With the sharp and steady increase of confirmed coronavirus cases, Ewha has decided to run all classes as cyber lectures for two weeks starting from March 16.
Not only Ewha, but a total of 179 from 193 four-year course universities have decided delaying the start of the semester, and many will providing cyber lectures until the end of March due to more than 7,500 infected cases of the novel coronavirus. This announcement startled Ewha students, especially those of majors such as College of Art and Design and College of Music which require hands-on activities including laboratory experiments and practicums.
The student council of the College of Art and Design conducted a survey from Feb. 29 to March 1. There were a total of six questions regarding the May Day Exhibition date, which is an exhibition for junior students, tuition fees, and how the professors will communicate via cyber lectures efficiently. Around 470 students participated in this survey out of roughly 1,400 students, and the student council created a request form based on 430 students’ answers, which they submitted to the administrative office on March 2.
The College of Art and Design administrative office replied to Ewha Voice that the school faculty were doing their best to minimize confusion and provide the same high-quality lectures. They stated that the May Day exhibition date delayal was being positively reviewed by professors. As for experiment and practicum classes, though they should be conducted online, if possible, the changes to the operation of the classes should be reflected in the lecture syllabus. If some activities cannot be delivered online, supplementary classes should be held after April, and the related information must also be added in the syllabus to notify students in advance. The administrative office added that the details of the classes will be changed at each professor’s discretion.
The most contentious plea was regarding tuition fees. Many students have been requesting the school to lower tuition fees with the argument that school facility would not be used. The student council conducted a survey from Feb. 25 to 27, asking whether there should be a cut on tuition fees, assuming the school gave cyber lectures for two weeks. Nearly 3,300 students from the 3,808 respondents replied “yes.”
After the school made the official announcement, around 100 students requested a cut on tuition fees on Ask for Ewha, which is the school’s communication channel where individual students voice their opinions and ask for requests. The majority of the student opinions came from College of Arts and Design and College of Music. The students stated that it was unfair for the school to receive full tuition fees as they include costs for using the school facility, which was not possible via cyber lectures. Also, they stated that the new lecture system would be inefficient for experimental or practicum classes where students usually receive one on one feedback from the professor.
Though Ewha Voice was unable to get an answer from the school regarding tuition fees, despite the students’ wishes, current law states that partial refund of tuition isn’t compulsory. Article three of “Rules on University Tuition” stipulates that if an university closed classes over the entire semester or the previous month, tuition fees for that semester of month should be exempted. Therefore, as there will not be a closure for the whole of March, universities are not required to give partial refunds.
The school has met concerns by mentioning they had made various efforts to provide students with the same high-quality lectures in spite of the novel virus. The Institute for Teaching & Learning provided professors with a workshop on cyber lectures on March 4 and 5. They taught professors how to record lectures in high-tech recording classrooms, at the Ewha-Samsung Education & Culture Center, and at home or the office.
Despite the confusion caused by the announcement on cyber lectures, it is inevitable that students will receive remote education for two weeks until the COVID-19 wears out. According to school faculty, they will continue to endeavor to provide students with the same high-quality lectures.