The lessons of COVID-19: Working from home


– I’m Jeremy Goldkorn, editor-in-chief of SupChina. We’re filming this on February 28, 2020, as China is still fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. Travel restrictions and school closures are keeping as many as 180 million Chinese students, primary, secondary, and tertiary, out of the classroom. Many schools are using the internet to run virtual classes. At the same time many companies have asked staff to work remotely. China’s tech giants are stepping up to meet the demand. Alibaba’s DingTalk, Tencent’s WeChat Work, ByteDance’s Lark, and Huawei’s WeLink are all being used for remote work and learning. Share prices of listed companies that offer such platforms are up, with many pundits saying that the coronavirus epidemic could be a tipping point that accustoms people to new ways of working and learning that may outlast the current crisis. But what is it actually like to take or teach classes online? Can working at home really be as efficient as going to the office? Is this really the start of a longterm trend? We asked students, teachers, and white-collar workers in China to tell us about their experiences. – I’m not seeing you here. – Oh. sorry. Okay. There you are. All right, so we’re screencapping on video and then I also have Luke here. – You want me to put like a teacher like shirt on? Hold on a second, I can like… (laughing) Like, got my, my mobile wardrobe right here. – Yeah, right, all by the camera. – Hello. – Hold on, you’re breaking up a little bit. Is it still breaking up for you? – Actually, I still cannot hear you clearly. (breaking up) – So just let me know if you can’t hear me and if we need to repeat the question. Tell me a little bit about yourself. – I am currently a senior high school student. – I am currently living in Xi’an in Shaanxi Province in China. I am currently a director of college counseling at a high school here. – I am currently in my hometown, Shaanxi Province, quite a kind of central province. – My name is Kevin Chen. I’m a co-founder at Italki. We’ve been based in Shanghai for about 12 years. – You’ve been studying remotely during the virus? – So our school is using the online teaching platform called Tencent Meeting. – So my company uses BlueJeans, or sometimes we use WeChat. – Working from home is something new for us. Yeah, we do use WeChat Work. We are also using a bunch of other, you know, international platforms as well. You know, some of us do use Slack. You know, we are using Zoom, right, for a lot of our internal meetings. – A platform students have been using is called Udentity. It’s one of the few that’s accessible in China. – So online meeting platforms are providing free service during the outbreak of virus so all the teachers are required to take a training in how to use this online platform. And as a student, it’s very hard for me to concentrate on my screen for a whole day. – I think it’s been working out for me pretty fine. I think mostly because the nature of my job is that I’m a strategist so basically what we need to work with is just the PowerPoint. – Mmm. -That doesn’t really affect me. I think the only difference is that now I can nap whenever I want to. So that’s the nice thing. – That’s not so bad, yeah, yeah. – All teachers are starting to realize how the limitations of technology are affecting their teaching and, yeah, it’s just been really tough for everybody. I guess you know in terms of teaching, there’s all the kind of, you know, normal issues that a teacher has. But then when you’re teaching online all those problems kind of get magnified. A lot of students will login and they’ll walk away from their computers or their parents will bring them some fruit or whatever and they’re just, it just distracts everybody, drives everybody nuts, right? It’s a really diverse range of challenges both technological and human. – As you know China just went through this massive experiment for everyone getting into this and yeah, you know, it’s been like forced learning. – Do you think it’s something that you might implement more as remote working or implementing that into the weekly schedule or? – Our thinking right now is that it’s still best to have people in the office. But again, like, I think, you know, who knows what’ll happen. Yeah, it’s a hard balance to strike right? I mean, being away actually also has of course as you know many benefits for just being able to concentrate. – I doubt whether it’s going to change the whole working dynamic in China because to be able to maintain this you have to rely on everyone being super responsible and checking their messages all the time even though they are not together physically. – I think in the future I’m going to try to insist on using this kind of online teaching. But, please, do not let me use it the whole day. It’s really hard to adapt to. – Yeah. I can only imagine. Any other, you know, thoughts or comments that you would want to add in or you think are important for folks to know about? – We’re really eager to get back to school. You know? – Yeah. – The coronavirus has done a lot for education, you know, in terms of advancing online education, making education more accessible. But we’re really eager to get back to school. It’s really driving us all crazy. – Personally, I don’t want to try it in the… try it for too long. I still prefer the feeling of sitting in the classroom in which, you know, the chalk dust is still flying and I can see my teacher on the platform imparting knowledge. – Thank you so much for your time. Really, really appreciate talking with you and hearing your comments. We hope you get back to school soon. – Also my pleasure to talk with you. – Thank you. Have a great one, have a great night. – So, how do you think that went? – I think it was pretty good. A little, some signal issues. On the education side, distance learning is definitely a challenge. And, you know, while there are advances in technology that have made it easier or more accessible to do this, it’s still not ideal. They want to get back as soon as they can. Anyway, I’m Alex Urist with SupChina. Subscribe to our channel or go to our website at SupChina.com.

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