MOOCs and Micro-Credentials: Online Upskilling to Boost Your Asia Literacy

Image Source: Wojtek Gurak/ Flickr

For people around the world, online learning is more than just a passing phase. Open Universities, edX and Coursera have been making education accessible long before COVID-19 forced most people online. Whilst the pandemic has helped some to attend international conferences and seminars, for others, a world of on-screen activities has become an obstacle to effectively participating, engaging and learning. Although it is virtually impossible (no pun intended) for us to predict when we might be travelling again, for those of you who are eager to learn about Asia at some of the best universities and institutions, massive online open courses (MOOCs) and micro-credentials are just two options without going anywhere!

Pre-COVID, university students in Australia were eager to participate in overseas programs. In the 2019 Australian Universities International Director’s Forum (AUIDF) survey, almost one in four (23%) domestic undergraduate students participated in a ‘learning abroad experience’ during their degree. Amazingly, the survey notes that one in two (49%) domestic undergraduates participated in a learning experience in the Indo-Pacific in 2019. These statistics paint a positive picture. However, it is important to note that despite financial incentives to support Australian students engage with Asia, for many, spending time abroad is often out of the question. Because of this, virtual exchange and summer school programs have provided students with new ways to access programs and connect with others at home and abroad.


MOOC List is a great place to start your adventure, especially if you are interested in seeing what is on offer before you commit! It is a fantastic tool for searching across all providers, universities and sites. Once you know what is out there, you will soon be on your way to the world of self-paced online learning.

edX, Coursera and Future Learn

Six years before I finished a master’s in Public Policy at the University of Tokyo, thanks to two free online courses on ‘Visualising Postwar Tokyo’ through edX, I was sitting in a classroom learning from some of my academic heroes at UTokyo. While it was quite different to the in-class learning experience, it was free. Plus, I could do the course alongside balancing full-time employment and study. In 2020, I even passed time in hotel quarantine on my return from Tokyo doing an MIT edX course on ‘Visualizing the Birth of Modern Tokyo’.

Similar to MOOC List, a great way to navigate these platforms is to use the search function to find courses that interest you – Japan, Korea, or the name of a university, such as Peking University (before you submit an application to the Yenching Scholars Program, of course!).

Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI)

Maybe you have exhausted all the courses on edX and Coursera? No worries! The ADBI was established in Tokyo as a subsidiary of the Asian Development Bank in 1996. According to the ‘Global Go To Think Tanks Index Report’ published annually by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the University of Pennsylvania, ADBI ranked first in the world among government-affiliated think tanks in 2020. If COVID is preventing you from taking up one of their numerous employment opportunities, the ADBI’s e-learning platform has free, Asia-focused courses.

The Asian Productivity Organization (APO)

The APO is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1961 to increase productivity in the Asia-Pacific region. The APO eAPO is an effort by the APO to meet the growing need for training and skill development of the most important asset, human resources. The eAPO site has over 22,000 people furthering their knowledge of agriculture, technology, business and the public sector.

So, when you have finally exhausted your supply of tv shows and movies attempting to get better at Japanese, why not explore some of these fantastic ways to upskill your knowledge about Asia. If you have found any gems, feel free to add them in the comment box below.

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Sarah Strugnell

Sarah Strugnell is a PhD student at Princeton University and affiliated with the Princeton Global Japan Lab. She is a recipient of the John and Julia Sensenbrenner Fellowship (2022-23) and a University Center for Human Values Merit Grant (2022-23). She is a former Victorian Government Hamer Scholar to Japan (2017), Monash Yoshida Scholarship holder (2015 & 2016) and JASSO scholarship awardee (2016-15 & 2019-20). Sarah holds a double Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Australian National University and the University of Tokyo, and a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours in Japanese Studies) from Monash University. 

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