HONG KONG -- Alibaba Group Holding's attempt to promote online education as the coronavirus forces schools across China to remain closed has hit an unexpected barrier: disgruntled, tech-savvy students.
DingTalk, the tech conglomerates's messaging app, recently launched e-classes for schools. Now the app is taking a beating in online stores as tens of thousands of students who are angry at having to study despite schools being closed vent their frustrations by giving DingTalk a bad rating. Apps with lower ratings appear lower in searches, potentially hurting download rates.
"Good news, folks: if Dingtalk's rating goes down to 0.8 stars, it will be shut down. Everybody carry on," one user jokingly wrote on the app's download page alongside his one-star vote, which is the lowest possible score a user can give.
"This app is amazing. It has completely changed my bad habit of going to bed at 11 p.m. and getting up at 12 p.m. the next day. Now, I can do my homework until 10 o'clock every evening and then rise again at 7 a.m. I love it!" another user wrote -- while also giving DingTalk a one-star rating.
DingTalk's rating was as low as 1.4 out of 5 stars on Huawei's App Store as of Thursday, with Chinese students contributing most of the recent negative reviews. The app's rating was slightly higher on the Apple Store, at 2.4 out of 5. Meanwhile, about 351,000 users, or 91% of the total voters, gave DingTalk one star on Oppo's App Store.
The backlash against DingTalk came as the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus forces schools in China to remain closed until March. However, with Beijing urging students to keep up their studies, many schools have teamed up with tech companies to offer e-learning, with some even beginning to livestream physical education classes.
At least 50 million students across China have attended online classes on DingTalk since the app rolled out its e-learning platform in late January, according to Alibaba. The introduction of e-learning has helped fuel the download of DingTalk, but it has also turned the app into a target of angry students.
DingTalk is not the only app facing pushback from Chinese students. Tencent Holdings' educational app had a low rating of 2.3 stars on Huawei's App Store as of Thursday, while NetEase's Cloud Class was rated at 2.7 stars.
Alibaba declined to comment for this story.