A storm is brewing amongst Dankookians (Students of Dankook University) in the College of Arts & Design. Several students were notified of their department’s decision to return to face-to-face classes. The problem is, the decision was made unilaterally, after the semester began. The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Dankookians’ to get their reactions to the policy and the corresponding responses of Dankook University (DKU).
|▲ Students are taking ballet class wearing masks. (Photo from DKU)|
The South Korea government has enforced a level 4 social distancing policy for Seoul and Geyonggi provinces since July 2021. Level 1 is applied when there are less than 500 newly confirmed cases nationwide with less than 250 cases in greater Seoul. Level 2 kicks in when there are more than 500 new cases nationwide with 250 being from the greater Seoul area. Level 3 is enforced when there are more than 1,000 infections nationwide with more than 500 of them coming from the greater Seoul area. When the number of newly confirmed cases is more than 2,000 nationwide and 1,000 come from greater Seoul, then level 4 rules apply. In compliance with national COVID-19 guidelines, DKU is carrying out their classes depending on the social distancing level set by the government. The current DKU policy states that they will offer face-to-face lectures for classes with less than 40 students and online lectures for classes with more than 41 students if the nation is under level 1 or 2 of its social distancing policy. But, when the government sets level 3 or 4, no matter how many students had signed up for the class, all lectures are to be conducted online. This means under level 4 social distancing, every class should be offered online. The only exception to this policy is for classes that include experimental, practical, or design courses, which can be conducted in parallel or complete face-to-face lectures after consulting with the affected students and professors. In previous semesters, some classes in the department of architecture and dance, and in the School of Fine Arts were conducted offline, in accordance with this policy of exception. However, this semester, students enrolled in these programs complained about the late notice of the implementation of the exemption of policy for their faculty. Students living far from campus were caught off guard by the decision and were left scrambling to find nearby accommodation. Others were worried about their exposure risk as a result of returning to class, while the number of infections is rising across the country. In addition, despite the return to face-to-face classes, students have complained about the restricted use facilities. Before the pandemic hit, students had all day to finish their assigned tasks, but nowadays the Arts Hall is open only until 5pm, meaning they have less time to complete their homework. Moreover, due to the strict social distancing level, students are finding it hard to locate additional suitable workspace to complete their assignments.
|▲ Dankookians taking classes which had been decided to attend school uploaded posts claiming that the courses should be switched online on the DKU Voice Of Customer website. (Photo from DKU Everytime)|
The DKH interviewed DKU’s Education Team (DET) to find out more about the decision to operate face-to-face classes. According to DET, approval was given after considering the phased expansion recommendations they received from the Ministry of Education. The rules state that they can operate face to face classes up to social distancing level 3, only for courses pre-approved for the 2021-2 semester. However, considering the recommendations of the Ministry of Education in their academic management plan, they decided to offer the face-to-face classes despite the level 4 social distancing policy. They added that approval to run face-to-face classes was granted only after conducting an official survey of students and professors questioning their preference between online and offline classes. Once the responses were collected, a decision was made by the respective departments on the operation of classes. The final method of operation for the classes was made only once the investigation was completed. However, students disagreed saying they were never consulted on the matter in any survey or were asked to take part in any vote related to the issue. The DKH was unable to find any evidence of a survey except in the Department of Ceramic Arts.
When confronted by the comments of angry students, representatives of DET expressed their regret for confusing the students and that face-to-face classes under level 4 social distancing plans were not compulsory for all 15 weeks of this semester. They gave the professor authorization to run either face-to-face or hybrid classes (a mix of face-to-face and online classes). This means that after hearing from students, it is now possible for the professor to change the type of class being offered.
The DKH also interviewed Dankookians impacted by the decision to run face-to-face classes. Yoon Ye-eun (Senior, Dept. of Architecture) said, “Many students have a different opinions about face-to-face classes because of the distance between school and students and the gap in perception about the effects of COVID-19. There are usually more than 10 students in classes, working in one laboratory, in the College of Architecture. However, some are reluctant to take face-to-face classes because they are not familiar with them due to the prolonged period of social distancing.” She thinks that it is important that the DET explain to students why they chose face-to-face classes, with no notification. However, she prefers face-to-face classes because, “it is necessary for students to have a one-on-one time with the professor, due to the nature of lessons in the Department of Architecture.’ She believes this is the best way to achieve your semester goals. She also said, “Most students in the Department of Architecture already recognize the necessity of face-to-face classes.” In face-to-face classes, students and professors have direct access to one another, so they can better facilitate communication and feedback. This feature is important in this many creative fields, including architecture. During online classes, there is a communication lag as students must email professors for assistance and wait for a response to get feedback. In addition, there is no access to facilities for completing homework assignments at all. Miss Kim (Junior, Oriental Painting) said, “We have to complete one work by the mid-term test and final term test. We take more than 3 major classes for half a year, so we must complete more than 3 projects. We could use classrooms for 24 hours before COVID-19, but we cannot use classrooms these days. It is hard to carry around all of these drawing boards, especially since they are 70~90cm long.” She complained about late notice of intention to proceed with face-to-face classes and the intended study plan of the program. She said “The upper grades can work individually, so DET should allow time for them to use workrooms. In addition, she complained, “The class time is too long. It is difficult to concentrate for so long. They should consider breaking the course up in to two session per week.” Despite these shortcomings, she would prefer face-to-face lectures if new procedures are put in place for students to get work completed on campus. “We can learn from face-to-face time with the professor. Some students have difficulty working alone and need access to the professor to better understand the material” she said.
The unilateral decision to offer face-to-face classes had made a lot of students anxious in the pandemic period. DKU needs to address their concerns quickly and properly. The DKH hopes this problem can be resolved as soon as possible and that the needs of both parties, DKU and Dankookians are considered properly.
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