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The Influence of Coronavirus on Online Education

There has long been talking in the world about transferring education to online mode. Some universities have long-established online platforms and allow students to study remotely. However, until recently, there was no global need to put all the processes online. Everything changed when the coronavirus pandemic began in the world.

 

In 2018, Times Higher Education created a survey to measure university attitudes towards online education. The survey was conducted in 45 countries and affected all continents. Most interviewees admitted that live communication in the educational process could not be replaced by virtual.

 

Seventy-six percent of respondents believe that the online version cannot replace the quick learning process. Earlier, the rectors of the best world universities suggested that by 2030 the entire learning process should go online. However, after the real experience, many universities have changed their minds.

 

The coronavirus epidemic forced the government to close all universities, schools, and colleges. At the moment, university leaders are trying to establish an online education process. This enables students, especially foreign students, to continue to study and perform tests.

 

In this article, we have collected data on online education from China, Hong Kong, and Australia. We compared the opinions of leaders in the education system and analyzed their attitude toward online learning. This shows whether universities are ready for online teaching and how they cope in current conditions.

 

How do university leaders view online education?

 

Let’s start with Australia. The vice-chancellor of the country said that online mode does not replace live communication, data exchange, and knowledge testing. He hopes that the current situation will not last long because universities cannot maintain a high level of education online. However, we realized that Australian universities are prepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Vice-provost of the University of Rochester in New York believes that online education does not increase student academic achievement. It cannot convey the material in the right amount. Moreover, in her opinion, students cannot celebrate a graduation or defend scientific work on video communications.

 

Universities faced dozens of difficulties in the first weeks of quarantine. Most teachers did not have experience using online education platforms. Therefore, university graduates could not control the presence of students in lectures. Children often did not hear the teacher, or the connection was completely cut off. Therefore, all universities’ authorities have been tirelessly worked on establishing online processes.

 

First problems the universities have stumbled upon 

When universities first switched to online education, they ran into stupid problems. Firstly, professors could not figure out applications that provide video communications. Some teachers did not have a microphone, so the sound was very poor quality. Others did not have a stable Internet connection, and the signal constantly disappeared.

 

In this regard, social networks were filled with hundreds of memes and a joke. Chinese students described the difference between the expectation and the reality of online education. Some students say that they were forced to turn off the microphone so that others could not hear the noise in the apartment. Many families were literally locked in a small apartment, so they cannot continue to study.

 

However, universities are doing everything possible to protect their students and staff. Everyone has access to an online platform, and students can also communicate with teachers. It is worth noting that universities understand the difficulties of some students, and are ready to help them.

 

How many students were affected by such restrictions?

 

More than 30 million students at 3,000 universities have switched to distance learning. Students of the faculties of programming and software engineering were asked to develop additional systems for online learning. Because of the coronavirus, some training programs had to be suspended until universities created online systems.

 

The problem is that the restrictions apply to foreign students. Many international students remained quarantined in China. Also, some Chinese students who study in Australia or Europe were not able to return to university. Most affected were students who were in isolation and did not have access to the Internet.

 

In the beginning, the epidemic concerned only China and the countries with which it borders. However, coronavirus has now spread throughout the world. Great blow suffered England, Scotland, and Canada. In these countries, a lot of students from China are registered.

 

When Italy and Iran became the epicenter of the coronavirus, their government followed the example of China. All tuition was transferred online, and universities and libraries were quarantined. However, many Internet portals were unprepared for such an influx of students.

 

When the world faced a global need for online education, many people changed their minds. Most students admit that studying from home has been quite difficult. They cannot find motivation and protect themselves from irritants, including constant news about the spread of coronavirus.

 

Problems in online education

 

Although China and Asia are generally regarded as technologically advanced, Chinese universities have not shown a desire to take education online. Only a few Hong Kong universities have expressed a desire for online education.

 

However, due to the spread of the coronavirus, China was required to transfer all training online. Currently, more than 95% of universities in Asia and Japan, as well as South Korea, have created their web pages, and all students have access to the online platform. The Chinese government makes sure that every student had access to their online office.

 

In terms of technology, China is lucky; it is considered one of the wealthiest countries in the field of technology. In this country are located the headquarters of international companies such as Google, Microsoft China, and also the world-famous company Xiaomi.

