CULTURE Online teachers shaking up the education sector

CULTURE

Online teachers shaking up the education sector

CGTN

02:40, September 15, 2018

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(Photo: CGTN)

The scene is a darkened hall. Only the stage is lit up. On it, a group of singers are performing. You'd be forgiven for thinking you've walked into a pop concert, but it's something decidedly different.

In fact, the lead man on this stage is a teacher, although not in the traditional sense of the word. Zhu Wei has swapped the classroom for a computer, through which he teaches his students online. His 300-strong audience today are not fans in the familiar sense, although the glow sticks and the swaying along to the music would make you think otherwise. They are his students, chosen from among his 1.6 million followers on microblogging Chinese site Weibo, to attend this promotional event. 

As the main man on the stage, Zhu sings, distributes awards to the company's highest-achieving students, and plugs his company's latest products. Apart from those who have shown up in person, hundreds of thousands of others are watching the live stream online. 

Zhu, who is 34-years-old, started out as a traditional classroom teacher, with a focus on getting youngsters through the entrance exams for postgraduate studies. Within the last five years, he has gone from testing the waters in online teaching to starting his own online teaching company, WeLearn. In 2016, he set a record for the highest income ever earned from an educational broadcast. Within an hour, he raked in a cool $36,000. 

He is not alone. With China's online teaching market set to be worth in excess of $40 billion in 2018, it's clear the entire education sector is undergoing a major shake-up. 

At WeLearn, the teaching style is high energy, direct and youthful, and their chat is peppered with mildly dirty jokes. When your audience is sitting in front of a screen that's connected to the Internet with its endless distractions, you need to pull out all the stops. 

"It's harder to teach online than in real life," says Zhu, "because you don't have the chance to talk with students face to face, and they cannot see your whole gestures, so maybe you need to enhance your voice."

To find out more about online teaching in China, and about how traditional bricks-and-mortar schools are innovating, join us behind the scenes at classrooms in both the virtual and the real world this Sunday on Rediscovering China.

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