Xu and many others have already begun learning full time again – only from home – in what may become the largest online teaching trial the country has seen.
Traditional bricks and mortar schools in China are now exploring online education options as authorities postpone the new semester until the middle of this month or even into early March.
“There’s no choice [that we have to teach online now],” said Jessie Xie, a 24-year-old high schoolteacher living in Chengdu city. As such, she needs to learn new skills such as speaking naturally in front of a camera, using a digital red pen during PowerPoint presentations, and engaging students via online written comments.
Last week her school started coaching teachers on how to use Alibaba Group’s DingTalk to conduct live-streaming courses. “It’s not easy for some older teachers to learn how to do live-streaming courses. Yesterday one of my colleagues told me she still didn’t know how to use it [even after the coaching session],” Xie said.
This is on top of an already huge jump in this space.
The health crisis has put the spotlight on China’s online education market, which grew 25.7 per cent year on year in 2018 to 251.7 billion yuan (US$35.9 billion), according to iResearch Consulting Group. The previous forecast of annual growth of between 16 per cent to 24 per cent in the subsequent three to five years may now need to be revised upwards.
For some students, the chance to study from home has other benefits. Xu, who lives in Zhejiang province, used to get up before 5:30am on school days but since starting online courses she gets two more hours sleep each morning. “I like online teaching because I have more freedom at home,” said Xu, who began her all-day courses via DingTalk this week.