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Behind the Scenes-How the Online Teaching is Conducted
Between 17th to the 21st of February, 2020, during the first week of this special Spring Term, at the Department of Mechanical Engineering (hereinafter referred to as DME), a total number of 42 courses became available for graduate and undergraduate students, 73 lectures were conducted.

The statistics represent the hard work, and passions from 57 lecturing faculties as well as other staffs and faculties have been dedicating supporting behind the curtain. The number of attendance to the online classes reached 2,276 by the end of the week, including 2,062 from undergraduates and 214 from graduates. Besides, among the class attendance statistics, 199 were contributed by students from overseas.

Four webinar and online conference platforms are favoured by DME faculties after enough test. The  Rainclassroom, Tencent Meeting, ZOOM and Skype. The Rainclassroom had been increasingly favored by faculties and students as it was tailored for education purpose and most importantly, developed by Tsinghua University. 80% of the online lecturings were conducted, or partially conducted via the Rainclassroom. Not surprisingly, the most adored way of online teaching by the faculties is the combine the other commercial platforms with the Rainclass (up to 45%), as the latter one is an ideal utility for in-class quizzes, homework, slides sharing and making a poll for multiple choices.  The ZOOM plus Rainclassroom takes up to 28%. The rest 15% utility consists using ZOOM or Tencent Meeting only. ZOOM and Skype are also a good option for students that are currently attending courses from overseas due to the international version of the client software and global access.

In addition to the webinar platform selection, WeChat groups are created by faculties, mentors and volunteers for each course to make sure everything works accordingly.

Besides the teaching faculties, there are more staffs and personnel from administrations, technical support, student mentoring and even volunteers who had been indefatigably safeguarding the online teaching.

In response to the coronavirus outbreaks, after the first grand assembly online on the 3rd of February, Tsinghua University announced the decision of continuing courses online for students as usual while delaying the beginning of the spring session. Multiple emergency protocols and regulations were ratified to guarantee the online teaching and education that start on the 17th of February. It was an unprecedented change to most of the DME administration faculties. The 4 DME administration faculties had been working extensively as liaisons between teaching faculties and the university decision-making department, conveying updates to regulations formulated by the school to faculties and students and fed back the problems and difficulties encountered by the teachers and students to the school, especially ensuring the right textbooks in the electronic version.

One of the DME admin faculty, Ms Meng, shared a story of how much efforts had been put into finding the right textbook for the course Mechanical Drawing. The campus library once uploaded an E-version of the mechanical drawing exercise album was flawed by scribble. Ms Meng and other librarians took tons of efforts to replace it with a clean, flawless version just to ensure the quality of the online teaching. Other efforts from Ms Meng to guarantee the online teach quality includes group messaging reminders to faculties and students in a day ahead and an hour ahead before the scheduled lecture, informing students who went absent without notice, course selections, modifying lecture room capacities, enrollment and suspensions of the study, etc., all sorts of highly miscellaneous works. Ms Meng says she's quite happy and satisfied to see that such efforts would contribute to the success of online teaching.

After online teaching agenda was completed, the DME immediately formed a rapid response IT team led by two senior technical staffs Mr Qin Li and Mr Bai Hailin, who had been dedicating tirelessly to ensure the online teaching is going well. Plus their dedication was preceded by tedious yet complexed working including double-checking the internet accessibility, stability and troubleshooting. Some hidden risks loopholes were hunted down by the team, such as a couple of hacked PCs at 10th floor that kept jamming the internet. Others like several reported cases regarding discontinuations of remote access to the server located at the DME. To ensure the remote access, the IT team temporarily enabled the static IP address for researchers that are in desperate need of server access.

There were countless stories like these during this period to ensure the online teaching. A live broadcast backup team is formed and worked in carousel order to provide 247 support for any emergency case. Thanks to their efforts, the live stream part of the online teaching has been going well so far.

Alongside faculties and staffs, the teaching assistants also have been dedicating in preparation works. Taking the course Basic Mechanical Drawings, for example, this is a course in where a lively sense of spatial imagination is strongly required and therefore would employ intensive animated figures for better understandings. During the preparation stage for this course, the original online platform was found incompatible with animated slides. Professor Huang, assisted by Miss Song, the teaching assistant, developed a solution to this issue by interacting ZOOM, Tencent Meeting and the Rainclassroom for the complete animation functions. "It is the resourcefulness, flexibility plus our collective effort that we could succeed in the online teaching”, commented by Miss Song.

The defeat of the coronavirus requires collective efforts across nations, and domains as well.  Thanks to the efforts from countless faculties, staffs as well as other supporting personnel that have been dedicating behind the scene, the school remain functional by keeping every community member connected. These statistics and stories behind the scene are among the many ways of how the people of DME fight the coronavirus back. We sincerely hope everything will be back to normal and will see everyone again at campus soon.

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