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COVID-19 Update: Students and Professors Adjust to 1,200 Online Classes
- Approximately 1,200 online classes are being offered during the cyber semester. - COVID-19 is transforming the way KAISTians live. Many restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the virus have us adjusting to a new environment swiftly. A cyber MOU signing ceremony with a foreign partner university took place on March 25, as did a cyber Board of Trustees Meeting on March 26. KAIST’s Main Campus is normally one of the most iconic picnic destinations for the citizens of Daejeon, but this is not the case this spring, as the campus has been temporarily closed to protect our own community as well as our neighboring communities. KAIST has been offering approximately 1,200 courses remotely since this semester opened on March 16 and will do so until further notice. Students and faculty members are experiencing the newly emerging norms of remote education in this time of social distancing. This unexpected disruption might advance the new digital pedagogy at KAIST, which was already ahead of the curve with its online learning and teaching infrastructure. Professor Youngsun Kwon, the Dean of KAIST Academy and the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, said, “We had already initiated the KAIST Learning Management System (KLMS) in 2011 for introducing flipped learning, a student-centric creative-learning pedagogy. Since then, about nine percent of all our classes have been run using this methodology. Students pre-study the online streaming lecture materials that professors have uploaded in advance outside the classroom, and in-class activities are mainly group discussions and problem-solving activities.” According to Dean Kwon, the university was planning to further introduce real-time online education from this spring semester and were in the process of setting up the system started from last year. “Our plan was to connect the real-time video conferencing service Zoom to our existing remote educational platform KLMS. However, things related to COVID-19 all happened so rapidly that we didn’t yet have a full-fledged connection,” said Dean Kwon. Professors had to choose either to conduct their lectures remotely in the form of a pre-made one-way lesson or a real-time two-way lesson. They could also modify them using both platforms. Professor Youngchul Kim from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering said, “I had to also make some changes in my class activities and assignments. I removed a group design project and some tutorial workshops that were meant to provide students with hands-on experience using design tools such a 3D printer and a laser cutting system. Ironically, I found that students seem to focus on online lectures more intensely than I expected. I feel like students give me their thoughts and respond much quicker as well.” Unfortunately, the online learning and teaching infrastructure and resources that had been put in place could not handle the overwhelming volume of classes being uploaded over very short period of time. To handle the new demand, IT technicians are setting up the technical environment with stable servers to improve network traffic. For professors, teaching assistants, and students to teach and learn better in an online space, department offices have been lending spare equipment such as laptops, tablets, headsets, and webcams to those who do not have their own, based on availability. Academic support staff have also been pitching in by developing the best guidelines for online training. “Even in these uncharted waters, all of the members of KAIST are doing their best to keep the ship steadily sailing in the right direction. I am very grateful for everyone’s efforts to make things work,” said Dean Kwon. About 60% of the courses currently offered online are being uploaded using the non-real-time KLMS, and the remaining 40% are run in real time via Zoom. Each class runs for 50 minutes per academic credit, and comprises at least 25 minutes of lecture, a Q&A session, and a group discussion. Students enrolled in the 481 courses that include experiments are asked to conduct their experiments individually after watching a 50-minute online lecture. Experimental, practical, and physical courses that are impossible to provide online have been cancelled or postponed until the next semester or summer/winter breaks. “I find the online lessons quite convenient for the courses that I am taking this semester, especially the non-real-time ones, because I can watch the lecture videos over and over again even after the class has finished to understand the contents better,” said Jaymee Palma, an undergraduate student from the Department of Chemistry. Ada Carpenter, an undergraduate student from the Department of Physics, added, “Students who normally feel uncomfortable speaking in class raise their questions on an online Q&A board more easily. Besides, I saw many other students asking questions and leading a discussion verbally as well. I think, when students join a synchronous Zoom classroom, they are more engaged than when just attending a regular lecture in a conventional classroom. It’s like everyone can sit in the front row of the class.” Still, there are reportedly pedagogical, logistical, and technological challenges to these extraordinary educational measures. Some students express concerns about keeping up with professors and other students if they don’t have sufficient technological knowledge and skills. Some also cite the disadvantage of online classes having much less interaction and engagement among students and between professors and students than offline ones. “Fortunately, I think my professors are all excellent, so I can immerse myself well during all my cyber classes,” said Sang-Hyeon Lee, a graduate student from the School of Computing. (END)
