K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 25/Best Practice - 'Kkulmat.com', Korean Cyber Home Learning System (CHLS)
In South Korea, there has been a nationwide effort to incorporate e-learning system into the area of primary and secondary public education. As ‘Activation of e-learning’ was one of the eight major tasks set by Korean Ministry of Education in 2005 (So, 2005), based on its advanced IT infrastructure, the country has succeeded in implementing the Cyber Home Learning System (CHLS) – Internet based learning system – on a national level in its 16 distinct districts of the country as of April, 2005. The major goals of operating CHLS in Korea include improving qualities of the current public education system, resolving the issue of educational equity across different regions and socio-economic status, and reducing the expenses spent on private education (tutoring) which imposes big financial burdens on household economies. In this wiki book section, ‘Kkulmat.com’ (www.kkulmat.com), a CHLS run by Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, will be introduced as one successful example of internet-based K-12 education program.
Kkulmat.com – Creation of web-based e-learning system
Since its opening in March, 2005, the popularity of Kkulmat.com (‘Kkul-mat’ means ‘taste of honey’ in Korean) is now known by more than one million online members and has a daily traffic of about 150, 000 people who visit the website. The website basically provides an abundance of free contents of academic curriculum across major subjects learned at primary and secondary schools. It also gives an opportunity for students to learn what they want to learn at their own pace. The creation of the website was the result of collaborative efforts among the government, the industry, and the academia. The service contents and the management of cyber classes and teachers were done by the government while the developing systems, such as Learning Management System (LMS) were executed by the private party (So, 2005). Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS), an academic research institute, played key roles in establishing standard policies and criteria for contents and LMS development, as well as developing training materials for teachers who work in the cyberspace (2005).
Targeted users of Kkulmat.com consist of three major population groups – primary and secondary school (K-12) students, teachers, and parents. For students, the website provides academic contents (based on standardized curriculum), evaluation service, and counseling service. Teachers can have access to various training materials, tutoring manuals, and education policies/guidelines. The website also provides information that help teachers provide effective online counseling service to students. Parents, once they are registered to the website, can track the record of their children’s work. They can also view the study logs, evaluation results, online community activity information, and counseling history. They can access information on children’s education, including the best practices of internet-based learning, which are shared by other parents. Furthermore, they can receive online counseling service regarding their kids’ academic or life issues.
Key contents and services of ‘Kkulmat.com’
When you look at the online space of the website, the main contents are divided by four major sections, which are called, ‘Study, ‘Challenge’, ‘Ask’, and ‘Meet’.
The ‘Study’ section provides different contents according to different grades and subjects. One important feature in this section is that the students can either learn in a purely self-directed way utilizing the various online contents, or join a cyber class where cyber teachers are available to help them to schedule their study plan and even assign the homework. In any cyber class setting, students can ask questions to teachers and are also allowed to communicate with their online classmates through an open discussion board. Every teacher member can freely create a cyber class on the website. When students choose to study in a self-directed manner, they can first take a diagnostic test, which enables them to start their own study with the appropriate contents for their knowledge level. Academic learning contents are available for all major subjects (Languages – Korean and English, Math, Social Studies, and Science) and additional subjects (e.g. computer, art, etc.) for primary and secondary school students.
The ‘Challenge’ section mainly consists of general tests (per each subject and grade level) and chapter tests. The chapter tests are provided for each learning chapter of relevant subject (The public school curriculum in South Korea is pretty much standardized throughout the country) and students can always choose between two types of tests – the basic test and the advanced test. While general tests are available to the students of all grades, chapter tests are only available to 4th to 9th grade students at this point of time. In the area of Math, there are extra sections of evaluation, in addition to the general test and the chapter test. That is, regardless of the grade level within the school category (elementary, middle, and high), there are six distinct categories of math subjects (e.g. probability and statistics). Within each category, there are about ten different levels of tests. All the students should first take a diagnostic test under each category in order to move to the right level of tests. Students can also save the questions they want to keep for future reference in their own online room.
The ‘Ask’ section is the space where academic and life counseling is available to students. In the academic counseling board, students can ask any questions that are related to their study subjects. There are designated groups of cyber teachers who are devoted to answer those questions. It can be observed through the website that teachers mostly give responses to the students within the same day or by the next day from the date the question was posted. This immediacy is possible because the system sends SMS text messages to the teacher’s cell phone whenever it gets questions on the website enabling teachers to stay in tune, even without looking at the website (Kim et al., 2006). Life counseling service helps students get counseling on their life issues, such as family, friends and school related matters. In this section, students have an option to keep their questions and answers private through the lockdown function. For the questions that are frequently asked, there is a separate FAQ column provided under the ‘Ask’ section.
