Thursday, October 22 –
Cultural differences continue to be part of this engaging visit to Korea. I experienced a second traditional Korea meal today--seating on the floor and many little dishes filled with often unknown possible vegetables, fish, pork, fruit, as well as rice and noodles… all to be eaten with chopped sticks. They were polite, but laughed at my limited chop stick capabilities. The food is fascinating - but often I am unsure what it is. So, it is adventurous eating. This afternoon meal with the mid-way meeting with the researchers and key leaders at the Korean Open University.
It was a fascinating experience to visit KNOU – Korea Open University – modeled after the British Open University. Providing accessible undergraduate and graduate programs, this university uses a wide variety of media – with a predominant emphasis on distance education delivery and open access for adult learners. They currently have about 183,000 enrollments- predominantly undergraduate adult learners (a small number of graduate students – 800). It was fascinating to share USA current demographics and institutional responses and to learn of many similarities in Korea and their current work. I had the opportunity to tour their significant production facilities with 300 courses offered each semester (including over 100 new courses produced each semester). Attempting to offering learning options, they provide courses through all textbook, cable television, and internet multimedia, as well as CD’s and Video-conferencing. In addition, a portion of the courses are offered in a traditional classroom at 13 regional campus sites across Korea (for up to 8 hours within a course), as well as tutors for all students at both the 13 campuses and 35 study centers. Because most Korean universities do not provide access to adults, this institution has been the major adult higher education provider for over 40 years. Every place I have visited has discussed strategic new initiatives - based in lifelong learning and upon the changing “marketplace” of higher education in Korea, as well as the aging of the Korean society. In particular for KNOU, they are facing growing competition for cyberuniversities - as they are called. One of the concerns is the quality of assessment of student learning by these universities—with the government suggesting involvement in examining practices. So, they are starting a new strategic initiative to reposition their role and mission for the future. However, they have a clear and firm commitment to serving part-time adult learners in a variety of delivery formats and face many of the same issues as their USA counterparts in serving the special and diverse needs of this group.