Where is the largest university city in China?#
Original: Ren Tongyao, Yuanchuan Research Institute, November 7, 2023, 12:30, published in Shanghai
In 1995, the story of "Zhang Juncheng, the first adult college entrance examination student at Peking University" caused a sensation: a 19-year-old young man named Zhang Juncheng, while working as a security guard at Peking University, entered the Peking University Law School through the adult college entrance examination. Three years later, Zhang Juncheng obtained his Peking University diploma, returned to his hometown to become a teacher, and established a school, becoming a banner of "knowledge changes destiny" in that era.
Few people know that Zhang Juncheng's fate is not only due to personal efforts, but also inseparable from the two course attendance certificates given to him by Professor Cao Yan of the Department of Western Languages at Peking University.
In an era when the training fee for adult college entrance examination was 1800 yuan and the monthly salary for security guards was only over 200 yuan, not everyone had the luck of Zhang Juncheng.
Zhang Juncheng's course attendance certificate at that time, image source: CCTV News
Today, Peking University has almost moved the entire university online-on Douyin, the number of fans of "@Peking University" exceeds 8 million, and the number of fans of "@Peking University History" alone is 700,000. As for various courses and lectures at Peking University, they have accumulated more than 70 million views on Douyin, without the need for course attendance certificates.
When short videos and live broadcasts became tools for recording human life, entertainment naturally became not the only theme. Taking Douyin as an example, "8 million people attending Peking University Night School" is just the tip of the iceberg. In the past year, domestic universities have conducted a total of 10,000 live broadcasts on Douyin, with a total duration of more than 73.5 million minutes, equivalent to 16,800 classes.
In September of this year, Professor Du Junfei of Nanjing University expressed his feelings after giving a live lecture on Douyin: "There are still countless people in the world who have never had the opportunity to listen to the classes they want to listen to."
Knowledge is precious, but not noble. In the past few years, countless people have worked hard to turn this slogan into reality on Douyin. Nowadays, "knowledge" has become a relatively large and mature category on Douyin.
Behind countless mobile phone screens, those ordinary people without Peking University course attendance certificates are striving to become the "Zhang Juncheng" of this era.
Let the professionals come first#
In April 2020, when Zhang Chenliang released the first episode of "Popular Online Biological Identification", popular science content was booming on the Internet.
At that time, Zhang Chenliang was already a well-known popular science blogger on Weibo, managing the official Weibo account of "Bo Wu" magazine, known as "Bo Wu Jun". However, the audience's thirst for knowledge was no longer limited to a single platform-they might listen to financial upmasters mocking how Luckin Coffee beat capital on Bilibili, or follow the daily reading list of Xiaohongshu bloggers. Zhang Chenliang's "Popular Online Biological Identification" series became popular overnight on Douyin, with 70 episodes serialized so far and a total of 1.78 billion views on the platform.
"Knowledge" is a very broad concept. Therefore, the emergence of short videos and live broadcasts has not only lowered the threshold for the production and access of knowledge, but also caused the supply to be extensive and the demand to be confused.
Zhang Chenliang's experience is an example. The original intention of his "Popular Online Biological Identification" series was to discover that the popular science content that the audience loves to watch is often strange animals made by marketing accounts, such as "crabs that love their wives the most", "human-shaped jellyfish", and "water monkeys"-among them, many knowledge points are wrong.
When "Zhang Chenliang" and others are striving to improve popular science content, Douyin is also trying to invite more professionals online.
On New Year's Day 2019, Peking University's official Douyin account began operation, and the following year, Peking University started to publish live broadcasts and videos of courses and lectures on Douyin. Starting from this point, the once distant university classrooms have been moved to Douyin one by one.
With Peking University as a model, in March 2019, Douyin launched the "DOU Knowledge Plan" for the first time-this is the first attempt by Douyin and the entire video content ecosystem to consider how to systematically improve the supply quality of knowledge content and make short videos and live broadcasts also become carriers of knowledge.
It was a period when content platforms were chasing after knowledge content. At the end of 2019, Kuaishou first proposed the "popularization of knowledge for the whole people" and joined hands with Zhihu to support knowledge creators; Bilibili launched the first-level section "Knowledge Zone" in 2020, and the following year added multiple second-level sections such as "Social Sciences, Law, and Psychology" and "Humanities and History"; during the same period, Xiaohongshu was also busy testing the "knowledge payment" function.
The difference of the "DOU Knowledge Plan" lies in the fact that knowledge content on Douyin has gradually formed a three-dimensional ecosystem. In just two years, the number of knowledge creators on Douyin has exceeded 150 million. Among these creators are academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and official scientific research institutions, as well as a large number of science enthusiasts.
Today, the "DOU Knowledge Plan" has been carried out for five consecutive years. Compared with PPTs filled with numbers and formulas or the once popular knowledge payment, Douyin has always had a relatively clear principle in dealing with knowledge content: the scope of knowledge has no boundaries, and the dissemination of knowledge should not have boundaries.