Recyclable Nano-Fiber Filtered Face Masks a Boon for Supply Fiasco
Wearing a face mask is a common sight in Korea during the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the overwhelming demand, last week the government started to ration two masks per person per week, as a drastic measure to address the supply fiasco. The face masks most commonly used are disposable ones, originally made for filtering out up to 94 or 95 percent of fine dust, referred to as N94 or N95 masks. A KAIST research team announced that they have developed a nano-filter that maintains excellent filtering efficiency even after hand washing through the development of proprietary technology that aligns nanofibers with a diameter of 100~500 nm in orthogonal or unidirectional directions. This reusable nano-filtered face mask could help to relieve the challenges arising from the supply shortage of face masks. Professor Il-Doo Kim’s nano-fiber filtered mask will maintain its sturdy frame and filtering function even after being washed more than 20 times. Professor Kim, who has continued to study the filtering of fine dust using nano-filters, is now awaiting final approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to bring his product into the market. Professor Kim used an insulation block electrospinning process to manufacture orthogonal nanofibers by controlling the alignment of nanofibers. This structure can minimize delivering of the pressure toward the air filter and maximize the filtration efficiency, which is different from existing disposable masks without nano-fibers. Existing masks also fail to maintain their air filtering function because their electrostatic function disappears when exposed to water. Thus, their filtering efficiency is reduced significantly, making it almost impossible to reuse them. However, this nano-fiber design was proven to be water resistant with more than 94% filtering efficiency in 20 repeated bactericidal tests with ethanol. The nano-fiber mask also showed no deformation in its nano-membrane structure despite the 20 hand washes. In particular, it was confirmed that there were no deformations in the membrane, even after soaking in ethanol more than three hours. Professor Kim said, “We believe that this mask can be reusable for about a month even after washing in ethanol. The inner filter can also be replaced.” He added, “We found that the mask filters out up to 80 percent of 600-nanometer particles even after undergoing a bending test more than 4,000 times.” Professor Kim established his startup company, the “Kim Il-Doo Research Institute,” last February. It can currently produce 1,500 nano-fiber filters per day.
COVID-19 Update: All Undergrad Housing Closed
KAIST stepped up preventive measures against the outbreak of COVID-19 by closing all housing complexes for undergraduate students. Provost Kwang-Hyung Lee, in an email to KAIST community members on March 12, advised all undergraduate students who had already moved in to the dormitories to move out by March 23. The university opened the spring semester on March 16, two weeks later than originally scheduled, due to the outbreak. All in-person classes have been shifted to online classes and this will continue until further notice. “The dormitory would likely become the source of a COVID-19 cluster on the campus. Given the gravity of the current situation, we can’t help but make this unprecedented measure. It is fully for the best interests for our students’ health and safety. It saddens me to say that students are required to go back to their homes,” said Provost Lee. Dormitory fees will be refunded, and transportation and storage services will be provided for students who return back home. It has not yet been decided when they can return to the campus. There are four exceptional cases for this special measure: 1. when a student does not have legal residency in Korea, 2. if a student’s legal residence is located in a severely affected region such as Daegu, Chongdo, and Kyongsan, 3. if students in their final semester before the graduation need to take a research class that is not available online, 4. if students have a very special reason that does not allow them to stay at home. Such students are required to meet the Associate Vice President of Student Life for approval of the exceptional stay. Meanwhile, the first day of the online semester on March 16 saw an overwhelming amount of traffic on the remote educational platform, the KAIST learning management system (KLMS), and the real-time platform, Zoom. The two systems were both overloaded. The Dean of the KAIST Academy sent an email to the community, explaining the technical glitch causing the overload. He said his office had fixed the problem, allowing resumed access to the system from inside and outside the campus. Considered the nature of classes that are difficult or impossible to provide online, the university decided to cancel the some of physical training classes such as golf, dance sports, badminton, swimming, and tennis this semester. Social distancing is another issue the university is enhancing throughout