Many turn online to enhance skills

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Many turn online to enhance skills


Lee Joon-koo, on left, an economics professor at Seoul National University, gives a lecture for Entering Economics, one of the most popular K-MOOC courses. Jung Myung-kyo, right, a professor of Korean literature and language at Yonsei University, teaches for an online open lesson. [K-MOOC]

A number of Korea’s seniors are taking advantage of a new government-led online course program in preparation for the next chapter in their lives.

The Korea Massive Open Online Course (K-MOOC) platform, backed by the Ministry of Education, aims at expanding the scope of Korean education by providing high-quality online lectures ranging from economic theory to creative thinking.

The free online campus ( launched in October with 27 courses provided by 10 Korean universities, including Seoul National University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist).

Within a month, more than 40,000 people had registered for courses, which typically range from 15 to 16 weeks long and are updated every week with new lessons.

Choi Hak-seon, a 65-year-old auto parts dealer who has lived in Los Angeles for 30 years, said he is strengthening his insight into the service industry by taking the Service Design course from offered on the website.

“The course is in line with what I have done so far. I am learning how to think in fresh ways,” said Choi, who once worked for laundry and car audio equipment services to earn a living abroad.

“Some say life begins at 60. I aspire to start a new business again, just like the founder of KFC [Harland David Sanders] achieved his goal when he was in his 60s.”

But the launch of K-MOOC is also part of government’s efforts to forge a more open and inclusive higher education system against the backdrop of a rapidly aging society with a relatively low retirement age - in most private companies it averages around 53 or 54.

Among the site’s registered students, 15 percent are in their 50s or older. And according to a recent survey among the platform’s participants, 43 percent said that they were taking classes to fulfill their intellectual curiosity, while 35 percent were listening to lectures to develop their specialties and capabilities.

Seon Seung-deok, an orthopedic doctor based in Seoul, is among them. The 51-year-old is currently taking three courses, including one on creative thinking. Seon takes time out of his busy schedule when he has no patients or before and after working hours to study.

“I set a deadline to finish listening to lectures every week,” he said. “Since my schedule is packed during the week, I try to take time on weekends.”

K-MOOC’s launch is also in line with the government’s push to boost reemployment and extend the retirement age to 65.

“[One of my students], a Korean-American who is older than me … has been studying hard, listening to lectures and sending me questions,” said Lee Joon-koo, an economics professor at Seoul National University and a lecturer for one of the website’s most popular courses, Entering Economics. “It’s important to finish the course to the end.”

The online campus plans to add more courses annually, with the goal of operating more than 500 by 2018.

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