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Academic Internet Use in Korea: Issues and Lessons in e-Research

Woo Park, Han (2009) Academic Internet Use in Korea: Issues and Lessons in e-Research. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece. (In Press)

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Abstract

Abstract Since the 1995 inception of the Internet in South Korea, the Internet has become an important medium for information and communication among collegians due to its complete integration into everyday school lives. This study examines the scholarly use and role of advanced computer and communications technologies in general and the Internet in particular via an open-ended, qualitative survey among Korean university students. Through word frequency analysis and semantic mapping, this paper identifies the key issues in academic Internet use. In addition to information science methods, content analysis is used to investigate the attitudinal and behavior dimensions in scholarly Internet use. The results are expected to enable professors and policymakers to target populations who underutilize the educational potential of Internet technologies and to design e-learning programs for such students. Introduction Since the 1995 inception of the Internet in South Korea (hereafter, Korea), the Internet has become an important medium for information and communication among collegians due to its complete integration into everyday school lives. New digital technologies including the Internet have been rigorously embraced by Korean universities because of the promise that they can bring quality education, economic efficiency, and wide access to higher education institutions (Park and Biddix, 2008). Web-assisted instruction and learning have become strong teaching methods replacing the traditional class. Growing attention has been paid to the role and effect of web technology within academic settings. Whereas prior research focused on the academic use of the Internet in Western democratic nations (Burgess, 2006; Matthews & Schrum, 2002; Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2002; Wirth et al., 2007), little scholarly attention has focused on the Asian situation. This research focuses primarily on issues related to scholarly practice in e-research within the context of Asian countries. Korea has acquired an internationally-recognized status for its strong Internet networks. Soon and Park (2009) point out that technological discourse dominates the education and digital media scenes in advanced East Asian countries like Singapore and Korea with technology perceived as an indispensable tool in ensuring that the small nation-state stays ahead of its competition. Furthermore, Korea functions as an important node in both international and regional research networks. They continue by stating that in spite of the clear emergence of e-learning, e-campus, and e-science as new ways to conduct research and development, little is known about the actual practice of e-study or e-research, and if and how the Internet technologies and e-tools facilitate Asian students and scholars in conducting better learning, research, and collaboration in the digital age. As detailed in the criticism of Benoit et al. (2006), the majority of previous studies in the online education field focused on finding significant differences between learning outcomes in courses using the Internet and courses taught with traditional delivery methods. This model implicitly assumes that students are inactive receivers during the transmission of knowledge via newly networked technologies. The approach taken here clearly differs from prior research in that it focused on how the Internet is being used by ordinary collegians, rather than on the effect of e-learning in terms of instruction and education outcome (Carr-Chellman, 2004), or economic efficiency (Bramble & Panda, 2008). This focus was chosen because one of the less studied areas in e-learning research is how Internet usages are embedded in students’ various academic activities, such as information gathering, search engine use, researching, information evaluation and writing-up. Another motivation for this study is that while the academic use of web technologies among professional scientific researchers and the methods by which they access information, scholarly community, services, and technologies have been analyzed (Caldas et al., 2008), little research has examined how students in higher education seek academic information and communicate among themselves, and to what extent these daily practices have changed. This study examines the scholarly use and role of the Internet via an open-ended online survey among Korean university students. Through word frequency analysis and semantic mapping, this paper illustrates the key issues in academic Internet use. In addition, content analysis is used to investigate the attitudinal and behavior dimensions in scholarly Internet use. The results are expected to enable professors and policymakers to target populations who underutilize the educational potential of Internet technologies and to design e-learning programs for such students. Discussion and policy implications In his recent book, Search Engine Society, Halavais (2008, p. 33) warns that it is very dangerous to assume that merely because today’s college students are members of a generation that has been immersed in digital networking, they represent the cutting edge of its use. We have explored current trends in the use of digital media in the scholarly world of Korea’s college students. The findings show that almost every student uses information found on portals/search engines and other web services as research material, but that very few take advantage of the Internet for topic selection, data collection, and group studying/meeting/writing. None of the students used the Internet for their term papers, presentations, or reports. Although search engines are the most commonly used method to find academic information among Korean students, only some students use advanced and sophisticated search engines for their scholarly purpose. Furthermore, as recently reported by Thelwall (2008), search engines can produce variable results in response to the same queries and have different characteristics. Thus, students need to understand the specific e-research merits when using a certain search engine. The findings suggest the need for a literacy program to address the over-dependence and reliance on commercial portals/search engines, in particular, Naver, among various online academic technologies. It is educationally desirable that academic communication on the Internet transpires at many levels and through multiple media. However, this article has demonstrated the overwhelming use by Korea’s college students of only one channel (Naver) among the many available portals/search engines to find study-related documents. The dominant power of commercial sites, including Naver, as the primary domain of collegians’ information searches in higher education may distort the formation of active information seeking practices of collegians as they develop into future scholars, knowledge workers, or informed citizens. The results indicate the need for a more nuanced use of web technologies and for the design of a public policy to prevent the narrow use of the Internet and eventually to allow students to expand their understanding of the world of online knowledge beyond Naver. In order to deepen our understanding of academic Internet activities and information seeking behavior, a more comprehensive research design is needed in the future. A cross-cultural study within the same Asian region or between continents will contribute to the growing body of e-science research that deals with the scientific use of the Internet (Jankowski, 2007). Some of the findings in this research are very suggestive of e-research program and will serve as a reference framework for international comparison. For example, nearly one third of the student respondents reported that Internet lectures have had a positive impact on college academic experience in general and that they are willing to recommend their friends take online courseware. The overwhelming appearance of the term ‘Internet lecture’ confirmed this. As previously reported by Pew Internet & American Life Project (2002, p. 12), however, there appears to be little interest among American college students to take courses online. Only 6% of US students took online courses, and half of those believed that they learned less from the online course than they would have from an on-campus one. Another difference between Korea and the US is the subscription to scholarly mailing lists. For example, two-thirds (68%) of American college students subscribe to one or more, academic-oriented mailing lists that relate to their studies. Furthermore, they frequently used these lists to carry on email discussions about topics covered in their classes. To our surprise, no Korean student used such lists, which was attributed to the lack of academic list services among both professional scientists and the general public in Korea. Of course, this may be an invalid comparison because of the date of the data: 2002 in America and 2008 in Korea. Finally, a longitudinal study using repeated cross-sectional data from Korean collegians will give valuable insight (Buente & Robbin, 2008). Through a long-term approach, researchers might discover some hidden patterns in the use of the Internet to perform academic tasks and some possible determinants to facilitate the research use of the Internet among undergraduate students.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords:academic Internet use,, qualitative survey,, Korea, semantic network analysis,, e-research
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:125
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:15 Mar 2009 22:14

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