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Coronavirus outbreak pushes schools to embrace online classes… and virtual flag raising ceremonies

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Hashtags about the new experience have been trending on Weibo.

While China continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, schools across the country have embraced online classes. When the new semester kicked off on Monday in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, more than 100 hundred million students and parents reportedly joined in watching 426 classes online.

Hashtags about the new experience have been trending on Weibo. Topics include “Online classes are bullying people,” “The awkwardness of online classes,” and “When teachers turn into live streaming hosts.” Some of the hashtags have drawn hundreds of millions of views.

One of the most viral incidents involves a live-streamed biology class. One user said on Weibo that when her brother’s teacher mentioned sperms and eggs to explain meiosis, a type of cell division used by sexually-reproducing organisms, the live-streamed class was cut off by the platform Huya. Huya displayed a message saying that the content violated regulations.

Most online comments speculated that the class was blocked for sexual content, and many said they found it funny and sad at the same time. But in a statement posted on Weibo, Huya said that the ban was triggered by the platform’s IP protection measures. During the live stream, the user included videos from other video platforms, the company said.

But going to school online involves more than just sitting at your desk and looking at your screen. Some schools also moved their national flag raising ceremonies online, which are typically held weekly on school playgrounds. In videos posted on Weibo by state media, students are shown saluting the Chinese flag displayed on their laptops, tablets and TVs.

State media outlet Xinhua described one such moment in unsubtle patriotic terms: “Standing straight in front of the TV screen, with a red scarf on her chest, and saluting the five-starred red flag on the TV screen… 2020’s flag raising ceremony is a forever unforgettable experience for her.”

Other schools are also making sure that students are getting the exercise they need by live streaming physical education (PE) classes while students are asked to follow instructions at home. In a widely circulated picture, an apparent screenshot of a WeChat conversation shows a user asking an upstairs neighbor to stop their kid from jumping rope. The neighbor responded, “I’m sorry, but we’re taking a PE class here.”

Other viral incidents stem from unstable internet connections and teachers being unfamiliar with live-streaming apps. In another viral Weibo post, screenshots of students’ chats suggest a teacher finished an entire class with the microphone on mute because he was too focused to notice messages from his students. Another trending hashtag on Tuesday was about a middle-aged male teacher who live streamed a class with beauty filters accidentally turned on.

Online classes have also led to gripes among students saying their vacation time was cut short. China’s Ministry of Education asked schools to not start online classes before the new semester officially started, but some schools did it anyway.

Frustrated students took to app stores to vent their anger. Many of them review bombed DingTalk, Alibaba’s office app that’s also been widely adopted by schools. DingTalk’s rating dropped below three stars on iOS and some Android app stores, with many recent reviews sarcastically calling the app useful. We reached out to Alibaba for comment but didn’t receive a response.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

But perhaps the worst thing for any kid studying at home is having parents constantly looking over their shoulders… literally. One video shows parents recording their kid taking an exam, which is how some teachers now require students to take tests at home to prove they didn’t cheat.

This article first appeared in Abacus News


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