The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the nation, forcing Dankook University (DKU) to carry out the second semester in accordance with the social distancing level set by the government’s Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters. Unlike all online classes during the first semester, the university planned to introduce a new method of parallel lectures from the second semester onwards. These parallel lectures would be a combination of online and offline classes, and the decision when to apply this category to lectures was based on the number of students taking the class. This was welcome new for students eager to return to the classroom setting.
|▲ Table related to the type of lecture by number of registered students. (Photo from Dankook University)|
The plan was laid out as follows. From the second semester onwards, there was to be four types of lectures, and the type of lecture applied would vary according the number of registered students in the class and the enrollment in previous year's courses. The first category was strictly online lectures. These classes were to be conducted through pre-recorded videos. This type of course is for classes that traditionally have more than 50 students. The second category of classes were those conducted with both pre-recorded and real-time video lectures. This applies to classes that normally have 30 to 49 students. The third category of classes were ‘parallel lectures’. Under this system, classes would alternate weekly between online and face-to-face lectures. This plan applied to classes with less than 30 students. The 1st and 2nd graders would have had face-to-face lectures on odd-numbered weeks and the 3rd and 4th graders would have had face-to-face lectures on even-numbered weeks to prevent too many students from gathering at school at once. However, when the social distancing phase was upgraded due to an increase in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, these classes were forces to revert to only online lectures. The final category of classes is the ‘face-to-face lecture’ with no online classes being conducted. As with the first semester, this category only applies to courses that require experiments, practice, practical skills, and design.
The second semester's evaluation system was also tied to the social distancing level announced by the government. This meant that only classes conducted with face to face lectures would have a normal evaluation system which includes a face to face midterm and final exams. When the nation’s social distancing level increased, the evaluation method was left to the discretion of the professor. In addition, under the new system, if classes are strictly online then then absolute evaluations will once again apply. However, if the nation’s COVID case situation improves and classes return to in person lectures, then the system of relative evaluation will be reinstated, but the percentage of A grades will be increased. DKU recommended foreign students study on-line, unless they are registered in experimental, hands-on classes. The departments conducted course surveys to ensure there was enough supply of lectures for foreign students before proceeding with the course registration system. If foreign students study in Korea, they must be quarantined for 14 days after entry. The application period for on-campus quarantine facilities was from Monday July 20 to Friday July 24. A second period was later announced from Friday July 31 to Tuesday August 4. Those who applied for on campus quarantine during the first check-in period, were confined to their dorms from Tuesday August 13 to Saturday August 29 and for those arriving in the second period, they will be confined from Sunday August 30 to Tuesday September 15. Fees for the on-site accommodation are 70,000KRW per day, for a total of 980,000 KRW over the 14 day period. This includes accommodations, 3 meals per day, 1 snack per day, airport pick-up, the coronavirus test, quarantine materials (masks, hand- sanitizer) and other necessaries. Students who do not use the on-campus quarantine offer need to have their accommodation or suitable housing set up for self-quarantine. When checking-in, foreign students need to have on hand the results of their Tuberculosis test, Entry confirmation, a Medical Examination Certificate and a COVID-19 Diagnosis Certificate.
|▲ Table related to teaching methods and category of classes by type of lecture, according to the social distancing phase upgraded. (Photo from Dankook University)|
We interviewed two Dankookians (students of DKU) studying during the second semester of 2020 to learn more about their reactions to the university’s COVID management response. The first student, a Korean national majoring in Russian said, the university’s overall handling of the response to the outbreak was weak, but he realized that studying in on-line was the best way to protect Dankookians. His major complaint with the online program was that he had nowhere to direct questions, making it difficult to really understand the material he was studying. Furthermore, some professors were not diligent with their class management. The student believes that communication with his professors are necessary to develop his understanding of the material, so he was looking forward to system of parallel lectures being implemented in the future. Despite his fears of contracting the virus, he would prefer off-line in class studies. Next, we interviewed a foreign student majoring in computer engineering. This semester her classes were supposed to be conducted both on and offline. Some of her experimental subjects were face-to-face lectures only. Last semester, her classes were almost all pre-recorded and she did not feel any discomfort. Most of the lectures were recorded well and the contents were presented and explained clearly by the professors, so she was really satisfied with the lecture style. She even pointed out that the pre-recorded lectures made it easy for her to use the videos as a reference whenever she needed. In addition, she said the flexible viewing time made it easier for her to control her schedule in the most ideal manner. Lastly, she said she is afraid of the spread of COVID-19, so she hopes all lectures can be conducted online instead of in the mixed on and offline or face-to-face manners. However, if she had to choose, she believes the parallel class system is the most efficient way for her to study. Experimental lectures can be conducted face-to-face to help her understand the implementation of the theories she learns online.
Overall students thought that the quality of the online lectures offered in the first semester was insufficient. It is easy to see the advantages and disadvantages of conducting online lectures, but if we must endure them again, the classes need to be supplemented with opportunities to communicate with professors. If the system of communication between students and professors improves, classes will be as effective as face-to-face lectures. The second semester begins on September 1. Schools should minimize the inconvenience of students by using the lessons they learned from the chaotic experience of the first semester to improve delivery and the content and satisfaction of the students.
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