Affected by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, online teaching has emerged all over the world. A new academic year of UIC started in September, and most of the teachers and students have already returned to campus. However, a small number of teachers and students are still unable to return. Consequently, All the classes this semester are to be conducted as scheduled in one of the three ways: face-to-face teaching; or real-time interactive online mode (e.g. using Zoom), or a combination of face-to-face and online modes. The coexistence of teaching modes has become a new trend.

Bai Haonan, a junior from the Data Science programme, has a total of seven courses this semester. Among these, two courses have to be conducted online, for lecturers of these two courses are still in Australia and Poland and cannot return. One of the online courses allows students to take in their dormitories using their laptop to log in to an online platform. The other requires students to gather in the classroom and watch the real-time online broadcast by their teachers through Zoom together.


UIC offers 452 courses during this semester, of which 76.8% is face-to-face teaching, 22.3% is online teaching courses while 0.9% is hybrid teaching.

To ensure a high-quality learning experience, UIC has upgraded technology and equipment in classrooms and optimized the effect of real-time interactive online teaching. The live broadcast equipment and microphones in each classroom allow the interaction to proceed smoothly, creating a two-way interaction in class.

Bai Haonan believes that online courses have affected real-time communication between students and teachers. Nevertheless, it prompts him to preview and find problems in advance and find opportunities to communicate with teachers. When taking online class alone, he can adjust his posture to make himself more comfortable or replenish energy at any time, so that he would not get sleepy. Compared to face-to-face teaching, he even feels more efficient in online courses.

Still, Bai Haonan considers face-to-face communication necessary, for the warm atmosphere and communication in offline teaching makes students more enjoyable. Consequently, he thinks that hybrid teaching, the combination of face-to-face and online teaching modes, allows students to experience the advantages of the two methods.

Same as Bai Haonan, Han Zhiyan, a sophomore major in the Media and Communication Studies programme, also has two online courses this semester. However, comparing to take online courses alone, Han Zhiyan prefers to study in the classroom with her classmates together. In her perspective, studying together in the classroom provides more convenience to group discussions and makes learning more efficient and interesting.


Teachers and students “meet” online

Wang Yihui, a freshman from Broad-based Admission in Journalism and Communication, has two online courses conducted in the classroom through Zoom. Through more than a month of learning, she has eliminated her concerns about hybrid teaching.

Wang Yihui explains that online courses also have the atmosphere as face-to-face teaching, and group discussions and cooperation can also be carried out as usual. The lecturers, though teaching through live broadcast, are still serious and well-prepared, which is a guarantee for students’ learning. Also, teachers would not ignore interaction in class. In each class, about ten students have the opportunity to ask questions, and the students communicate actively with teachers. Moreover, teachers would take the initiative to carefully help students overcome their discomfort with online teaching by using free time to answer students’ questions or making a Zoom appointment to communicate with them one to one.

Wang Yihui also mentions the importance of teaching assistants in hybrid teaching. Especially for practical courses, teaching assistants would observe the reaction of students during the lecture, give feedback to teachers in time, and teachers would adjust accordingly.


Wang Yihui takes an online course with classmates in the classroom

Celeste Velásquez is a full-time degree-seeking student who is in her third year majoring in Media Arts and Design (MAD). Due to the COVDID-19 pandemic, Celeste is currently at home in Venezuela as she is unable to return. Therefore, Celeste has to start the 2020/2021 semester by doing all her classes online.

“Starting a new year online has brought me advantages and obstacles that I would have never predicted, but above all, it brings new experiences that make great anecdotes,” Celeste said.

For Celeste, the major difficulty of online courses is the jet lag as Venezuela is 12 hours behind China, and it means that she has to stay up late at night to take classes. Another problem comes from the unstable network when it rains. With September on the horizon, she missed her first day of class because it rained so much and she spent half a day without electricity.


Celeste attending class via her computer

After four weeks of adaptation, Celeste has kept up with the rhythm of online courses and improved her self-learning ability. Besides, because of the jet lag, two of her teachers have to wake up super early as well to give class, just as she stays up late taking courses. “To be honest, it comforts me a lot to know I am not the only fighting sleep whenever I log in to the class meeting,” she says.


Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He, Zhang Fan