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Teach for HSE Seminar Focuses on Online Projects

Teach for HSE Seminar Focuses on Online Projects

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

In April, the Teach for HSE Project hosted an online seminar, ‘International Virtual Exchange in Your Classroom: No Visa Needed’. Seminar participants discussed the 2020-2021 Russian-Japanese Student International Research Programme, ‘Northeast Asia since 2012: Political and Economic Analysis’, which was held jointly by the School of International Regional Studies of the HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs and the Institute for Asian Studies and Regional Collaboration of Akita International University (Japan).

The discussion was moderated by Oksana Chernenko, Director for Educational Innovations of HSE University, and featured the following speakers:

  • Vera Vishnyakova, Programme Academic Supervisor and Head of the HSE School of International Regional Studies;
  • Elmira Imamkulieva, Project Supervisor, Coordinator of Student Project Activities, and Senior Lecturer at the HSE School of International Regional Studies;
  • Tetsuya Toyoda, Project Supervisor, Director of the Institute for Asian Studies and Regional Cooperation, Akita International University (Japan).

Project Scope

Vera Vishnyakova and Elmira Imamkulieva described the main stages of the project, from the search for a foreign partner and preparing the syllabus, to selecting participants. They also explained specific methods of the online group work during the pandemic.

The international student project of the School of International Regional Studies of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs involved a total of 85 students and 12 professors. Over the course of the program, 23 special lectures were given and 37 consultations were provided.

The project culminated in 5 papers that have been accepted for publication, numerous individual and group presentations, and 5 international round tables and conferences

Benefits of Modern Technology

Elmira Imamkulieva drew particular attention to the different forms of technology utilized for effective online group work and their main advantages in implementing ‘Northeast Asia since 2012: Political and Economic Analysis’. She also described how students were divided into 3 different Russian-Japanese groups and had to communicate entirely in English.

In addition to gaining experience working and presenting their work in English, the students prepared joint presentations and worked as a real team competing among 3 international groups and presenting their results to the supervisors.

Professor Toyoda, Project Supervisor, Director of the Institute for Asian Studies and Regional Cooperation, Akita International University (Japan).

It is crucial to make students understand that they are doing something extraordinary and that having the Russian-Japanese Student International Collaborative Research Programme on their CVs will be a special asset as they apply for graduate schools or positions at multinational companies.

Sofya Sadykova, Director of the Student International Mobility Office, Department of Internationalisation

Some twenty years ago the description of the project might have sounded like a passage from a science fiction novel to me. I honestly envy our students who have the chance to interact and exchange ideas with students from another country, attend lectures of several prominent foreign professors, and get individual counseling as they complete their research projects. Moreover, this is all done from the comfort of their home without any of the stress of moving to another country and or any of the expenses.

The project illustrates that formally exclusive international academic experience may soon become just one more way to complete your studies or deliver a class, work on your research and participate in an international academic mobility. At the same time, this virtual international exchange excludes the challenging and costly dimension of relocation, leaving your family and friends, leaving all your activities in your home environment, and going through several stages of culture shock. HSE University students have already found many advantages in receiving their international experience online.

It would be great if the experience of the HSE – Akita International University collaboration could help usher in a new era of international academic alliances where it would be commonplace to develop a course or launch an academic project together with a colleague from another country and facilitate it jointly by bringing together students from both institutions in one virtual classroom.    

Irina Maltseva, Adviser to the Rector

Digital technology is now a mainstay of education, particularly when it comes to organizing project work amongst university partners, insofar as it is faster, cheaper, and often more effective. However, in my view, it is also makes certain aspects more complicated both for students and the instructors coordinating these projects.

The first area in which difficulties appear is team building. The emotional reactions, moods, and personalities we get to see when interacting in person are not accessible online. In this respect, the work of the coordinator is especially crucial. They ensure that everyone is actively engaged by assigning interim tasks, performing performance evaluations, and discussing what the project participants should do next. It is important that all participants feel comfortable with the online format since not everyone can express themselves freely by attracting special attention to themselves. It is necessary to create a friendly atmosphere. Therefore, intercultural understanding and respect for certain traditions plays an important, if not the main role in an international team. (This is especially so when collaborating with partners from Japan, China, and other Asian countries.)

Motivation is key when working online. This is not something you achieve simply by promising a certificate upon completion of the programme, though our Japanese colleagues noted this very fact. As I see it, you need to foster a genuine interest on the part of the participants in the work, delegate tasks that are more suitable for one party or another, and arrange opportunities for the exchange of unique experiences that can only be gained from international collaboration.

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