Mar 4, 2020 - World

Coronavirus moves China's classes online, and censors are watching

A professor at Shanghai's Antai College of Economics and Management conducts class online. Photo: Zhang Hengwei/China News Service via Getty Images

Schools and universities across much of China have closed due to the coronavirus outbreak and are being forced to hold classes online for the foreseeable future.

Zoom in: The video platforms being used are closely monitored by censors, and some teachers are finding their lessons unceremoniously ended when they hit on controversial topics, the AP reports.

  • "Biology courses have been blocked for 'pornographic content.' History and politics classes are among the most vulnerable; subjects such as the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward are regularly censored in classes and online discussions."
  • Louis Wang, a middle school history teacher in northeast China, said his workload has ballooned because of an arduous approval process for online classes. “Every word that is spoken in a video recording must be pre-approved,” Wang said.

The bottom line: This is one more way in which the coronavirus is putting China's authoritarian system to the test.

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Coronavirus: Columbia University the latest to cancel in-person classes

Columbia University's Low Memorial Library in New York City. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images


Columbia University announced Sunday night it canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and plans to hold remote lessons for the rest of the week after a member of its community was quarantined following exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: The Ivy League school is the latest educational institution to suspend in-person classes and move studying online in response to the outbreak as the virus continues to spread across the U.S., which now has more than 500 cases, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

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Virus-driven shift to online classes brings home the digital divide

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K-12 schools weighing a shift to online learning in the shadow of the coronavirus are grappling with what to do about kids who don't have internet at home.

Why it matters: The "digital divide" between internet access haves and have-nots has long been an abstract public-policy debating point, but this public health crisis is bringing the issue home in a concrete way.

Coronavirus pushes traditional businesses into the digital age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A slew of old-line industries that once hesitated to embrace digital technologies are now being forced to do so for the sake of survival.

Why it matters: Once consumers get used to accessing services digitally — from older restaurants finally embracing online ordering, or newspapers finally going all-digital — these industries may find it hard to go back to traditional operations.