With the coronavirus outbreak forcing millions of Chinese students to self-isolate at home, many are turning to e-learning platforms to fill the void. According to Forbes, big players in Chinese e-learning added more than $3.2 billion to their market value just two weeks after the government-imposed lockdown, demonstrating the huge demand for online learning.
In China, 260 million students are taking their studies online, both those enrolled in universities that have closed campuses and individuals looking to better themselves as they stay indoors for extended periods. In the Shaanxi province, the “stop classes but don’t stop learning” initiative has seen national curriculum classes broadcast on TV every day, filmed by teachers across all grade levels to fill the gap, creating a level educational playing field.
Of course, it’s widely expected that when China “reopens” in the coming months, students will return to the classroom and the e-learning boom will slow. What’s more, not all students are embracing digital learning; research shows students are less likely to drop out if they are taught using face-to-face methods. Others say that it’s a “sneaky attempt” to force education down their throats, leading to apps like DingTalk receiving thousands of one-star reviews to drive them out of app store search results pages. However, exceptional circumstances could change consumer behaviour and ultimately lead to a more permanent e-learning revolution.
Below, we’ve rounded up strategies to help you deliver effective e-learning courses and experiences in China (and in other parts of the world) during the coronavirus outbreak…
Make it cross-platform
With one billion smartphone users in China alone, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to worry about consumers accessing your e-learning resources from their homes, but how they access is very important. Though digital textbooks and classes are delivered best on a PC or laptop, less than half of Chinese households have access to a computer, down from 80% in 2012.
Almost every aspect of life in China can be controlled from a phone, and so the majority of consumers have made the switch from large displays to their smaller handheld devices.
Opt for mobile-friendly and mobile-first design, and keep your e-learning courses light to reduce unnecessary data consumption at a time when most people are working from home.
Whether you’re a British educational institution providing classes to Chinese consumers or you’ve launched a dedicated e-learning platform in the country, establishing a schedule is a great way to keep students engaged with your material. Time-gated content can be useful, too, encouraging students to work through learning materials and revise in their own time.
You might encourage students to log in every morning at a certain time for a live stream from a teacher, or perhaps expect them to work for at least three hours per day. Set expectations and practice leniency; putting unnecessary pressures on your learners will work against you.
Allow for independence
If you usually offer face-to-face teaching classes, quickly adapting to virtual learning can be a challenge for everyone involved. Rather than trying to replicate that experience from home, consider introducing independent learning mechanisms that give students the freedom and flexibility to learn on their own watch. Some may prefer to help their families with shopping and cleaning during the day, then spend time on an evening catching up on assignments, whereas others will want to follow the same sort of daily schedule as they had at university.
Whether you have 100 students enrolled in your programmes or tens of thousands, being able to offer some emotional support during these challenging times will be helpful. Students are likely to feel isolated, scared, and confused, and the change of pace will be unsettling, so offering a dedicated page full of resources and allowing students to book in some one-to-one time might prove useful to vulnerable learners who depend on face-to-face communication.
You could even encourage students to support one another, tapping into video conferencing technology to create clusters, setting group tasks. You can then check in with each group to offer guidance and feedback and keep that face-to-face teaching alive wherever possible.
Furthermore, encouraging students to take breaks from their computers, exercise from home and set themselves goals will aid in their learning. These can be given as suggestions or even incorporated into a working day, with ‘free time’ schedules where students can relax.
Keep it simple
Though there are now thousands of e-learning tools, plugins, and software designed to make your courses and applications more advanced, keeping it simple is important. Limit the number of third-party integrations needed and keep everything inside of your app or website; if users have to download other software to complete tasks, they’ll disengage or become overwhelmed at a time when they’re depending on you for clarity and normality.
On the same subject, make sure that courses, exercises, and tasks are simple and to the point. There’s no time for brainteasers or convoluted questions. Make instructions short and clear, and consider the benefits of filming video content to explain more complex theories.
As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, there are clear challenges ahead for education. But with the right strategy, e-learning can bridge the gap and serve as a vital alternative at a time where knowledge has never been more important. Follow the techniques outlined above, and contact Zudu China if you need support implementing your ideas. We’re digital marketing experts and can assist with content, app and mini-program development, translation, and more. Call us on +44 (0)1382 690 080 to get started.