New Money: Online education booms in the thick of coronavirus outbreak
Updated 22:34, 13-Mar-2020
By Lily Lyu and Jin Yang

For students, interacting with teachers via a pad or cheering out loud when making a score are among the fun experiences of online classes taken in the comfort of their homes.

For many parents, online classes could be a lifesaver from the daily stress of rushing their children from one extracurricular class to another.

As for teachers, it's more than talking into a camera. They need to pay extra attention to interaction and create some excitement every ten minutes or so to keep students focused. They may also wear something funny, tell jokes, or even sing a little – anything that appeals to students.

This makes e-classes more interesting for some, even for a quiet board game like Chinese chess. Six-year-old Yuanbao has been learning Chinese chess online for nearly two years. And he thinks doing it this way is more fun.

E-class in a mobile/CGTN

E-class in a mobile/CGTN

Not only can he cheer whenever he scores the "MVP list," but he can also watch the class replay for as many times as he wants.

Online education is one of the changes brought about in China by the COVID-19 epidemics, with many preferring to do things online rather than in the physical classroom. China now has more than 300 million users of online classes.

The market size could surpass 450 billion yuan (around 64 billion U.S dollars) by the end of this year, according to iiMedia. But many analysts are now revising up earlier estimates of growth for this sector because the epidemic has accelerated the trend.

Education companies have been racing to launch e-classes, especially K12 courses, due to school closures resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Bo, head of products at Xueersi Online school said after they decided to offer free classes, they designed a week's curriculum from grade 1 to grade 12 within two days and prepped for an influx of a huge number of users.

But launching online courses will not lift revenues, at least in the short term. Businesses are hoping to gain future customers by offering free content on video streaming platforms as well as their own apps or websites.

And they hope to convert this effort into revenues.

"Gaining a huge number of new customers within such a short time, we still need to tailor our products and services more. For example, we're the only content provider that has produced courses based on different textbooks in different provinces," Hu Bo said. "Some say the epidemic is accelerating the development of this industry, but I don't think this industry has reached the quality commensurate with the growth. We still have more room to improve our courses, products, customer experience and other details."

He also said the epidemic is like a revolution in "fair" education by providing students anywhere in the country, from cities to the villages with a fair chance to listen to some of the best teachers.

From this perspective, online learning can be promising because, instead of bringing people to learning, it brings learning to people.