|▲ A student taking an online lecture at home|
In order to support the social distancing policies that stop the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea, Chonnam National University (CNU) decided to open online courses until the end of this semester. The Institute of Liberal Education at the university has provided education to teachers about how to use electronic learning programs for online lectures. At the start of the semester, students experienced a lot of inconvenience because of these online classes, but the problems have been solved one by one over time. Since early April, most of the courses have been gradually improved to ensure efficient e-learning and satisfy students’ needs. However, there have still been complaints from students about some problems that are hampering their learning through online classes. The Chonnam Tribune checked the current status of online lectures and looked at students’ responses to them.
Low Quality of Online Lectures
As of April 6, 72 percent of the 5,189 courses had been carried out through recorded video and live streaming lectures using video conferencing and collaboration platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, according to a survey conducted by the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) between April 6 and 8. The percentage of the courses replaced by assignments also decreased to 11.4 percent from 45.1 percent in the second week of March. On CNU’s official website, however, there are postings from students complaining about remote classes, and one of them got more than 50 comments of agreement.
It is inevitable that online lectures have more limitations to teaching and learning than face-to-face lectures, but some students feel frustrated that some classes still do not guarantee even the minimum quality of education offered by the university. In those classes, video lectures were replaced by assignments or external materials. Park Ha-eun (Junior, Dept. of French Language and Literature) said, “We have no choice but to focus more on submitting assignments on time than fully learning the course contents. I think it would be better for students to get academic knowledge through lectures not just through receiving assignments.”
In addition, there was no measure to support the students who did not have easy Internet access or educational infrastructure for online lectures. A staff member of the Registrar’s Office said with regard to this, “Almost all students are taking classes through their personal smartphones and we have not received any complaints about this. We do not feel the need to provide any additional support for it.”
Absence of Detailed Manual
The above complaints were caused by a lack of official guidelines so students have no official window to ask questions about the specific schedule of the courses. Since lectures are conducted at the discretion of professors without the university’s detailed guidelines on how online courses are carried out, each lecture varies in length and method of delivering knowledge. Consequently, the satisfaction level of the students is also different accordingly. For many subjects, video lectures were uploaded, or real-time lectures proceeded sufficiently but still, some lectures have been not sufficient. Even in “Everytime”, a university community application, a considerable number of posts have been posted saying that there are some classes that rarely come up even two months after online courses have begun.
The same complaints occurred regarding the midterm exam schedule. As it became impossible to gather in the classroom to take the test, professors needed to decide and announce whether the test would be conducted, how to evaluate the students, and the test schedule. Since the professor is responsible for the announcement of the exam schedule, the notice dates varied for each lecture. In some cases, students could not get information about the test schedule and evaluation methods at all even two weeks before the exam. The fact that there were no measures from CNU to prevent cheating during the online exam was also a big issue among students.
Late Notices about Schedules
It was one of the major complaints of students that CNU had given late official notices regarding the start date of the face-to-face lectures. It was also announced that there would be an additional extension of the online courses with less than a week left before the face-to-face lectures were supposed to begin. Before the official notification, students who were waiting for the announcement tried to get answers about the schedules through the Q&A bulletin board and by calling the OAA, but most of the returning answers were that they were still making decisions.
A freshman’s post on the CNU website’s Q&A bulletin board clearly revealed the problem. The student had been paying monthly rent meaninglessly due to the late notice on whether to start the on-campus classes. This post got more than 1,000 views. Although it is a matter that must be decided in consideration of the COVID-19 situation, it seemed certain that the notices were comparatively later than other universities in our region, which gave students 10 days before the previously announced face-to-face lectures being cancelled.
CNU released a notice on April 17 that the entire spring semester would be conducted online and that if online courses are discontinued upon changes in the COVID-19 situation, students would be notified one week prior to the announcement of a new policy. The OAA also stated that if the government’s guidelines for quarantine measures are announced, it would be possible to start face-to-face lectures but nothing has been decided yet.
Time to Prepare for Education Post COVID-19
Additional problems may continue to arise over time due to the university’s policies to adapt to the changing coronavirus situation across the country. CNU announced that in the case of laboratory-based and hands-on practical courses, face-to-face lectures would be conducted with the consent of students. However, there has been a lot of controversy among the students who take those courses as some of them have been forced to sign a consent form. Even if the above mentioned problems have occurred during this period of relying on online courses, all school members have made an effort to prevent further damage to the students’ learning.
Actually, professors have also tried to find a better way for students by sharing effective online teaching methods with other professors through CNU websites and leaving reviews of programs for real-time lectures. A professor tested various tools and shared each of the pros and cons with other professors through the website’s bulletin board. "We professors are trying to make a better educational environment, but I heard that students’ satisfaction is not that high. To overcome these problems, I think the university should play a role in quickly sharing and coordinating the difficulties of faculty and students, rather than focusing solely on following the guidelines of the Ministry of Education."
As the unexpected disaster began, both university authorities and students have been in turmoil. It was virtually impossible to come up with a measure that perfectly satisfied everyone from the beginning. Since this situation is a national disaster, the best way to get over it is via meticulous and quick action of the university administration and conversation among the university members. Students need to offer suggestions to supplement this, and the university should listen to its students and discuss how to solve the problems to create a better educational environment.
By Park Min-ji, Student Editor
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