When Zhang Chenliang introduced the snow rabbit jellyfish at an altitude of 4,700 meters with an oxygen content of less than 13%, 72-year-old retired Tongji professor Wu Yuren was explaining hardcore physics knowledge in the live broadcast room of @Wu Laolao who doesn't do exercises. The "University Physics" that makes students in the campus feel daunting, after her humorous and humorous explanation, attracted more than 5 million "students" to listen to the class.
When interpreting humanities knowledge, Professor Liang Yongan of the Chinese Department of Fudan University is delicate and permanent, while Professor Dai Jianye of the School of Literature of Central China Normal University is different-he talks about Tao Yuanming and says "planting a ghost's field" as soon as he opens his mouth; when reading poems mourning his deceased wife, he can't help but complain about the poet: "He fell in love with someone else in less than half a month."
When professional knowledge flows to more seekers through short videos and live broadcasts, the once high threshold of access and understanding is silently eliminated.
In September of this year, Dr. Animal Science, a knowledge creator on Douyin, published their popular science content in a book called "Reading Worm Chronicles". This popular science reading material, like short videos, makes reading as easy and smooth.
When "Reading Worm Chronicles" was published, the coverage rate of double first-class universities on Douyin had reached 93.2%, and the coverage rate of first-level disciplines was 100%. In China, perhaps no university city can have such a scale.
Today's Douyin users are already accustomed to knowledge. In the past year, they have searched for 27.5 billion questions related to knowledge. On average, each person has searched for 45 knowledge points.
Among them, a large amount of knowledge comes from textbooks and professional lectures, but the "cyber night school" students on Douyin are still making people realize that the boundaries of "knowledge" are much broader than imagined.
Breaking the boundaries of knowledge#
Yang Weiyun, the kindergarten principal who taught Chinese for a lifetime, is still active in the forefront of teaching and educating people after retirement. It's just that this time, her students have become illiterate adults.
Every night at 8:30, in the Douyin live broadcast room called "Xiyangyang Pinyin Classroom", Yang Weiyun patiently repeats the pronunciation of each initial and final on a small blackboard. Tens of thousands of people watch, but the atmosphere in the interactive area is very calm, with only sporadic "thank you teacher" or simple questions, some of which are mixed with misspelled words.
But Yang Weiyun knows that these silent and awkward viewers need her.
The seventh national population census conducted in 2020 showed that there were a total of 38 million illiterate adults in the country, of which 75% were women. The term "illiterate" sounds rare, but it is not a distant group in Douyin, which has 700 million monthly active users.
People who have received compulsory education may find it difficult to imagine that the lack of the most basic common knowledge in daily life such as the vocabulary used in banks, supermarkets, hospitals, etc., and the method of typing in pinyin, may mean a missed job opportunity, a bewildering travel experience, and a helpless medical experience for a specific person.
Short videos have allowed Yang Weiyun and them to discover each other. Yang Weiyun originally taught children on Douyin, but she found many illiterate adults in the comments section, so she embarked on the road of adult literacy. There are many spontaneous teachers like her on Douyin.
The huge user base, high user stickiness, and usage time of Douyin have made this platform not only meet the demand for entertainment, but also naturally fulfill the desire for knowledge of different groups.
Therefore, you can see that the age span of students in the "cyber night school" is very large, ranging from toddlers who are just learning to speak to elderly people with gray hair. An counter-intuitive data is that among the audience of college open courses on Douyin, 78% are over 24 years old, and 17% are middle-aged and elderly people over 50 years old.
Short videos and live broadcasts have expanded the audience range of knowledge content, and the cultural and regional levels of students have become more diverse. Now, the scale of mobile internet users in rural areas has reached 348 million. As long as they have a mobile phone and a short video application, they can easily narrow the cultural resource gap between urban and rural areas.
In the past, many farmers could only rely on oral transmission of experience, and it was difficult to learn agricultural knowledge systematically. But now, with vivid audio-visuals and easy-to-understand explanations in short videos, countless new farmers can learn agricultural technology on Douyin.
From June 2021 to June 2022, the number of popular science creators with over 10,000 followers on Douyin has increased by 66.85%, and the content of planting, breeding, and agricultural machinery has increased by 50.4%. During the spring plowing and sowing season, more than 170,000 viewers chatted with 17 experts from institutions such as the Central Agricultural Broadcasting School and China Agricultural University through Douyin live broadcast rooms to learn about agricultural technology.
Because of the diverse learning needs, the teachers of Douyin's cyber night school are not limited to Nobel Prize winners and professors from 985 universities. Retired teachers like Yang Weiyun, experienced farmers, and skilled housewives can also become professional "cyber teachers".
In the close interaction between content demand and supply, the extension of knowledge is constantly expanding with the thirst for knowledge of "students".
@Dagongzai Xiaozhang noticed the embarrassment overlooked by the mainstream perspective and started the "How to" series of short video tutorials. Using the simplest language and images, he teaches people how to take a high-speed train or a plane for the first time, how to register and see a doctor in a hospital alone, and even how to order at McDonald's and KFC.
