A new online community of Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), SKKU:ter has recently been released as an application this semester. SKKU:ter was launched in September 2018, due to Kingos’ continuous demands for a new online community. The university’s online communities play an important role in assisting the students, including graduates. They provide spaces for users to share information and gain a sense of belonging. However, the online communities of SKKU have had some problems performing these roles. In response to this, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will discuss the historical trends, problems and future direction of the online communities of SKKU.
Online Communities of Universities
Definition and Types of Online University Communities
An online community of a university refers to a site where members of the university can freely communicate on the Internet. Users share helpful information with each other, such as academic information, job and career information, and school issues. Such communication increases a sense of belonging among university members. The communities are launched through a variety of platforms. Currently, the most active online community platform for universities is Everytime. Everytime is an academic timetable application for college students, providing anonymous bulletin boards as well as other useful functions including a grade point average (GPA) calculator. Also, there are some Facebook pages called “School Bamboo Forest” or “Let Me Deliver Instead” that receive reports from university students. Facebook is a major social networking site (SNS) among university students. The reports are mostly posted anonymously, and there are some subtypical pages like “Dark Bamboo Forest” which minimizes the content filtering of the reports. The last type of platform is the universities’ own website community which is only for the members of the university. The most well-known of such a type of university community includes SNUlife of Seoul National University (SNU) and Koreapas of Korea University (KU).
|Skkulove is SKKU’s first and symbolic online community that was active in the 2000s (skkulove.com)|
SKKU’s Online Communities
There are various online communities at SKKU. SKKUlove, which was launched earlier than other communities of SKKU used to be the most active online community during the 2000s. SugangSKKU was designed to secure and improve the education rights of Kingos. There are also Everytime and the Facebook pages that were previously mentioned above. Lastly, SKKU:ter is an online community which was opened recently. Each online community has some unique characteristics. First, there are big differences in the user rates of the communities. Nowadays, most Kingos use Everytime and Facebook pages. In fact, most communities except these two have problems of low inflow of users and the long time interval between new posts. Web-based communities without application services, such as SKKUlove and SugangSKKU, are especially suffering from these problems, due to their relatively lower accessibility. Secondly, some of the school online communities are semiopened communities. A semi-opened community allows outsiders to read postings without having to sign up. Not only the Facebook pages that have basically opened but also SKKUlove and SugangSKKU are available for everyone, and not just Kingos.
Current Problems of SKKU Online Communities
Problems Caused by Anonymity
Anonymity leads to the users’ active participation, but at the same time creates a number of problems. Because of Everytime’s anonymous system, some users upload postings that include indiscriminate slander and sexual harassment. Some users post abusive comments and delete them before they are restricted, or send messages containing abusive or sexual remarks. Some take advantage of anonymity by selling lectures and study guides. Moreover, on anonymous bulletin boards, it is impossible to know whether a single person is pretending to be another person and write many posts with similar contents and arguments. Therefore it is possible for a small number of users to manipulate the flow of public opinion of the community. If the manipulation of public opinion happens at critical times, such as during the entry of freshmen and the voting period for student councils, the problem will inevitably grow. Problems Caused by Semi-Opened Communities The semi-opened community also causes many problems. SKKUlove and SugangSKKU are semi-opened communities that do not put a restriction on outsiders from reading most of the posts. In fact, most university online communities use e-mail certification to allow only their own students to register and read posts. The fact that outsiders can see every post uploaded to the community causes anxiety that sensitive information on the school community may be leaked. Facebook pages also have similar problems because it is easier to certify one’s university than other communities; it does not require mail certification and just requires one’s student number. Therefore, outsiders are able to fuel conflicts easily. Due to this problem, many Kingos do not feel enough sense of belonging on the semi-opened communities.