 

For Hong Kong, switching the education process online was not difficult. Last year, when there were anti-government protests on the street, and the police registered violence against people, including students, Hong Kong universities created many online platforms. Since November last year, these platforms have normally been operating and, at any time, were ready to accept a new flow of students.

 

China and Hong Kong are very technologically advanced. Therefore, students have no problem accessing online platforms or lessons. Unlike other countries, strict restrictions can be imposed in Asia, and the educational system would not suffer from this.

 

What does universities management think about online education?

 

However, leaders in the Asian education system say they do not consider online education to be a full-time replacement. “The fact is, -some experts say, – “that online learning should be interactive. Teachers must constantly answer students’ questions, and in these conditions, this cannot be done”.

 

Also, the online training system should be led by experts. Therefore, each university should designate those responsible for conducting online training. However, few teachers really understand the online teaching system and can be responsible for their colleagues and also control students. 

Moreover, many teachers need help while working online. At the moment, it is difficult for them to understand the entire system of online education and take such a blow.

 

In general, the transition to online learning took China for about two weeks. Now all training goes through video conferencing. Students can see lectures, interactive tests that the teacher displays, and ask him questions. All processes can be performed using a mobile phone or other devices with Internet access.

 

Online platforms can track students’ attendance at lectures or other classes. If the student is absent regularly, this is recorded by the teacher, and he may underestimate the grade. All students are in the same Internet space, and they can follow each other’s successes. Students’ progress is also recorded by the teacher, so each of them can receive recommendations for improving academic performance.

 

What problems do students have?

 

Universities are well aware that it is too difficult for some students to study from home. The problem is that many families are forced to share one or two computers into more than five people. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, many parents lost their jobs or were reduced. As a result, many conflicts and scandals arose in families. Also, older children should look after younger children while their parents are at work.  

 

In addition to it, universities understand that students are distracted by irritants such as smartphones, social networks, game consoles, or televisions. Moreover, it’s too difficult to concentrate on learning when a pandemic occurs in the world, and news channels broadcast it every minute.

 

However, university rectors believe that online education is the best way to keep students in shape. This prevents students from forgetting the material and helps them to continue learning while the coronavirus pandemic is taking place in the world. Universities are also drawing up a work plan for students who are graduating and must defend their academic work. Examination dates and recent changes are constantly published on the official pages.

 

Universities hope that the situation will be improved soon. They post lectures on simple topics that do not require much analysis and research. Teachers believe that students will not be able to process hard material under quarantine. University rectors have adjusted the class schedule, coordinating it with students. Many lectures are posted on the website, and students can view them at a convenient time.

 

How is online studying going?

 

Despite the online mode, teachers continue to rate and rank. Of course, some students have less opportunity to study from home. However, lectures and online programs include interactive assignments, and students receive homework in the form of tests. The problem is that all students are in different cities and countries, so they cannot attend all the online lessons.

 

All students must complete lab work, write essays, and conduct research. Universities believe that this is enough to support children’s knowledge. Each student can send homework to one of the messengers. Some children say that they became close to teachers because they faced the same problems. For example, during a conversation, the sound or image may disappear, and both interlocutors laugh from this.

 

Professors from different universities are talking via the Internet to exchange experiences. Teachers admit that the coronavirus rallied them, made them one team. Now those teachers who have already learned how to use online resources help inexperienced. This applies to presentation design, publishing news, and communication using instant messengers.

 

Digital technologies for online education

 

The leaders of the educational system of China shared data on the state of the technological base in China. Currently, there are 22 educational platforms, each of which provides more than 1000 courses for students. Such courses cover almost 15 disciplines for higher education. This is a great alternative for small educational institutions because they are not able to create high-quality online platforms in a short time.

 

In addition to standard courses, well-known universities have added additional ones. Peking University supports students in job search, psychological health, and provides advice on graduate works. This makes us think that online education may be more beneficial for students. Some areas of education have begun to work better online.

 

Universities encourage students to provide feedback on current online education. This will allow teachers to adjust their teaching methods. Chinese universities believe that coronavirus tested the country for its ability to respond quickly and change strategies.

 

However, experts argue that a complete transition to online education is not yet possible. Although universities do a good job with educational programs, they cannot translate all processes online. For example, it is not possible to carry out an academic exchange of students or teachers. Applicants who choose a future university cannot get to know it online.

 

What do students think about online education?

 

If we discard quarantine and isolation information, China is good at online education. However, there are some difficulties for both students and teachers.

