My Experiences with Online Courses in Korea vs. the U.S.

I don’t mean to make such a generalized title, but I also thought writing out “Online Courses at Hanyang University In Seoul vs. Drexel University in Philadelphia” would be too specific. As an engineering major, I honestly didn’t know exactly what to expect when coming to Seoul and kind of thrust myself into engineering-related courses over here without doing much research. You could say that I was just focused on getting myself here while successfully taking credits that would be able to transfer to my Drexel curriculum. Although I appreciate how my prior self was very adamant on being productive while here, I wish I did take the time to consider what people (like my study abroad advisor, Young-Min) recommended in terms of what the typical study abroad student can typically manage.

I knew that my entire spring term in Seoul would be remote like it was previously back home, so I didn’t have to worry about my location relative to my university which was a plus. I think I can count on two hands how many times I had to be actually present at my University this term, so it wasn’t 100% remote, but with Korea’s subway system getting there from the other side of the city wasn’t a big problem. Like in all restaurants and public areas as well, there were regulations set in place on campus for when you did have to be there. Temperature checks and signing in was always required before entering a building; something that I’ve become so used to doing while in Korea that I’ll probably have reverse-culture shock with this when I come back home.

Now, all of my classes were taken in English this term. I registered for an introductory Korean language course, Thermodynamics, Materials Science, and a Geopolitics course. I tried to come without any expectations, so I wouldn’t be surprised. However, this online course experience was more similar to my remote term experience at Drexel than one would think, although there are subtle differences. Like Drexel, Hanyang also uses Blackboard Learn and main channels of communication were through announcements or emails. Some of my classes were asynchronous, but most were synchronous and all classes took place on zoom. The expectations regarding having your camera on varied depending on your professor. Especially in my large lectures, there are chances to ask the professor questions at the end of a lecture, but interaction with other students never occurred (sans Korean language class).

My courses displayed on Blackboard Learn (LMS)

Similar to the introductory Korean language class I took before this abroad experience at Drexel, active participation and speaking was still mandatory and there was always assigned workbook pages before every class, and sometimes recorded speaking was assigned. However, I would say that the Korean course I took here at Hanyang was easier and that there were not as many expectations placed onto us. For example, I never had to do a presentation in Korean and grading was more lenient. I think that there was definitely an emphasis on how these classes were only introductory and were made to be easier than the intensive language courses Hanyang offers. I had also taken my Korean midterms and finals in person here, as it would probably be difficult to have reading, writing, listening, and speaking sections all administered online.

In terms of two heavier courses, Thermodynamics and Materials Science, students were often encouraged to solve problems alongside the professors. My professors also often asked questions on the material to see if the class is comprehending and students would reply in the chat. Similar to what I was used to as well, chapter problems were assigned on a weekly basis and were checked mostly for completion and partially for accuracy. As always, one is expected to keep up with the textbook chapters as lectures continue. Professors also have online and offline office hours over here. I also took these two exams offline. I think the only major noticeable difference that I experienced was that when I took my Materials Science midterm exam, I wasn’t given an equations/constants sheet. I was pretty shocked when I realized that I wouldn’t be getting one and wasn’t prepared to not have one, but later on I thought to myself that I should have done more research and known what would be expected of me as a student here. I’ve realized that there is a greater expectation at Korean Universities to have everything memorized. It’s something I am not used to and I also don’t understand why students would need to memorize equations and even constant values, but at the end of the day it is a cultural/societal difference.

In general, I would advise people to take what they want to take in terms of course load, but be prepared to experience something new or do proper research beforehand so you know what to expect. Higher education is similar in so many ways around the world, but can also be different in certain aspects. It’s also important to factor in the effects of Covid-19.

A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:

The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.

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