A View from China: Will COVID-19 Change the Way We Teach?

Isolating at home has become the norm, in what feels like an ultra-long winter vacation!

The Chinese Ministry of Education has decreed that “classes will be suspended, without school suspension” and so, like the rest of the world, we have had to turn to the webcast.

Webcast teaching has a number of advantages. It provides students with a more flexible way of learning, with some watching ‘live’, whilst others can, so long as they can access the Internet, undertake their learning when it is convenient.

There are also many online live teaching platforms, our class models are live broadcast, mu class, conference room, QQ group, WeChat group and so on. Teachers and students choose what is suitable for them, according to their own needs.

Most of the live broadcast software has recording and broadcasting function, and in places where you don’t understand or didn’t pay attention (and we all lapse at times), you can go back and review.

Immersive teaching videos are also far more vivid than words. After watching the teaching video online, students can also leave messages and send e-mails to the teacher about problems they do not understand; providing that two-way interaction and feedback that we all miss when we are not face-to-face.

Of course, there are also some challenges in online teaching.

Colleges and universities all over the country launched “online teaching” all at the same time. Due to too many people online at once, there have been problems such as stutter, flicker, and the continuous spooling circle.

Students also have to download and be familiar with many platforms, and there is not enough mobile space. Some students have also reported they have been busy downloading and learning to use the major online course applications had added to the stress of being a student.

There are also some students who live in remote mountainous areas who have to find the Internet on foot every day; and so it can take a lot of trouble to attend classes.

At the same time, online teaching challenges a student’s autonomous learning ability.

Many teachers say that in the classroom, teachers have more control over students, and it is difficult for students to escape from the teacher’s gaze. Online teachers can only see on-screen comments and ‘likes’, and it is difficult to evaluate students’ learning status immediately. There are also many students reflect that the environment at home is not as good as the classroom; noisier, more interference, and so learning efficiency is not so high.

No doubt these problems are universal – and so it will be interesting to see how many of these practices we retain, and how many we give up, when teaching in physical classrooms resumes.

Su Hong is a Senior Nurse Lecturer at Harbin Medical University Daqing. She also collaborates with staff at Edge Hill University


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