Some Scenes and Some Thoughts about Lectures
A classroom in Haklim Hall at five minutes past ten a.m. when a general course lecture, "Understanding of Korean History," starts. About 120 students are crammed into the room waiting for their part-time lecturer to arrive. Latecomers squeeze between narrow spaces and find seats.
The lecturer makes a roll-call as soon as he arrives in the classroom. He makes a V mark by each student's name in his roll book when the student responds "Yes" to his call. Taking the roll lasts about 10 minutes. Then, he starts his lecture. Today's topic is "The Three Kingdoms Era." His voice echoes through the class room.
He states historical terms about the topic for about 65 minutes. While students in front of the platform are busy taking notes, those at the back of the classroom are less attentive. Some doze off while holding pens tightly in hand, while others just neglect lecture or whisper about not hearing the lecturer.
After the lecture comes to a close, those students who were late for the class check their attendance and the rest of the students exit. As one student leaves the class room, he says "Hmm, good sleep. But it was really boring."
>> How many students have a better grasp of Korean history after attending the class? Maybe no one, except for the faithful students in front of the platform. Even if the lecturer wanted to open the lecture to question and discussion, the poor conditions would hinder him from doing so. And breaking up about 100 into pairs or groups is not the solution either.
A student using ID "Freshman" left the following opinion on the DU web-board "My Insistence" on Arpil 20.
"About two months have passed since I started my campus life. At first, I couldn't adapt myself to crowded class rooms.
I hated attending classes in the Dept. of Education because latecomers make a lot of noise when bringing their desks and chairs from another classroom.
Today, a lecturer tried to use a broken "magic marker" in Myungjin Hall... It was really noisy...
Yesterday, a lecture in a seminar room of the Acadimic Cultural Center was stopped because of weird noises from speakers.
These are just a few examples of DU's poor academic conditions. For whom does DU exist? I hope future Donggukians won't be making the same complaints. These conditions must be changed as soon as possible."
>> The writer, who seems to major in Education, said these poor academic conditions are even worse in general courses.
A Survey about the Quality of Lecture
What are the factors that lead to low-quality classes? If the quality depends on the efficiency of a lecturer, the answer to the question can be found by examining how a lecture is conducted.
According to the results of a 1999 questionnaire taken by the Student Counseling Center, 46 percent of 3,068 respondents pointed to a lecturer's weak teaching method as the first factor in lowering the quality of a lecture, 43.7 percent agreed that an insufficient system to aid a lecturer is the second factor, and 42.8 percent answered that the third factor is that students are not motivated to learn.
On the other hand, 29.2 percent answered that utilizing audio-visual materials is need to support the lecturer, while 25.4 percent thought practice-oriented teaching methods were the second way to improve lectures, and 23.2 percent said more discussion in classes could enhance lectures.
As for the survey, the Student Counseling Center concluded: "Various teaching methods proper to each class should be introduced and supported by proper educational facilities." It seems that lecturers and students have difficulties in communicating each other, which usually results in lecturers' unilateral approach to instructing.
Class Rooms Are Too Crowded
"Even though universities have good educational facilities and lecturers try to be innovative, the large number of students in a class are an obstacle to improvement," says Lim Byung-yon, a part-time lecturer who teaches "An Introduction to Public Administration," a general course. He says that it is next to impossible for a lecturer to have discussions with 100 students during a class.
Why are these so many students in classes? The School Authorities' answer is, "That's the way it is at present." They can not limit the number of students who can register for general courses below 100. "If we lower the limit to 40, the number of classes will increase. Then, we have no choice but to employ part-time lecturers because we don't have enough professors, which will weaken the quality of lectures," said Joo Hyun-seok, a staff member of Academic Support.
A lack of classrooms also plays a role in decreasing academic quality. That's because more class rooms are needed as much as an increase in the number of classes. According to Academic Support, all classrooms are used from 8 a.m to 10 p.m. even though the present ratio of utilizing classrooms comes to 80 percent. They explained that there's no practical solution except expanding classrooms or class schedules.
A student's monologue is as follows:
There would be no problem if our school had large classrooms, a vast and cheap campus, employed more faculty and had fewer students. But those measures are beyond reality. All those things are related to money. If the school take those steps, it will hike the tuition fee because the school depends on the tuition fee to solve its financial problems. There will always be some conflict between the school and students. We have good solutions but cannot put them into practice. Anyway, I should go to class.
>> There are ways to solve the problems. However, they are expensive to carry out. Thus, universities are looking to the Internet as an alternative. Cyber space is not restricted by physical conditions and offers multilateral communications among participants.
The following is an interview with Kim Young-min, a professor in the Dept. of English Lang. & Lit., who is doing a combination of on- and off-line lectures on "American Poetry" and "English Speaking World Literature."
Post: What motivate you to give on-line lectures to students through an American educational website "Blackboard.com"?
Kim: I was teaching Korean literature at Cornell University during my 1998-99 sabbatical leave. Cornell University had been employing Blackboard.com courseware which I have been using since then. I was very intrigued by technology of this web course. When I returned to Korea in the fall of 1999, I started using this Blackboard webcourse to enhance the multimedia- and web-based course.
Post: What are the merits and demerits of giving web-based lectures?
Kim: The on-line lecture merits are:
1) It stimulates students' motivation for knowledge. 2) It provides fun and interaction. 3) It employs various kinds of e-texts, MPEG, likns, audio, and even DVD for class materials. 4) Students get access easily to the course contents and course assignment at home and at other places wherever the Internet can be used. 5) Students can get to know one another through the on-line site by means of Discussion Board, Virtual Chat, Homepage Creating, and what not. (Although the nature of the on-line lecture is anonymous, students are supposed to use their real name in this Blackboard.) 6) Students can upload their essays and other assignments on the web. 7) Students can research around cyber space wherever they can find the links and informative URL's.