Difficulty in Accumulating Information
One of the most important elements of an online university community is useful information. SKKU’s communities, however, have had the difficulty of accumulating information. First of all, there is not much communication between alumni and students. Currently, Everytime, which is the most active among SKKU’s online communities, is an undergraduate-centered community and not many alumni make use of it. Therefore, there is no active communication between alumni and undergraduates. It is a huge disadvantage of Everytime that kingos cannot get access to useful information about employment and future careers from the Kingos who are actively carrying on their careers. In addition, information that already exists is not accumulated effectively and systematically. For instance, Everytime’s job and career board has no subdivisions. All the various data about employment, startups, and exams are just mixed up in one place. Therefore, users have to search for information they want a little at a time and filter information they do not need. Finally, there is also useful information in SKKUlove and SugangSKKU, but the problem is that not many students who are attending school use these communities, making it less likely for students to find the information they need.
Vision of the SKKU Online Community
Problem Solving with SKKU:ter
The best way to solve the problems of the existing SKKU online communities is to open a new online community. The new community should allow only certified Kingos to use the website and organize the boards that are conducive in accumulating information. Based on these, S:with, the 50th Student Council presented SKKU:ter as the new online community for Kingos. SKKU:ter is a compound word of SKKU and TEO, a pure Korean word that means community. Therefore, the exact meaning of SKKU:ter is a “space for Kingos.” Even if the term of S:with is over, the following student council can work on developing SKKU:ter through the student council archive. SKKU:ter is trying to solve the problems of the other communities. First, it solves the problem of anonymity. SKKU:ter uses a user name system which prevents a single user from pretending to be multiple users in an anonymous community. Nevertheless, since it is not a realname system, the manager needs to take proper measures to restrain slanderous postings. Secondly, SKKU:ter can solve the problems of semi-opened communities. Like other university communities, a mail authentication system is used in SKKU:ter, so that only the people with SKKU e-mail addresses can sign up, read postings, and have a sense of belonging. Finally, efficient information management and accumulation are possible. SKKU:ter has created several subcategories on its job bulletin board, including interview reviews, study recruitments, start-ups, graduate schools, examinations, and more.
|SKKU:ter, presented by S:with, was opened on September 12th, 2018. (skku.edu)|
SKKU:ter’s Current Situation and Future Direction
Despite many advantages, SKKU:ter is not yet actively used. Last month, SKKU:ter’s total number of visits was less than 5,000, which is substantially low in comparison to Snulife’s 730,000 and Koreapas’s 760,000. It is even less than the 62,000 visits to SKKUlove. This is mainly due to the fact that students nowadays prefer mobile applications to websites with the popularization of smartphones. The SKKU:ter application, which is available from this semester, is expected to contribute to the revitalization of SKKU:ter. In order for SKKU:ter to solve the problem of carrying less amount of information compared to SKKUlove and Everytime, the role of the student council is important. The management committee should reprocess information on other SKKU communities and upload it on SKKU:ter, while the Alumni Association makes various promotions for graduates to visit SKKU:ter. If graduates actively post employment or career information on SKKU:ter, more students who seek useful information will use SKKU:ter as their main online school community. As a result, communication between graduates and students will be more active on the new online community. Finally, SKKU:ter will become even more competitive if it discloses critical information about course registration and academic schedules earlier than other online communities. As mentioned above, SKKU:ter is a community that was just opened in September last year, so many Kingos do not know about it yet. In particular, graduates who are not familiar with last year’s student council’s pledges are particularly likely to be less aware. Therefore, the 51st student council, Sparkle, should put in a lot of effort to increase the number of SKKU:ter users.
The online school community plays an important role in one’s campus life because it not only provides useful information that is only allowed to members of the university but also becomes a communication channel among alumni. Many Kingos, however, have not been able to enjoy the benefits of online school communities in recent years, due to a lack of information available on online communities. Under such circumstances, SKKU:ter’s appearance is expected to be a good solution. Although there are only a few people using SKKU:ter at present, the revitalization of this new community will surely lead to it becoming a precious space for countless Kingos going forward