Online Conference Held on Adaptive Learning in Higher Education
The third Case-Based Learning Analysis Conference (CBLAC) was held on January 28, fostering debates on ways of applying artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to improve personalized learning conditions in higher education and increase the performance of adaptive learning. The conference, held by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Ajou University, focused on the theme of “Introducing and Practicing Adaptive Learning in Higher Education.” The entire conference was livestreamed online via Zoom and YouTube, with 140 or so participants, drawn from both inside the school and outside, in attendance. Professor Jeong Jae-young of Ewha Womans University opened the conference with a keynote address entitled “The Age of AI: Direction for Innovations in Higher Education.” Professor Jeong introduced examples of innovation attempted by universities abroad and identified the lack of content and responsiveness in Korean universities’ AI education programs. He then stressed the necessity of changing pedagogic methods using AI. The keynote address was followed by a panel debate on preparations for introducing adaptive learning. Prof. Shin Jong-ho of Ajou University, who leads the CTL, was the first to speak, on the theme “Introduction and Practice of Data- and AI-Based Adaptive Learning at Ajou University.” Noting that the changing learning environment has increased the diversity of students, Prof. Shin emphasized the need to introduce personalized classes and learner-centered education methods that better cater to different students’ interests, aptitudes, and talents. Prof. Shin then proceeded to introduce Ajou’s model of adaptive learning, which supports personalized learning environments using AI. Adaptive learning refers to a method of education that utilizes intelligent information technology, such as big data analysis and AI, to assess individual students’ levels of knowledge and competency with accuracy and dynamically adjusts the types, content, and levels of education accordingly. Adaptive learning is chiefly designed to provide personalized learning environments tailored to different students’ needs. Since launching the development of the Ajou Teaching and Learning Analytics System (ATLAS) in 2014, Ajou University has been promoting adaptive learning on campus, culminating into the creation of the Pathway to Ajou Student Success (PASS), a data- and AI-based personalized learning system that was introduced in 2019. Prof. Shin relayed that dividing students into different groups and applying prescriptive learning programs accordingly, with the help of Ajou’s model of adaptive learning, has improved students’ satisfaction with classes. Nevertheless, he also pointed out a number of obstacles preventing the progress of adaptive learning, including the lack of programs and curricula developed in Korea, language barriers, and resistance to the introduction of new systems. “As we are still in the early stages of adaptive learning,” he added, “it is necessary to develop more effective measures by pooling the experiences and lessons that Korean universities have gained.” The second debate unfolded on the theme of “Adaptive Learning-Applied Syllabi.” Prof. Hwang Eun-kyung of Ajou University first spoke about “Ai-Based, High-Intensity, Interactive Teaching Method: ALEKS Chemistry.” ALEKS is a program designed to enable individual students to learn at different paces and levels of difficulty. Prof. Hwang provided classes using Ajou’s own adaptive learning system and ALEKS, and compared the results. The professor noted that, although ALEKS automatically assessed students’ different levels of competency, the different workloads it imposed on students at different levels and the English lessons burdened some students. On the other hand, Prof. Hwang noted that Ajou’s own system enabled her to group students for group exercises based on assessment of their competency, and that such exercises significantly improved students’ satisfaction. Concluding, from her experience, that the truly important question of adaptive learning involves deciding how to apply the information on students it provides to classroom content and learning, Prof. Hwang argued that we need to “prepare different ways of teaching other than classroom learning