Monday, 9 April 2012

Visit to Korea University

I must confess to have been feeling a little nervous about my first appointment on this study tour, but I needn’t have worried!

My tour starts with a visit to Korea University which is one of the top three Korean Universities, collectively known as “SKY” and which are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University.  It is an institution with a global vision working with over 700 institutions worldwide in over 70 countries.  It is also a Universitas 21 partner Institution and celebrated it's Centenary in 2005.

I decided that I would arrive nice and early for my visit to “walk the parish” and familiarize myself with the campus.  The Seoul subway has two stations on the edge of campus making it extremely easy to get to.

My first impressions of the campus is that it is extremely neat and tidy with lots of granite buildings, statues and space.

Moving into the centre of the campus, I found the main gates with a long wide drive up to the main university building, this felt very familiar and had echoes of my own campus!

The campus is car free, with plenty of car parking spaces for both staff and students, so it was very pleasant to wander about without the need to dodge traffic. 

Clearly there still needs to be some traffic on campus for routine deliveries etc. and some of which are carried out by a fleet of motorcycles, zipping about carrying the most amazing loads.

After a very pleasant time wandering around the campus and people watching, by the way, Korean students seem exactly like students elsewhere except for one thing, they were all extremely smart, I didn’t see one looking scruffy or unkempt.  In fact, whilst I have been here I have been struck by how smart, indeed sharply dressed Koreans are, it was time to go to my meeting.

The meeting was hosted by colleagues from the Office of International Affairs and started with green tea and a discussion about the University generally and library provision in general.  The University has 10 libraries in total and there are some nice video clips of the libraries at

We talked about the Government investment in schools and technology over the years and that Korea holds the proud title of being the most wired nation in the world. According to UN statistics, Korea leads world in technical infrastructure and participation rates.  The UK is 4th behind the USA and Canada with Australia 5th.

The library we were going to see, the Centennial Digital Library (CDL) built in 2005 was the first digital library in Korea and was built, furnished and equipped by Samsung which I discovered is not simply an Audio Visual equipment manufacturer.

On the way to the library we passed the recently completed Law library which, unlike most of the other new buildings on campus which are built in the old style from granite, is a great glass and steel structure thrusting itself out of the hillside unabashed!  Unfortunately, there was not time to see inside.

The CDL is located in the Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall and as we passed through the traditional façade of the building we were greeted by a light, airy and modern interior.

The facilities contained within include a large range of facilities, but I will concentrate on the Information Commons and the MultiMedia Production Lab.

The Information Commons is a huge space , set out for quiet and individual study, here students can access a huge range of digital resources including  digital texts, Web-DB, E-journal, National Assembly Library, full text DB, VOD, recorded lectures and distance learning materials etc. 

If facilities are needed for group work and collaboration, a suite of rooms is located at the edge of the facility which the students can book in advance.

In fact, to use any of the facilities in the Information commons or MultiMedia lab, students need to book in advance through one of the number of kiosks provided for this use.  Students can even select between simple tables for study or tables with access to power and data.  Once a booking is made, students receive a booking slip.  The system knows when a student leaves the facility and if they are away for more than 80 minutes, the booking will be cancelled so the spaces can be reassigned.

The MultiMedia Production Lab is a huge facility where students, both UG and PG and staff can produce, edit and demonstrate multimedia materials.  Web materials, 2D/3d graphics and animations can also be produced.

In the main Multimedia room, students can access materials on CD-ROM, DVD, Video CD, Audio CD, Video Tape and Cassette Tape.  Also a range of TV and satellite channels are available together with facilities for experiencing virtual reality with 3D surround sound.

There are high quality edit suites with small studios co-located, small viewing rooms and a media theatre with a high quality digital cinema system.  This room is used regularly for showing films to a small audience, although the University has a large cinema elsewhere on campus.

Video conferencing is also available.

A small staff exists to provide support to the facility and “student instructors” are used to provide skills training.  Whilst I was there a student instructor was teaching an UG how to take photographs professionally.

Most of the equipment is located around the periphery of the room with a “high tech” multimedia room with PCs and scanners for individual use set in the middle of the space.

The software and hardware is replaced or upgraded every two years so the facilities never fall behind or become outdated.  Any new technology or equipment that comes to market is brought to the facility during the upgrade programme.

The students here have a high percentage of mobile device ownership and take it for granted that they need to use their own devices for study, however there are hire facilities for laptops and other devices if necessary.  At the entrance to the Information Commons it is possible to hire an iPad, download an app "book cube" using an QR code and access the resources in the facility quickly and easily.

At the end of the visit, my hosts walked me to the subway station taking a route through a lower ground corridor  surrounded by formal and informal study spaces, many of which were simply furnished with tables and chairs and no technology.  This corridor was so wide and so bright, it felt like an underground street, adding to this perception was the existence of shops and cafes at the end of the corridor by the entrance.

The university has approximately 35,000 students, and there is plenty of space for all of them, the institution ensures that it provides enough facilities for its students without those spaces feeling cramped or crowded, and there is no need to queue for access to any facility on campus.

The institution has built 20 new buildings in the last 10 years and plans still further investment into the campus in the future.


  1. Toni

    Your mission is to find a scruffy unkempt student and find out why they are the only one!

    Please post lots of pictures of your travels and any more of the bubble trees would be most appreciated - as of learning spaces.


  2. Hi Tessa, mission accepted!!

    Are you on Facebook? I think I might set up an album with the pictures that I can't fit into the blog!

    Best wishes

  3. Hi Toni

    What a great start to your tour - it will be interesting to see if the rest of Asia can shape up to these high standards.

    Have fun.


  4. Hi Steve,

    There is so much to say about everything, it's hard to keep up!!

    Best wishes


  5. Hi Toni

    Can you find out more about the booking system (sorry if all my posts are asking for information - but you know how noisy I am!). Do students like the system and can they pull out any data?

    Can we have the bubble trees as part of our Library rebuild?


  6. Hi Rach,

    The booking system is software that can be bought from Samsung, I know that the students like the system as they can book via the kiosks or online from anywhere, including home. I'll check about what data can be retrieved

    Don't be sorry, happy to hear from you!!


  7. Cheers Toni; am quite keen to hear about the booking system when you get back so that we can see if there are elements that we might be able to use here for Study Skills activities. Hope you are having a great time - had a great time with Maria and Bill and will update you when you return.


  8. Hi Rach,

    Glad all going well with the plans for Nuffield, see you soon.


  9. Hi Toni, Interesting first tour of a Korean campus, the computer desks with the privacy partitions looked interesting but I noticed very little desk space for books etc!!! Did you get a chance to speak to any students in there and get any feedback on the facilities?

  10. Hi Az,

    Unfortunately, I wasn't able to speak to any of the students to get any direct feedback at any of the institutions whilst on the tours. When I tried to speak to students later on an ad hoc basis, the language was a barrier.

    I agree when I saw these units, i though that they might be better set up for 4 our even 5, however, Ihave just been back over all my pictures and can't find any that show the students using the PC's together with much in the way of paper based resources. Maybe because virtually everything they need is online, they don't need the extra space?

    SKKU are about to do some Student feedback and are going to let me have some information once they have the results.