Noonsong, a first year student, worries about her career path. She feels helpless because she cannot sense her classes are helping her to find a path. Noonsong's friend recommends her to participate in an extracurricular activity arranged by senior classmates. She joins the activity and receives a lot of advice from upper year classmates. "I still have no sense of reality regarding employment, but I got information about types of work I can do at different jobs and the kinds of hardships I may have to endure. I got answers to a lot of questions. I hope there will be more activities like these covering various jobs." Having received a lot of help through the extracurricular activity, Noonsong wished other classmates to follow this guide.
A guide for one's way
Extracurricular activities are educational programs and activities operated on campus that allow students to experience content outside of their formal education which offers courses for credits. Sookmyung operates extracurricular activities to cultivate people of talent who stand out from others in terms of knowledge, morals, and body. Activities are intended to contribute to strengthening students' capabilities such as creative problem solving and cooperative communication. The extracurricular activities of Sookmyung are managed by the extracurricular integrated management system, which is the integrated system at SMWU. Students can access the management system homepage through SNOWAY and apply for activities they are interested in. The homepage's calendar function provides students with schedules of activities through quick and efficient access via a PC or mobile device. In addition, the homepage conducts a core competency assessment to help students determine if they are appropriate applicants for an activity by identifying ones' strengths and insufficient competencies. These additional functions of homepage help students experience extracurricular activities easily, and play an important role in increasing accessibility to activities.
Extracurricular activities offer a variety of positive effects for students. As mentioned above, the purposes of extracurricular activities are to provide learning improvement, contribute to the strengthening of physical capabilities, and help foster awareness needed for communicative functions. They also help students determine a career path by providing rich information on areas of their interests. Besides, students can earn extracurricular mileage scholarships through the extracurricular mileage system. This system registers earned mileage when students participate in satisfaction surveys after completing a program. Mileage points are converted into scholarships that are paid students within 7th semesters. A student accumulating more than 200,000 mileage credits can apply for a conversion. The scholarship is paid once a semester. The scholarship for the first half of the school year is paid by order of arrival, and payment in the second half of the year is made based on a fixed standard. It is important to note that satisfaction surveys must be completed within two weeks of a program or activity, or the student will not accumulate mileage. More detailed information about this scholarship can be found in The Sookmyung Times Edition No. 366. Overall, students get a large number of benefits from taking extracurricular activities, and for that reason, expanding these programs seems to be important.
Vivid voices from program participants
There are five main types of extracurricular programs. They are learning, career, psychological counseling, employment, and start-up, and the number of programs per category depends on school year. For example, for first year students, most programs are related to learning type while programs for fourth year students are related to employment and start-ups. Program preference is also affected by school year. According to a review of extracurricular programs conducted in 2020, first year students highly praised programs that center on learning methods. In these programs, first years listen to upper year classmates' tips and advice on college life in the programs, and learn how to write a report. For second and third year students, students were mostly interested in job lectures that covered areas of marketing distribution and sales management. In these programs, incumbent officials in the field provide special lectures on key tasks expected by a job as well as core competencies necessary to improve understanding of the job. For fourth year students, the program Cheongpa-dong class is often recommended. It offers information on how to write cover letters. In addition to these popular programs, students also recommend the Sookmyung WINE program, and the Sookmyung discussion contest. One student who participated in the discussion contest said, "Preparing for the discussion, I became interested in knowledge related to computer languages, and I also realized how this acquired knowledge affects my life and future work. The experience gave me the opportunity to consider a number of areas to choose from when looking at jobs in the future." Students could share the benefits of extracurricular programs with other students through reviews, and these reviews and preferences are expected to help Sookmyung operate better and more relevant future extracurricular activities.
With the aims of finding out more specifics and possible directions for the future of extracurricular programs at school, SMT conducted a survey to investigate students' opinions on current extracurricular programs. According to the survey, 45 out of 84 respondents (53.7%) said they joined extracurricular activities, and about 84% of those respondents expressed satisfaction with the activities they experienced.1) The biggest reason for their satisfaction was found in the activities' content. One respondent wrote, "I participated in a program at the start of the semester as it was a confusing time, and the information from the program made it easier to organize and manage my college life." She also expressed a willingness to participate in additional programs actively in the future. Survey respondents cited convenience of registration as the second reason for their satisfaction. The current COVID-19 pandemic situation makes it impossible to conduct special lectures or programs face-to-face, so most lectures and programs are conducted in a non-face-to-face manner. They are processed through Zoom or as recorded videos that are posted on Snowboard. Survey respondents felt this method was convenient, and they said that the way they took them had a significant impact on their positive perception of the program. In addition, the appropriateness of program participant numbers and program duration were also cited as reasons for satisfaction. In other words, the programs' content and other aspects must be continually monitored to increase and maintain students' satisfaction.
The way from here
While some Sookmyungians who experienced extracurricular activities had positive reactions to the experience, others expressed dissatisfaction. About half respondents of survey said they joined extracurricular activities, but another half answered that they did not participate in activities. These respondents said it was because of a lack of program diversity. One student said, "I would like to see more diverse programs because I'm not likely to join a program if it is not related to an area I'm interested in." Another student wrote, "Certain programs only open at certain times. I understand why the program is held at those times, but I would like to see the times modified so that I have a better chance of accessing the program I want." Examination of the school homepage, where students apply for extracurricular programs, revealed that as of April 5, there were only 47 programs currently operating or due to open shortly. Also, some of those programs even had notices of registration restrictions, which clearly demonstrates the opinions given by students in the survey. Another reason raised among student respondents on the survey was lack of program promotion. Many students said they were unfamiliar with the types of programs that were offered or that they had missed the program they would have liked to have joined. One student who participated in the survey said, "I've always wanted to study with fellow classmates, but I thought such a study group did not exist. However, my friend told me about the learning community, so I joined it and was able to study with others." Overall, there are drawbacks to the current extracurricular program system such as the lack of variety and the lack of publicity.
Survey respondents had a number of suggestions for improving the extracurricular activity system. It was suggested that enrollment restrictions on the program be lifted. Some programs limit the number of participants and others limit contents' free usage. While some students didn't feel any inconvenience on those points, others said they were weaknesses reflecting poor operations of the system. Moreover, some programs were restricted to only students from a certain department. Therefore, students from other departments, who were interested in the program, were unable to join. Survey respondents wanted school to open to the entire students so that the program was available for all to enjoy. Respondents also offered ideas on how to better promote extracurricular activities. Students said that while they had access to the school homepage, they did not frequently check ongoing programs unless they received a promotional message directly from university. Therefore, students said it would be better if the school used the existing undergraduate group messenger to actively announce such programs to students. In addition, some respondents hoped that the survey mileage points could be earned faster and the survey of demand should be conducted before proceeding with the program. These ideas offer direction for bettering the current extracurricular activity system, and can be expected to increase accessibility to the program.
Extracurricular activities are essential
Students can benefit from extracurricular activities, so they should participate more actively. However, according to students, the ultimate users of the activities, there are a number of drawbacks to the current system that need addressing. These limitations are solvable. After quick fixes, a better environment will be created. With a better environment, students can take advantage of all the activities, and with each new exposure, students will gain new paths for both their university and career lives.
1) The total number of students enrolled is 12,094, with a survey participation rate of about 0.7%.