Under the ‘Meet’ section, users can create or join the online communities and are also allowed to create their personal blogs. Students (sometimes with teachers and parents) can share ideas through online community activity. Popular categories of online community include arts, health, hobbies, reading/writing, and foreign languages.
In addition to the above-mentioned service areas of the website, there are many useful auxiliary functions for students, teachers, and parents. For example, all the online members can create their own cyber room where they can keep their notes, as well as counseling history, use online calendar and personal diary, and communicate with other members through sending messages and SMS messages. They can even expand their social networking through the member search function. Through Kkulmat messenger service, students can chat with their cyber teachers and classmates. The website provides a unique function that allows children to collect ‘Honey Drops (Kkul-bang-ul)’. The more they actively participate in the online learning activities, the more ‘Honey Drops’ they get to have in their account. With the earned honey drops, students can buy items for their avatar or read online comic books. The website also provides a separate section for the children who have auditory difficulties to teach them how to read speech even though the current contents have more to be developed.
Success factors of Cyber Home Learning System (CHLS)
In the research article, The Qualitative Study of Best Practices of Cyber Home Learning (Kim et al., 2006), contributing factors that make a best practice of Cyber Home Learning System were identified. Effective factors that were identified in the case of ‘Kkulmat.com’ can be grouped into four categories: Quality of contents and effective contents utilization, Evaluation measures, Teacher-student interaction through counseling, and Motivation strategy (2006).
Quality of contents and effective contents utilization. The learning contents of Kkulmat.com are closely connected with the public school curriculum. In this way, online learning can play an important role of reinforcing school education experience, which meets the primary goal of CHLS as a tool to improve the quality of public education. In this regard, the government sponsored e-learning system can be viewed as an effective blended learning approach. Secondly, students learn more effectively through multiple representations of the contents at Kkulmat.com. Through the various multimedia technologies, students can better understand the learning contents. Also, multimedia-utilized contents attract learners’ attention. Kkulmat.com provides a vast amount of animated learning contents to help students’ learning.
Evaluation measures. Online practice tests that provide accumulated database of questions can be a good tool to enhance students’ academic capability. Furthermore, online tests may serve better than offline tests in terms of convenience and effectiveness due to the unique functions such as time-controlling function and automatic evaluation/feedback system.
Teacher-student interaction. The importance of interaction between teachers and students in the cyberspace cannot be overemphasized. In ‘Kkulmat.com’, students and teachers can form an effective communication loop. With the benefit of the technology, teachers can give prompt feedback to the students adding values to the mutual interaction. Positive and encouraging words of cyber teachers can evoke motivation in learners. Continuous support on training qualified cyber teachers with expert knowledge and online counseling skills will be essential.
Motivation strategy. While the level of motivation that students can earn from the interaction with teachers is important, ‘Kkulmat.com’ adopts a strategy of having students collect and use ‘Honey Drops’ to encourage their participation in online learning activities. As mentioned earlier, this unique function seems to make students’ learning experiences more enjoyable. However, according to a research on the effectiveness of CHLS, this kind of motivating strategy worked the most in elementary students (Jang, 2006). For middle school and high school students, new motivating measures need to be developed to increase their participation.
The implementation of nationwide Cyber Home Learning System (CHLS) has opened a new horizon in the area of public education in South Korea. The blended learning approach that connects e-learning experience with public school education is expected to resolve significant social issues such as educational inequality and excessive household expenses spent on private education (tutoring). Besides, online learning environment may contribute to the paradigm shift of education from traditional teacher-centered approach to learner-centered approach. While ‘Kkulmat.com’ serves its primary purpose of reinforcing public school education through e-learning program, its quality contents and services are also believed to benefit students who have difficulties regularly attending schools for varied personal reasons. Securing more than one million online members within three years can be labeled as a remarkable success, however, experts point out that qualitative growth of the CHLS should be more emphasized in the stabilizing stage of CHLS (Kim et al., 2006). In order that CHLS program will grow as a sustainable and effective learning tool that earns high level of trust from students and parents, continuous effort to provide quality learning contents and well-structured training program for the CHLS teachers will be essential.
Kim, Y.C., et al. (2006). The Qualitative Study of Best Practices of Cyber Home Learning., Korea Education and Research Information Service.
Jang, S.H. (2006). Analysis on the Effectiveness of Cyber Home Learning System, Retrieved December 3, 2008, from http://english.keris.or.kr/ICSFiles/afieldfile/2006/08/10/KERISRandD.pdf
So, I.H. (2005). Arrival of Cyber Home Learning Era. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from http://koix.kisti.re.kr/KISTI1.1003/JNL.JAKO200563369749520