Special Report: OpenLearning (ASX:OLL) has signed a deal with Alibaba Cloud to open its online learning services to mainland China, just as educational institutions are rapidly moving classes online to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The higher education software as a service (SaaS) company said the partnership with the data intelligence backbone of internet giant Alibaba Group, would ensure high-speed access to its online courses in mainland China where it has over 10,000 unique learners.

The news sent shares up as much as 30 per cent this morning to an intra-day peak of 26c.


“We are very pleased to partner with Alibaba Cloud to greatly improve the performance of OpenLearning in mainland China, benefiting all our clients and providing us with a strong competitive advantage,” OpenLearning Group CEO and managing director Adam Brimo said.

The company sees an opportunity to increase revenue by being a gateway into the market for education providers.

OpenLearning is the first online learning platform to partner with Alibaba Cloud in Australia for DNS Acceleration, solving a critical problem for universities and colleges globally.

Many of these institutions are now delivering more courses online and have found that most platforms are substantially slower in mainland China, which has provided OpenLearning with a strong competitive advantage.

Alibaba’s DNS Acceleration service was implemented for OpenLearning within just one week with zero downtime to existing users.

The service speeds up access to OpenLearning via a direct fibre cable connection that runs across specific regions in Asia.

“We are proud to be working with OpenLearning, an innovative company that is changing how people learn globally,” Alibaba Cloud Australia and New Zealand general manager Raymond Ma said.

“Our cloud solution ensures high-speed access to all of OpenLearning’s online courses in mainland China and will help learners to advance their studies during these challenging times.”

Australian universities to increase use of online delivery 

OpenLearning is attracting interest from education providers around the world who are exploring the design and delivery of online courses as a result of the recent travel restrictions imposed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.

The restrictions have prevented a substantial number of international students from entering Australia before the start of the 2020 academic year.

As a result, universities are looking to use learning platforms accessible from within mainland China, which is the largest source country for international students globally and where many of the affected students are based.

“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,” Brimo said.

“This is a very challenging time for the sector, students and society – our hearts go out to all those impacted.”

A NSW-based university said it was facing a shortfall of more than $200m due to COVID-19, according to a statement issued on March 3.

On March 13, that same university announced that events hosted on its campuses, including graduations, would be cancelled.

Staff are now being encouraged to progressively move “as much teaching as possible” online for the duration of the pandemic and other universities that are facing similar situations are considering varying degrees of shutdown.

To alleviate the loss of revenue, education providers are turning to micro-credentials, which can be used to deliver a portion of a degree to students anywhere in the world, generate new revenue from working professionals, and provide large-scale student support to off-campus students.

Key benefits of the OpenLearning platform 

OpenLearning is ideally-placed to support education providers as they explore online learning as a means of delivering both accredited and non-accredited courses in Australia, China and worldwide.

The company’s combination of a scalable cloud learning platform, professional services and education marketplace enables it to provide a complete solution tailored to an education providers’ needs:

  • Deliver their undergraduate and postgraduate courses online via its scalable cloud learning platform to international students to continue with their studies as planned;
  • Diversify their revenue streams through the delivery of university or higher education provider branded short courses and micro-credentials to bridge the skills gap for working professionals;
  • Diversify their sources of international students by raising their brand awareness in Southeast Asia by leveraging OpenLearning’s database of 1.74 million learners;
  • Secure the pipeline of international students in 2021 by offering university foundation year programs online, offshore and in-country through partners; and,
  • Increase engagement of international students by offering large-scale language and enrichment courses to support students at both regional and urban higher education campuses.

Although OpenLearning uses Alibaba Cloud to increase the speed of access for students in mainland China, it will continue to be hosted on Microsoft Azure’s cloud in Australia.

The company’s Australia-based hosting and a range of other measures ensure that it meets all data sovereignty and security requirements for Australian universities.

This story was developed in collaboration with OpenLearning, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing. This story does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.