The new year is coming, and the pandemic has been with us for almost a year. I started my second semester with it in March 2020 and have just finished my third semester in graduate school, while the situation is still worrisome in South Korea.
Despite the downsides in social and economic aspects, the crisis has brought many significant changes in a very short period, including the way we work and the way we study in schools. As an Ewha GSIS student myself, I have a chance to witness the historic transformation of the education system in a country that is known for ICT-oriented with high-speed internet. So, rapid change is feasible.
In the Spring 2020 semester, I remember that everybody seemed stunned and hesitant when facing the situation. Finally, after postponing the semester start for two weeks, the university announced that all classes will finally go online for a while, and then for a whole semester.
There are “yeah!” “Oh!” “Nooo!” from different professors and students at that time. But it was inevitable since that was the best and the only option for us when the infections were on a severe spike in the country. I saw the flexibility of the education system here, thanks to the prior developments they have prepared. CyberCampus is the online classroom that the Ewha students have been already using this system before. And now, it became the main tool that migrated us from the offline to the online classrooms smoothly during this disruption. (Though the site had some problems with overloaded traffics in the early period but promptly fixed.)
Every change comes with a challenge. The difficulties of online classes in Spring 2020, the first semester we turned online, were several.
First of all, Ewha had not decided which virtual meeting sevices we should use for an online class. Thus, the professors and students had to experiment by themselves to find the best tool that suits our learning styles in particular courses. In my case, I took three courses at Ewha GSIS, and each professor experimented with different tools: WebEx, ZOOM, and Skype. So, I had to download and learn how to use them all. The positive side is that I was pushed to learn these new essential tools that I may have to use in my future work. Now I can say that I am used to these tools, after trials and errors (I accidentally deleted the professor’s PowerPoint while he was presenting!)
Secondly, there were a couple of problems with online classes. The classic problem was that we often forgot to mute microphones during the class. In the last semester, I even randomly spoke in Thai during the class because I thought my mic was muted! This problem sounds funny, but it is not always so. Many classmates felt uncomfortable when noises from someone’s environments kept interrupting the lectures and presentations. Still, they did not dare enough to tell that person.
Another problem is, “How to share a screen?” We wasted time on this issue quite frequently. Sometimes it is because the host of the meeting forgot to grant permission. Sometimes, it is because other users just do not know how to share it properly. It is risky that they might unintendedly share the whole screen with their private folders and photos.
The final challenge is that we have to make a presentation to minimized-faced audiences, or sometimes no-face audiences. Some students say that it is so weird talking to the screen without seeing the reactions.
The good thing about this transformation is that professors obtained a new skill set: facilitating an e-classroom with much more technical issues than a whiteboard and basic projector. Sometimes students and professors found out together how to fix the problems. We were all new to this, but we had fun taking this adventure. Professors turned out to use the functions on CyberCampus more effectively, such as assignment box, file, Q&A board, and grading.
I have familiarized myself with these tools, and we, both professors and students, then maximized the potential of CyberCampus and Cloud services as never happened before. We learn together to adapt our learning experience to the new world order of education
In Fall 2020, since the COVID-19 situation in South Korea had improved, and the infection rate was stable, Ewha has changed the classrooms to hybrid mode. This means the students in the classrooms with less than 50 students can choose either the online or offline attendance method. In other words, the class was conducted both on-screen and face-to-face at the same time.
That was exciting for me. Though we can attend the offline class, we still need to comply with the social distancing rule. Before going to class, we have to go to the temperature checkpoint, such as the one in ECC, to have the machine automatically scanned our head temperature, and then strap the wristband with the specific color of the day. Without the wristband, we cannot enter the classroom.
The hybrid model class also causes some difficulties. These are the cons that a professor and students told us on Instagram @ewha_gsis.
- “I can’t give as much attention to online students..” Prof. Hannah Jun.
- “If you’re online, you can’t hear a lot of in-class discussion when professors forget to pass the mic” Amanda Fish.
- “We’re not able to see our classmates in-person.” Ruby Chang.
- “I don’t have the chance to get to know my classmates and the professors better.” Xenia.
- “Missing the social interaction” Pa Yin.
But there are positive sides:
- “Can choose for myself whether to go or not.” Amanda Fish
- “We can wake up later in the morning.” Ruby Chang
- “Seeing our beautiful campus, students, and professors whenever I have an offline class,” Chedza
- “Not waking up 2 hours before to get ready (shower, make up, CHOOSING AN OUTFIT hehe.” Xenia.
The funniest part was when I attended the online class, there were students in an offline classroom. My sleepy face would be enlarged on screen in front of everyone, but I did not see them. I felt like being broadcasted while studying. Sometimes, the movement-detection camera, supposed to focus and zoom at the professor, mistaken the moving curtain on the window next to the professor. All I saw on the professor’s screen is “Prof. Curtain,” with the spoken lecture.
We are not sure yet what the classroom for next semester would be like. But I have to admit that this disruption caused by the pandemic has taught and trained me a lot to prepare for the post-pandemic world. And I think many Ewha GSIS students share the same ideas.