You don’t have to wake up 2 hours before the lecture, get dressed, go to the university. It is enough just to sit at the table and open the notebook
On the 16th of March the HSE Rector made the decision to move all lectures and seminars online. This measure was taken because of the spread of coronavirus. Due to the same reason the largest universities in Russia and all over the world had to pull their favorite trick – to transfer to online education immediately. So the longstanding discussions about pros and cons of online education have been delayed. The Academic supervisor of ICEF Bachelor’s programme, Oleg Zamkov, told us about the current organization of the learning process, who can help when something goes wrong, and which resources will be necessary for online examinations.
How the quantum leap to online went on
For many years ICEF has been using its internal information system – our main digital communication channel. We use it as a kind of social network for teachers and students. General and additional learning materials, as well as lectures and home tasks are held here. Students who missed classes can always catch up and study at home. Now, due to the conversion to online learning, the information system is going to become not just an additional option, but the prime control tool.
In this information system the students get information about all the developments or changes in the study process and the timetable. Every day important announcements and learning materials are put online. Students do their homework here; teachers check it online.
Lectures are also held online via Zoom or other platforms with the same options. Via these platforms it is possible to hold a presentation, make notes on the laptop or blackboard, make comments or questions in chats, get feedback from students through voice or text messages.
Teachers can see who is present on the lecture, answer questions and elaborate on unclear topics. They can switch windows, show presentations, tables, comments etc. For example, Andrey Dementyev read lectures on macroeconomics for second year students via the platform Webinar.ru.
HSE has also given students unlimited access to MATLAB and MS Team.
Links to lectures are placed in the information system, so students can just click and attend the lectures. We have adapted the timetable to the online form. For example, some of the classes can be conducted in the evening and several studying groups can be merged on the lectures so that they can dedicate more time to exam preparation or review of the previous topics.
Many teachers have previously used online education channels (such as WhatsApp and VK). They communicated with the students there and exchanged extra materials – video, audio, texts, links. Now we put materials both to the information system and other channels, so that they are available to everyone. We constantly get feedback from the students and teachers and collect ideas how to improve online education.
How do teachers manage?
It is the first time we have conducted so many lectures online. Our system engineer helps teachers and provides technical support. Teachers get an opportunity to read lectures and seminars from home. For lectures in Zoom it’s enough to have a computer with a web camera, microphone and access to the Internet.
We have also delivered training sessions and prepared instructions about the technical possibilities of online studies. Most of the teachers already have experience in holding webinars or online conferences. However, it requires absolutely different skills from teachers. Representatives of the largest UK universities issue an important word of caution: “You shouldn’t see our actions as a model of online studies. These are just urgent measures. In the Centre for Distance Education of the University of London they are discussing “course-design” and reconsidering ways of presenting material in light of transition online.
What should we do with attendance and support
A few days online showed that attendance in some lectures got even better than offline. This may be explained by the fact that a lot of events in Moscow have been cancelled, students don’t have to spend their time on traveling. Instead students can concentrate on learning. Now every student should show great skills of time-management and self-discipline.
There is a hotline for the students. They answer the questions about online education. As for ICEF and HSE in general, all the information is updated in due time on a special internet page. Almost every day we send letters to the students and answer their questions in the information system.
What should we do with exams?
According to our schedule it was planned to have 3rd module exams. For obvious reasons, examinations are not going to happen in their usual format. But we are ready to prepare students for the final exams. Students will have all the tests online and it will be considered as a part of the regular learning process. The results will not influence the final marks, which students get in the end of the year after their main examination session. We will set a calculation formula for the marks later when we receive information about international exams organization from University of London.
If the examinations are to be held online, we need to choose and negotiate the approval of the appropriate platform. We need to organize proctoring – online supervision and control of the students with a certain duration and time limits. The systems of proctoring are quite complicated. They demand work with several video streams, organization of a storage system of video and audio information; sometimes face and speech recognition technology, development of an interface between the examiner and the examinee(s). Exams will definitely take place, but the exact dates will be reported later.
How can London help us?
We are lucky to be part of the University of London and to have access to all its resources. Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is the most important of them. It is the platform with materials which students can get online in addition to their programme. Now students can get the most important literature online.
Artem Veselov, ICEF second year bachelor’s student, Student council chairman
We were getting ready for the upcoming spring examination session and did not think that everything can change so quickly. Now we don’t have to wake up two hours before the lecture, get dressed, go to the university. It is enough just to sit at the table and open the notebook. It is a new experience for us.
In this situation we need to keep usual daily routine, so that it doesn’t seem that the studies are over. It is not so. International exams will definitely happen. I’ve also studied a lot of materials how to organize home learning. Specialists give a lot of advice, for example, to get dressed as you would normally when going to the university and not to sit on the lectures in pajamas. You can also get organized with the help of different supplements, for example, not to get stuck in social nets or to set the programme StayFocused, which limits procrastination time.
Online studies are now seen as something not obligatory: we all know, how easy it is to skip video forward on Coursera or YouTube or just close the window with seminar and forget about it. According to the forecasts from different sources, an epidemic of dissocialisation is coming. We do not feel that our friends are near us, all that we can see is the name in the chat. The sense of participation can disappear for some time, but later the student will understand that homework and lectures do not disappear and it is better to get over your “I don’t want” and attend classes. Technically we were ready to this, but not to isolation.
This situation is most challenging for the teachers. They need to reorganize their way of giving lectures and seminars, create a system of checking home tasks. They need to change their usual way of teaching. I really admire our teachers and I think I am not alone. As I see it, this is one of the factors of our responsible attitude to online lessons.