▲ University students are anxiously waiting for the registration to begin. /Photograph from EBS
On August 12th, a Dongguk University sophomore woke up at 8AM. He immediately went to the computer lab and logged in to uDrims to register for courses. As the lecture application period start date had approached, he had really worried about not succeeding in registration because the competition rate for liberal arts major courses was overly high. For example, for “Composition and Presentation” the competition rate was over four to one. Ten seconds before 8:30 A.M., he became really nervous, piercingly gazing at his monitor. When the clock hit 8:30 A.M. exactly, his hands became like cheetahs running to catch prey. However, in only a few seconds, there was already no room for him to register for the courses that he wanted. Though he continued clicking other lectures, by 8:40 A.M. he had little hope. There was no lecture that he could register for. Besides, he was concerned about registration for the next day, too, the start date for classes in his second major, Business Administration.
The above is a common story for university students in Korea during course registration period. This period is important to university students because it can determine their life pattern and grade point average (GPA) for the semester. This is why they are dying to register for the classes they want. On D-yeon, the Dongguk University student community web page, there are many posts related to registration. Such posts show that not all students could register for the classes they wanted to take. Some students write complaining of their failure.
The Post surveyed 290 students about registration for courses. Among the 290 students surveyed, 270 students felt dissatisfied with the course registration system. Specifically, 213 students answered that the number of course offerings is insufficient. Also, 42 students said that the school does not properly account for students who have double majors or who have changed majors. A smaller number of respondents argued that the school should prepare countermeasures to deal with the problem of class quotas. One student from the survey said, “The school’s registration system itself is the problem. First-come-first-served registration is unfair. As all students compete for the courses at once, the online server is always getting flooded during the registration time.”
<How are the lectures assigned?>
Lectures are assigned according to the following steps. First, usually in October of the previous year, overall college curricula for the next year starts to settle. Second, between late 2013 and early 2014, the curricula for the two semester of 2014 were determined. At this time, the average number of lectures and students during the previous two to three years were the reference data.
The Office of Academic Affairs are in charge of major courses. It sends official documents to each college to decide the number of courses to open and the professor to assign to each. Colleges also get classroom information for their lectures from its previous data. When the number of classrooms is lacking, colleges look for other buildings to secure classrooms.
Dharma College is in charge of liberal arts. Two months before registration, Dharma College starts assigning the number of lectures and setting the timetables. They consider the characteristics of lectures and the number of students planning to take them. They try to assign as many different classtimes and classrooms as possible, setting not to overlap classtimes between major subjects and cultural studies.
What Do Donggukians Think of the School’s Course Registration System?
The Three Main Student Complaints Related to Registration System
1. Insufficient number of lectures
Several liberal arts courses are required to be taken for graduation at Dongguk. Mostly freshmen register for these lectures. However, the number of lectures cannot account for the number of freshmen. A student from the survey, said, “There should be a sufficient number of lectures in liberal arts. Some lectures, in particularly in “Area Studies,” have an abnormally high competition rate. This pressure could be dispersed bt opening more sections of lectures that are popular.”
There is also a problem with core cultural studies, which is a distribution requirement courses of Dongguk. Even considering that incoming students from ’14 do not have to take core cultural studies courses, demands for these lectures are still high among students. This is because; the number of these lectures being offered has decreased drastically. In fall 2013, the number of these courses was 115. This number was reduced 57 for last semester. In the case of core cultural studies related to Buddhism, the competition rate was even higher. Only 59 percent of students could register for the courses while almost 100 percent of students had succeeded in registering for other core cultural studies. A faculty of Dharma College offered the following explanation. “In the first semester of 2014, we opened ten core cultural studies subjects related to Buddhism. We are going to review students’ supply of core cultural studies subjects and consider opening additional classes.”
Students are also saying that too many lectures’ times overlap. One student from the survey said, “Four of the five major courses available are on Friday at a similar time. I wanted to take several major classes but I could choose only one. We do not have many chances to choose lectures.” This problem is common in many majors. Several liberal arts departments offer their major courses at similar times, which hinders students who want to select various subjects. It causes students stress when making timetables.
