The school closure amid the epidemic outbreak has not stopped Chinese students from learning as they turn to the Internet to attend classes, bolstering the rise of e-learning.
Shen Xiang, a six-grader in east China's Zhejiang Province, now uses Alibaba's communication app DingTalk proficiently to clock in and take classes.
"School notices, homework, daily health checks and videos sent by teachers are all available on the platform," Shen said.
DingTalk, originally a mobile office tool for white collars, has been adapted to offer online services for schools amid the virus outbreak, welcoming classes of nearly 600,000 teachers in hundreds of cities on Feb. 10, the first day of online schooling in many parts of China.
Even in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, more than 700,000 stuck-at-home students ushered their new semester that day on DingTalk.
With the help of booming virtual platforms, eye-catching and innovative live stream classes are launched across the country. A popular online video shows a teacher using green onions to help teach and his high school counterpart in the southwestern Chinese city of Nanchong even went into the field to teach geography remotely.
Downloads of DingTalk rank high in the Apple App Store due to the wide application of online classes in China, coupled with the work-from-home policies of many firms.
"We deployed more than 10,000 new cloud servers within just two hours, a new record for the rapid capacity expansion," said Zhu Hong, CTO of DingTalk. "The epidemic further prompted the demand for online education."
Despite being a leader in the category, the heated app gets a surprisingly poor grade, registering a score of 2.6 out of 5 stars by nearly 1.21 million people in the Apple App Store, and was once at risk of being removed.
Negative comments mainly come from house-bound students who had to start school in the virtual world instead of spending a protracted holiday as they hoped.
"Thank you for letting me see my teacher every day during the holiday!" read a one-star review.
In response to the negative feedback, the DingTalk team posted a music video with cartoons on China's social media platform Weibo and a Chinese online video sharing platform Bilibili, "begging" the students to stop giving bad ratings, which has garnered nearly 25 million views.
So far, schools in more than 300 cities in provinces including Hubei, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Jiangsu have launched online teaching through DingTalk, covering tens of millions of students.
"The epidemic is like a catalyst for many enterprises and schools to adopt digital technology platforms and products," Zhu said.