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For 18-year-old Huang Yiyang, school begins when she opens the laptop.

During the past two weeks there have been no school bells, buzzing corridors, busy canteens or uniforms. Instead of physically traveling to her public school in Shanghai, Huang sits at the laptop from 6 p.m. 20 to 17. often in pajamas and watching livestreamed class by live stream class.


For physical education class, the teacher performs her exercises that the students can follow. For English, she sits quietly through virtual classroom lectures with 20 to 30 students.

She puts stickers or tissues over her webcam, that is Her classmates can't see her if a teacher asks her to answer a question. "We're at home, so we don't look so good," she says.

Huang barely leaves the house, and she hasn't seen her friends in a month. But while she is isolated, she is also part of what may be the world's largest external learning experiment.

A teacher gives a lecture with his smart phone during an online class at a Donghai secondary school in China's eastern Jiangsu province on February 17, 2020. (Photo by STR / AFP via Getty Images)

In an effort to stop the spread of the disease, schools all over China are closing and leaving roughly 180 million school aged children stuck at home.

And mainland China is just the start. Millions of students in Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Mongolia, Japan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Italy have been affected by school closures. For some, it means missing class altogether, while others are trying to learn online. Authorities in the US, Australia and the UK have indicated that if the outbreak gets worse, they can also close schools.

But while online learning allows children to continue their education in the coronavirus era, it also has many other problems. For some students, the problems are minor – shaky internet connections or problems staying motivated. For others, the experiment with external learning can come at the expense of their mental health – or even their academic future.


Read more about the world's largest external learning experiment here.

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