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NetDragon Collaborates with Smithsonian, CBS, and Others to Offer Star Trek Online Course

By Henry Kronk
August 06, 2018

A Chinese online gaming company, a U.S. museum, a network broadcast station, a professor, and a film critic walk into a bar to talk about Star Trek … That’s not the setup for a joke—it’s the forces behind a new online course, “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology” which will be hosted on NetDragon’s Learning for a Small World platform.

The collaboration features a cast of characters as diverse as the Starship USS Enterprise. The Smithsonian Institution has provided expertise and educational content. CBS Consumer Products will also provide know-how regarding the cultural and technological impact of the series.

Life Imitates Art

The course will be taught by Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, along with Scott Manz, a film critic and producer who has a long history with the Access Hollywood.

“This online course offers a great way to experience the National Air and Space Museum’s approach to artifacts and history from the comfort of your own home,” said Weitekamp in a release. “It’s a wonderful example of the Smithsonian Institution’s commitment to reaching beyond the walls of our museums to educate and inspire.”

Learners will get a look at a number of items currently on display at the Smithsonian, along with some of the institution’s collections that are rarely available to the public. Weitekamp and Mantz will be joined throughout the six-part course from numerous other academics and experts.

star trek
GeraldFord, Flickr.

NetDragon Makes Moves in Education

Of all the groups involved in this effort, NetDragon appears at the outset to be the odd one out. The company specializes in massive multiplayer online games.

But at the same time, NetDragon has been making inroads into education for nearly a decade. The company established Elernity, an online learning resource center and community, in 2010. They have also recently acquired the textbook publisher JumpStart and the educational technology provider Promethean World. Most recently, NetDragon took over Edmodo as well.

That explains the online course. It’s also no secret that NetDragon founder and Chairman Liu Dejian is a major Trekky. In 2015, he obtained a license from CBS to convert the NetDragon headquarters Fuzhou, Fujian province into the world’s only full size replica of the Starship USS Enterprise.

The project cost HK$1.27 billion and features long metal slides that extend from the third to the ground floor, allowing employees to ‘beam’ down.

“NetDragon is committed to innovation in the field of online learning,” said Dr. Simon Leung, Net Dragon Vice Chairman and Executive Director, in a release. “We believe Learning for a Small World fills an important niche in our learning product portfolio. Online learning communities are central to our strategy and form a core component of the new online learning platform.”

Learning for a Small World is one of NetDragon’s latest ventures. It is intended to draw in adult learners for inexpensive courses. These learning modules will be more in the entertainment category and won’t necessarily help you train for a new career. Other topics currently in development include “Fake News: Fears, Tribes, and Headlines,” “Genomics: Playing God,” and “ESports: Rise of the Digital Gladiators.”

As the platform states in its mission statement, “The boundary between fiction and reality is no longer clear.”

Cover Image: NASA, Unsplash.