January 24th is the biggest holiday of the year in China: the lunar Chinese New Year. As usual, most Chinese prepared for it several weeks before the occasion: food, candies, tickets back home…Nobody expected this New Year would become a most unforgettable one even in his/her whole life. The coronavirus became a household word almost overnight and quarantine also came suddenly before people realized. Over the past almost a month, people, especially those in epidemic areas, went through hard times. On the other hand, we are moved by one story after another about the devoted doctors, nurses, volunteers and all those in the whole world that extended their hands to help.
The spring term in our university originally planned to start on February 17. At the end of January, it was clear that the starting date had to be postponed. The school administration sent some documents early in February notifying all the staff and faculty to make a plan for the month. We were asked to make better use of the online platforms and resources. As a result of the encouragement from the Ministry of Education and development of online courses, there have been thousands of moocs available on the Internet for free, which in my opinion cover nearly all disciplines. As for my course (college English), we have been utilizing the online platforms for the textbook developed by the publishing press over the past five years. Therefore, what we need is to transfer the platforms from kind of self-learning to more guided learning. At the same time, we selected some relevant moocs either as a required component of the course or as recommended resources.
In the middle of February, our university launched a more detailed plan for the future situation. It is a five–stage plan in which different countermeasures will be taken according to different dates when the new term starts. According to this document, the teacher is supposed to choose either live classes or have other interaction with the students in according with the predetermined curricula. Since the college students live in various parts of the country and don’t have the textbooks with them, the teachers usually upload the e-books or other materials for the students to preview. Some publishing houses also provide access to their books with no requirement for the verification code for the time being.
I am going to try a live software called Dingding, with which I plan to have live meeting with the students for about half an hour and then leave some homework for the students to finish online for future discussions. The software enables me to share my desktop with the participants so that they will see my ppt and hear my lecture just as they do in a classroom. The students can also type their questions in the online board and even have video connection with the class. I hope the online meeting goes on well and the Internet won’t break down when we have the class.
Our university is a key university in the region and always taken as a model. Therefore, I haven’t seen any other universities in our province that has a clearer or earlier plan for the new term. I also contactedsome teachers in some other universities in other provinces and learned that they either have a similar plan as ours or just ask the students to learn via moocs.
As most of students in the elementary schools and high schools live in the same city, they are waiting for the time when the virus is effectively controlled so there is no definite date for the start of the new term so far. However, yesterday, some elementary schools informed parents to fill in some forms to see whether they meet the requirements of online classes.
In my memory, China has never paid such a price to fight against a disease. Everybody is praying the dark night will pass as soon as possible.
For more blog posts relating people’s experience in China, please see this blog post from a returning study abroad student, or this post from a middle school teacher about the questions students are asking regarding the outbreak.