Surge in online learning amid coronavirus outbreak throws limelight on ClassIn
By: Empower Education Online Ltd.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), activity on ClassIn multiplied an incredible 40 times to record 1.6 million Daily Active Users (DAU) on February 4-5, marking a critical turning point in the development of online education in China.
ClassIn, the major product of online education company Empower Education Online Ltd. (EEO), is a virtual classroom and class management system for teachers rolled into one. Offering online teaching with interactive video chat for up to 1,000 students, the app supports multi-interactive teaching courseware on a computer, tablet or phone. Up till now, it has been used for teaching children's English, K12, language training and vocational training. However, the list of possible applications is growing fast.
ClassIn was on an impressive growth trajectory even before the coronavirus outbreak occurred; it could count 40 of China's biggest 50 training institutions in its client list, such as New Oriental and TAL Education Group, as well as international companies like Udacity and Pearson.
Since the outbreak, however, new clients have rushed to ClassIn, while existing customers have significantly upped their usage. Most are schools in first-, second- and third-tier cities, and after-school training setups.
Colleges have jumped on board too, with four of China's top five universities, including Peking University and University of Science and Technology of China, already using ClassIn.
Notably, refund rates for after-school training centers, which usually hover around 10% though were predicted to escalate dramatically once all of China realized they would be staying at home, have, on the contrary, remained steady once the shift from at-school to online learning began to kick in.
Junbo Song, Chief Executive Officer of EEO, says while user volume peaked around 200,000 DAU and 30,000 Concurrent Users (CCU) prior to the outbreak, the data began to really shoot up from January 29, around the time the government's decision came to extend the holiday to contain the virus. By February 4-5, those figures had skyrocketed to 1.6 million DAU and 350,000 CCU. By the end of February, they averaged about 2 million DAU and 400,000 CCU on weekends.
To handle the high volume of online classes, ClassIn has increased its server capacity by 100 times.
"Last weekend there were nearly 2 million people studying on ClassIn, and a student spends on average 1.4 hours a day on the platform," says Junbo Song. "Undoubtedly, this makes it one of the largest real-time communication networks in the world."
Song says that feedback shows teachers and students are finding online lessons largely equivalent to what they get at school, though sometimes more enjoyable due to the interactivity involved in this virtual classroom experience.
EEO's expertise shows in its cutting-edge multi-user sync audio and video, simultaneous file sharing and operation, instant messaging and special interactive blackboard. Teachers and students have access to video and audio controls for dragging, zooming, muting or raising hands.
In comparison to other popular online teaching apps, like Tencent Meeting or DingTalk, that only offer video chat and file syncing, ClassIn comes with a bundle of interactive features and teaching tools that include online quizzes, simultaneous drawing and even a digital reward system to encourage students. The class management system provides real-time tracking of student data and allows for communication between teachers and students outside of lesson time.
For ClassIn, though the upsurge in demand represents huge opportunity, it has also plunged its operations team into crisis mode. ClassIn is now optimizing its procedures, while continuing to increase its server size and bandwidth to handle the surging user numbers. It also has plans to hire more staff in the days running up to the start of the Spring semester.
For the moment, helping schools, teachers and students get online as fast as possible is the top priority. ClassIn is offering free access to K12 public schools, special deals to colleges and a 20% discount to all training institutions in Hubei province.
UNESCO says that 291 million children worldwide have already had their education disrupted by the spread of COVID-19, with nationwide shutdowns of primary and secondary schools across 13 countries and partial closures in another nine.
In its 2020 report, Global Industry Analysts projected the international e-learning market to grow by US$312.5 billion, driven by a compounded growth of 16.6%. Now, however, with the heavy impact of the coronavirus on education not just in China, but around the world, online learning has become even more clearly recognized as indispensable to education providers across the board, no matter small or large, public or private.
When online learning suddenly surpasses in-class learning in importance, product quality becomes paramount, all of which puts EEO and ClassIn in the driving seat from this point forward.
Empower Education Online Ltd. (EEO) was founded in 2014 with the purpose of developing the world's leading online classroom platform. ClassIn, one of the first online classrooms in the world, was released in 2015. ClassIn's powerful capabilities introduced a professional and accessible tool for online teaching both throughout the education industry in China and abroad. Since then, EEO has served more than 6,000 clients, including leading Chinese education companies, such as New Oriental and TAL Education Group, as well as international companies like Udacity and Pearson (LSE: PSON).
For more information, please visit www.eeo.cn/en/