Represented by Xiaozhang, life skills such as "how to solve body shape problems", "fancy shoelace tying methods", and "various tie tying methods" that seem insignificant have become timely rain for countless people on Douyin.
The saying goes that "three people walking together must have my teacher." In the era of short videos, this sentence has been given a new interpretation. "Teachers" and "students" from all over the world are connected by the Internet, and more ordinary people are participating in the production and consumption of knowledge.
Therefore, "knowledge for all" is no longer an empty slogan. The most basic educational common sense, and even tiny life experiences, have surpassed textbooks and personal experiences, and crossed the gap of numbers, taking root in the screens of 700 million people, igniting a spark for the distant future.
Igniting a spark#
Sir David Attenborough, the well-known host of BBC documentaries, has spent most of his life measuring the world with his own body, leading viewers to explore nature. At the age of 94, he is still active in the front line of documentary filming. He has personally witnessed how different media forms have brought about tremendous changes to popular science.
In the 1970s, artists recorded the sounds of whales on vinyl records and publicly released them, causing strong public reactions, and eventually developing into a massive anti-whaling movement. The photos of the Earth taken by the Apollo 8 spacecraft made humans realize the smallness, fragility, and preciousness of their own planet, and promoted thinking about the protection of the ecological environment.
From lead type newspapers to online television, generations of mass media have spread ideas to all mankind. Nowadays, short videos have taken over this responsibility and, in a low-cost and low-threshold manner, but with extensive coverage, silently enhance the public's scientific consensus.
In one video after another, knowledge is pushed forward like waves.
Zhang Jiantao, a knowledge creator on Douyin, still remembers that he did not have science classes in rural areas when he was a child. When he grew up, he became a science teacher at a primary school in his hometown, where 80% of the students were left-behind children. In order to give children more opportunities to conduct experiments, he first self-studied hundreds of experiments on Douyin, and then spread them with his unique understanding and storytelling style, becoming a producer of knowledge.
Interest is the best teacher for seeking knowledge. The experiments that Zhang Jiantao considers "childish" have aroused great interest among children.
Zhang Jiantao's experimental class, image source: China Newsweek
When these entertaining popular science videos supplement the missing "what" information, it is possible to ignite the curiosity of a generation. Even if only one person out of 100,000 finds their dream and practices "how to do it", it is still extremely precious.
Similar stories have happened countless times in real life. Many engineers entered the integrated circuit industry by disassembling electronic devices, which was once an important part of the American semiconductor industry. AMD CEO Lisa Su mentioned in an interview that she was different from other children who loved to play with toys. She preferred to disassemble toys when she was young, revealing her talents in engineering and science.
Nowadays, countless young people in China have the same opportunity, and even closer to the opportunity. Huaqiangbei provides easily available and inexpensive components, and these components become creative inventions in the hands of bloggers such as Handmade Geng, igniting interest in countless people through the screens of short videos and live broadcasts.
Jin Yong, a professor of chemical engineering at Tsinghua University who does popular science on Douyin, once said that one of his important missions is to "change everyone's misunderstanding of chemical engineering." People's clothing, food, housing, and transportation are inseparable from chemical engineering, and high-tech products are inseparable from high-tech materials. But in fact, many students' parents have misunderstandings about the term "chemical engineering" that professionals can hardly imagine.
For example, at the beginning of each school year, parents of students are most concerned not about the curriculum setting and learning content of the major, but whether their children will be poisoned in this major.
After making a round of popular science on Douyin, Professor Jin Yong summed it up:
"My target audience is high school students, college students, and graduate students. I hope to guide them in choosing majors and research directions. The target audience of Douyin is the general public, making the public interested in knowledge."
As a content platform, Douyin has no intention or ability to train users to become oncologists, chip architects, and computer scientists. However, through serious, vivid, or light-hearted popular science, it has gradually changed people's cognition and life. In the four years of the "DOU Knowledge Plan", its achievements are not in the invention patents and published papers, but in making many people realize that noble and sacred knowledge is sometimes not far away from themselves.
The truth is infinite, and great exploration and discovery have always been luxurious. It is even more precious to inspire the power of exploration and discovery.
 The first fierce man in Beijing: being a security guard, taking the college entrance examination at Peking University, and becoming a principal, The Most People
 Infinite Xiaoliang: Identifying the strange animals of the Internet cold knowledge dissemination skills, Sanlian Life Weekly
 The "mudslide" in the university classroom! The old professor's magical interpretation of ancient poetry became popular, People's Daily
 Knowledge-based short videos and paper books, mutually beneficial reading forms, Guangming Daily
 In the live broadcast room of a 73-year-old, 38 million "illiterates" are seen, CCTV News
 Research Report on the Revitalization of Rural Consumption of Mobile Internet in 2022
Author: Ren Tongyao
Editor: Li Zheng
Visual Design: Shu Rui
Editor: Li Motian