Few students visited Dongguk University for two years due to COVID-19.
/Photography by Hwang Chae-yeon
The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in late 2019, stopped the whole campus of Dongguk University. Due to the risk of the spread of COVID-19, students could not take their classes or participate in extracurricular activities at the campus. However, according to the undergraduate class operation plan recently announced by Dongguk University, face-to-face classes will gradually expand from this upcoming semester, the first semester of 2022. As a result, as many students gather on campus, many changes are expected to occur in the school. The Dongguk Post would like to find out what Dongguk University has been like over the past two years, what changes will occur next semester, and what students’ opinions are about it.
The campus changed after the pandemic
Starting in the first semester of 2020, the standards for class operation were adjusted according to the quarantine stage announced by the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters for the past four semesters. It was mainly operated around nonface-to-face classes through Webex and e-Class. In the first semester of 2020, the opening day for class was delayed two weeks due to the prolonged unexpected pandemic. Afterward, both face-to-face classes and non-face-to-face classes were held. Experiments, practical, smallscale theoretical lectures with less than 20 students were allowed face-to-face classes. Commonly, the other theoretical classes were based on non-face-to-face classes.
In the second semester of 2020, as COVID-19 spread around the Seoul metropolitan area, all lectures except theoretical, experiments and practical classes with less than 20 students were based on real-time non-faceto-face classes. In order to improve students’ understanding of learning and achievement, it was recommended to provide recorded videos after the lectures by professors. In addition, the use of webcams was recommended to manage attendance and students’ high concentration level. Experiments and practical classes were also conducted using concentrated completion courses during weekdays or weekends. In order to ensure the quality of real-time classes and enhance class management, Remote Learning Quality Management Committee was formed, in which the Ministry of Student Affairs participated. The first and second semesters of 2021 were operated based on similar principles to the previous semesters of 2020. In the second semester of 2021, students were required to input whether they got the COVID-19 vaccination on uDRIMS .
Previously, student performance was evaluated using a relative evaluation method. However, after the increase in the number of non-face-to-face classes, it has converted to an absolute evaluation method. In other words, students did not have to compete with each other for their grades since there was an absolute evaluation criteria. Moreover, the upperlimit grade standard for re-taking courses was not applied. Therefore, even if students take the class again, they can get good grades like other students who take the class for the first time. In the first semester of 2020, face-to-face tests were banned and assignments were recommended to replace them. In the second semester of 2020, non-face-toface evaluation of mid-term and final exams was the principle. In the case of face-to-face classes, the evaluation was conducted by distributing the number of people through securing spare lecture rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Furthermore, various ceremonies, competitions and special lectures were held online. On February 22nd, 2021, Dongguk University’s first online entrance ceremony was held, using both Zoom and YouTube. 100 students who applied in advance faced each other on a large screen on the stage through Zoom, and 3,000 students participated in realtime comments through YouTube Live. On August 19th, 2021, a non-face-toface autumn degree ceremony was held through YouTube. The president and the deans visited the selected graduates in person, delivered their college diplomas, and aired the video on YouTube.
The Dongguk Post conducted a student survey from January to February in 2022. Among the students who entered the school before 2020, who experienced face-to-face classes, 60% answered that they prefer non-face-to-face classes. They said that it was helpful since they can study in depth with the class recorded video. Another 40% of students said that they prefer face-to-face class as it is easier to communicate with the professors in those classes. Also, they can participate in school activities more actively when they go to school. Among the students who entered the school after 2020, who did not experience faceto-face classes, 41.7% preferred nonface-to-face classes since they could save time commuting to school. 58.3% preferred face-to-face-class as they can concentrate better in those classes, and also, they need chances to participate in school events. In addition, 58.8% of the whole respondents felt regrets about not meeting with seniors and juniors in school. 76.5% answered that the burden on performance evaluation has been reduced due to absolute evaluation and the abolition of the upper limit on retake grades.
The campus may change once again
From the first semester of 2022, face-to-face classes will be gradually expanded. Theoretical lectures and experiments and practical lectures with less than 40 students will be conducted as face-to-face classes. Theoretical lectures with more than 40 students are going to be conducted as non-face-to-face classes.
In the case of face-to-face classes, social distancing and wearing masks during classes are mandatory. Students are required to install a sneeze guard provided in the classroom. In the event of a COVID-19 diagnosed case, it will be converted to non-face-to-face classes temporarily and returned to face-to-face classes after the self-quarantine period lifted. Non-face-to-face classes will be conducted 100% in real-time online classes based on the use of Webex. In the case of face-to-face and non-face-to-face simultaneous classes, both classes should be conducted at the same time using classroom cameras. SMART Advanced Classrooms in each building will be assigned first, and it is recommended to apply them preferentially to lectures taken by many international students. COVID-19 diagnosis, self-quarantine, and vaccination are recognized as reasons for absenteeism.
In addition, the absolute evaluation method will be applied in the same way as in the last four semesters. The upper grade limit for retaking a class will not be applied. The test may be a face-toface evaluation or non-face-to-face evaluation for each lecture according to the instructor’s decision.
There were various opinions of students about class operation. One said, “The announcement saying that it will conduct gradual face-to-face classes when the situation gets better is uncertain. It is better for students to set up a plan for whole semester either non-face-to-face or face-to-face.” There was also opinion about the test and said, “It was easy to get good grades due to absolute evaluation and open books. However, I felt as if I did not remember what I studied. I think it would be better to make a test pressure device close to the face-to-face test, such as a time attack.” Another said, “I think there is a need for more support for non-face-to-face teaching equipment.” Some showed concern about the current pandemic state and claimed, “Non-faceto-face classes should be prolonged for safety.”
A staff of the student service department said, “There may be changes if guidelines from the Ministry of Education are issued. However, nothing had been changed from the announcement made on January 17th. Currently, there is no plan for further discussion schedule.” Also, she mentioned that, “Dongguk University is an area that does not fall under quarantine passes. It has nothing to do with vaccination or QR code verification. Only ‘Dongguk Pass’ is valid within our school. In addition, grades will continue to be evaluated absolutely.” She repeated that, “Important contents are all shown if you read the notice carefully. If you have any questions other than the notice, please contact the student service team.”
The sudden pandemic crisis has continued to increase the number of infected people for several years, bringing many changes to our school. Nevertheless, more effort and attention are needed for a safe school life in the future. Among the changes that have been experienced so far, what students want to improve and feel lack of should be corrected. If the new system and culture are preserved and strengthened, Dongguk University can become a more advanced school. Will spring come to Dongguk University, which has been frozen for the past two years?
Hwang Chae-yeon firstname.lastname@example.org
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