the campus. The university announced new lunch break shifts to disperse the dining hall crowds; the first shift is from 11:30 to 12:30 and the second shift is from 12:30 to 13:30, effective from March 17. The COVID-19 response bulletin also instructed KAIST community members to sit in a row, not face to face, when eating together with colleagues, and asked them to refrain from talking while eating. In addition, a total of 29 virus and fine duster filtering machines have been installed across the campus dining facilities. The bulletin posted on March 13 restressed the importance of wearing a face mask in compact areas such as elevators and refrain the non-essential business or personal travel. Parents who need to take care of their children due to the closure of schools and day care centers are advised to work from home. (END)
COVID-19 Update: All Classes to Go Online after Semester Opens
All classes of undergraduate and graduate courses will go online from March 16 in a protective measure for the KAIST community to slow the spread of COVID-19. No decision has yet been made for how long the online classes will last. The spring semester will start two weeks later than scheduled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19. For online classes, professors are uploading their taped class video clips onto the KAIST Learning Management System (KLMS). These classes will be conducted in both real time and on demand. The video conferencing solution Zoom will be employed for real-time online classes, and professors and students will interact using the bulletin board function for on-demand classes. The university is scaling up its institutional response to protect the KAIST community against the outbreak of the disease following the cancellation and postponing of major academic events including the commencement and matriculation ceremonies scheduled in February and March. The new protective measures include all sports complexes and facilities temporarily closing from February 24. All building entrance gates are only accessible with those carrying a KAIST ID card. A total of nine fever monitors have been installed in the university headquarter building, main library, dining halls, the day care center at Daejeon campus, and at the Seoul campus. The Emergency Response Team is posting a daily bulletin and response manual on the KAIST portal system with updates on the number of confirmed cases in Daejeon and other regions including Seoul as well as reminder notices to help contain the spread. Provost Kwang-Hyung Lee advised KAIST community members to refrain from traveling to the gravely affected region and foreign countries in an email sent on March 11. Anyone who has a travel history in those regions should report it to the Emergency Response Team and self-quarantine for two weeks at home or in a designated dorm complex. KAIST surveyed all community members’ travel histories last month and instructed those who had traveled to Daegu and foreign countries or had contact with a confirmed patient to go into self-isolation or work from home while conducting intensive self-monitoring. They have been asked to report their temperature to the Emergency Response Team twice a day. The response manual recommends canceling or postponing meetings and events at the campus. “If necessary, we ask that you make a conference call instead,” said the Emergency Response Team. Meanwhile, the Academic Affairs Office decided to employ a flexible academic schedule in consideration of students’ circumstances during this extraordinary outbreak situation. “We still need to run 16 weeks of classes for the semester but we are being flexible in how the classes can be run. It will wholly depend on the professor and students’ discussions based on their situation. We won’t apply a unilateral mid-term and final exam week during this special time,” said the bulletin from the Academic Affairs Office. (END)
“A drop of water shall be returned with a rushing river.”
- Chinese KAISTians Donate Supplies to Fight COVID-19 in Daegu - The Chinese community at KAIST donated 2.49 million won worth of personal protective equipment on March 4 to support on-site medical personnel in the city of Daegu. South Korea has been witnessing a significant surge in novel COVID-19 transmissions, and Daegu and nearby North Gyeongsang Province are the most affected regions. As the COVID-19 situation grows more serious globally day by day, a Chinese master’s student from the KAIST Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Yuewen Jia, suggested a fundraising campaign on the KAIST Chinese Community’s WeChat messenger chat room, and her idea was enthusiastically supported by many peer-members. The KAIST Chinese Community is comprised of 105 undergraduates, graduates, post-doctoral fellows, researchers, and professors. With Jia’s post-doc colleague Pei Li volunteering to manage the fundraising process, a total of 2.49 million won was collected in 12 days between January 27 and February 7. The donors, including Qin Xu, a PhD candidate in the School of Electrical Engineering, reportedly asked for their donations to be used to support on-site medical personnel affected by the outbreak. They believed that medical supplies are the most essential in times like these. The group purchased personal protective equipment online and waited for more than 20 days until the items were finally delivered to them. The goods include 1,280 protective caps, 57 protective suits, 15 protective glasses, and two