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Despite being cooped up at home to stay safe during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, students and teachers across the country can keep themselves busy with classes online.

“I was so pleased when I received our school’s notice on Jan 24 that the winter holiday for us would be extended,” said Ren Wenru, an 18-year-old high school student in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. “Because, you know, we don’t have to get up early in the morning.”

Students like her are under great pressure as they prepare to take the country’s college entrance examinations in June. Normally, she gets up at 6:30 am and spends 10 minutes walking to Taiyuan No 12 Middle School.

“After the excitement, I realized how boring it was to be locked at home and it would be a great problem for us if the new school term starts later, because less time will be left for us to prepare for the final exams,” Ren said.

The worry was eased a few days later with another school notice that the new semester would start as planned on Jan 31, but would be online.

“I can get up each day, but not as early, and still can attend normal classes,” she said, welcoming the arrangement.

According to Liu Xiaoqin, Ren’s math teacher, there will be four classes each day from 8 am to 6:30 pm, including teaching lessons and tutoring classes.

“At first I was worried the online classes may not be as effective as face-to-face lessons at school, but I was wrong. Students are more active in communicating with teachers, especially those shy ones as the teacher cannot see them online,” Liu said.

Yin Jun, deputy head of the Bureau of Education in Taiyuan, said, “It’s not students watching online teaching videos, but realtime with interactions like asking and answering questions.” He added that the online classes are arranged according to the same class schedules as at school.

According to the bureau, all high school students in Taiyuan started online classes on Feb 1, while students in middle schools and primary schools will attend such classes starting Feb 10. More than 500,000 students in the city can access online classes, Yin said.

According to DingTalk, a platform that schools in Taiyuan are using for online classes, more than 5 million students from over 10,000 schools across the country, including those in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Henan and Hubei-the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak-will start online classes in the near future.

In addition to the online classes, students and teachers across the country are using a variety of ways to learn at and teach from home, as encouraged and demanded by the nation’s top education organ.

According to the Ministry of Education, this spring semester will be delayed to help prevent the virus spreading at schools. But the ministry demanded nonstop teaching and learning and encouraged various online learning methods.

Li Haochen, a 15-year-old middle school student in Kunming, Yunnan province, chose some video materials for math and English from the internet and started self study in the past few days.

“Many organizations have rolled out free teaching materials over the past few days since the start of the new semester was postponed, which is very convenient for learning at home,” said the student’s mother, Li Yingqing.

Students in Tianjin and Harbin in Heilongjiang province can watch classes on certain TV programs that will air recorded video classes or live classes during the postponed holiday.

According to the ministry, in rural areas where the internet signal is not good enough for online classes, it has required educational TV programs to broadcast classes or learning videos so that students in the regions can study at home.

Li Yingqing in Kunming, Yang Cheng in Tianjin and Zhou Huiying in Harbin contributed to this story.

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