NEWSIS sat down with Dankook University President Soo-bok Kim for a 1-year anniversary interview, this time under the theme, “The Post-Corona Digital Renaissance”. The interview was part of NEWSIS coverage on Kim’s blueprint for a ‘digital renaissance in university education during the post-coronavirus era.’ It shed light on Kim’s proactive leadership based on communication and affection toward the university and his efforts to design a creative learning environment as universities stand at a crossroads of change triggered by the fourth industrial revolution. The following is the full article. [NEWSIS August 13, 2020 / Reporters Jun-gu Lee, Jong-taek Kim, Jeong-hun Shin]
Last semester, Dankook University President Soo-bok Kim was given a task no one has had to handle before; moving over 5,000 of the university’s courses online due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. “The challenges faced by universities due to COVID-19 are about practicing preventive and safety measures in the face of this severely contagious disease, as well as protecting our students’ right to learn,” stressed Kim who shared plans to “build the perfect remote learning infrastructure that includes a 40-terabyte cloud server and e-learning systems.”
Kim, a graduate of Dankook University’s Department of Korean Language and Literature, became the first DKU alumnus to be appointed university president in its 73-year history. As he reaches the end of his first year in office, Kim is determined to make Dankook a pioneer of the ‘Digital Renaissance’ as online classes, which started amid worries, have now become the norm in colleges and as the field of education moves toward online learning all around the post-corona world.
"I believe moving quickly, instead of staying in one place, and being open - interacting with other tribes - are what made it possible for Genghis Khan to conquer the world. Now, colleges will also move beyond classroom walls toward a new way of online education where students can roam freely across fields of knowledge like digital nomads,” said Kim. He added that “[we] will develop ways to learn without being restricted by physical space and build various education programs which will be leveraged to promote credit exchange programs and joint projects with other universities abroad.”
Dankook University’s Emergency Committee is already studying potential issues surrounding online classes such as reduced student concentration and fairness in evaluations. As demonstrated in such preemptive responses, DKU has proven to have a strong commitment to become the most competitive university in higher education in the post-pandemic world.
Learning from the COVID-19 experience that ‘face-to-face’ teaching and learning is no longer effective in college education, Kim shared his vision to turn lectures given by professors directly into online contents by implementing digital-based active learning classrooms (ALC) and installing recording and editing facilities in 30 of the university’s multimedia classrooms in order to take the lead in the fourth industrial revolution.
He also spoke of Dr. Jung-chul Park of the School of Dentistry who is widely known as the first Google Innovator in Korea. Kim explained how Dr. Park is tearing down the existing walls in college education and innovating in the field by taking advantage of technology to promote creative learning. A case in point would be a periodontal surgery performed by Dr. Park that was streamed live on YouTube.
When asked about how college education is on the brink of a crisis, he talked about Dankook’s preparations to set up a smart and internet-based learning environment demanded by the current industrial revolution as the world enters fiercer competition. He mentioned practical training demanded by society, student-centered curriculum, and smart learning conditions as the three key innovations needed in Dankook’s strategy for survival and further growth.
Kim foresaw the expansion of online learning early on when first being appointed as university president. Last October, he made a visit to Arizona State University (ASU) which has one of the most innovative college models in the U.S. It was a benchmark trip to see first-hand how ASU changed trends in U.S. higher education by introducing its innovative online learning model ‘EdPlus.’
Upon returning, the university’s heart and soul were put into developing DanAI, Dankook’s academic counseling chatbot, based on what was learned during the visit to offer advanced services such as acting as an advisor to students for everything from academics to employment.
“[We] have set goals to create an IT-based, student-centric education system as part of the education innovation strategy implemented to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution and the post-pandemic era, focusing on the how and what aspects of classes,” said Kim. He also stressed that “instead of relying only on lecture videos and lesson plans, [the university] will actively adopt flipped learning where knowledge is recreated through group discussions and outcomes are cross evaluated among classmates.”
Kim also spoke of a modular curriculum that is underway to allow students to build their own curriculums and study in line with their interests and career paths rather than being confined by academic borders set up when committing to a single major. Dankook University’s exclusive ‘Young-Woong free semester (Young熊 Story)’ will offer various student support services for career planning, studying majors, general counseling, and potential career opportunities as part of the flexible study program. For example, a student interested in self-driving vehicles can take a mechanics course from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a course on electrical equipment offered by the School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering to shape a personalized portfolio.
Such endeavors led to Dankook’s achievement of being selected as a university leader for K-MOOC, the Korean massive open online course project. Dankook ranks fourth for developing the most online contents for K-MOOC among Korean universities and announced its plans to actively utilize it for general education of undergraduate students. In addition, Dankook was named a participant for the second phase of the Leaders in Industry-University Cooperation (LINC+) project, being funded as much as 13.5 billion KRW over a period of three years. DKU has already been acknowledged for its excellence in entrepreneurship education as it was named to represent universities in the Seoul metropolitan area as one of only two universities among the 55 LINC+ members nationwide to serve as a ‘Startup Training Hub Center,’ not to mention being selected as a leading startup university for six consecutive years.
"As Dankook, a university founded by a Korean independence activist, commemorates its 73rd anniversary, I feel it is the mission of the current generation to spark a Digital Renaissance. Dankook was the first four-year private university to be established following Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule, so we feel a sense of responsibility to live up to our experience. When society calls, we will answer. And as part of our hard-working efforts to respond to society’s demands, we will aim to revive humanism by making education smart and digital. I will also do my part so Dankook University can create meaningful value in opening a new chapter for college education in the post-corona era highlighted as the ‘Digital Renaissance,” said Kim as he ended the interview.
DKU President Soo-bok Kim entered Dankook University’s Department of Korean Language and Literature in 1974 and has been a poet since making his literary debut in 1975. He was appointed Professor of Korean Literature at DKU in 1985 and has served in posts such as the Provost, Dean of the College of Arts, and Vice President of DKU Cheonan Campus. He has written 15 books which include books of poetry and essays on poetry, a theory on cultural contents, as well as the first Korean critical biography of Yun Dong-ju.