In early February, students in Wuhan, China, where the COVID-19 outbreak was first detected, played a prank on Dingtalk, an app owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. At the time, Chinese schools were using DingTalk to continue coursework while the entire country sheltered in place. In response, the artful students spammed the App Store with 1-star reviews of Dingtalk’s e-learning platform in an effort to get it removed.
This wholesome story is one of many emerging about the online academic Spring Term of 2020 for students around the world. According to UNESCO, 90% of the world’s students (K-12 as well as college, university, or graduate students) are experiencing school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools and programs strive to continue operating online, e-learning is having its moment of ascension.
Online Learning is Doing Well
The speed and rate at which educators have transitioned to online education is by itself amazing. 2U, a company that already offers e-learning support to universities and nurtures a partnership with Zoom, has seen a significant uptick in interest. Online learning platforms helping Chinese public schools transition online, such as New Oriental, JD, and TAL, have experienced a surge of new business. Companies offering online tutoring have meanwhile encountered growing demand for their services.
Engagement with these platforms at this time suggest an emerging interest in a “blended” learning model. A blended model is an e-learning environment in which online and in-person classes both play a role in a course, making this the kind of model that could effectively globalize education in the coming years.
Several companies have been offering free or paid online courses to the public in response to the pandemic, in many cases seeing large jumps in subscriptions. Users from all over the map are actively signing up for these courses with a rare level of eagerness. The widening use of these platforms has the potential to expand interest in e-learning beyond just the formal courses offered by universities, schools, and academies.
Including More Learners
The move to online classes has left some educators feeling optimistic. A post-quarantine education system could invite more collaborative cross-campus research; reduce the priority given to physically-administered tests required for university admission; and open academic environments to learners with disabilities through online learning.
As academic conferences move to online platforms, people are taking notice of the technology features that could potentially increase accessibility to these events, such as closed-captioning for deaf participants and Universal Design-compliant VoiceOvers for blind participants. E-learning accommodations do a great deal to help open education to a larger audience.
The importance of localization during the COVID-19 pandemic has been emphasized before on our blog. As we observe the growth of online learning during and after the pandemic, those in the localization and translation industry will expect an increasing need for cross-border communications.