Saturday, February 29, 2020

Australian Government Guide for Online Education into China

A short Guide for delivery of online education into China has been released by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (17 February 2020), for international students who have been unable to get to campus due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. This reports that Australian "edu.au" websites are working in China, but if third party websites are also required there could be problems.

Also students access may be slower, for multimedia and large files in China. The guide suggests hosting of content in, or near China, such as Hong Kong, Macau or Korea, may help. Austrade provide a list of online platform providers. Before looking at onshore options, I suggest reducing the size of multimedia files. This can be as simple as saving a video with reduced resolution, reducing files to one tenth the size. Usually it it the video files which take up most of the space, but occasionally a poorly formatted PDF file can cause problems..

The Austrade report points out that China does not recognize foreign online qualifications. The acceptability of blended learning, a mix of online and classroom based, is unclear, and is being investigated. When I studied the topic of online education in China and India, I found there was a suspicion of this, even where such qualifications were officially approved. This is not just an administrative hurdle to be overcome but a cultural one.

In practice on-campus full time Australian university students, including international ones,  are already studying in blended mode. They spend more than half their time studying online. However this is a very fine blend, with the student in a classroom several times a week. Also major assessment tasks are face-to-face and proctored. Replacing more of the face-to-face instruction with online equivalents is likely to be acceptable. However, remote unsupervised assessment, is less likely to be accepted.