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Credit Exchange Program for New ExperienceLacking participants due to complicated procedures and difficult access to information

   
 
  ▲ Students are gathered in and passing by the Paljung-do.  

/Photograph by Yim Se-youn

   On January 21st, a new credit exchange program was concluded between 23 universities in the Seoul President Forum, a forum between 26 universities in Seoul. The forum announced that this program will be enforced from the second semester of 2016.

   Yet, the credit exchange program seems unfamiliar to many students, and several significant obstacles have to be overcome before it can offer its full potential benefits.


From 19 possible universities for exchange to 23
 
   The credit exchange program refers to a system that allows university students to take lectures in other universities during regular semesters or seasonal semesters. Regarding the new credit exchange program, now expanded to 23 universities, not much has changed compared to the existing program, except for the increased number of universities that students can earn through exchange credits. Until last year, Donggukians had 19 choices, which included Konkuk University, Seoul National University, Jeju National University, and others. Thanks to the new agreement, 17 more universities will be added to the list of possible choices starting from the second semester of 2016. They include the Catholic University of Korea, Sogang University, Ewha Womans University, and others, giving 36 choices in total.

   The students who meet a few conditions (see the chart below) are able to participate in the credit exchange program. In terms of the tuition payment method, students have to pay the full tuition to Dongguk University during the regular semesters. For the seasonal semesters, students have to pay the fee to the exchange school they are going to. The amount of the payment differs according to each school’s standards. Also, students are able to attend classes both at Dongguk University and another university at the same time in one semester as well as spending one whole semester in a different university.

   
 
  ▲ In Dongguk University, there are three basic qualifications needed to particiapte in credit exchange program.  

 /Created by The Dongguk Post


Students may improve academic, social, and physical environments

   There are several advantages to the credit exchange program. Tak Sang-min, the section chief of the Office of Academic Affairs, said, “Students are able to take various classes that are not opened in their home universities.” Also, students can have more diverse experiences in their university lives. He said, “They are able to form a community between students and professors who are in the same major fields. Students can also reduce the commuting time and distance to school by choosing one that is close to their home.”

 

Only 1.95 percent particiapte in credit exchange program

   Despite such advantages, the students’ actual participation rate in the credit exchange program is low. Statistically, in Dongguk University, 352 students participated in this program out of 18,081 students in 2015, which is only about 1.95 percent of the entire student body. To be specific, in the first and second semester, 21 and 26 students were involved in the program respectively. In seasonal semesters, 225 students joined the program in the summer semester while 80 students participated in the winter semester. As this data shows, students have a tendency to get enrolled in the credit exchange program during seasonal semesters rather than regular semesters.


Students’ unawarenes and inconvenience towards credit exchange program

   According to a survey conducted by The Dongguk Post that targeted 128 Korean university students, when asked “Have you been aware of credit exchange program?”, 16.5 percent answered “No, not at all.”, 59.8 percent chose “I have heard of it, but do not know well.”, and 23.6 percent said, “Yes, very well.” More significantly, to the question “Have you experienced the credit exchange program?”, only 3.1 percent chose “Yes” while 96.9 percent answered “No.”

   It seems like most of the students are unfamiliar with the credit exchange program. In the survey, 50.4 percent of the students chose “Unaware of it” as their main reason for not applying for the program. The second most chosen reason was “Could not find advantages” with 34.7 percent choosing this, and “Complicated administration process” ranked in third, getting only 2.5 percent lower than the second highest one.

   
 
  ▲ There has been a survey conducted by the Dongguk Post, targeting 128 Korean university students in their 20s, asking three question regarding credit exchange program. The three questions are the following: 1. Have you been aware of credit exchange program? 2. Have you experienced credit exchange program? 3. If you have experience, what was the reason for doing it?  

 /Created by The Dongguk Post


Insufficient release of Information

   Looking at these results, students’ active participation in the credit exchange program is hindered by a lack of information and by the complicated administration process. The school has uploaded notifications on the university website when the application period for credit exchange program is open. Such notices excluded thorough explanations of the program itself. Thus, students were not able to know what the program was about and how to apply. Even when they want to apply, students have less opportunities to ask advice to others since not a lot of people have actual experience in the program.

   Kim Jung-hyun (Sophomore, English Interpretation and Translation) expressed inconvenience of getting information by saying, “I tried reading the information regarding the credit exchange program uploaded on the school website, but I was not able to understand how to apply since it only stated to refer to other universities’ websites.”

   Park Bu-yeon (Junior, Media Communication) suggested another inconvenient aspect of the program. She said, “It is hard to attain information about the courses of other universities since accessing the online communities of other schools is impossible.”

   Regarding the administration process, Section Chief of the Office of Academic Affairs Tak, said, “It is true that the process is quite complicated.” To be specific, there are courses that are not accepted as the credits for course work. Therefore, students have to search whether the courses they are planning to take are accepted as course work in their school before they register for classes. In order to find out, students have to turn in a document and get a signature from the dean. 


Fear of entering a new environment

   In addition, going to a whole new environment serves as one of the factors that prevent students from participating. Kim Myong-jun (Junior, Philosophy), who had participated in the credit exchange program with Seoul National University, said, “If you make the first approach or have group work together, it is possible to get along with the students in another university through the credit exchange program. Nevertheless, it was hard for me to have a sense of belonging or to build stronger relationships with the students there.” He expressed the hardships regarding relationships he had experienced while he participated the program.


Potential for more participation in credit exchange program

   Despite the fact that majority of students have not tried the program or they think there are some disadvantages and obstacles, 57.7 percent of the responding students still replied that they are willing to participate in the credit exchange program.

   Students wanted to experience a new environment and to take the courses that are not opened in their own schools. Seo Min-ji (Junior, Buddhist Social Welfare) said, “I want to experience how professors in other universities teach and try taking famous courses of other schools.” 

   In fact, by participating in the program, students may experience new ways of teaching and class agendas. Kim Myong-jun, in particular, had taken a class called, “Brain, Mind, Behavior” and experienced a different style of lectures he had not experienced in Dongguk University. He said, “Four different professors operated one same class by teaching in their specialized field of study. Since each of them had distinctive characteristics, I was able to experience various environments in one class.” He added that such diverse courses with a new style of teaching would be the most interesting aspect of exchange credit program students may experience while participating.

   Regarding 42.3 percent of students who were not open to trying the program mentioned that “Difficulties in getting good grades,” “Complicated application process,” and “Lack of advantages for getting a job” are the factors that prevent them from trying the program. However, according to the survey, it seems like students are willing to participate more actively when some of the disadvantages in administration process and in the lack of information are amended.

Yim Se-youn, Lim Ji-soo  seyoun8120@dongguk.edu, jisoo0717@dongguk.edu

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