THIS COMING semester, Yonsei University will be offering a master’s program in artificial intelligence (AI) and a common elective in the College of Engineering encompassing AI, big data*, Internet of Things (IoT)**, and robotics. The establishment of these new academic courses is seen as the culmination of the university’s efforts to build an education curriculum befitting the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Ever since the phrase “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2016, there has been much discourse regarding what it is and what innovative changes it will bring to mankind. Despite its frequent appearance across various media outlets and fields of study, a common definition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has not yet been established. Often characterized by technologies such as AI, IoT, big data, and Cloud computing services, the Fourth Industrial Revolution—in a very simplified, societal context—can be described as the innovative change that results from information technology (IT) proliferating throughout all sectors of society. In words borrowed from the World Economic Forum, the Fourth Industrial Revolution “features the creative connection between newly-developed technology and previously-existing markets in all industries based on IT,” which subsequently creates new markets and business models***.
In preparation for this new digital era, several universities in Korea, including Yonsei, are developing new courses specifically geared towards emerging technologies such as AI and robotics. Guided by the motto “Yonsei, leading the way to the future,” Yonsei University has not only been establishing new academic programs, but has also been implementing new changes to the university’s system in order to ensure a digitalized environment that benefits Yonsei students.
New academic programs
One of the more revolutionary changes that Yonsei University implemented this year is deciding to offer a master’s program in AI. A spokesperson for the Graduate School of Engineering recently confirmed that the school has started receiving applicants for the Artificial Intelligence major this coming spring semester. Prior to this, the study of AI had never been developed into an independent major in any Korean university.
In an interview with The Yonsei Annals, a professor from the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineeringstates that the four-semester graduate program will focus on multiple spectrums of AI, not just on the technical aspects. “We aim to expand the program beyond the College of Engineering. Professors from diverse colleges and departments such as the College of Medicine and the Department of Psychology will be lecturing as well,” he says. The reason for this inclusion, the professor explains, is because ethical issues apply to AI as well. “The social and ethical impact of AI is an issue that cannot be disregarded. With the involvement of professors from different majors, we aim to address not only the technological parts but also the social impacts of AI.”
The development of the AI major in the Graduate School of Engineering is only the start to a series of new academic programs that will be established in Yonsei University. Though details have yet to be announced, the College of Engineering has hinted at the possibility of forming new elective courses that teach big data, IOT, and robotics.
Designing a digital learning environment on campus
Yet another goal that Yonsei has been working to achieve is building a digital environment that enables students and faculty members to learn, research, and share information more efficiently. In an attempt to achieve this goal, the university has recently partnered with Adobe and Amazon Web Services (AWS)—a subsidiary company of Amazon that provides Cloud computing services—to implement Adobe Creative Cloud, AWS Cloud Services, and the AWS Educate program. Both partnerships involve the implementation of Cloud computing services, which is certainly not a coincidence seeing how Cloud computing is the underlying platform that drives technologies such as IoT and big data.
Cloud computing refers to the technology of storing and accessing data, applications, and other IT contents over an Internet server.In this context, the “Cloud” serves as a metaphor for the Internet. As opposed to the traditional method of storing data on a computer hard drive or physical device, Cloud computing services provide a simple way to access data and application services on the Internet****. Google Drive is a common example of one, in which all stored data can be accessed online on multiple devices. Because all data processing is executed online, Cloud computing services provide a myriad of benefits: unlimited storage space, reduction in operating costs, effortless ways to share information, and much more. Such advantages of a Cloud computing environment have led many large-scale corporations and institutions to transition to Cloud computing platforms.
Yonsei University’s partnership with AWS will enable the school’s intranet system to experience the aforementioned benefits of a Cloud operating system. “Utilization of the Cloud technologies and services provided by AWS will allow students to gain practical knowledge in IT,” said a spokesperson in a press release provided by the Yonsei Public Relations Team. Although the adoption of AWS into the school’s system was arranged last September, details as to what and how the systems will change have yet to be announced.
On the contrary, the university’s latest partnership with Adobe has brought about more noticeable changes on campus. Shortly after the partnership in March, Yonsei University has been issuing Adobe Creative Cloud (Adobe CC) IDs that offer the complete collection of Adobe software to all Yonsei students. Adobe Creative Cloud is a Cloud-based subscription model that integrates Adobe software into its Cloud for sharing, syncing, and collaborating. Recognizing the importance of utilizing such digital tools in today’s society, the university even proceeded to establish a new center entirely dedicated to the use and education of Adobe CC on campus.
“The Yonsei Digital Environment Center (Y-DEC) was formed just this past January following Yonsei’s partnership with Adobe,” says Moon Su-ji, a spokesperson for Y-DEC, in an interview with the Annals. “The center aims to aid Yonsei students in effectively using various Adobe software, to ultimately increase digital literacy in Yonsei.” Moon explains that digital literacy, in this context, refers to an individual’s ability to use information and communication technologies to find and create new information.
