SNU heads Korean universities' journey back to offline classes
Seoul National University plans to completely resume in-person classes this fall semester, after holding courses online for over a year and a half due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Allowing all classes to again be held in person will be a new first for higher education institutions in the country, while other universities are expected to follow suit.
Seoul National University, one of the country's most prestigious universities, discussed details of in-person teaching at a meeting presided over by the university president Oh Se-jung on May 31.
The university decided to resume in-person classes while limiting the number of students per class to less than 100 and keeping a distance of 2 meters (6.6 feet) from each other. Students will watch lectures from different classrooms if the enrollment exceeds the capacity.
For students who cannot come to campus, the university will continue to operate online classes along with in-person lectures.
In order to disperse people on campus, the university will advise professors and students to create an autonomous timetable.
Classes were normally held between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., but professors will be allowed to hold lectures at off-peak times, such as during lunchtime, early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
It is also planning to open a booking system for Covid-19 rapid molecular diagnostic testing on its online portal.
The rapid molecular Covid-19 testing has a higher sensitivity than home test kits and results come out within two hours, according to the university.
After test-operating the system for around 2,700 graduate students and faculty members from its science department in April, the university expanded the testing to all school members — faculty, staff and students — last month to detect infections quickly and allow in-person classes.
Seoul National University plans to announce its final decision this week after discussing details at a meeting with student representatives.
Other universities are also making moves to welcome back their students on campus.
Yonsei University announced last month that it is considering holding offline lectures once a week — in a classroom that can accommodate twice the number of students assigned, if the enrollment is less than 50 people.
Korea University and Sungkyunkwan University have already run both online and offline classes since the first semester, and are considering operating in the same hybrid manner in the fall semester.
While universities are strengthening school quarantine measures to hold in-person lectures, students are expressing their uneasiness.
According to a survey released last month by Yonsei University's student council on preference for the second semester's lecture method, nearly seven out of 10 preferred online classes.
In the online survey of 2,987 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,205 respondents (41.6 percent) responded they prefer online lectures, and 776 respondents (26.8 percent) answered they prefer online classes while only allowing in-person lectures on a smaller scale with less than 30 people — suggesting that around 70 percent of students prefer online classes over in-person lectures.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]