Is Online Learning Here to Stay?
In the past two years, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Things will get worse before they get better’ thrown around by politicians and doctors on news networks in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. With more areas across the world adopting the ‘Living with COVID’ strategy and having already overcome the worst of lockdowns and business closures, China remains not one of them.
Currently, cities in China are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections, causing widespread lockdowns and business closures. Early this week, Shanghai reported a record high in COVID infections (Bloomberg, 2022). And while Shanghai is not entirely locked down (Shine, 2022), schools and businesses remain closed, with Shanghai Disney Resort shutting down this week until further notice (CNN, 2022).
Students are now doing another stint of virtual classes. And while online learning is not the preferred choice of learning by the majority of students and parents, the pandemic has introduced online learning as an available medium for education.
Last summer, China imposed shuangjian (literally meaning ‘double reduction’) – a set of government policies that aimed to decrease the work pressures of children, such as banning extra-curricular tutoring services from operating during weekends and hiring overseas-based teachers for online learning in China (Sixthtone, 2021). This combination of recent education policies and transitions to online learning has resulted in some interesting trends emerging within the online learning sector both globally and in China.
Online Learning is Booming in China
Unfortunately, China’s shuangjian reforms have resulted in producing the complete opposite of the effects it intended for children and parents. Given the competitive nature of prestigious school and university admissions, many parents reported that reducing their child’s extra-curricular activities was not an option to begin with (Sixthtone, 2021).
Consequently, the reforms have adversely inflicted more stress on parents seeking once-commonplace extra-curricular courses for their children. Pressures for children to work even harder during their spare time have been further complicated by fluctuating lockdown policies, causing parents to look online for tutoring services.
Given these circumstances, it is unsurprising that forecasters have predicted that the K-12 online education market in China will experience a significant growth in 2022 and beyond (Technavio, 2022), as online learning platforms become a vital way in navigating around interruptions to education caused by the pandemic (Enlybee, 2021). And we’ve already seen outside of China how popular online education platforms such as edX and Cengage experienced significant growth in new learners registering for courses at the height of the pandemic (CNBC, 2021).
But has the transition from offline to online learning been entirely smooth and successful? Both students and teachers faced a variety of roadblocks having had to adjust to the logistics of online teaching and online learning due to COVID-19’s initial outbreak in early 2020. So how can educators ensure that virtual classes and online learning are fully optimized in offering students a holistic educational experience that they would get in-person?
How to Make Virtual Classes Engaging
If we are to take our children’s education, we must therefore take online learning seriously. So far, studies have revealed that online learning has generated mixed reviews amongst students. One study found that overall satisfaction of online learning amongst students was 41.3% compared to 74.3% amongst the faculty (Elshami, Taha, Abuzaid, Saravanan, al Kawas & Abdalla, 2021). Factors that contributed towards the students’ low satisfaction included higher study-load, technical issues, and a lack of incorporating different applications to engage students. Despite this, 92.9% of the faculty expressed they were satisfied with students’ enthusiasm for online learning.
So what is the cause behind the disconnect between students and teachers? Firstly, teaching students in-person versus online are two entirely different experiences that require refinement of content and teaching approach. As mentioned in the study, incorporating different applications to engage with students and overall enhancing engagement was critical to increasing student satisfaction. This meant that teachers had to put more effort into their virtual classes beyond regurgitating text from their PowerPoint slide.
To get the most out of online learning, virtual classes should not be limited to only teaching the core subjects that students are taught at school. Teachers should strive to foster a virtual classroom environment and learning content that is fun, mentally stimulating, and encourages students to take part. WildChina Education understands this imperative, and as a result we continue to run virtual classes in China and virtual classes about China that achieve maximum student satisfaction and engagement. To date, WildChina Education has created and facilitated over 700 unique virtual classes. Just take a look at our trailer below:
Our virtual learning classes connect students from all over the world to expand their learning and interests in Chinese culture. No matter what facet of traditional or modern Chinese culture that piques your interest, our virtual classes are operated to ensure that students who enroll in our classes receive the most immersive and engaging learning experience that fully leverages the capabilities of livestreaming technology. Recently, we have provided online learning programs and brought virtual classes to students based in Hong Kong who are also currently experiencing lockdown due to COVID-19.
Instead of looking at online learning and virtual classes as a means to an end, WildChina Education views the online learning space as an exciting opportunity to reinvent and reinspire education through embracing developing technologies and fostering a learning experience that is memorable and valuable to students during precarious times.
Bloomberg (2022). Shanghai’s New Covid Cases Hit Record on Mass Mandated Tests. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-20/shanghai-s-new-covid-cases-hit-record-on-mass-mandated-tests
CNBC (2021). Online learning boomed during the pandemic – but what happens when students return to classrooms? https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/26/online-learning-boomed-during-the-pandemic-but-soon-students-return-to-school.html
CNN (2022). Shanghai Disney closes as city sees record surge in Covid cases. https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/21/business/shanghai-disney-closes-covid/index.html
Elshami, W., Taha, M. H., Abuzaid, M., Saravanan, C., al Kawas, S., & Abdalla, M. E. (2021). Satisfaction with online learning in the new normal: perspective of students and faculty at medical and health sciences colleges. Medical Education Online, 26(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/10872981.2021.1920090
Enlybee. (2021). The 8 Most Popular International Online Learning Platforms Among Chinese Students in 2021 https://www.enlybee.com/8-most-popular-international-online-learning-platforms-chinese-students-2021/
Shine. (2022). “Citywide lockdown in Shanghai” a rumor: authorities. https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/2203223425/