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POSTECH: POSTECH Partners with Facebook after Samsung and Apple

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POSTECH has become the first university in Korea to partner with Meta (formerly Facebook). As the two parties agreed to develop new virtual educational content using metaverse, POSTECH has begun to transform itself into a Metaversity (metaverse + university). Classrooms and every corner of the campus are being digitalized in to a metaverse. The university offers contactless experiments and practical training courses in the metaverse as if they are on campus by providing VR devices to 320 freshmen.

Other global companies are seeking partnership with POSTECH as well. Samsung launched a department of semiconductor engineering to raise highly skilled experts for research, and Apple has established the Apple Developer Academy and the Apple Manufacturing R&D Accelerator on the POSTECH campus. We ask President Moo Hwan Kim about POSTECH’s Metaversity in this interview.

– The term Metaversity sounds unfamiliar.
“It is a term coined by POSTECH. It means a university that exists in the real world as well as the virtual world. Our library and various other sites on the POSTECH campus are being realized in the metaverse. We are the only university in the world that has a mixed reality (MR) classroom where the real and virtual world coexist. In the MR classroom, students wear VR headsets to see a nuclear power plant right in front of their eyes or to bring a helicopter and see a 3D anatomical diagram of the body in the VR environment.”

– When did the metaverse course start?
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, POSTECH has been offering remote classes since 2020. However, it has been difficult to operate experiments and practical training courses in physics, chemistry, or others through an online platform, such as Zoom. We discussed finding a new way of teaching remotely with the faculty members. As a result, we came up with the idea of metaverse courses. We believed we could provide practical training courses in the metaverse as if they are in the real world if we use digitalized tools for experiments and practical training. After developing educational content to materialize this idea, we were able to successfully launch the metaverse classes by offering VR devices to all freshmen.”

– What was the feedback from students to an unfamiliar way of learning?
“They said it felt almost the same as in-person experiments and practical training. So we have established a committee for metaversity education that develops and manages educational content in a more sophisticated manner. A faculty member from the department of Electrical Engineering who previously worked for LG Display is leading the group. Universities should change to follow the digitalized world. POSTECH plans to actively share our digital educational content with neighboring local universities to help strengthen their competitiveness.”

Regardless of COVID-19, POSTECH will expand remote metaverse courses in the name of ‘Off-Campus.” From next year, all 1,200 POSTECH undergraduates in 11 departments will take one semester out of the eight semesters in the metaverse. President Kim explained, “Since students can take courses on the metaverse virtually, they can take language courses at partner universities abroad or invest more time in launching a startup.“

– How did POSTECH and Meta become partners?
“Fortunately, the VR devices we gave to freshmen were made by Meta, formerly Facebook. After Meta heard about the way we use their devices, they asked us to develop educational content for metaverse together.”

– What are your new goals as a Metaversity?
“It’s defense science and technology. Like the Internet, many sciences and technologies originally designed for military purposes have turned into technology for humanity. By utilizing educational content for metaverse, we can simulate military tactics or train virtually through VR. We already signed an MOU for the advancement of military science and technology with the Korean Army. Next year, we will establish a graduate school for defense science and technology to nurture defense experts and technology.”

– I heard that POSTECH plans to build a school of medicine.
“We aim to establish a program in medical science that is different from other medical schools. Our goal is not to educate clinical physicians but to raise physician-scientists (MD-Ph.D.) in an engineering-based medical school. The role that physician-scientists play is to create artificial organs and use big data to predict and prevent diseases. We plan to select students among college graduates. Building a smart hospital by applying advanced informational technology is also in the works. I believe that establishing a hospital for patients suffering from intractable diseases would help local economies as well as the nation as a whole.”

POSTECH puts more emphasis on research than the employment rate of students. The top 1 percent of students in the nation enter POSTECH. President Kim stated, “POSTECH is a university that helps students to decide what to do after graduation or how to contribute to the nation with research, instead of our students and university focusing on finding a job after graduation.”

How do you envision POSTECH in the future?
– “Within just three decades since its foundation, POSTECH has grown into one of the most prestigious engineering universities in Asia. After a stagnating period during a generational change, POSTECH has jumped dozens of places in the World University Rankings from last year, making its second leap. Compared to the previous year, the university ranked 71st from 81st in the QS World University Rankings and 163rd from 185th in the Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings. I hope POSTECH is remembered as a university that a father recommends to his son and as a top-notch university that even prevents the extinction of regional cities with its high level of education.”

◇ President Moo Hwan Kim
President Kim received his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin, a master’s and bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the College of Engineering at Seoul National University. He was a member of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy Energy Committee, Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, a representative of Korea in the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well as the President of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS). He was appointed as the President of POSTECH in September 2019.