“I registered for the summer session to take lectures that I could not during ordinary semesters, since I had to manage my grade on major subjects. While searching for lectures, I failed to find major subjects for Journalism and Mass Communication. Because there were no other options, I took a similar type of lecture instead. Even though the price-90,000 won per credit-was burdensome for me, I handled it as I expected to gain much more knowledge. However, four weeks of studying period seemed to be too short and the progress of the class was too fast. Moreover, the midterm and final exam within two weeks exhausted me. As time went by, I repeatedly recalled the reason why I was here and what I wanted to gain through taking classes in the summer session. I began the summer session with high anticipation, but the result turned out to be a huge disappointment. There could be different opinions, but for me, the decision to take summer classes was a total failure.”
|A student is having trouble choosing what to register in the summer session. There are not enough major courses to satisfy students who want to take major subjects.|
Summer and winter breaks are the time to look back over the past semester, and rearrange priorities for the future for many students. Some students go on trips and some take part time jobs to earn money. Also, some students manage their credits and grades through taking vacation session courses, hoping that they will be more appealing to corporations when they look for jobs after graduation. This leads students to try harder for early graduation or receive high grades. Of course there are students who really want to learn more and study more via vacation sessions. Kwon Hye-mi, majoring in English Literature, said that she enrolled in a lecture related to psychology during summer. For her, it was a great opportunity and meaningful time to take the course. This was because she does not prefer to take the course during the semester as she has to take care of her grades in her major subjects. As students have various reasons to take vacation sessions, the university works hard to fulfill the needs of students. According to Kim Yang-soo, a team member in the Office of Academic Affairs in Dongguk, the university is trying to provide as many opportunities as they can for students'convenience by diversifying subjects and offering every possible class in liberal arts.
However, according to research carried out by The Post, 95 out of 133 students answered that they are not satisfied with the vacation sessions. Among them, 59.7 percent answered tedious lectures and useless time spent in class as a reason, while 34 percent answered that they did not have enough time to prepare for exams. Students who took vacation sessions are dissatisfied, even though they pay 90,000 won per credit, which can be a financial burden. Choi Na-hye, a student of the Department of Management in Dongguk said that she felt there are many problems with vacation sessions. She pointed out problems such as lack of major subjects on offer, the short term period of the session, which was too short for her to study, and systematic problems of managing the vacation sessions.
One of the problems is the limited range of course offerings, especially in major subjects. Subjects in 2013 summer session consisted of 27 percent of classes in the major subjects including General Studies of Commercial Law and Theory of International Finance, 68 percent of classes in the liberal arts such as TOEIC English and Writing and Presentation, and the final five percent were teaching related course.
As the data shows by itself, the number of major subjects offered is comparatively low. For instance, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication does not provide any major classes in summer. Based on another survey conducted by The Post, among 120 students, 75 percent of them answered that the variety of subjects are not sufficient. What students generally want is various major subjects since they need to take requisite subjects for graduation. Some want to take other majors out of curiosity or interest as well.
|According to the survey, 2013 summer session consists of 27 percent of major subjects, 68 percent of liberal arts subjects, and 5 percent of teaching related course.|
One of the possible reasons for such a limited numbers of classes is an inadequate research of student demand beforehand. Kim Yang-soo, from the Academic Affairs Office at Dongguk, said that this investigation is carried out through the course registration system. Plus, he argued that each department can suggest to open a certain number of major subjects through the results of this survey. However, the selection of subjects to be offered is done by deans and vice president of each department rather than through sharing opinions of faculties and students. Therefore, a subject request survey is not held in each department, which results in less reflection of students’ voice.
The lack of professors and lecturers is one of the key reasons why Dongguk cannot offer more diverse classes. Jung Wang-geun, a section chief in the Office of Strategic Planning & Budget said, “We must contact lecturers before we open the classes that have been requested, but such work is very difficult these days. Most professors go abroad for their research and seminars and even the professors who stay in Korea are busy finishing their research and other work during the vacation. Even if we found professors who can teach major subjects, they will not show an effort for the additional work to teach students with the low amount of payment. The school pays 51,000 won per credit for all lecturers, and it is difficult to persuade them with this amount of budget.”
The second problem that the vacation sessions face is the limitation that follows because of short session period. The period of all vacation session courses is four weeks, which can cause problems for students. They cannot understand the course content fully during the class, and even have less time to review and prepare for the next chapter. Therefore, many students just go through courses without understanding it perfectly. Professor Kim Sun-jung, who taught General Studies of Commercial Law during the 2013 summer vacation session, said that the four weeks of teaching is difficult since he cannot check all students’ progress and understanding. He added that there is no spare time to do other work or tell a story to students. This limitation caused by short period of time cannot be solved easily. However, the problem of a short studying period, resulting in lack of understanding, is not the only one to be solved. Another problem is the atmosphere of classes during the lecture. Since professors have to concentrate on teaching, the atmosphere of classes is usually strict and boring. Yang Ji-hye, who majors in Accounting, mentioned that she experienced a boring and stiff atmosphere at Finance Accounting class. The professor was busy with teaching, and consequently students were busy with studying too. This by itself is not a problem, but the atmosphere and the speed of progress suffocated her. As time went by, she felt the lecture was too tedious and the teaching style was one-sided.
