North Korea in recent years has been promoting the development of remote lecture technology and its importance in the national education system, often boasting of it as a way for “worker-students” and people such as “disabled ex-soldiers” to receive education away from school campuses.
North Korean state media on Tuesday emphasized increasing the quality of “remote lectures,” listing the ways in how such virtual courses can create an effective educational environment.
Although this Rodong Sinmun article did not mention quarantine measures against COVID-19 in relation to remote courses, the newspaper in recent days introduced to domestic readers the measures taken by other countries to make universities hold virtual courses in order to minimize person-to-person contact amid the global spread of the virus.
In an article titled “Problems focused on regarding increasing the quality of remote lectures,” party daily the Rodong Sinmun said that Pyongyang University of Mechanical Engineering has developed ways to “introduce modern education technology to increase… the effectiveness of the teaching of the educator appearing in the remote lecture material.”
Noting that remote courses often do not “naturally proceed” as well as an in-person lecture in a classroom, the Rodong said that the university used methods such as creating a “virtual class environment” for the teacher.
The university produced equipment to create “virtual classrooms and virtual student models… and produced a program to maneuver various actions of the virtual students,” the article said.
The article also lauded methods such as how a remote class can show a one-on-one dialogue between the lecturer and a worker who handles machines on-site for engineering students.
Meanwhile, North Korean state media outlets for weeks have been continuing to introduce COVID-19-related quarantine measures taken in other countries, including remote courses.
On Tuesday, the Rodong reported that the Russian government, as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus on campuses, had the previous day ordered all universities across the country to organize remote lecture systems.
The party daily on Sunday also informed its domestic readers that all educational institutions have put a halt to all in-class courses in Portugal, France, and Armenia — and that the Turkish government ordered schools to conduct remote education. On Saturday, the Rodong reported that the Kazakhtanian government had also taken the same measure for universities.
Like the aforementioned countries and also neighboring South Korea, Pyongyang in late February has decided to postpone the new school year in the face of a global spike in cases of COVID-19, with school vacation extended under the DPRK’s “national measure.”
Along with the postponement of the spring semester in the North, the country has also been implementing unprecedentedly tight border control to prevent the virus from flowing in, while using state propaganda to inform the North Korean people on the importance of its version of ‘social distancing’ — although it has not used that particular phrase.
The party daily in early March said that North Korean students and young children are being firmly told to stay home as much as possible, and one article carried that week also listed “hygiene common sense for preventing the spread of novel coronavirus” including “minimizing outdoors activity” such as “visiting and eating with relatives,” visiting “public places where it is crowded,” and “entering venues such as stores, stations, and airports that lack oxygen.”
The Rodong in late February also said that “at a time like this… a national emergency quarantine system when the whole nation is in constant tension to prevent the spread of the contagious disease, actions such as gathering at public places such as restaurants should be strictly forbidden.”
While Tuesday’s article did not provide details on the latest software program the North is using for “high-tech” remote courses, Ryongnamsan and Sonhaenggwan are two of the programs publicly known to be domestically produced in the country for virtual education.
The remote course program Ryongnamsan — which earned first place in a remote education system contest held in November 2013 and was developed by Kim Il Sung University — was a part of the 24th National Programming Contest and Exhibit. The program has been featured multiple times in such exhibits in recent years as well.
Sonhaenggwan 3.0, another program for remote courses, was reported to have been exhibited last month during the 35th Sci-Tech Festival of Pyongyang University of Transport, according to the Rodong Sinmun.
In January this year, externally-focused outlet Naenara reported that the number of students educating themselves through remote courses is constantly increasing, saying that now there are “around 7500 [units] across the country” that are enrolled for Kimchaek University of Technology’s remote courses.
Such a course was provided for the first time in October 2010, starting with 40 volunteers at Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, Naenara said.
The Rodong on February 9 celebrated a 10-year anniversary of the birth of Kimchaek University of Technology College of Remote Education, praising how it was an “important milestone… announcing that the remote education system — a new format of education that allows anyone, without the limitation of time and place, to receive higher education — has been consolidated, meeting the needs of the age of the information industry.”
Edited by James Fretwell