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Software-centered University Business: Welcome to the Era of Digital Transformation

On September 15th, in the declaration ceremony of Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) VISION 2030, SKKU announced plans to strengthen data and convergence education. These days, the topic of the university society is software, and both the Korean and the global markets are demanding competitiveness in dealing with software. Being chosen for the 2nd level of software-centered university business, SKKU has become a university that leads the innovation of software education. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to introduce SKKU’s software-centered university business, its benefits and limitations, and suggest several solutions for a better future of SKKU.

SKKU, a Software-centered University

What is a Software-centered University?

Software-centered universities proliferate the values of software by cultivating software-led professional human resources and strengthening software competitiveness through the innovation of software-centered university education. Its goal is to train specialists into talented practical people with global competitiveness and nurture non-major students into convergence talented people with software knowledge. In addition, software-centered universities carry out many overseas projects and software education programs for the general public. Major global industries are now centering on software, and they are demanding changes in software education. To respond to the global demand for human resources, software-centered university business was first implemented in 2015 and expanded to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field as well. Starting with eight universities including SKKU in October 2015, around 40 universities have now been added nationwide.

SKKU’s Software-centered University Business

Lee Eun-seok, the Head of the Software-centered University Business (lecturenews.com)

SKKU worked on the 1st level of software-centered university business from October 2015 to February this year. As a result, this April, SKKU was again elected as a participant of the 2nd level of the business, having another chance to advance its last business outcomes. In the 1st level business, SKKU focused on reforming software education programs and enlarging the quota of students majoring in software. Currently, the 2nd level business can be categorized into four areas: innovation of the education system, reinforcement in software major education, expansion of software convergence education, and proliferation of software values. This year, SKKU strengthened software/AI education by expanding the College of Software into the College of Computing and Informatics and conducted the Challenge Semester to provide opportunities for global internships and industry-university projects. Also, non-major students can choose the interdisciplinary course of convergence software, and non-major faculty members can take software/AI lectures; these show the extension of convergence education. Furthermore, Online Myeongryundang, an open education portal where software major students provide software/AI mentoring programs to elementary, middle, and high school students, is implemented to advertise the values of software/AI.

Advantages and Limitations of SKKU’s Software-centered University Business

Advantages

1. Expansion of Software/AI Education

The original software/AI courses were categorized as future (software/AI) subjects, and the class of 2020 must take at least six credits of those courses to graduate. Now, those courses are categorized into data science (DS) subjects, and starting from freshmen this year, undergraduate students must take at least nine credits of those lectures to graduate. DS intensive subjects such as the “AI Capstone Project” are also provided so that non-major students can freely select and learn in-depth. Therefore, software/AI education provides easier access and more chances for non-major students to learn about basic principles of software/AI. Also, by learning the basic principles of software/AI, some students may be interested in the field and have opportunities to decide their career path. In fact, after freshmen take software/AI-related liberal arts courses, many of them apply to departments in the School of Convergence with increased interest or select software/AI-related major as their double major.

2. Software/AI Lectures, Being Footholds for the Future

As software/AI is at the center of technological innovation, individuals who understand and have experienced learning software/AI will play an important role in various employment fields in the future. In particular, Big Data Analyst became one of the most promising jobs in typical liberal arts employment fields such as production, finance, and marketing. Since SKKU requires students to take more software/AI lectures and offers various related courses compared to other universities, students can have more opportunities to experience the software/AI field. Therefore, the expansion of software/AI education through software-centered university business provides the basic knowledge in the software/AI field, further preparing individuals to be competitive in society.

A Promising Job, Big Data Analyst (edujin.co.kr)

Limitations

1. A Business Not Concentrated on Everyone

Currently, SKKU has many plans and strategies for the prosperity of its business. However, non-major students are being neglected due to the concentration of the business. For example, in the Challenge Semester this summer, half of the major courses were software/AI major courses, and two liberal arts courses were all related to AI. Therefore, many students didn’t have a wide range of choices. Also, many students criticized that most of the contests and training education offered during the vacation were concentrated in the software/AI field. Moreover, many students request for the balance of infrastructure between the two campuses because there is a big difference even if software-centered university business is for both. Since SKKU is a university that teaches diverse fields, it should also focus on the development of other fields rather than solely focusing on the software-centered university business.

2. Unfamiliar Education for Non-major Students

The school assigns software/AI courses to freshmen, but not every student is interested or talented in the software/AI field from the beginning. Many liberal arts students take a longer time to understand the basic principles and contents. However, the lectures and contents are brief, causing students to suffer from the assignments and exams. As a result, many students depend on others or give up altogether, eventually forgetting what they have learned and making education useless. Furthermore, practical exercises are crucial in software/AI lectures, but due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), direct communication between students and professors or assistant instructors became insufficient. In addition, the school immediately educates students before emphasizing the importance of software/AI. This method causes greater resistance to software/AI education for students who are not interested in the field. These students will feel more pressure when taking additional software/AI classes in their sophomore year.

Finding a Way for Everyone

SKKU’s Efforts

First, students need to be fully aware of the value and necessities of software/AI. SKKU is already carrying out a project to proliferate the value of software/AI such as mentoring exchange systems with other university students, targeting people outside SKKU. However, expansion of the value should be focused on SKKU students first. For example, instead of educating freshmen with rashness, it would be better to focus on strengthening awareness and extending values. In particular, the “AI Basics & Uses”, which is now being taught to sophomores, teaches students deeper knowledge about the background of software/AI and the basic grounding that this generation should have. Applying this lecture method to the courses that freshmen should take would be effective. In addition, there should be more diverse lectures for other major students. Providing more software/AI-related liberal art lectures in the Challenge Semester or competitions and contest exhibits that incorporate software/AI with other fields could give more chances to various students. Furthermore, actively advertising eX-campus and free extra software/AI lectures will be a great help to those interested in software/AI.

SKKU’s eX-campus Program (skku.edu)

Suggestions for Students

Since SKKU students need to take software/AI courses also in their sophomore year, it is important to actively ask questions and make efforts instead of just giving up in their freshmen year. Also, by participating in various programs offered by SKKU, such as “Sungkyun Tutoring” or programs promoted through KingoM, students can share their thoughts with many students from various majors and become more familiar with the software/AI field. Moreover, if students consider their future careers by integrating software/AI with their majors, they will have a greater opportunity to develop themselves into individuals who can play a big role in modern society.

With the beginning of the 2nd level of software-centered university business, SKKU is ready to be a change-maker leading the era of digital transformation. As "people" are at the center of technological development led by software/AI, the SKT hopes both the school and Kingos grow up as change-makers through cooperation.

이혜준  hj928123@naver.com

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