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That Classroom is Always Full

Posted May. 28, 2005 03:23,   


Scene One-

“Boss, you’re bad. You lost money in various kinds of businesses, so you’re out!”

This is the Seoul National University’s business administration senior major class time. Hashim al Fahd Haid (22, Saudi Arabian) imitated a comedian that gained fame by playing the role of foreign workers, and made the whole class burst into laughter. He was expressing the situation faced, a few years ago, by a French media group that was frequently changing its management when the company got into trouble due to reckless business expansion . When the situational play ended, the students engaged in lively discussion arguing whether to “focus in key competent businesses” or to “sell the key competent businesses and shift into future oriented businesses.”

Scene Two-

“Professor, do sound waves actually look like a centipede?”

This is an example of College of Natural Sciences freshman major class time. The students are just fascinated by looking at a sound wave tracing device that looks like a 50cm wide, 1.5 meter long fish rib. When the power is turned on, the sticks at the both ends of the device start to move like waves and show the movement trail of the sound wave. After watching it, students start to ask questions such as, “When sound waves are deflected on walls and their vibration width widens, is that why it feels louder when you stand in front of a wall while inside a noisy room?” After a volley of questions, the professor says, “One thing is, I made this device,” and after a brief moment of silence the whole class cheers, “Wow!”

Scene Three-

“Everyone, haven’t all of you interacted with someone of the opposite sex in your dreams?” With a question out of the blue, the class starts to hum. “But, in most cases, male students will encounter several unfamiliar women, while female students will see a person that they knew. That is the difference in male and female psychology.”

This is the College of Social Studies psychology classroom. The students are noisy, laughing and chatting, but when the professor starts to talk, their eyes and ears focus on him.

Recently, SNU’s “Five-sense experience program” classes are becoming popular. The three instructors teaching these classes are the business administration department’s Song Jae-yong (41), the physics department’s Yoo Jae-joon (38), and the psychology department’s Choi In-cheol (42). The common theme of the subjects taught by these three professors that have taught at famous US universities and that have recently come to teach here, is that students have fun, express their feelings, and participate in the class.

Professor Yoo devises and makes experimental devices needed in class. He said, “It is not easy to explain and understand the invisible principles of physics such as force waves or sound waves. I have no time to rest on the weekends, because I make devices using things that I see in order to prepare for ‘five-sense learning.’”

Professor Choi, who is popular in other universities with the nickname of “master of metaphors,” said, “Drawing out interest just ends in motivation. The important thing is to help the students find out for themselves the close relation between the things we learn and real life.”

Their classes have been selected in various university student surveys as “the classes that students want to take the most.” Fifteen percent of the students that fill the classroom are auditors.

In order to take the class, one must spend the night in front of the computer the day before on-line course registration starts. The class fills up just three minutes after registration starts. There are also many students that go to the professor and beg for a spot after the end of course registration.

Jae-Young Kim jaykim@donga.com