The other problem is related to the management and administration of the vacation sessions in Dongguk University. The school maintains the lecture evaluation survey at the end of all courses, but it is not applied well enough. Evaluations are usually done insincerely and even if they were held in a sincere way, the results are not reflected. In fact, students cannot learn of how their opinions are applied. For instance, in the evaluation, Cha Jung-yeob, a student majoring Accounting, commented that the professor’s speech was too fast to understand. He asked the school to pass on his comment to the professor. However, when he took the same professor’s class the next semester, nothing had changed. Other opinions that he gave were not reflected at all as well. On this evidence, it is doubtful whether students’ lecture evaluation survey is applied well. Moreover, there is another issue with the content of the lecture evaluation surveys. Questions asked in the evaluation survey might represent fragmentary ideas of students, but does not collect accurate opinions and specific reasons for such answer. Lee Jae-won, who majors in Management said, “Questions are too monotonous and simple. The only thing I can answer is if it was good or bad. Of course multiple choices are much easier than descriptive ones, but I believe questions that ask the reason of our choice in evaluation sheets is needed. I do not think numbering one to five and scoring is a good idea.” Lack of information is another factor of the problem as well. This is because some of course descriptions uploaded on Dongguk University website were left blank. There are even some courses on the list without the name of lecturers. For this summer vacation session, only 14 out of 90 names were provided in the lecture descriptions.
As mentioned before, Dongguk is trying to enhance the quality of vacation sessions. The school checks on the demand for liberal arts courses by opening all courses that were offered the semester before. For major courses, they hold course registration open until the last minute to fill the classes with a minimum number of students; up to ten in a single course so that the class will remain open. The Office of Academic Affairs is trying to contact more professors so more major courses can be maintained. Even so, it is true that such solutions are not perfect. Other universities have some different solutions for the same problems. Some efforts made by other universities to improve the running of summer and winter vacation sessions should be applied to Dongguk as well.
Firstly, other universities proceed various methods to collect information on the demand for classes. For instance, Seoul National University and Hanyang University provide surveys to students before vacation session classes are offered. This is held with the purpose of gathering student’s opinions and reflecting those ideas in the range of lectures offered. Also, universities announce the result of vacation session class enrollment to each department before the course registration period begins. This is because the university wants to make sure that students’ opinions were reflected on the preliminary list of the vacation session classes. Moreover, Hanyang University has devised a policy called “Priority in Course Registration” in order to spur active participation from students in replying to the survey about preferences for summer vacation session classes offerings.
This policy provides a chance to register for a preferred subject with priority for those who answered the survey about subject preferences. After the investigation into demand, the evaluation of certain courses or subjects is done indirectly, that would be helpful to enhance the quality of certain courses. There are efforts to solve the problems that appear because of short four weeks period lecture. Sungkyunkwan University has meetings among faculties and teachers before composing summer lectures. They select courses that fit well for a short-term concentrated program. Such meetings are held beforehand and filtering the best lectures can be a good way to overcome the limitations of short studying period. The Student Council also suggests an increase in diversity of lectures and other opinions. Moreover, there are efforts being made to reduce tuition fees of summer vacation session. For instance, Korea University decreased their summer vacation session tuition fees 1 percent in year 2012, and 2.8 percent in year 2013. Korea University changed its vacation session tuition fees to match with the regular semester’s tuition. Especially, this year, Korea University decided to decrease additional 0.8 percent, since there was public opinion that students suffer too much because of tuition fees. The Post interviewed a section chief of Office of Budget and asked how such reduction was possible. He answered, “As we do not separate tuition fees between vacation sessions and regular semesters, we can cover the deficits in the vacation sessions with leftover funds from semester tuition. As a result, there is not much change even though we reduce summer vacation session tuition fees. Chonbuk National University maintains the least number of students per class as thirty, and Kyungpook National University pays 70 percent of tuition fees even after a student drops the class.
Vacation sessions can be helpful to many students’ future career plans. However, still many problems exist such as doubts about the lectures’ quality, the price of tuition fees, and the limited range of courses being offered. There is no doubt that Dongguk is working hard to provide better vacation sessions to students. However, it is also true that student expectations are not being met by the way that the present vacation sessions are being run. In order to improve the state of vacation sessions, much effort is needed from both the university and students. Students should maintain demands to meet their needs and expectations with more passion. Dongguk should concentrate more on student opinion, and listen to their expectations, while students should try to communicate more often with the university. With such communication, Dongguk will be able to explain the present state more clearly and reduce misunderstandings. If so, Dongguk will be able to better show the status and problems to students, and work cooperatively for the solutions based on realistic objectives.
Ro Chang-hun, Na Soo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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