New semester is beginning, but this semester will be online due to COVID-19. A few weeks ago, Noonsong completed her course registration on Sookmyung Portal. After many attempts to sign into the Portal, she was finally able to get on SnowBoard to start her morning lectures. Suddenly, a window appeared checking the server. She failed the inspection, so she was unable to attend class or engage in other course activities. Noonsong was disappointed because she had expected the online learning service at Sookmyung to have improved compared to the previous semester.
Sookmyung is connecte
Sookmyung operates an online learning service that manages students' learning and activities. The managing company operates the service by providing three major platforms. The first is the Sookmyung Portal System. It is a website that students apply for classes, check their grades, and get information about tuition fees. In other words, this platform is mostly for academic matters. Students are able to read course syllabuses on the system in advance before applying for a course and adding it to one's timetable. Grades for the previous semester for each class are also available for viewing. Course enrolment and later timetable changes are all made on this system within the relevant period. At the end of the semester, class evaluations are also done on the Portal System. Written receipts of tuition fee payments and applications for scholarships are carried out on the platform as well. Together, this means the Sookmyung Portal Service is essential for all affairs related to students' academics. The second platform at Sookmyung that helps students manage their learning is SnowBoard. Over the course of the semester, online classes are conducted through SnowBoard. In the case of a recording lecture, video files are uploaded for students to view, and for classes that have Zoom meetings, a Zoom link is uploaded for students to join. Class materials can be viewed through this service. There is also a bulletin board that students may use if their professor requires its usage for participation marks. The bulletin board is also used as a measure of active participation in remote classes.
The third platform is SnoWay service, which has a number of additional programs that Sookmyung offers students. There are diverse school supplemental programs such as counseling services, services that help with major learning and other subjects, and services aimed at easing and making college life richer. Job, guidance, and alumni counseling services are also carried out on this platform. In addition, Sookmyung provides 'Smart Sookmyung', a mobile app service and 'SnoWe', a community site. The online services aim to help students better enjoy online school life. In particular, last year, the online services usage rate increased dramatically as most classes were conducted remotely due to COVID-19. Because of the increased traffic, the server crashed. SnowBoard, the learning management service, went down during an examination, which harmed a large number of students. With the use of online services becoming more and more frequent due to remote learning, SMT asked students their opinions on how to improve the online services.
Satisfaction with the Online Services
The number of students accessing simultaneously online services has increased due to COVID-19, so it is important to hear their opinion on the services. In the question about 'Have you experienced any inconvenience using online services of Sookmyung?', 46 out of 54 respondents (85.2 percent) said yes. The majority of the inconveniences mentioned by participants were with Sookmyung Portal and its server. In particular, a number of students said access to the platform was delayed due to the weak server, especially during heavy usage periods such as course enrolment and grade verification periods. In addition, some students said they were unable to sign into the system due to login errors that would appear in pop-up windows. SnowBoard operators acknowledged the frequent server issues and errors at its main challenges. A large number of students would review lectures and lecture materials at dawn during exam periods, but last semester, many students said they couldn't prepare for the exam well because of the constant server error. Other students said their exam responses were not accepted on time, so their work was received by the professor either delayed or not at all. In addition to the issues during online tests, connectivity issues resulted in video lagging when pre-recorded lectures were viewed on mobile electronics such as a tablet or on one's PC. SnoWay was cited as having the most frequent login errors whenever a browser other than Internet Explorer was used. There were also complaints about the lack of unification among the services of SnoWay. Some participants said the services of SnoWay were not easy to use because of their format and structure, which made it hard to read and find necessary content.
Generally, most of the inconveniences of the online services were related to server problems. With large numbers of students accessing the systems at the same time, students could suffer delayed access and frequent inspections that caused the server to go down. Last year, the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic caused online classes to operate for an entire year. Sungkyunkwan University opened a global learning management system called 'i-Campus' last year to help students manage their grades, progress, and attendance all on one integrated management system. It was also used to conduct various forms of remote classes. Sungkyunkwan University is seen as an exemplary case for its quick response to infrastructure expansion by expanding its servers in the early days of the pandemic in anticipation of increased remote teaching and learning. At Kwangwoon University, online lectures are provided through its self-learning management system called 'KLAS'. With remote lecturing inevitable due to the coronavirus, universities have been making efforts to create an online learning environment that ensures student success.
For Better Conditions
In a time when online classes and gatherings have become the norm, students are often heard giving opinions on how to supplement and revitalize their online learning system. First of all, survey participants said they would really like to see server problems addressed. This is important because when large numbers of students try to access the server at the same time, such as during course enrollment, grade checking, and online testing times, collateral damage occurs such as failure to submit test answers. Though the school is attempting to rectify server problems, students are still expressing dissatisfaction. One participant said that the school conducted a sudden inspection at dawn without making a prior announcement, so it interrupted her study plan for the day. The school should provide advanced notice when its plans to do SnowBoard inspections, and it should operate accurate and prompt inspections to prevent service errors. Another participant said she would like up-to-date job information data uploaded on SnoWay and implement a program that linked the data to miscellaneous platforms and comments. She also hoped the system would become more user-friendly. Other comments included the absence of notifications, announcements, and pop-up windows, so a number of services and events were missed or overlooked. As such, students have a variety of ideas for supplementing accessibility and increasing convenience of online services.
To reduce grievances among students, the school provided feedback help for its online services through the student council Modu last semester. In response to the need to expand SnowBoard servers, the school reportedly spent 3.1 billion won on building online classrooms last semester. In other words, the school is making various efforts to compensate for the unexpected increase in the number of users on its servers and the increased server usage time due to COVID-19. The school is also considering setting up a Digital Information Innovation Agency with dedicated staff as well as a distribution system to expand servers. Once the Digital Information Innovation Agency is established and a distribution system established, access will no longer be interrupted during heavy usage times. Furthermore, it is hoped that certain services are made available even when other services on the same platform are under inspection. Under order from the Ministry of Education, the university should operate a remote education management committee, which includes student members so that their voice is guaranteed when providing online services. Because most school life is now carried out online, schools ought to listen to students' opinions on online services.
A New Era for the University
Sookmyung has entered a new era of online classes in which all school activities are conducted online rather than in traditional classes on campus. Every Sookmyungian needs the online services provided at Sookmyung. The school needs to provide proper online services for its students so that they can conveniently take classes, check grades, and get job information without worrying about problems such as the server crashing.