2. Lack of course-related information
208 of the 2391 available lectures for this semester had no syllabus until registration day. Sometimes, crucial lecture information like quotas or who the professor will be are not announced. Besides, even after pre-registration period is over, there are some lectures that the professors change. Kim Yang-su, a faculty member in the Office of Academic Affairs, responds, “Changes in personnel occurred during the vacation. That is why some lectures do not have professors in charge. We try to update the changes as soon as possible. Also, we set a deadline for announcing the syllabus. Lectures with no syllabus are due to professors failing to meet that deadline.”
During the pre-registration period, the grade quotas are not announced. This makes it diffucult for students to know what will be the actual competition rate in lectures. Lim Gyu-ri, a sophomore majoring in Economics, said, “I think the registration system has problems. There is no reason of doing pre-registration if the supply of lectures is not expanded. If some lectures have a high rate of competition, the school has to open more sections.” However, Kim, a faculty member in the Office of Academic Affairs, said, “The school cannot immediately reflect students’ opinions because they are all different every year. We analyze student patterns for two or three years before increasing the number of lectures. After that, we have to decide whether to increase the number of classes or quotas of students per class.”
3. Lack of support for double-major students
In spite of many students’ changes in scholarly, the number of lectures always stays the same. Especially those who are double-majoring in Business Administration or Economics suffer from harsh competition of registration. Kim Yang-su said, “It is true that there are much more double-majoring students in Business Administration or Economics. However, when it comes to having pre-registration for those majors, the competition rate is not explosively higher than other majors." Then he added that only 62 out of 134 classes have filled to capacity in the Business Administration major. It means that the absolute number of subjects is sufficient. I also agree that there is always students’ dissatisfaction about lacking sections for popular courses. However, we cannot infinitely increase the number of those sections because diversity of courses should also be guaranteed. In this case, we also contact with colleges to open more sections continuously.”
How Can Dongguk’s Registration System Be Improved?
Because of the above problems, students are not able to register for the courses that they want and this violates the freedom of education. The sure way to solve these problems would be to increase the number of courses and faculty. However, the school’s limited budget makes it hard to enlarge the number of courses that students want. This is not the only problem at Dongguk. Other schools that have similar problems all share first-come-first-served registering system. Then, what is registration like at schools that do not have first-come-first-served registration system?
Sookmyung Women’s University has a determination system. During the period of registering for classes, the school allows all students in each course. Afterwards, the school puts students in order according to the standard that the school has fixed beforehand. The standard differs between cultural subjects and majors. For the liberal arts college, the order of students depends on student year, previous semester GPA, and previous semester credits hours. In terms of individual majors, the student order depends on whether the student is a major or double major in the subject, previous semester GPA and previous semester credit hours. Kang Mi-ji, a sophomore majoring in Law at Sookmyung Women’s University, said, “I think this is better than a first-come-first-served system. Especially in the case of registering for major classes, we do not have to worry about being wrecked.”
Universities in the U.S. have other, various registration systems. At Harvard and Stanford University, there is a “shopping week.” During the week, students can attend courses before registering so that they can get a more accurate idea of classea and choose lectures more prudently. Also at Harvard, when the number of registered students exceeds the limit, the school draws for winners to take the lecture. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, “time ticket” system is employed. The school designates each student a certain period of time to register for courses. The more credits a student has completed, the earlier he or she can register for the courses. The advantage of this system is that students who are graduating in the near future can register for classes first so that they can easily meet graduation requirements.
National University of Singapore (NUS)has adopted more interesting and economical system. Before registering for courses, NUS gives each student a settled amount of points and lets students bet the points on classes that they want. The bigger the students’ desire to take a course is, the higher the price of the course becomes. There are two steps to register for courses at NUS. In the opening stage, students bet the points on classes, and in closing stage, seats are allotted to students according to the number of points bet. Many graduate schools in the U.S. like Stanford University, Yale University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) use this system as well. The Seoul National University MBA program were the first to introduce this registration system in Korea in February 2012. When the number of registered students is bigger than the quota, the the student who bet the most for the course are added until the quota is met. In opposite case, the market price becomes zero.
In universities, students’ basic right to study should be guaranteed. Therefore, schools should continuously try hard to uphold this right. They should respond students’ public opinion as reflected in lecture evaluations and respond to students’ demand for courses during the pre-registration period as much as the school can afford to. The problems related to registering for courses remain the same every semester. This is clear evidence that our school has not properly listened to students’ opinions. Now is the time for the school to listen and try to provide the education opportunities students want and need.
Na Soo-hyun, Kim You-jeong firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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