Attending Residential College Activities Online in face of COVID-19
November 30, 2020 by Ja-Young Kim
One of Yonsei University’s distinctive features is the Residential College (RC) program conducted in the Songdo dormitories which aims to integrate learning and life and foster creative individuals. Freshmen entering Yonsei have to participate in various RC activities and fulfill their 12 RC hours per semester during their first year of school. Last semester, due to the severity of the COVID crisis, most students participated in RC programs conducted online; freshmen met their peers, professors and “sunbae”s for the first time through computer screens at home.
On September 17, Yonsei University announced the possibility of students entering the Songdo dormitories and attending classes conducted partially offline on campus. Freshmen signing up to enter dorms were excited to finally meet their peers in person and interact with them on campus. However, due to another spike of COVID cases and heightened levels of precautions, the college modified classes for the fall semester to be conducted fully online on August 20. Especially for Underwood International College (UIC) students, all classes were to be held online due to the large proportion of international students enrolled who had difficulty entering the country in time for the beginning of the semester.
Following this decision, most RC activities for the fall semester are currently being conducted online just like the 2020 spring semester. Students have been fulfilling their RC requirements through online platforms like Zoom and YouTube. After participating in a house event or activity, they are asked to fill out a survey to confirm their participation and gain a portion of their required RC hours. Then, with this year’s RC activities being unprecedently held online, what are the advantages and disadvantages of online RC activities felt by students and some of their potential implications?
This question was asked to five students in their first year, both Korean and international freshmen students.
Regarding the pros of online RC activities, the students pointed to factors like the program’s diversity, accessibility, and convenience. One of the great perks of online activities is that there is a wide array of programs offered, ranging from Appenzeller House’s contest to submit hoodie designs, to participating in collective culture activities like making origami. Also, the international students pointed out the accessibility of these activities. As many students live abroad and have difficulty physically coming to Korea, they found it very useful to participate in activities via an online platform. Finally, some responded that they could fulfill their RC hours conveniently, as house activities such as watching videos recommended by the Residential Assistants and taking photos on a given topic did not require much effort to complete.
When inquired about the downfalls of online RC activities, many pointed to the restraints in time. Amina (entering class of ’19.5) in Appenzeller House recalled her experience when she missed the short sign-up period for activities. Usually, most RC activities require students to sign up for participation for a limited period ahead of time. Students then get to participate in activities mostly on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, it is difficult to check all notifications posted on the RC announcement board, and she often missed her chances of being able to sign up for the activities she wanted. Moreover, as a student living abroad, she mentioned the limitations in time difference. As some RC activities are conducted in Korea Standard Time (KST), international students faced difficulties joining activities too early in the morning or too late at night in their respective countries. These activities include the 10 AM (KST) UIC Special Lecture of Appenzeller House as well as other real-time RC activities that required participation through Zoom.
Despite these downfalls, the consensus was that online RC activities made for a decent alternative to the original offline programs. This opinion was strengthened by their concerns for this year’s COVID-19 crisis.
Having personally participated in RC activities online last semester and this semester, the best advantage of online RC programs is that they can be done in succession without delay. Through online activities, it is possible to complete multiple activities in one sitting, by exiting and entering Zoom meetings. To take an example, it was possible to join a meeting for SELF, a self-directed magazine published by Appenzeller House students, five minutes after attending Career Talks.
Although implemented unintentionally following this year’s sudden pandemic, online RC activities seem to have great potential in a contact-free society. Regarding future emergency situations and crises that may impede collective gatherings within the dormitories of Songdo, this online alternative seems to be the best possible choice that can be provided to students who need to participate in RC activities. If the current inconveniences of online RC activities come to be fixed by providing alternative means for international students to participate in real time RC activities, this will pave the way for a safe and fruitful RC experience allowing the interaction between students, “sunbae”s and professors.