 

Sometimes, it is difficult to monitor students online. Due to noise and constant movement in the background, students turn off the sound and camera on a laptop or smartphone. Because of this, teachers are not sure if anyone is watching their lesson. Sometimes the connection is interrupted, or the Internet signal weakens. Therefore, many students prefer not to ask questions. It looks weird as if the teacher is talking to himself.

 

The big problem with online education is the time difference. Due to the coronavirus, a lot of students returned home, and now they are in a different time zone. They cannot be present at all online lectures. Therefore, they look at them in notes.

 

Digital progress at Tsinghua University

 

The second semester in China begins on February 17th. However, from mid-January, schools and universities began to close in the country. The coronavirus epidemic spread throughout the country, and authorities began to close communication between the regions. Hard quarantine was introduced in Wuhan, which soon spread to neighboring provinces. In this regard, universities have decided to postpone the start of studies.

 

In early February, a university-wide conference was held, which was to share the ideas of Tsinghua University. More than 50 thousand people were online to listen to the ideas of the chairman of the university. At a briefing, university leaders spoke about their learning experiences in difficult conditions. There had been given an example of Mei Yiqi, who managed to continue the activities of the university in the conditions of hostilities.

 

Tsinghua University quickly opened an online platform training course. All courses were transferred online, and more than 25 thousand students immediately gained access to the site. Tsinghua University has opened more than 4,000 online courses, and more than 2,600 teachers continued to teach.

 

The difference of this university is that it managed to translate even such lessons as physical education, painting, and medicine online. Teachers hold video conferences to verify the correctness of students’ exercises. Students can view lesson notes if they train at other times. The video quality is sufficient to make them comfortable to watch.

 

It is worth noting that Tsinghua University spent additional funds on organizing consultations with psychologists and assisting in the design of theses. University officials understand that during the coronavirus epidemic, students’ mental health may be affected.

 

First Impressions of Online Learning

 

In difficult moments, students and teachers come together and begin to support each other more strongly. When the training went online, the students were very happy. Most of them are grateful for the opportunity to continue being under quarantine training. Now students can see each other’s progress, and this stimulates them to try even more.

 

This turned out to be especially beneficial for introverts. Students who are shy about speaking in front of an audience can finally relax. They are very comfortable studying from home, so the level of academic performance has increased.

 

The pride of the university is the Rain Classroom app. It was launched in 2016, and since then, almost 20 million users have been registered on the platform. Instead of lectures of one and a half hours, classes are divided into lessons of half an hour. After each part, the children form a list of questions and can immediately receive answers.

 

The administration of Tsinghua University decided to open 2,000 courses for students of other universities. You can improve your knowledge without even registering on the platform. The university website has open lessons that students and teachers from other universities can attend.

 

Teachers at the university’s medical faculty are involved in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. University staff went to the epicenter of the epidemic, Wuhan. This demonstrates the direct participation of the university in the social life of the country.

 

Conclusions

 

Chinese universities do not see much difficulty in online education. Although at the end of quarantine, students will return to a live form of learning, they will have the opportunity to use the online platform. Teachers admit that they will be happy to conduct some lessons online. This is a great option in case of unexpected quarantine, unstable political situation, or holidays.

 

Of course, there is a lot of people who do not see the benefits of online education. They adhere to old traditions, so it is hard for them to open their minds to new technologies. Nevertheless, the attitude toward online platforms does not depend on age. A lot of professors between the ages of 60-70 are satisfied with using the Rain Classroom.

 

What about online education in the USA?

 

Although there is a huge number of universities, now the country cannot allocate large funds for the development of online education. The tech market in the USA is growing rapidly, and this is confirmed by Google reports.

 

Over the past few years, a lot of startups have been created in the country, which has received the support of global funds. Most applications are dedicated to school education, and some provide training for college students. The demand for online courses is growing every year. Also, a lot of online courses are designed to prepare students for final exams.

 

However, before the coronavirus pandemic, the government did not intend to transfer education online. Now hundreds of universities are creating online platforms to provide distance learning. Coronavirus forced the government to reconsider its attitude to online education, and in a couple of weeks, most courses appeared online.

 

Experts do not presume to say whether online education is capable of replacing full-time. However, under quarantine, many countries continue to provide educational services. Coronavirus forced universities to unite and create high-quality online platforms that will help students maintain their educational level.

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