based on a good understanding of how the adaptive learning system works.” Prof. Kan Jin-sook of Hallym University and Prof. Kim Heon-joo of Handong Global University also gave presentations under the themes “The AI-AL Innovation Strategy for Hybrid Learning at Hallym” and “A Case of AI-Based Personalized Education: ALEKS Statistics,” respectively. In his official greeting, Ajou President Park Hyung-ju remarked: “Ajou’s attempts to apply data-based analyses and strategies to the evolving learning environments predate COVID-19.” He also added: “I hope, through this conference, we can share our experiences with and lessons on adaptive learning in higher education toward finding a better way forward for all Korean universities.” The Ajou CTL provides consultation on class designs, develops new models of teaching and learning based on the latest methods, and provides learning advisory programs. The center’s scope of work has expanded recently to include content development, learning management systems, and other matters related to remote learning, allowing it to build a data-based teaching and learning support system capable of providing proactive and personalized support programs for different learning needs. Prof. Shin Jong-ho hosting the conference Conference poster
Prof. Lee Jae-hyun’s Team Develops an Ultra-Sensitive Graphene Ion Sensor Using a New Detection Mechanism
A joint team of researchers from Ajou University and Sungkyunkwan University has developed an ultra-sensitive graphene ion sensor using a novel acidity-detecting mechanism. This groundbreaking discovery, which transcends the theoretical limit expected of such sensors, is expected to have various applications, including for Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices and diagnostic equipment. The team, co-led by Prof. Lee Jae-hyun (Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering / Graduate Dept. of Energy Systems Research) of Ajou and Prof. Whang Dong-mok of Sungkyunkwan, published their findings under the title “Super-Nernstian pH Sensor Based on Anomalous Charge Transfer Doping of Defect-Engineered Graphene” as the featured article in the January 13 issue of Nano Letters (IF = 11.238), a prestigious journal on nanoscience and technology. Both professors were featured as the corresponding authors, with Dr. Jung Su-ho of Sungkyunkwan’s Advanced Institute of Nano Technology as the first author, and Hyun Sang-hwa, a graduate student in Ajou’s Dept. of Energy Systems Research, as a co-author. Thanks to its high conductivity and the exposure of its components on the surface, graphene has been garnering much attention as an ideal material for sensors. The low surfactant reactivity due to the low defect density, however, makes it difficult for the substances to be detected—ions, molecules, etc.—to attach to the graphene. Until recently, much of graphene research has therefore focused on inducing and increasing defects on the surface of the material so that other materials may be better absorbed by it. This increase in mechanical defects, however, also compromises the desirable qualities of graphene, preventing researchers from transcending the theoretical limit on sensitivity. Prof. Lee and his team have sought to overcome this dilemma by controlling the density of nuclei formed in the early stage of graphene synthesis so as to control the shape and size of the grains found on the resulting product. This nuclear growth density control method has enabled the researchers to produce a nanocrystalline graphene with engineered defects so as to permit the selective penetration by ions. In other words, the team has come up with a novel detection mechanism utilizing the reaction between graphene-penetrating ions and the substrate underneath. As a result, the team has developed a highly sensitive nanocrystalline graphene-based pH sensor that is capable of achieving a sensitivity as high as 140mV/pH under optimized conditions, far exceeding the marginal sensitivity of 59mV/pH associated with conventional pH sensors. Emphasizing that they were the first in the world to find a new sensing mechanism capable of transcending the theoretical sensitivity limit, Prof. Lee and his team assessed that their defect-engineered nanocrystalline graphene harbors much potential for producing “highly sensitive semiconductor ion sensors with possible applications in IoT and medical devices.” This study was made possible with the support of the research support programs for basic research labs and seasoned researchers provided by the National Research Foundation of Korea. Sensing mechanism of the nanocrystalline graphene pH sensor *Gr = graphene, nc-Gr = nanocrystalline graphene Changes in the nanocrystalline graphene pH sensor’s sensitivity with different substrate conditions Featured on the cover of Nano Letters
