The Korea Foundation Global e-School is well under way in the greater Midwestern region of the United States, where 12 leading universities, which are members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), participate in the CIC Korean Studies e-School program <www.koreanstudieseschool.org>. After a pilot course involving the University of Michigan and Michigan State University was carried out in the academic year of 2012-13, the CIC e-School has successfully been expanded to offer a total of 8 courses that are being shared among 10 and 12 schools, during this and the upcoming academic year. Each course is conducted as a cluster, with both a host campus, where the course is taught in a physical classroom, and up to two home(member) campuses with virtual classrooms.
The CIC partnership, an academic consortium of member universities, allows the e-School to leverage the CIC’s existing course-share framework, bypassing several otherwise complex inter-institutional issues, such as tuition and registration. However, the e-School is significantly more ambitious than any previous course-share program of the CIC. There are many challenges . pedagogical, technological, and logistical. The success of the e-School, therefore, is in large part contingent upon how effectively it can be implemented.
The University of Michigan’s Nam Center for Korean Studies is the administrative home of the CIC e-School initiative. The variety of courses offered in any given year is based on the courses offered by the CIC partner institutions for course sharing. At an annual meeting, the faculty liaisons select, from a pool of potential e-School courses, those that best suit their annual curricular needs. Under this clustering process, sets of host and home campus clusters are identified for the upcoming academic year. The faculty liaisons and member schools include: Hangtae Cho and Travis Workman (University of Minnesota), Young-mee Yu Cho (Rutgers University), Jeeyoung Ahn Ha (University of Illinois, UC), Sorin Huh (Penn State University), Seung-Kyung Kim (University of Maryland), Nojin Kwak (Director of the e-School, University of Michigan), Mitch Lerner (Ohio State University), Richard Miller and Charles Kim (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Song I No (Purdue University), Michael Robinson (Indiana University), Catherine Ryu (Michigan State University), and Sang-Seok Yoon (University of Iowa).
One important component of the e-School is its offline cluster visits, in which the host faculty members travel to the home campuses to meet with the students face-to-face. Faculty members are encouraged to have cluster visits early in the term to develop studentf aculty rapport that can be carried over throughout the semester. When distances allow for a day trip, however, it is possible for cluster visits to take the form of home-campus students visiting the host campus. For instance, last year, Michigan State University students drove to the University of Michigan for a cluster visit that included an instructional session with students from both universities in one classroom. Since one of the positive experiences that students appreciate about the e-School is engaging with students from other schools, this type of cluster visit can better enhance the benefits of the e-School.
Faculty and students show great enthusiasm for the e-School model, but it is essential to have adequate technology to ensure success of the e-School as well as the educational experiences of both students and faculty. Some calibration is required to coordinate among three schools, each of which often has access to different technology; state-of-the-art classrooms are not typically available. However, for the most part, faculty instructors have been able to cope with the technology that’s available and improvise when needed. Since the inception of the CIC e-School, there have been some instances in which instruction was significantly disrupted because of deficient videoconferencing technology, and students expressed understandable disappointment. The prognosis is positive, though, since more and more schools are now allocating funds to upgrade facilities and purchase more suitable equipment.
The e-School is not a panacea, but it is a viable, practical alternative model until schools attain sufficient faculty strength. Because of the e-School, students at home campuses are finally able to take courses that haven’t otherwise been available on their campus. Through the e-School, faculty can offer courses of critical importance now that host and home campuses can together provide sufficient enrollment. Because of the e-School, at least three CIC member schools should reasonably be able to offer a new minor in Korean Studies. Because of the e-School, the collaborative network of Korean Studies programs in this young but fast-growing region has been considerably strengthened. The Korean Foundation deserves notable recognition for its vision and commitment to innovative programs like the e-School.