On the other hand, it has its demerits, in that 1) Students may get lost in the flood of information, and lose interest in traditional scientific research. 2) Students can be lazy. 3) They lack an understanding of the true nature of humanity, because they do not have access to instructor's voices and personality. They obtain their knowledge without understanding human nature. 4) They are prone to plagiarism when they write they assigned reports or essays, because the e-materials and e-texts are always already there in cyber space.
Many students gather in a small class room to take their major or general course classes. Of course, it is not true for all classes. Actually, some major courses for juniors and seniors are given in a good environment. The Post, however, chose to focus on the shortcomings of certain classes that are just a couple of slices of our campus life. Why? Because it is most important that DU offers a quality education to meet the level of global education. And the second reason is the hope that the faculty, including part-time lecturers, introduce various kinds of teaching methods to stop complaints about their one-way instruction. Lastly, students should critique lectures and raise questions. They have to take an active part in their own classes.
PartⅡ. Registration for Classes
At the beginning of each semester, lots of students are confused when they want to register for classes that they are interested in attending or taught by their favorite professors. This semester, the same confusion was repeated at several domestic universities including Dongguk University (DU). PartⅡ will take a close look at the problems students face in the course of the registration........................Ed.
A. How Do DU Students Register For Their Classes?
At the end of each semester, DU students register for the classes that they will take for the next semester and must stay within the limits of credits set by each college. At first, students refer to class-schedule books distributed in advance and choose from it the classes that they want to take. Then, students register for their classes through a computer program for class registration. This can be done in intramural computer rooms or at home during the registration period. During the first week of classes, students can cancel classes and register for new classes so long as they are not yet filled. Even after the registration period is over, students can cancel classes at the end of the month when classes began.
At the end of each semester, Yonsei University enforces preliminary registration for classes. Students have about a week to express clearly which classes they want to take through an Internet site. "After referring to the results, the School Authorities decide the number of classes for the next term. So students can avoid confusion in registering for their classes," said a Yonsei student. Ten days before the day when classes begin, Yonsei students can register only for the classes they already selected during the preliminary registration period. They can register for other classes after that time, but most classes are filled up by then.
Sungkyul Christian University students also register for their classes through a computer program. That is available only on campus computers. When accessing the program, students can see only the list of their department's required courses on a computer screen. Thus a student belonging to a certain department has priority over other students when registering for courses in his/her department.
B. Administrative Problems on Educational Matters
Sometimes some class schedules or professors are arbitrarily changed after completion of registration. And some students said that they could not select classes that they want to take. It is because those classes overlap with others which are required in their majors or general education.
"Those cases rarely happen. Students can register for their classes freely at DU," said Kim Joung-ho, a member of the Academic Support.
Some students want the number of popular classes to be increased. "A particular popular class is available five on six times. It is not easy to increase the number of popular lectures because there are not enough professors on campus who can give the lectures. Introducing part-time lecturers is not the answer because their academic ability is not enough to professors'," he said.
Some students have a right to complain. In one class, for example, some students were told to cancel the class by the professor who teaches it, because more students than the seating capacity are allowed to register for the class due to SA's mistake.
"I don't even know who is my academic adviser!" is a common refrain among students. To register for classes, DU students have to get the signature of each professor mentor on their registration application before registering classes. However, it is perfunctory. Most students do not regard instruction or consultation about studies with their professors as important.
C. Unbalanced Selection of Lectures
Most students over emphasize their classes. They adhere to general education courses. "Senior or junior students stand a better chance of getting good grades than do freshmen or sophomores. Most juniors and seniors would rather take general education courses than major courses in order to get an easy grade," Mr. Kim said. Actually, they prefer general educational classes to major courses to meet the minimum requirements for graduation. Because general educational classes are usually easy grades.
In the case of "Understanding of Cinema," a general educational lecture in 6th field, it has 120 to 200 students each semester in spite of restricting the number of students. Now, DU Students have to take general educational courses within 42 units. And they can't take more than 12 units in the 6th field, which are the most popular courses among students.
"While 'Elementary Chinese Writing,' which is an easy grade, is filled with students, only vacant chairs greet 'Intermediate Chinese Writing.' Many students do not choose difficult lectures in which they can learn something. Students are taking lectures that are given by professors who give easy grades or teach an easy subject. Few students choose a lecture because the lecture has academic merit," he said.
How The Curriculum Is Made
In the registration period, students must decide the courses that they will take during the semester There are 1,688 lectures at Dongguk University (DU) this spring semester. After their lectures were chosen, many students were curious about the way their curriculum was designed.
The courses of each college are divided into general education courses, major courses, and elective course most of the curriculum is usually revised every four years. Kim Kyu-hwan, a member of Academic Support, explained that "We distribute the requirements of each curriculum to the faculty of each college. for example, the Buddhism and Human Being lecture is assigned to the College of Buddhism. After reviewing the lecture, we made an arrangement with professors as to general education courses." In the case of major courses, professors in each college debate which course of study is useful to students. And then, if the curriculum is deemed suitable for teachers and students, the course of study is adopted. Finally, Education Reform Deliberation Commission makes its decision about the curriculum. As for the military sciences, they are designed to prepare students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps for the reality of military affairs, while the teacher training courses are regulated by laws pertaining to national education.
The selection of instructors is also important to the curriculum. The University's choice of instructors is based on the instructor having written a thesis and received a doctorate degree. After this, the curriculum is unified and we can choose our lectures.
Choi Jong-taek email@example.com
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