“Although younger generations are more familiar with newly developed technology, there are still many students who feel intimidated using design software like Photoshop and Illustrator,” adds Moon. To guide such students, Y-DEC actively holds education sessions that teach the basics of Adobe’s most frequently used programs. These sessions are open to all students at Yonsei University.
“Adobe programs like Photoshop and Premiere are standard tools used in marketing, journalism, business, and multiple other fields,” says Moon. “Learning how to fully utilize these tools will also increase students’ competitiveness in the job market.”
Moon also emphasizes that adopting Adobe CC programs in Yonsei is a step forward to developing a digital learning environment on campus. Because Adobe CC is a Cloud-based system, students not only have access to software programs but also have the ability to share and access files online via the Creative Cloud. Thus, students and professors are easily able to share and collaborate on digital projects through Adobe applications. “To encourage more students and professors to use these digital tools, we hold various seminars, events, and competitions that involve using Adobe software,” expresses Moon. “Digital Experience Day with Adobe” and the “Yonsei Creative Contest” are some examples of the events that Y-DEC hosts to encourage student and faculty participation.
“In the digital age, being able to express your ideas into videos, designs, or some other digital form is just as important as expressing your thoughts into words,” concludes Moon. Thus, it is imperative that universities develop the resources to properly educate their students on digital software and Cloud computing.
Convergence research centers in Yonsei
Convergence research is another emerging paradigm that is an integral part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A defining characteristic of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the blurring of boundaries between the physical and virtual spheres. The resulting convergence empowers research innovation; it enables researchers to take what is happening across formerly disparate research disciplines, and apply it to real-life problems. With rising interest and demand in this new phenomenon, universities and organizations across the world are establishing research institutes specifically dedicated to the field of convergence research. The Yonsei Institute of Convergence Technology (YICT) and the Institute of Convergence Science (ICONS) are two such research centers established in Yonsei University.
In an interview with the Annals, ICONS President Leem Choon-seong (Prof., Dept. of Industrial Engineering) explains that the main difference between the YICT and ICONS is a focus on different levels of convergence research. While YICT focuses mainly on IT convergence technology, ICONS extends the range of convergence research to include the humanities, arts, and all sciences.
“In theory, convergence research refers to integrating diverse fields of study to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation,” says Professor Leem. “However, most convergence research centers tend to limit the extent of integration to fields that share similar characteristics or research methods.” For instance, research on the integration of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and IT is quite common among these institutes because all three fields are closely linked together.
However, ICONS is different in that it expands the horizons of integration beyond engineering sciences to include the studies of humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. “Integrating only studies that have similar methods of approach can limit the types of solutions that we can produce,” emphasizes Professor Leem. “Incorporating interdisciplinary approaches to both the humanities and the sciences, however, opens up an infinite number of possibilities to creative solutions.”
Professor Leem adds that convergence research is especially crucial as the Fourth Industrial Revolution is quickly approaching. “One of the most important characteristics that defines the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the professor says, “is that recently developed science technologies are applied to all market industries and sectors of society, eventually influencing the individual’s daily life as well.” Based on this characteristic, he explains that convergence could be considered as the very concept that defines the essence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Since the integration of all fields of study is imperative to convergence research, ICONS focuses on creating opportunities for Yonsei professors of all departments to gather. “We host various forums and conferences at ICONS to bring together professors from language, engineering, and social departments, to name a few,” says Professor Leem. “The professors then draft research proposals, and ICONS provides research funds to projects that appropriately incorporate diverse fields of study.” Graduate students are also free to participate through the “Junior Group Research Project” funded by ICONS.
Such open conferences are what differentiate ICONS of Yonsei University from other convergence research institutes in Korea and abroad. “There are strong tendencies to exclude the branch of humanities and social sciences from convergence research,” states Professor Leem. “This is understandable, as humanities and engineering sciences are so different that it may be hard to even conceive of integrating the two. However, as a university research institute, ICONS pushes against these barriers between fields of studies to lead the way in opening a new paradigm of convergence research.”
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In the midst of the digital age, universities are busy implementing new programs to adapt and stay relevant in the ever-evolving world of technology. Yonsei University is no exception. However, one factor that sets Yonsei apart from other universities is that it prioritizes designing a digital learning environment that actually benefits students on a daily basis. From transitioning to a Cloud-based e-mail service to developing new academic courses to teach AI, Yonsei incorporates new technology into the campus in a practical manner. Research institutes that are specifically dedicated to convergence research and technology also prove that Yonsei’s announced efforts in preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution are not a hoax.
Continued commitment is vital to achieving a digital learning campus that encourages efficient communication among students and faculty members. As digital technology becomes the future, Yonsei remains at the forefront of innovative change.
*Big data: the study and applications of massive volumes of data that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations.
**Internet of Things (IoT): the concept of everyday physical objects being connected to the Internet, enabling them to connect, collect, and exchange data
***Lee, Minhwa et al. “How to Respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution”
****Amazon Web Services, Inc.