Digital learning platforms and remote learning systems have played a critical role in helping universities stay connected with international students.
This is especially true in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and its related disrupted learning climate inclusive of campus shut-downs, mandatory remote learning, and uncertainty regarding the new learning 'normal.
Students in China are no exception, but their experiences with these Learning Management Systems (LMS) platforms are.
Whether your university uses Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, or another LMS - this article will outline common -
Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to making your LMS platform work for students in China
1. Slow platform speed & connection: In some cases a platform module will 'time-out', meaning that it will not load at all for students in China. In other cases, even when the page does load, certain parts of the page such as videos and slides may not.
This means that content shared via these technologies (e.g. videos, images, or files), won't load for students in China. Not only do they not display for students in China, but interrupt how the rest of the page may load. Blocked technologies and websites also change regularly making it difficult for a faculty member to constantly adapt.
3. VPNs are not a viable solution: VPNs provide unstable connections, can be expensive for students, and more importantly, a legally discouraged practice by the Chinese government (MIIT).
“As mentioned above, this recommendation [VPNs] is problematic (read: dangerous) for students in mainland China. Please do not encourage your students in China to do this [use a VPN].” - John S. Knight Institute, Cornell Faculty Guidance (04/01/2020)
1. Changing platforms is ‘not an option.
It’s not ‘easy’ - or recommended - to change the university’s official learning platform or split out an entirely different platform for students in China.
2. Language: This may sound obvious, but the Chinese language remains a huge barrier for faculty when it comes to teaching students in China.
Chinese platforms that might work in China are often exclusively in Chinese, which creates a significant barrier for non-Chinese faculty to manage. Anyone who’s tried knows Google Translate doesn’t quite work. Not only are their dashboards in Chinese, but often their support materials as well making it one - difficult to ‘educate the educator’, and two - not feasible in terms of scale across the university. One professor, for example, accidentally logged himself off twice during a lesson because he pressed the wrong buttons on the streaming platform. While this professor has learned since, it goes to show that this multi-platform practice is disruptive and not sustainable.
3. General confusion: Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. Finding out that things don’t work only ‘post-facto doesn’t help hinder remote learning and is often outside of the control of the faculty.
Test whether your platform is accessible for students in China (from multiple locations). You can use tools like Visual Speed Test to find out how fast (or slow) a site loads in China for publically available pages or reach out to us if you don’t have someone locally in China able to test the login portions of the LMS.
Work with a company like Chinafy, with expertise in Higher Edu Technologies - like Canvas, Moodle, and Blackboard - on a platform level. (We’ve worked to optimize and deliver Canvas, Moodle, and Blackboard platforms before!).
Be inclusive and accessible in course design, mindful of different time zones and learning climates.
Don’t ask students to use a VPN in order to access course content. This is discouraged by the Chinese government and potential legal consequences.
Don’t only use email as a form of communication with students. Keep in mind Google's G Suite does not currently work in China.
Avoid uploading potentially sensitive content that might be blocked