Credit limits for online classes are now up to the universities
The Ministry of Education on Wednesday abolished regulations restricting credits that can be earned through online classes in universities as remote learning becomes the norm amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Education Ministry announced the measures as part of a focus on digital learning and innovative higher education in the post-coronavirus era, lifting the current restrictions that capped online classes at 20 percent of a student's credits.
It also allowed earning a master’s degree online starting next year, and enabled Korean and foreign universities to issue joint degrees virtually. Students who may have planned to study overseas, were it not for Covid-19, may therefore still be able to earn degrees from foreign universities through online courses as early as the first half of 2021.
The measures address the need to improve the quality of online lessons as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced universities to conduct much of their classes remotely since the spring semester.
Starting this semester, schools will be able to freely determine what proportion of students' overall credits can be earned through online classes.
Likewise, the ministry is also expanding ways for regular four-year colleges and cyber universities to transfer credits. A trial model for credit transfers will be run at some national universities, starting with the fall semester, and expand to other colleges next year.
“Universities should use the unprecedented Covid-19 situation as an opportunity for innovation," Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, who doubles as deputy prime minister of social affairs, said during a meeting at the Sejong Government Complex.
But while remote learning has become the new normal of higher education during the pandemic, many students remain dissatisfied with the quality of online classes.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Yeungnam University’s higher education research institute on 28,418 university students nationwide, nearly half of respondents didn’t think schools prepared enough for online classes.
Some 21.2 percent of respondents thought that their universities made ample preparations for online lessons, according to this survey. By contrast, 48.1 percent of respondents thought that the amount of preparation made by their university for online classes “was not high.”
Just 26 percent of students responded that their professors prepared enough for online classes, compared to 38 percent of those surveyed who thought they did not make enough preparations.
However, 71.9 percent of university students responded that remote lessons should be expanded in the post-coronavirus era.
The Education Ministry said it is working to improve the quality of online lessons and will establish a remote education support center which can allow professors and students to evaluate online lectures starting with the fall semester. The government also plans to include the quality of remote classes in its college evaluation criteria and is working to provide smart devices to disadvantaged students.
It also plans to support personnel training in new technology and encourage universities to focus on education in areas including artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. This is a part of the government's plan to produce 100,000 personnel trained in new technology by 2026.
Following a spike in coronavirus cases last month, as of Wednesday morning, 7,948 kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools nationwide have shut campuses and reverted to online classes, according to the Education Ministry.
Of these schools, 88.6 percent, or 7,825, are in the greater Seoul area, including Gyeonggi and Incheon, with six additional students having been infected with Covid-19 on Tuesday.
BY NAM YOON-SEO, SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]