TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taipei CooC-Cloud (臺北酷課雲) e-learning center has served both local and overseas expat students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taipei City’s digital learning platform has provided teachers, students and parents in Taiwan an alternative approach to teach, learn and communicate. Meanwhile, it helps expat students overseas who have Chinese classes, in addition to promoting international exchanges among students.
However, digital divides and assessment equity are two big issues when implementing remote education. In response, the city's education department helps disadvantaged students by offering electronic devices and access to the internet.
The city government first established CooC-Cloud in 2016 to boost e-learning. However, it wasn’t until the sweeping class suspensions from May 19 – when the number of COVID cases soared – that most educators and students started to adapt to the remote education model.
Visits to the platform surged to more than 40 million over the past three months, after plateauing before the epidemic. The total number of visits is now 71 million, with about 896,211 registration so far, according to the center’s statistics.
CooC-Cloud e-learning center’s monthly visits from August 2020 to July 2021. (CooC-Cloud photo)
The digital learning platform is a place for students from elementary to senior high school to access educational materials under the competency-based educational framework. Apart from compulsory knowledge classes such as Chinese, English and mathematics, there are also optional competency classes that equip students for daily life and tackling challenges such as money management, or anti-drug classes, according to Department of Education Commissioner Tseng Tsan-chin (曾燦金).
For those preparing for university, some "experiential courses" include design, introduction to Chinese medicine, and Internet of Things. These provide the opportunity to clarify real interest before taking the subjects at higher education.
Nearly 12,500 students are currently taking courses, Tseng said. "We have also launched the first series of guides for college applications, including writing a CV, a study plan, and making personalized study records.”
CooC-cloud also helps out during summer vacations. There are 210 online tech education sessions for summer camp students from elementary and junior high schools in Taipei. With live streaming on the platform and pre-delivered kits, courses such as digital technology, mechanical and electrical integration, and programming have been well-received by more than 6,000 students and their parents.
"The education department is planning to provide an additional 1,000 kits for more students to join the program and learn from doing,”Tseng added.
To share the resource with as many students in Taiwan as possible is the aim of the e-learning center. Tseng said Taipei City has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with other 15 cities and counties to share online educational sources with 335 schools. Senior high school students from 38 schools in Taiwan are allowed to register for intercampus programs under the MOU.
To make the most of the platform, it has also become a tool for the education department and Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) to promote Taiwan’s digital education worldwide, since March. About 390 teachers from all over the world have received training and have run a course using CooC-Cloud.
More than 3,600 students from 1,054 expat schools abroad can study Chinese and multiple courses on this e-learning platform. Taipei City Government Department of Education pointed out that Taiwanese students also benefit from overseas cooperation, as some expat schools in Malaysia, New Zealand and Japan have opened courses on the platform in exchange.
A Chinese class for Indonesian students. (CooC-Cloud photo)
"We are supposed to hold events to help Taiwanese students to find study buddies overseas this summer,” Tseng said. “However, numerous international exchanges have been postponed due to the pandemic, so we will continue with more events after restrictions are lifted.”
While the platform has already played a positive role in enhancing domestic and overseas digital learning, there are still some challenges for Taipei City government to overcome due to the digital divide and the effectiveness of online learning.
Some schools have tried to resolve the digital divide by offering more than 18,000 students in need electric devices. Meanwhile, those who cannot access the Internet can borrow short-term SIM cards. Students can also apply for discounts from telecommunications service providers.
Much of the effectiveness and efficiency of distance learning is based on self-discipline and the class managing skills of teachers. Therefore, CooC-cloud has developed an operating system, OnO, and a supporting application to help out.
With this system, teachers can give pre-video or live-streaming classes, using a roll call tool or camera, to make students focus, assign homework and give assessments. School staff are able to monitor classes via the backend to ensure quality.
Also, parents can promptly communicate with teachers and their children through the application. This tool puts parents and educators together to encourage students to study, which reduces parental anxiety about the effectiveness of online learning.
“We still need developers to create a fair and impartial assessment tool for remote learning to improve the equity of distant learning,” commissioner Tseng said.
He said that smart campuses are the future of digital learning, and the CooC-Cloud e-learning center would be the foundation for their development. The city government plans to further connect the platform with health, catering, school administration, and energy-saving systems.
Big data will be applied to build a more customized learning model for each student. Once the system and sources are integrated it will create a new era for an autonomous, flipped, and innovational campus for the digital generation.
“It is a challenge to ensure education during the pandemic. However, we use technology to flip education, and make learning autonomy an action not just a slogan,” Tseng said.
The services and future development of Cool-Cloud. (CooC-Cloud photo).