Friday.

Other universities are facing similar situations and have considered varying degrees of shutdown with staff urged to teach online for the duration of the pandemic.