Graduate Employment Rates Are In, Ranking Ajou 8th Among Universities in the Seoul-Gyeonggi Region
According to the “Employment Rate of University Graduates in February 2019 (Including Those Who Graduated in August 2018)” posted by the Ministry of Education, Ajou came in eighth among four-year research universities with 1,000 or more graduates in the Seoul-Gyeonggi region with a graduate employment rate of 70.4 percent. The average employment rate of all graduates from the 227 four-year universities nationwide dropped by a full percentage point to 63.4 percent. Since peaking at 65 percent in 2015, the national average has struggled to break through that threshold, recording 64.9 percent in 2016, 64.6 percent in 2017, 62.8 percent in 2018, and 64.4 percent in 2019. Among the 2,184 Ajou students who graduated in either August 2018 or February 2019, 70.4 percent have landed jobs. The School of Medicine had the highest employment rate at 100 percent, followed by the College of Pharmacy (89.7 percent). The other departments and colleges with higher-than-average graduate employment rates included the Department of Transportation System Engineering (86.7 percent), College of Nursing (82.6 percent), Department of Mathematics (80.8 percent), Department of Digital Media (79.8 percent), Department of History (77.8 percent), Department of Financial Engineering (77.4 percent), Department of Software (76.4 percent), Department of Industrial Engineering (76.3 percent), Department of Mechanical Engineering (75.2 percent), and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (74.4 percent). Not only was Ajou ranked highly, in eighth place, among the four-year universities with 1,000 or more graduates in Seoul-Gyeonggi, but it also came in eighth among the 30 universities ranked highly on The JoongAng Daily’s University Rankings 2019. Sungkyunkwan University, Hanyang University, Sogang University, Korea University, Yonsei University, Chung-Ang University, and Seoul National University were also ranked highly, with average graduate employment rates ranging from 70.9 percent to 78.6 percent. Ajou’s graduates also had an employment retention rate of 89.3 percent, which is calculated using workplace-based National Health Insurance data to see who among university graduates have maintained their workplace-based insurance policies for one year since landing their first job. High employment retention rates are often interpreted as indicating the decency and security of jobs that university graduates have found. Ajou came in eighth again among the 30 highest-rated universities on The JoongAng Daily’s University Rankings 2019 with a graduate employment retention rate of 89.3 percent. The other universities with higher rates were Sogang University, Sungkyunkwan University, the University of Seoul, Korea University, Hanyang University, Yonsei University, and Seoul National University, whose rates ranged from 90.4 percent to 93.3 percent. Ajou provides career path counseling and employment support programs for not only enrolled students and graduates but also local youth through its Career Development Center. The center helps younger enrolled students explore their career paths and enables older enrolled students to develop occupational competency and other skills they need to find jobs. It provides one-on-one counseling with expert advisors, short-term occupational training programs (offering courses on Excel, video production, coding, big data, etc.), mentoring from graduates, career camps for transfer students, and job lectures (semiconductors, secondary cells, etc.), in addition to various special lectures and AI-based interview preparation programs. The latest graduate employment rates were calculated as of the end of 2019 with respect to university students who graduated in either August 2018 or February 2019. Go to Ajou’s Career Development Center website.
