Under normal circumstances, doing well in school involves showing up to class and handing in assignments on time. Now the coronavirus outbreak has introduced a brand new challenge to completing these simple tasks: Getting ahold of computers and printers.

“Begging for my online classes to delay a little longer!” one person posted on Weibo. “My iPad hasn’t shipped yet.”

“I bought an iPad a week ago to take online classes,” another wrote. “Online classes are starting tomorrow, but my iPad still hasn’t shipped.”

From elementary schools to universities, campuses across China have remained shut since January while the country grapples with a deadly epidemic. As teachers turn to live-streamed lessons and hand out homework online, students and parents suddenly find themselves scrambling for tablets and other gizmos.

“My mom bought me a laptop for online classes,” said a Weibo user. “It’s because dad is hogging our home computer to play poker and watch movies.”

A primary school student salutes to the national flag while attending an online flag-raising ceremony at her home in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. (Picture: China News Service)

Online sales of laptops and computer accessories have soared recently, according to Lexin, a finance platform targeting millennials. It says its shopping app Fenqile, which lets users pay for smartphones and even snacks in installments, saw laptop sales rise 50% in the past two weeks compared with the same period last month. Average daily sales of used iPads also surged by 40% compared with January.

But some people have learned that not every school assignment can be completed virtually. Some teachers still require students to print out homework and test papers.

So while computers and tablets are also flying off the shelves at Chinese retail giant Suning, printers are particularly sought after, with sales rising as much as 200% since the Lunar New Year holiday. Students and parents who don’t have a printer at home have to fall back on copying worksheets and exam papers by hand.

“I’m quite impressed with myself. I don’t have a printer at home so I hand-copy the exam papers and fill in the answers,” one Weibo user wrote. “The twelve sets took me five days to finish.”

“The thought that tomorrow is Monday again is stressing me out,” said one frustrated father. “I’m playing teacher and also copying homework by hand, when is this going to end? I’m going to have a breakdown.”

On popular shopping site JD.com, many budget printer models have sold out, including second-hand units.

Some creative parents have apparently found a solution. Photos and videos circulating on social media show people covering their tablets with cling wrap so that their children can write on the screen instead of printed worksheets.

No printer, no problem. (Picture: Weibo)