Online Instructors Causing Controversy

임재도, 이지희, 전소영l승인2020.03.02l수정2020.03.02 13:33l376호 1면






  Online education has come under scrutiny lately as a number of ethical incidents have been reported. “I didn’t know that the teacher was doing that. I was very shocked when I heard the news,” said student A upon learning of her lecturer’s inappropriate behavior as the story unfolded. The instructor in question was suspected of promoting her religion her to students who were underaged and therefore easily influenced. However, she was not the only online educator accused of unethical activity while teaching online, and as a result, a heated debate has erupted among students about the appropriateness of behavior for online teachers. The debate concerns the question, should online lecturers be evaluated on their acts and thoughts or simply on their talents as a lecturer?

▲ Ji young Lee, the famous lecturer was found in press release from psuedo religion Cheon-Hyo's seminal at 22th September 2019 (Photo from Chen-Hyo)

  “I signed up for this lecture because most students near me did that”, student B, a freshman at Dankook University (DKU), said. In Korea, entering university is a competition. Students who want to attend university have to take a tough entrance-exam. Students with low scores can’t enter the university of their choice, so they try hard to get the best results. “When I wasn’t taking any extra lectures, I felt like I was falling behind,” student B said. Under this competitive entrance exam system, supplemental private education more than just a guide; it is considered essential for success. According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), 70.5% of students are registered for some form private education. In the past, students needed to attend an academy to receive private education assistance. However, with the emergence of online lectures, which provide recorded-private-education videos on the Internet, everything changed. “I can take popular lectures cheaper and more conveniently than at an academy,” student C answered. Unlike with an academy, students just log in to the site and watch lectures whenever they want. Furthermore, online lecture providers are not restricted by space. They can upload material and provide it to students anytime and anywhere. As a result, the online lecture provider can offer any kind of class at a much cheaper rate than brick and mortar classrooms. With this convenience in mind, the online lecture market has been growing fast. According to the National IT Industry Promotion Agency, the online private market for education is worth 4,500 billion won and is growing at an average rate of 7.2% every year.

  As for qualifications, unlike teachers, being an online instructor is much easier. They do not need any certifications to do their jobs, so almost anyone can teach online. As a result, the number of incidents reported concerning the inappropriate behavior of some instructors have risen every year.

  Ji young Lee, famous for teaching Society majors in ETOOS, had a following of 2.5 million students. However, it was recently revealed that she used the lessons to help grow her illegitimate religious foundation Cheon-hyo. Students who took her online lectures said she pushed them to attend pseudo-religious revivals under the guise of study briefing sessions. She also recommended they take 'Gi' therapy. They explained that Gi therapy teacher checks the energy status without physical contact and the circulation is a one-to-one program by dedicated staff. It restores the energy and removes the turbidity in the body section where there is an abnormality. But this treatment costs millions. Her SNS and website targeted youth who tend to be easily influenced by social pressures. When the controversy first came to light, she took the time to clarify her position. Later, she registered Cheon-Hyo as a legal foundation and denied all other related rumors, but the damage was already done and she failed to regain the trust of her students.

  In another case, a math major teacher dedicated himself to collecting the mistakes of other online tutors. He recorded the responses of Korean teacher Gwang-il Park who was suspected of distributing a massive amount of incorrect information. He argued that Park's reach was larger than other online lecturers because he ran sites off a number of different IP addresses based in the Philippines. Once exposed, he was forced to retire. Seung-bum Shin also retired from his career as an online instructor for similar reasons. 

  This problem has forced students to rethink their online lecturer choices. Online lectures are a form of education and there is an unconscious premise that its educators should act as an example for their students. This is because students are easily influenced by their teachers and share a close bond during their lectures. To see if this premise holds true, the Dankook Herald conducted an online survey of students on this matter. The survey was answered by 66 students over a week-long period.  

  According to the survey, most Dankookians (students of DKU) had experience with online courses and said they chose online lecturers based on the accumulated student numbers of the instructor. In addition, students living in the countryside more often registered for online classes. Instead of being satisfied with their limited public school teacher’s lectures, they took online classes to complement their studies without having to attend the limited private institutes in their areas or ones that were too far away. Of the total respondents, 70% agreed that the teaching skills of instructors were more important, but if they had an opportunity to retake their lectures with a teacher that was not involved in a controversy, they would probably choose another instructor. Student C said, “I think it’s a questionable thing to consider if controversial instructors can have a positive impact on students.“ Other students disagreed. They argued that it is dangerous to teach people through a lens of false beliefs. They worried that continuously listening to the advocacy of specific perspectives might sway the student to unconsciously fall into grasps of a pseudo-religion or something else. 

  Still, others were less concerned about the subliminal influence of a lecturer. They believe that instructors just need to teach well to do their jobs. They claim that despite the ethics of certain lecturers, the private education market works according to the natural order of a capitalist society. The lecturers have to teach students so they can earn a high score on their tests, so generating results is more important than the private lives of their instructor, especially to those desperate to earn a better grade. 

  In the private education market, rumors of ineffective instructors do not seem to impact their wages. For instance, current controversial instructors are still listed as star lecturers on the websites where they work. This is because, the private education market is also a business in a capitalist society. Therefore, if the product (the lecturer) has no problem teaching, other flaws such as personal beliefs, are considered unproblematic and are not revealed on the school website.

  While the debate on whether or not the outside lives of an online instructor has an impact on the level of service delivery to the community will likely continue for many years to come, it is clear that in a capitalist society, where the consumer drives demand, the best choice is an informed one. Students would be well advised to do their research before choosing the best instructor to meet their own needs.

▲ Students are attending a lecture to a star-lecturer. (Photo from


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