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2008.05.24 17:31
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My ex-roommate, with whom I spent almost all of my college life, is not only an intelligent man, but also is a prominent writer of the english language. He has written this article for KAIST Herald back in 2006. I think all professors at KAIST should read this.

It's a long article, but it's definitely worth a read. This is straight out of his blog entry.

Letter From the Editor
April, 2006

Just like any other school day, I was sitting in front of my desk, listening to a professor lecturing. Then, the most obvious of things struck me, physically hit my brain and woke me up, causing me to realize the reason why my brain refused to save new information all these years.

Ever since I became a university student, I can’t remember what it was like to go into a classroom knowing nothing and walking out, 45 minutes later,knowing everything about that subject. What was the major difference between the two lectures? The answer for this question was what struck me during the lecture: blackboards. (Some might argue whiteboards, but lets call them all blackboards for now).

During my highschool years, teachers would begin a quest to make the whiteboard black or blackboards white when they began their classes. They would explain theorems, equations, facts, methods, and just about everything with their blackboards. By doing this, whether or not the teachers intended it,students were able to process the information better because we could actually see the process. Another positive aspect of this was that the rate of new information coming in was not hard to keep up with since the teacher had to slow down, naturally, to write things out.

On the other hand, here at KAIST, all of my professors seem to be in some kind of rush to cover a chapter or two during every lecture whether we understand it or not. The method of teaching is rather quite simple for an advanced institute as well - PPTslides. They do differ; some are detailed, some just have several bullets, and some just contain a bunch of words connected with meaningless arrows. But the way these slides are used are the same. Professors just read off the slides, assume we understood it, and continue to the next slide. As bad as this may sound,this does accomplish their goal of covering a chapter or two in a time period just short of a soccer match.

One may argue that there is too much to cover in a semester. One may also argue that students should be preparing for the lectures beforehand.

However, before we go on, let’s take a look at MIT, KAIST’s role model. MIT has 45 minute classes (shorter than KAIST’s) and concentrates on what the students learn and not the professor’s goal for the semester. The professors at MIT use the boards so much that one blackboard wasn’t enough. Neither was two. Some classrooms have eight blackboards connected to each other for all the writing. Because the classes are so short, the lectures don’t cover much, but students are guaranteed to understand the material before they walk out the classroom. In fact, I am talking from my own experience of listening to MIT lectures online for particular classes.

There could not be a better example of asking “Is it quality or quantity?” I would rather fully understand one thing, than having to memorize or “seem” to understand ten things. When it comes to education, I’m sure everybody would agree that quality comes before quantity.

Editor in Chief, Kibeom Lee

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