|▲ A student taking a class through an online platform
The fall semester at Chonnam National University (CNU) has begun, but students are still confused and worried about the university’s flexible academic operational plan based on three different levels of social distancing due to COVID-19 conditions. During the last semester, it conducted most of its classes online, and professors and students experienced a lot of inconvenience. The administrators had time to listen to students' opinions and answer questions through the Conference for Students to Cope with COVID-19 held on June 26 and July 1. Not long after those meetings, the Registrar’s Office announced on the university’s website that during this semester the academic operation would be flexible depending on the number of new coronavirus cases per day, and students would be taking blended classes to combine in-person and online formats. For the last two weeks, only online classes have been carried out as the government upgraded the social distancing policy all over the country. The Chonnam Tribune looked back on last semester’s academic operations and listened to students’ opinions about the current operational plan.
Looking Back at the First Semester
During the first semester, students used to complain about problems such as the late notice of the academic schedule, the fairness of the examinations, and some classes which only offered assignments instead of video or real-time lectures. To improve these problems, the Institute of Liberal Education conducted a students’ survey from July 23 to August 5 to assess the remote classes of the spring semester. It included questions about the number and method of remote classes, students' satisfaction and comparing face-to-face classes with remote classes. It showed a high participation rate of 4,069 students. Students' satisfaction with remote classes in the first semester earned 3.42 on a five-point scale, and the most inconvenient thing was "increasing assignments”.
However, the survey was conducted less than a month before the second semester began. The institute also did not conduct a survey on professors to figure out what caused their inconvenience. A professor said in an interview with a Tribune reporter, "The university should have created an educational program for online classes at least two weeks before the start of the semester so that both professors and students could experience it and prepare in advance." If the survey had been conducted as soon as the first semester was over, there could have been enough time to analyze the results of the survey and find ways to make a better semester.
Inaccurate Notice for Blended Class
The second semester allows for all the operational methods of face-to-face, online, and mixed class formats. In blended classes, professors have to choose whether to have face-to-face classes every other week or on a specific day of the week. The Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) has distributed the new form of syllabus which contains the plan of class operation so that professors and students can be notified of the specific schedule before students register for classes. However, there were some cases where such information was not included which caused confusion in students' class scheduling. In other cases, the operation method was marked as an online course but in the detailed class plans on the syllabus, it was announced as a mixed format.
If detailed plans are announced through orientation after starting the fall semester, there is a possibility that housing problems for students who live in other cities will arise. The confusion that students felt owing to this problem is clearly revealed at “Everytime”, a university community application. A number of posts from students who had trouble deciding whether or not to apply for dormitories due to the inaccurate notices have been posted. Some of them could not even get the exact answer to the class plan after calling their professors.
Lack of Places around Campus
There is also a lot of inconvenience for students if face-to-face and real-time remote lectures are being carried out consecutively. In this case, students should move to school facilities or nearby cafes with their own electronic devices to listen to real-time lectures before or after face-to-face lectures. This could make the purpose of online lectures, which is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, meaningless. If discussions or presentations are made in real-time classes, students would also have trouble finding places to participate in class activities.
Many students are concerned about this situation. A posting on the Q&A bulletin board of the CNU website, which is written by a student who demanded a solution to this problem, got more than 70 views. "In addition to the quarantine problem, in the case of students who have a series of face-to-face and remote lectures in a day, it is a worry that students may spend money unnecessarily on cafés or PC rooms,” Hwang Yoon-seo (Freshman, Dept. of Biology Education) said. If there is a series of tests during the exam period, students who do not have a laptop or have difficulty carrying electronic devices to school might be in trouble.
Need to Share Opinions and Reach an Agreement
CNU made various efforts to minimize the inconvenience of students and to ensure better quality lectures. Through the conference for students mentioned above, the university has solved students’ questions about how to do club activities and use school facilities in addition to class-related content. They also awarded the best cases of operating remote classes by combining students’ survey results and recommendations of departments. The university also collects and reflects on the suggestions of students through the representatives of the Student Councils. Jeong Eun-kyung, vice dean of OAA, said, "CNU is primarily seeking solutions based on students’ suggestions that need to be accepted by the university and supplementing them with additional opinions to fulfill students’ demands.”
Now the most important thing is to give detailed guidelines so that the collected opinions of the university members can be used to make up for this insufficiency. It would be better to listen to the opinions of the professors who have had difficulties leading a class in poor circumstances. There should have been thorough preparation in advance to identify inconvenience for faculty members and find proper solutions. Considering the trial and error of the first semester, it is necessary to prepare in detail so that all members who teach and learn in the classes will not suffer any inconvenience during the second semester.
By Park Min-ji, Student Editor