HSE University Launches Digital Teaching Consultants Project
In May 2021, 25 digital teaching consultants began work at all campuses of HSE University. Their task is to help colleagues teach effectively online and make use of digital technology in their teaching. All consultants passed a selection by the Expert Committee. Below, HSE News Service tells us about the participants of the new Teach for HSE project.
The new digital force consists of 25 consultants for all of HSE’s campuses in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Perm, and Nizhny Novgorod. Its tasks is to help colleagues master and use digital tools in on-site and online teaching, as well as to adapt traditional teaching methods to remote teaching. Consultants began work in early May. But before this, they passed a selection process. Members of the Expert Council evaluated what remote teaching technologies the candidates use, how they suggest organizing the consultation work, and how effective their digital activities are.
The application was available in two ways: an independent application process or via recommendation by departments in need of support.
Natalia Shitova, Senior Lecturer at the HSE Campus in Nizhny Novgorod Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law, admits that in her case, both options worked: ‘The moment I saw the email about the project, it piqued my interest. The project has a lot of crossover with my work, my experience, and my willingness to be part of a community of peers who are interested in developing digital teaching skills. My decision to participate in the project came together with the recommendation of my faculty, the Faculty of Law, which said that I have long been interested and paid attention to teaching methods and information tools.’
Natalia Shitova explains that she has used digital tools since her first day at HSE University in 2010, and she updates her toolkit regularly. Initially, she used LMS eFront to store data, administer tests, and collect written assignments, and later, she started actively using survey forms (Google Forms and Microsoft Forms) and online spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets).
‘In addition, I’ve continued to learn about other available tools. Various workshops, continuing education courses, including those at HSE University, helped me understand that the world of information tools for teaching is huge. But my own practice of their application had been limited,’ says Natalia Shitova.
Thanks to the transition to online teaching in 2020, Natalia started actively transforming her passive knowledge into practical competencies, since ‘the remote teaching format called for a different approach to building teacher-student communication.’
Now my key tools are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Mentimeter. They gave me the opportunity to maintain communication with students when we were 100% remote, to organize team work in online classes, and make them more interactive
Natalia said that the timing for the start of the project was apt. A year after the total transition to online, teachers finally have time to process everything. ‘Many are coming up with insights and ideas on how to improve teaching in remote or mixed formats. Also, many people on the web have said that the transition to remote learning has benefited teacher communities. I believe that the Digital Teaching Consultants Project is part of this trend. The project is only beginning, but I can already say that today, I’m among the best people, people who are willing and able to share their experience.’
Maria Lytaeva, Member of the HSE Academic Council and the project’s Expert Committee
This academic year has presented all teachers with the challenge of teaching online. During the first months, we believed it was not for long, that soon we would return to the classroom, but our hopes were not only in vain — we still do not know for how long this ambiguous situation will last. But any, even the most complicated, unusual, and unconventional teaching conditions contain not only risks, but also opportunities. Digital teaching consultants supported by Teach for HSE project are going to help us find the advantages in online teaching, deal with the difficulties, and increase the effectiveness of online classes. This project is extremely important today: we need support and advice to solve problems both big and small. We have received a lot of applications from colleagues, and our main impression is that everyone is ready to share their experiences on different issues and with various audiences. Almost each department will now have a specialist who will help instructors master digital tools, advise how to organize online teamwork, and even provide input on how to design a complete online course. In the future, this will not only increase the quality of teaching, but improve the atmosphere of our professional community.
Anna Solodikhina, Senior Lecturer at the HSE Department of Innovation Management, started using digital tools in her teaching long before the pandemic, in order to make her classes more diverse, thrilling, and memorable. Among other tools, she uses services and software for interactive quizzes (Kahoot), surveys and tests (Socrative and OnlineTestPad), feedback (Menti and Google Forms) and others. However, 2020 showed that not all these tools can be used in remote teaching.
‘Since practice plays a key role at my courses, one of the most pressing problems was to find a way to transfer educational games and other unconventional teaching methods to an online format,’ says Anna Solodikhina. ‘That’s why I had to comb the market for all available software and find a way to adapt my classes to existing services. Eventually, during the teaching trials and experiments, I came up with ideas for new formats, which I managed to try and correct. One of the examples is an “expert talk show”’. Due to the lack of visual contact, she decided to use an LED board, which helps imitate the traditional whiteboard of the classroom without turning one’s back upon the students.
Eventually, student surveys demonstrated that they favour her methods and techniques, while the level of acquired knowledge had even grown as compared to on-site learning.
The students also noticed that not all teachers take advantage of technical capabilities to vary their classes. At continuing education courses, some colleagues noted that, while teaching online, they only read lectures ‘for the screen’, since do not know any other ways to deliver the information to the students
That’s why Anna decided to share her discoveries with colleagues. She was supported by her home Department of Innovation Management. The first impressions of the project are extremely positive, she admits, adding that she also hopes to learn something new from her more experienced colleagues.
Oksana Chernenko, HSE Director for Innovations in Education
Today, we are coming out of remote teaching with a new and impressive arsenal of knowledge, having revisited many aspects of traditional teaching.
The Digital Teaching Consultants Project has consolidated the experiences that teachers have gained during the pandemic. All of us have already had enough time to analyse and generalize this experience, to see the first results, successes, and areas for improvement. But we still have a pressing need to develop the skills of effective digital tool use, the ability to properly build them in the course structure, to adapt the materials and choose the best strategies of student communication online or in a mixed format. Digital teaching consultants, our colleagues with extensive experience in online teaching, who have an advanced mastery of online teaching methods, will help all HSE University instructors develop these skills.
In December, the Teach for HSE project held the master class ‘From Photography to 3D-Model: 3D-Modeling Technology in Teaching and Project Activity’ for HSE lecturers. The master class was delivered online by Iliana Ismakaeva, lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at HSE – Perm and winner of the spring competition of the Fund for Educational Innovation.