On Monday, 50 million students and 600,000 teachers in China used the live-streaming feature on Dingtalk, Alibaba’s enterprise communication app, to hold online classes as schools in China reopen after the prolonged Spring Festival holiday.

Why it matters: The panic around the coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, epidemic has forced schools and workplaces in China to remain closed after the holiday, and many have been quick to embrace online platforms including DingTalk.

  • Emerging online services including online education and online enterprise services are seeing an upside to the Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced millions in China to remain at home.
  • China’s lucrative online education market was projected to be worth as much as $62 billion this year. Share prices for online companies were among a few stocks that surged last week.

Details: Schools in 300 cities across 30 provinces in China used the online classroom feature on Dingtalk on Monday, according to a company statement emailed to TechNode.

  • The service, launched Jan. 27 with Chinese video hosting service Youku, is currently free for teachers and students to use.
  •  The Ministry of Education has urged (in Chinese) schools to avoid unnecessarily burdening students and teachers by requiring students to clock in and out every day, forcing students to upload videos of their learning process, and demanding all teachers to record videos of their lessons.
  • Alibaba said Dingtalk and Alibaba Cloud had formed a special team to ensure the stability of the platform during online class livestreams. Earlier this month, Dingtalk was temporarily paralyzed due to an unprecedented surge in traffic as hundreds of millions resumed working from home.

Context: Dingtalk’s online class live-stream feature sparked privacy concerns on social media shortly after its launch.

  •  Last week, Dingtalk was accused of reportedly allowing instructors to remotely monitor students without their consent. The rumor ran wild on Weibo last week and resurfaced again earlier this week. Dingtalk denied (in Chinese) such a feature, saying that such a capability would require students to authorize the camera and microphone to allow teachers to see the students. The company has reported the case to the police.
  • Dingtalk faced a similar backlash over the level of surveillance of its virtual office tool. The app offers many features that allows employers to monitor employee whereabouts and what they do on a daily basis.

Updated: added launch date for the online class feature.

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Nicole Jao

Nicole Jao is a reporter based in Beijing. She’s passionate about emerging trends, news, and stories of human interest within the world of technology. Connect with her on Twitter or via email: nicole.jao.iting@gmail.com.

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