HSE on Coursera: This is only the start
The 11 educational courses completed in the first year of HSE's cooperation with Coursera won an audienec of 300,000. The courses' lecturers talked about how they succeeded in doing this at a round table at HSE.
The eleven courses (seven in Russian, four in English) that ran on the Coursera platform in 2014 will soon be added to by another eleven. One of the new courses, Institutional Economics, launched in September, and another two, Economics of Transition and Emerging Markets and Cultural Philosophy, are set to launch in November 2014.
HSE's expanded presence on Coursera is the University's strategic decision. As Vice Rector Sergei Roshchin said, blended learning, i.e. combining online and offline studies, is one of the dominant trends in contemporary education. But, in order for IT to be effectively involved in the learning process, courses like those available on Coursera, should not be 'discrete' or one-offs, they should be regular, ongoing events.
What the numbers show
About 290,000 people signed up to HSE's first 11 courses in 2014, with a completion rate of between 1% – 17%. The most popular course was Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions for which about 75,000 people signed up and about 7.4% of those completed successfully.
The most dedicated students were those in the Financial Markets and Institutions, and Documents and Presentations in LaTeX courses – completed in full by 17% and 10% (respectively) of those who enrolled. (The average proportion is 5% on Coursera).
HSE's Centre for Institutional Research carried out a survey of people signing up for and leaving courses, which paints a picture of the average participant, or types of participant. Of the people signing up for HSE's Coursera courses 57% were men and 43% women, apart from two courses, Core Concepts in Data Analysis, which saw 70% men, and Understanding Russians which was 60% women.
Participants' median age was 29, with the predictably large difference between Russian and English language courses – those involved in English-language courses were on average six years older. 69% of those involved in Russian language courses were from Russia, and 24% of those involved in English language courses were from the United States. Overall, HSE's courses offered via Coursera attracted participants from 132 countries. Most of those signing up for Russian-language courses had a BA or specialist's degree, and those signing up for English-language courses had MAs.
Coursera: Not just enlightenment, but education
Professor Nikolai Berzon, who developed HSE's first course for Coursera, Financial Markets and Institutions, believes that Coursera's classes offer more than a learning opportunity. He says they – potentially – could be incorporated into University courses.
Most of the HSEs first courses were introductory, and some found them too easy and some too difficult. Mira Bergelson, who developed the course Understanding Russians: Contexts of Intercultural Communication, noted jokingly, that many participants misunderstood the title, and as a result intercultural communications specialists signed up for the course – but so did people who expected it to 'explain to them how to act with Russians.'
Mira Bergelson compared Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC) with the universities of the Middle Ages, where how and who was teaching mattered more than what was being taught. Teachers' names and charisma mean a lot to Coursera students.
Boris Mirkin talked in detail about how his complex data analysis course was developed, concluding that he would like to develop more for the project.
Researchers at the HSE Institute of Education have used regional data to describe, for the first time in Russia, how inequality in access to education affects different parts of the Russian Federation. The research findings reveal that the key determining factors are the local economy and the proportion of people with a university degree: urbanised regions with well-developed economies and educated inhabitants are more likely to have good-quality schools, with a large proportion of students scoring highly in the Unified State Exam and going on to university. In contrast, poorer regions with low human capital see many of their school students drop out after the 9th grade, limiting their chances of further education.
The programme is aimed not only at students, but also city administration employees, IT specialists, and company managers. Course content allows students to learn about the latest successful developments in megacity digitalization in the context of Moscow. There is no other course like it offered in Russia or the world.
Additional certification and training courses can not only affect an employee’s pay grade and career, but their sense of control over their life. Employees who have ‘upgraded’ their professional knowledge and skills find it easier to manage problems both in their personal lives and in the workplace. However, the trend does not hold equally for men and women. A study by Natalia Karmaeva and Andrey Zakharov of the HSE Institute of Education shows that men reap more benefits than women.
Unlike many other countries, Russian children’s educational path is decided from an early age. Starting with the first grade, parents try to send their children to schools where they can remain until they graduate after either the 9th or 11th grades. Moreover, many families do not use the opportunity available to them to transfer their children to a better school partway through their education. The result is that inter-school mobility remains low and a child’s educational path is often hard-wired early on, HSE University sociologists in St. Petersburg found.
Children from families with high professional and educational status are twice as likely to enter a prestigious university as their peers from low-resource families, HSE University researchers have found. The ‘privileged’ adolescents benefit from strong family attitudes towards a good education, parental investment in their studies and the high academic performance associated with it. At the same time, even when they have good grades, students from poorly educated families do not even try to get into prestigious universities.
Russian doctoral school — that only recently switched to the model of structured programmes — is once again at a crossroads. Which is better: the new model or traditional mentoring? And should postgraduate students be considered young scholars or ‘mature’ students? In her report to the Tenth International Russian Higher Education Conference, Natalia Maloshonok shared the views of doctoral research advisors on these and other questions.
This academic year, HSE University will begin admissions to its new online Master's programme in Data Science, which will be offered on Coursera, the world’s leading online learning platform. The application deadline for admission to the programme is December 6. Courses begin in February. Upon the successful completion of the programme, students will receive a Master’s degree from HSE University, which is internationally recognized.
On June 18, the third International Partners’ Week ‘Academic Agility: Preparing Students for an Uncertain Future’ began at HSE University. The event brings together representatives of more than 30 universities from 16 countries, including France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, the USA, Finland, the United Kingdom, and China. They have all come to Moscow to learn more about the kind of learning experience HSE University can provide, as well as to discuss practical challenges and solutions regarding international mobility.