protective face shields. Given the surging spread of the COVID-19 disease in Korea, where the confirmed cases have increased multi-fold since mid-February, the KAIST Chinese Community decided that their items should be used immediately in Korea, instead of being sent back to their home country as they had planned. Guoyuan An, a student representative of the community studying for his master’s degree in the School of Computing, said, “Earlier, some members of the KAIST Chinese Community who had visited China were self-quarantined for two weeks in a special facility designated by KAIST as a precautionary measure. Thanks to the outstanding care we received from offices at KAIST including the COVID-19 Task Force Team, the International Office, the Student Offices, and the Clinic, those who were quarantined could return to campus safe and healthy.” He continued, “KAIST and the Koreans as a whole spared no effort in helping China and Chinese people living in Korea fight the COVID-19 outbreak in its early days, and all of the members of the KAIST Chinese Community felt deeply grateful for all the attention and aid. This has been a definitive reason for us to change the donate recipient from China to Korea.” “As an old Chinese saying goes, ‘A drop of water shall be returned with a rushing river.’ This proverb means that even if you receive a little help from others, you should return the favor with all you can when others are in need. We decided to make a donation ourselves in hopes that our small contribution could help on-site medical personnel work for the health and wellbeing of Koreans who are affected in that area.” he explained. The donated items were delivered to the Division of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management at the Daegu Metropolitan Government Office, with help from the on-campus medical center KAIST Clinic Pappalardo Center and the KAIST International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team. Dr. Yun-Jung Lee, the executive director of the KAIST Clinic Pappalardo Center, expressed “a huge thank you to the KAIST Chinese Community for pitching in to help battle this national and global crisis.” She added, “Their donations have been passed to those in desperate need, and their warm-hearted act of kindness will go a long way.” (END)
COVID-19 Update: Precautionary Measures Reschedule Spring Semester to March 16
(Campus-wide preventive measures against the new coronavirus are being enforced.) In response to the coronavirus outbreak, KAIST has decided to alter the academic calendar, postponing the opening of the spring semester until March 16, two weeks behind the original schedule. This is following the decision of the Deans’ Council to postpone or cancel the major academic ceremonies and events scheduled in February. According to the decision, the commencement ceremony scheduled on February 21 will be postponed; meanwhile the freshmen orientation and matriculation ceremonies have been cancelled. Additionally, the ceremonies for the KAIST anniversary and faculty retirement ceremony scheduled on February 14 and the faculty workshop on February 27 have been postponed. There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases among the KAIST community as of February 6. The university is also enhancing campus-wide precautionary safety measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The Facilities Management Office said that they will start disinfecting all dining facilities, cafeterias, libraries, lecture halls, and student halls for two days from Feb. 6. Plastic gloves are provided at cafeteria, which is using buffet spoons and tongs, and cafeteria patrons are being asked to wear the plastic gloves when they place food on their own plate in a preventive measure to avoid possible contact between individuals. KAIST also launched a 24/7-hour Emergency Response Team and disseminated a response manual to KAIST community members. The Office of Student Life surveyed students, faculty, and staff to report if anyone has traveled to China or been in contact with visitors who made a trip to China within the last two weeks. The university designated a building in one of the dorm complexes as a quarantine facility and a total of 11 people who visited China have been self-quarantined for two weeks from January 31. Provost and Executive Vice President Kwang Hyung Lee explained in his letter to KAIST community members on February 4 that the university is exerting all possible measures and efforts against the spreading virus and asked for every member’s cooperation to prevent the further spread of the disease. “Those who self-quarantined don’t have any symptoms. This is just a precautionary measure. The self-quarantine at our facility is only limited to those who declared that they do not have a legal residence in Korea,” said Provost Lee. The transportation to the facility is specially arranged and meal boxes are delivered to the quarantined room individually. A full-time guard in front of the isolated dorm building will be on duty 24 hours a day. He explained the university chose the Hwaam Complex as the self-quarantine facility because each building in the complex is set apart from the others and each room has its own bathroom and shower facilities. Provost Lee said that the university will use another dorm complex if any current dorm residents where the quarantine facility has been set up wish to move to other dorm complexes. (END)
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