Dear Parents of UCIS students.
We are well into our 2nd month of online classes and I just want to take this opportunity to update you on how it is going.
As with schools across China that were required to make a sudden transition to online classes during the COVID19 outbreak, we encountered some minor problems in the first weeks, and these were mainly due to poor connectivity and system overload; matters largely beyond our control.
When sourcing for platforms to use in early February, we had settled on Alibaba’s DingTalk after extensive testing of multiple platforms. Nobody, even at Alibaba headquarters, could have predicted the surge in DingTalk usage as schools went live. But DingTalk was quick to react, deploying more than 100,000 servers in the Alibaba cloud to cope with demand.
Just last month, DingTalk gained global recognition when the platform was included in the UNESCO list of “distance learning” platforms, further confirming that, ultimately, we made the right choice.
The platform is running smoothly now, and this has given us teachers an opportunity to enhance our online teaching skills by focusing on mastering all the different tools that are available.
The biggest challenges with online teaching are keeping content engaging, academic quality of the highest standard, and monitoring class engagement to ensure participation and understanding. We take it upon ourselves to observe other teacher’s classes and learn each other’s techniques. We are quick to share newly discovered functionality that enhances our teaching abilities through regular discussions on best teaching practices. It has been challenging, especially for the foreign teachers who often have to master a new tool in Chinese. But I am glad to report we have made tremendous progress and I am personally in awe of the creativity of my colleagues in discovering and mastering new techniques for online teaching.
The students have adapted well to distance learning given the unprecedented circumstances. Attendance is high, and we have been able to focus on the delivering the curriculum to prepare students for exams. Whilst other schools explore their creativity in delivering fun through such events as online karaoke competitions.
we choose to concentrate on the core academics, but keep it engaging and fun through the strong use of visuals and engagement activities. The goal was always to maintain the same standard of academic excellence as live teaching, and in many ways, I think we have exceeded our, and hopefully your, expectations.
Online classes may not be as good as the real thing, but they can be an excellent complimentary tool to aid learning when finally we can return to campus. The skills, we as teachers, are learning now, will continue to be invaluable to the future.
I would like to thank all parents of UCIS students for their continued support through this challenging time. We continue to strive for academic excellence, and commit to maintaining the highest standards whether online or not.
Dean Ashley Owen