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Lockdown stories: teaching shifts online in China

15 May 2020: accountancy professor Xing Xiao tells ICAEW Insights about teaching online, the measures her university took to cope with the varied challenges of coronavirus and the positives that have come out of the country’s lockdown period.

While students across China are slowly returning to schools and universities following the cautious lifting of coronavirus measures by the Chinese authorities, accountancy professor Xing Xiao has been busy teaching accountancy courses online to students across the country since the new semester began in mid-February. 

At first, many teachers found online teaching a challenge, says Xiao, but after two weeks of teaching remotely everyone quickly got used to it. In fact, she says, she is just as busy as normal as demand for online learning has soared since the lockdown.

“We have online conferences, seminars and discussions with students and colleagues. It works really well,” she told ICAEW Insights.

The Tsinghua University professor says that many people have found that for certain courses online teaching is even more efficient.

“For example, if the professor wants to teach without a lot of discussion, online teaching is more efficient. Another advantage of online teaching is that the teacher can video the class and students can review it afterwards.”

To ensure the efficiency of teaching virtually, two weeks before the start of the new semester, both the Ministry of Education and the University “put a lot of effort into training professors to use all kinds of online teaching tools and have online experts to help professors cope with any digital problems they faced. There were also a lot of discussions on ways to improve online teaching efficiency among professors”.

The pandemic hit China hard just before the country’s lunar new year celebrations when most people stay at home to celebrate with family. In this regard, the timing wasn’t too disruptive, Xiao says, because lots of businesses and organisations tend to close down during this period. Another reason the Chinese were able to react quickly, she says, is because the general public is comfortable wearing face masks. “And finally, the government put a lot of effort into using data to trace and quarantine those infected and their close contacts.” 

The university and its alumni have also been providing support to the government and wider society through free online courses and policy suggestions, Xiao explains.

Professor Xiao is also responsible for the research institute at her university, which is focused on private equity. The institute opened federal online roadshows for entrepreneurs and investment institutions. The initiative has been welcomed and many people are supportive of continuing the online roadshow once the pandemic has dissipated.

Another upside for Xiao is that forced isolation has encouraged some companies to speed up the digitalisation of their businesses. “So, this is the positive side for me.”