The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has shown scant respect for manmade borders and it took just three months to bring the world to a standstill, proving how intimately connected we are as earthlings. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, China closed schools nationwide to prevent the spread of the virus. This led to the testing of online education on an unprecedented scale. Here we give a first-hand experience of China’s universities to provide quality distance education while battling the pandemic.
With all the campuses closed, universities swung into action to open 24,000 online courses, including 1,291 of China’s ‘national excellence courses’ (competitive high-quality courses selected by the Ministry of Education) and 401 courses of virtual experimental simulations on 22 platforms. This effort was coordinated by the Chinese Ministry of Education, which monitored the progress and quality of the online education services offered.
To gain some insight into the effectiveness of such large-scale online education, we look at the results of a statistical survey conducted among 39,854 students at Southeast University in China. Around 50% of students believed that the planned teaching objectives were fully attained and 46% for objectives basically attained. Interestingly, most students agreed that in addition to maintaining continuity of online education, teachers brought positive energy during classes to help them combat mental stress resulting from quarantine.
However, students were less enthusiastic when asked about ‘focus and restraint’ and gave it a relatively low score, clearly implying a greater need to improve self-discipline and concentration amid distractions such as unstable network speed, noisy environment, and a lack of professional equipment. Students recommended combining recorded videos and live courses with more online interaction to mitigate the impact of unstable networks and increase students’ participation. Providing a unified teaching platform with playback functions and appropriate amounts of homework, were also among the most frequently mentioned suggestions.
Fig. 1: Statistics of responses to questionnaires collected among 39,854 students at Southeast University in China.
Score (out of 10) on the quality of the online teaching process.