Prof. Seo Hyung-tak’s Team Develops a High-Performance, High-Precision Hydrogen Detector
A team of researchers led by Ajou’s Prof. Seo Hyung-tak has successfully developed a high-precision sensor capable of detecting high concentrations of hydrogen. The researchers expect their work to help enhance the safety of hydrogen energy, supporting the production and application of hydrogen in the future. Prof. Seo (Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering / Graduate Dept. of Energy Systems, pictured) and his team have invented a high-precision hydrogen sensor capable of detecting hydrogen at all levels of concentration, from particles per million (ppm) to 100 percent, using a new material created by combining an ultra-thin, multilayered, alloyed catalyst and electrodes. Their discovery was published in a paper entitled “Confined interfacial alloying of multilayered Pd-Ni nanocatalyst for widening hydrogen detection capacity” in the January 1 online issue of Sensors & Actuators B: Chemicals, an international journal on sensing technology. Dr. Lee Young-Ahn and Dr. Le Thai Duy, both of Ajou University, were featured as the co-first authors. The team also included Prof. Kim Hyun-you of Chungnam National University and Dr. Park Ju-cheol of the Gumi Electronics and Information Technology Research Institute. The range of possible applications of hydrogen as an alternative source of energy for automobiles, electricity generation, and other industries has been expanding rapidly as of late. The growing demand for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, in particular, highlights the importance of developing hydrogen applications for eco-friendly transportation. Safety, however, has been a chief issue hindering the rapid growth of hydrogen as a fuel. An odorless, colorless substance that is also extremely lightweight, hydrogen carries a significant risk of undetected leakage. It does not take much to trigger an explosion when the hydrogen concentration in the surrounding air reaches four percent. Because extremely high pressure is crucial to ensuring the high energy intensity (energy stored per unit volume) required of hydrogen as a fuel, it is critical to equip hydrogen-powered vehicles and other such machinery with well-functioning hydrogen detectors. Furthermore, to diversify the possible use of hydrogen for purposes including fuel cells, it is essential to have a device capable of monitoring and controlling the purity and concentration of hydrogen. High-precision sensors capable of monitoring high concentrations of hydrogen (95 to 100 percent) are in particularly high demand. Such high-concentration hydrogen sensors, however, can be very complex to develop. There are only a handful of expensive options available on the market worldwide today. None of the existing products, furthermore, are able to detect a wide range of hydrogen concentrations ranging from ppm levels to 100 percent. With the goal of finding a high-precision, highly reliable alternative to the palladium (Pd) catalyst electrodes that are widely used in the conventional chemically resistant hydrogen sensors, the Ajou researchers have developed a new electrode by layering ultra-thin films of Pd and nickel (Ni) in a lattice-like fashion, with each layer having a thickness on the nanometer scale. Numerous existing structures using either a Pd film or nano-Pd structure are capable of detecting hydrogen at limited and low concentrations, but have proven hopelessly incapable of detecting hydrogen at concentrations of 50 percent or above. The hydrogen atoms decoupled from hydrogen molecules by the Pd fail to desorb from Pd lattices, thereby saturating the hydrogen signals, while repeated hydrogen detection also hydrogenates the Pd film or structure, destroying the catalyst. Prof. Seo and his team’s ultra-thin Pd-Ni interfacial super-lattice is capable of detecting high concentrations of hydrogen with incredible precision. It has indeed demonstrated top-notch performance at all levels of concentration (linearity = 95 to 99 percent, response time of less than three seconds, and signal variation of one percent or less). The new sensor even stably maintained its high performance throughout the repetitive accelerated durability test (hydrogen detected 40,000 times), a key step before the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cell parts. Furthermore, the team has demonstrated, through atom-level calculations and ultra-high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM), that the success was entirely due to the structural stability of the Pd-Ni nano-surfactant alloy (only two to three nanometers in thickness) and its ability to reduce the energy required for hydrogen desorption. Prof. Seo’s team unveiled its latest invention at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021, an exposition of today’s most cutting-edge technologies. Due to the pandemic, this annual IT and appliance industry expo, the largest of its kind in the world, was held exclusively online from January 11 to 14 this year. Prof. Seo explained: “Korean companies are solidifying their leadership in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles now that the demand for hydrogen energy is growing worldwide. Nevertheless, these companies have had to rely on very expensive and imported hydrogen sensors in order to ensure the safety of their products.” He added: “We are working on developing additional technologies to ensure the broad application of our new invention to hydrogen monitoring systems. Such systems have a wide array of potential applications in all hydrogen-using industries and sectors, including energy infrastructure, semiconductors, and petrochemicals.” The team’s study was made possible with the support of the Energy Technology Development Program of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning, as well as the Research Support Program for New Researchers with Advanced Overseas Accomplishments, Basic Research Support Program, and BK21 Four Program of the Ministry of Science and ICT and National Research Foundation of Korea. The team has been granted a patent for their sensor in Korea, and their applications for patents worldwide are in progress. Image of Prof. Seo Hyung-tak and his team’s hydrogen sensor shown at CES 2021