Chinese universities try best to offer online classes amid COVID-19

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A teacher from Zhejiang University records a class of systematic anatomy. Photo from the official WeChat account of Zhejiang University
TeacherA teacher from Zhejiang University records a class of systematic anatomy. Photo from the official WeChat account of Zhejiang University

Zhao E’na

Chinese universities have rolled out online courses since February so as to reduce the impacts from COVID-19. As of April 3, a total of 1,454 colleges and universities had opened online courses.

In the first month of online teaching, the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing launched 37,000 classes online with a total length of 1.7 million hours. The classes were attended by more than 1.02 million person-times, achieving an attendance rate of over 95 percent.

Fudan University in Shanghai launched a cloud teaching platform that gathered 1,392 teachers and nearly 8,400 postgraduates. Peking University adopted the “ClassIn” system that livestreamed 1,500 courses totaling 15,000 hours each week, and about 12,000 students took the online courses on a daily basis.

More than 950,000 teachers from 1,454 Chinese universities and colleges had offered 7.13 million classes in 942,000 online courses as of April 3, which were attended by 1.18 billion students, according to statistics.

From January to March, 5,000 courses were newly introduced to China’s massive open online courses (MOOC) platforms, and 18,000 to other online learning platforms.

“Chinese universities have responded actively and conducted an unprecedented large-scale online teaching campaign,” said Wu Yan, head of the higher education department of the Ministry of Education.

An online self-direct learning system of human anatomy was launched by Zhejiang University which displays three-dimensional and rotatable samples of human organs on the screens. Teachers can use specimens or sketch maps to help students better observe and understand human organs, and underline important structures in the system.

Besides, the university also introduced a virtual teaching system that displays different human organs, in which teachers could detail the locations, morphological structures and functions of the organs so as to visualize abstract theories.

“The content of the online courses is rich and concise, and we can directly see the animated morphological structures and functions of various organs on the screen,” said Yang Zhaosen, a postgraduate in human anatomy and histology & embryology with Zhejiang University.

The compulsory course is taught by Professor Zhang Xiaoming with the School of Medicine at Zhejiang University. Since it joined MOOC, the course has been selected by 23,000 students from 30 universities and colleges in China.

To ensure the quality of online teaching, Chinese teachers have taken various measures. Ma Jun, professor at the School of Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology, employed the instructional strategy “flipped classroom” in teaching water quality engineering to undergraduates, leaving more time for teacher-student interaction.

Internet and intelligent technologies have shown their advantages when combined with education, said Wu, adding that modern information technologies have changed the ways of teaching and learning, and reshaped school management and education.

Faculties across the country have come up with a lot of methods to carry out orderly online scientific research and experiments. To make sure that students could conduct experiments at home, Zhu Guiping and Zeng Ming, both teachers from Tsinghua University, mailed pocket instruments to students.

Principal of Tsinghua University Qiu Yong said postponing school opening doesn’t mean suspension of education, calling on both the teachers and students to make efforts and cut down the impact of the epidemic on teaching and learning.

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