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Korea University’s unique teaching method designed to develop th...
  • Writer : KU TODAY
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  • Date : 2018-08-29

KU The Future
Korea University’s unique teaching method designed to develop the fundamental competence of pioneering intellectuals


Required general education course titled “Liberty, Justice, Truth”
Four-step modular sections (online learning – Q&A – group discussion – group presentation)
to examine and ask questions about one specific topic per section

In the 20th century, the role of universities was limited to preparing students to get a job related to their majors after graduation. In the 21st century, however, in many fields the value of the knowledge you gain today will halve in 7 years. Most of the activities that now rely on human beings’ intellectual and physical abilities will be performed by computers, AI, or robots in the near future. Therefore prestigious universities in developed countries are already equipped with curriculums that integrate problem-solving and critical thinking to meet the needs of the future. Following this trend, three years ago Korea University took several initiatives to transform itself into a future-oriented higher education institution. The development of a course titled “Liberty, Justice, Truth,” which is comprised of a series of seven mandatory general education sections for all freshmen, is one of these initiatives.

“Liberty, Justice, Truth,” a year-long, two-semester course, was designed with the aim of developing the fundamental competencies of young, pioneering intellectuals. The development of the course took three years, and through it, students explore topics related to important schools of thought in the fields of liberal arts, social science, and natural science. In doing so, they familiarize themselves with different ways of thinking about the individual, society, civilization, and the world in general.

Each section of the course is made up of four modules, dealing with one particular topic. The first module of each section is centered around online learning, and is designed to prepare students for the main part of the section. In this module, students watch a video about the chosen topic anytime they like, devise two questions regarding it, and upload the questions onto Blackboard. This module focuses on realizing the promise of flipped classroom teaching, an instructional strategy which is comprised of ICT-based online learning and dynamic, in-depth discussions among students. In the second module, students gather in a large classroom and deepen their understanding of the topic by discussing the questions they uploaded, with the guidance of the professor. In the third module, the most distinctive of the course, students form discussion groups of 20 and then sub-groups of 5 within each group. A teaching fellow is assigned to each discussion group.

The first module

The second module

The third module

The fourth module

Teaching fellows are graduate students who guide and mediate discussions. The sub-group discussions take the form of small-group seminars. Teaching fellows’ role is not to impart knowledge to students, and students feel less pressured when participating in a sub-group discussion in the presence of a teaching fellow than they would be in the presence of a professor, who is more of an authority figure. For the last module, all the students gather in the classroom once again and summarize each sub-group’s discussion of the topic in question, including the relationship between the topic and society. Each section takes up two days per week and is completed in two weeks. The full “Liberty, Justice, Truth” course runs its course when all seven topic-centered sections have been completed. Through this process, students expand the scope of their thinking. All KU freshmen are required to take “Liberty, Justice, Truth Ⅰ”, which runs for a semester, and “Liberty, Justice, Truth Ⅱ”, which runs for another, and at this point some 4,000 KU students have completed their first semester courses.


Interactive teaching instead of traditional uni-directional lecturing

The final form of the “Liberty, Justice, Truth” course was formulated over the course of three years, beginning in 2015, and involved two years of pilot testing. Professor Younkyung Oh, who played a critical role in laying the groundwork for the course structure by collating similar international courses and conducting pilot courses in partnership with Korea University’s Institute for General Education, explains the objective as follows:

“This course aims to equip students with the ability to think and ask questions, and to express their thoughts through writing and speaking. In the first module, students are asked to come up with two questions regarding a topic after watching a video, and to upload them onto Blackboard. I have been pleasantly surprised by how diverse students’ perspectives are. This may be because you meet students from a very wide array of majors, from engineering to liberal arts to medical science, in this course. This is a great opportunity for students who might have never interacted with students from different majors. This coming together of different ways of thinking and approaches helps students broaden their horizons. They also have a chance to make friends with students with a grounding in different fields of knowledge. That’s why we encourage students to form sub-groups with others from different majors.”

The ultimate aim of “Liberty, Justice, Truth” is to help students develop the instinct to question. They are given topics that require concerted thinking on their part, and they undergo the process of defining problems and devising responses to them through their own questioning. “We don’t spoon-feed them knowledge; they ponder what they want to learn about the topic. The flipped classroom method spark students’ intellectual curiosity, and their interactions with students from different majors help them learn from each other. I believe this one-year training in critical thinking will help them develop the ability to explore and tackle issues in a more profound way, and to more confidently assess their future career paths,” says Professor Oh.

A course that enriches KU students’ thinking on their educational objectives and expands their horizons

Many students who took a pilot course last year responded positively to the experience, saying for example that “The Q&A session was helpful in terms of learning what questions other students have and gaining opportunities to think about the issues they raised”, and “Having discussions with students from different majors has helped expand my horizons.” Freshmen who entered KU in 2018 and who took the course in the spring semester said that, although they felt pressure in terms of having to ask questions during the first module, this method led them to consider the topic in question from diverse perspectives and to summon up the courage to participate actively. “Science has been my only passion, but this course gave me an ‘aha’ moment, as a result of which I have become interested in liberal arts and philosophy,” said a student in the Department of Life Science.

In order for “Liberty, Justice, Truth” to be successful, it should serve as an intellectual forum for KU students to share their thoughts and ideas in depth, so that they are better prepared to become scholars imbued with a facility for critical thinking and an ability to ask questions and explore how the world works.

Section 1. KU students’ perspectives on AlphaGo and Cogito


Can we say that robots doubt in the same way we do? Are they not simply programmed to follow humans’ commands to ‘identify whether the information received is true or false’? 

– A student in the Department of Political Science and International Relations

When a calculator solves the equation “1+1=2,” we don’t believe that it can solve it on the basis of consciousness. AlphaGo is just a highly advanced program capable of solving complicated problems in a split second. Its remarkable ability to crunch data at superhuman speed doesn’t necessarily mean that it has some sort of consciousness, does it?

– A student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Are reasoning abilities unique to humans? Aren’t they actually the same as AlphaGo’s algorithms, but with a different name?

– A student in the Department of Business Administration

Aren’t our intuitions and senses actually part of ‘reasoning’ which result from the accumulation of mental calculations, logical thought processes, and experiences? Where do our intuitions and creativity come from?

– A student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

*AlphaGo: a computer program that plays the board game Go, developed by Google DeepMind Cogito: Cogito ergo sum, Descartes' philosophical proposition in its original Latin, meaning “I think, therefore I am”


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