China’s online education platform Yuanfudao has secured US$1 billion in a new funding round led by Hillhouse Capital and its previous investor Tencent Holdings, as the coronavirus outbreak drives up demand for e-learning with many children still at home. The Series G funding round will push the Beijing-based start-up’s valuation to US$7.8 billion, according to a company statement on Tuesday. With a focus on K-12 learning, Yuanfudao’s products include artificial intelligence-enabled virtual classes, live tutoring and apps for arithmetic questions and other homework support. Hong Kong-based private equity firm Boyu Capital and IDG Capital are among other backers that took part in the investment. Founded in 2012, Yuanfudao counts Warburg Pincus, Matrix China, New Horizon Capital, CMC Capital Group and internet giant Tencent among its early investors. The company said it has over 400 million users on its platforms. As of March, the company also had 11 teaching and curriculum development centres across the country. China’s AI champion offers free online tech classes to students at home The investment comes as students across the world are turning to online courses with schools closing their doors amid the Covid-19 outbreak, which has developed into a full-blown pandemic. Covid-19 has spurred digital disruption across a range of sectors, and become a catalyst for educational institutions worldwide to search for innovative solutions, according to Gloria Tam, an official in the Minerva Project, a San Francisco-based educational innovator. “With 5G technology becoming more prevalent in countries such as China, the US and Japan, we will see learners and solution providers truly embracing the ‘learning anywhere, anytime’ concept of digital education in a range of formats,” she said. “Traditional in-person classroom learning will be complemented with new learning modalities – from live broadcasts to ‘educational influencers’ to virtual reality experiences.” China’s schools embrace online learning as coronavirus cancels classes In February, China launched a national online learning platform, with public TV broadcasting classes for primary school students and a cloud-based system to share learning materials with those in junior and senior high school. According to the Ministry of Education, the move aims to help 180 million students “keep learning even with classes suspended”. In Hong Kong, students have also been embracing online learning with around 900,000 children studying at home since February 3 – with a resumption of face-to-face classes not expected until at least April 20. Globally, the risk control decisions taken amid the outbreak have led to millions of students learning from home, especially in some of the most heavily-impacted countries, such as China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.