Challenges and Problems of Online Learning: Highlights From the Final Day of eSTARS 2020
eSTARS 2020, the international education conference organized by HSE University in partnership with the global educational platform Coursera, reached its conclusion on December 2. This year, which marked the annual event’s 3rd meeting, the conference was held entirely online for the first time.
The final day of eSTARS 2020 was devoted to the conference’s main theme: ‘Transformation of Education and Global Trends in the Digital Economy’. Teachers, students, and university staff from different regions of Russia, Belarus, Pakistan, Armenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other countries discussed various aspects of online learning.
Pitfalls of Distance Learning
At the panel session ‘Sociology of Online Learning’, speakers presented research showing how students and instructors have reacted to the digitalization of education, as well as what kind of psychological impact distance learning has had on students. Denis Zubalov, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of Humanities, together with students Daria Vasilyeva (4th year, Bachelor’s programme in ‘Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication’) and Arina Barasy (2nd year, Master’s programme in ‘Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication’) presented their study, ‘The Digitalization of Higher Education as a Result of a Pandemic’. The researchers collected information on social media and conducted structured interviews with students of Russian and foreign universities. The first result of the study revealed the main problems students face during distance learning.
‘There are distinct problems that relate to five main categories,’ noted Daria Vasilyeva. ‘The first category is technical problems (poor internet connection, platform flaws, etc.). The second is a lack of skills related to the use of Internet platforms, equipment and others. The third category is organizational problems (overlapping lessons, lack of communication, etc.). The fourth is sociological (lack of personal communication) and, finally, the fifth is related to health: students spend a lot of time in front of their computer screens, which leads to vision problems.’
In her presentation, ‘The Psychological Impact of Online Learning on University Students’, Fozia Aamir Siddiqui, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Sindh University, Jamshoro (Pakistan) described how students in Pakistani universities reacted to the universal transition to distance learning due to the pandemic.
‘We asked 50 students about how self-isolation and transitioning to a new online format affected them psychologically,’ said Professor Siddiqui. ‘The results showed that of the 50 students, 43 did not handle being separated from their colleagues well. It should be noted that Pakistan is a land of collective culture and we believe that socialization and communication are very important. Therefore, the students said that it was quite difficult for them to switch to the online format, and due to all the limitations placed on socializing, students’ moods were negatively affected.’
Price Universities Pay for Remote Learning
At the panel session, ‘Economy of Online-Learning’, Viola Larionova, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Associate Professor, Deputy Vice Rector for Educational Technologies, Head of the Department of Economics and Management in Construction and Real Estate Development of the Graduate School of Economics and Management at Ural Federal University, gave a presentation entitled ‘Economic Aspects of the Urgently Required Transition to Distance Learning or What Price Universities Paid for the “Distance”’. The paper was co-authored by Tatyana Semenova, Research Fellow at the Center for Sociology of Higher Education, Institute of Education, HSE University.
The researchers calculated the direct and indirect costs that Ural Federal University incurred for organizing online education. ‘In terms of costs (or the price that the university paid for distance learning), the cost of instruction has increased, and significantly so,’ they said. ‘Synchronous work with students has decreased (it certainly affects communication, and we need to find other ways to communicate and strengthen this work). Instructors’ total workload has increased by 1.5 times, and the material costs for the educational process have increased.’
Larisa Titarenko, Candidate of Philosophy, Doctor of Sociology, Professor of Belarusian State University, gave a presentation entitled ‘Online Learning as a Tool of Internationalization’. She suggests that distance learning can integrate higher education in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
‘I have a very positive view of distance education, including at the international level. Because, in my opinion, distance education can further integration within higher education in the EAEU. And in this case, all countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, using distance education, can tackle their political and cultural objectives—especially Russia,’ said Professor Titarenko. ‘This would provide both high-quality education for all students of the Eurasian space, and a solution for important tasks of the association: its own Bologna system, only online.’
On December 2, there were also sessions and lectures devoted to topics including ‘Artificial Intelligence in Adaptive Learning’, ‘Organizational and Legal Aspects of Organizing Online Learning’, and ‘How Universities Use External Online Courses in Their Programmes’. You can learn more about the programme of the second day of the conference here.
Pivot to the East: A Comprehensive Study of the Cultural and Civilisational Centres of the Non-Western World is the Top Priority
China and the Chinese world, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arab countries, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and Africa are gaining new significance in Russia’s foreign policy. However, we do not know enough about the Eastern countries. It is necessary to change the priorities in education, starting from grammar school. Prospects for the development of domestic Oriental studies in the context of the new stage in the development of the system of international relations were discussed at a round table at HSE University.
Robert Romanowski was a ‘Digital Professor’ at HSE University in November 2021. In his interview for the HSE News Service, he talked about the specifics of online teaching, his course on Strategic Branding, and the skills that are essential for marketing professionals today.
There is major potential for economic and humanitarian cooperation between Russia and African countries. Particularly, Russian organisations and universities can help transfer competencies and knowledge in the fields of agriculture, energy, industrial production, environmental management, climate change, and public administration. Experts and representatives of African embassies in Russia discussed these issues at the round table ‘Russia-Africa Sharing Knowledge’ hosted by HSE University.
As part of an international project conducted with the participation of Roscosmos and the European Space Agency, a team of researchers used differential tractography to analyse dMRI scans ofcosmonauts’ brains and found significant changes in brain connectivity, with some of the changes persisting after seven months back on Earth. The paper is published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits.
HSE University-Perm and the Training Centre of the Uzbek Ministry of Finance Sign Cooperation Agreement
HSE University in Perm has become the first academic partner of the Training Centre under the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The parties have signed a cooperation agreement in education and research.
On November 9, 2021, HSE University signed a memorandum of understanding with Wageningen University & Research, a major university in the Netherlands and one of the leading agricultural research institutes in the world. Participants of the signing ceremony included HSE University Rector Nikita Anisimov, President of the Wageningen University & Research Executive Board Professor Louise Fresco, and Dutch Ambassador to Russia Gilles Beschoor Plug.
The majority of Russians would not agree to being fitted with microchip implants for any purposes—medical or otherwise. A joint study conducted by HSE University’s International Laboratory for Applied Network Research and Aventica found that respondents believe the risks of personal data leaks and misuse to be too high.
The 10th International Moscow Finance Conference, organized by HSE ICEF, took place on October 29–30 online. Vladimir Sokolov, Head of the International Laboratory of Financial Economics, which hosted the conference, talks about the participants, the key presentation topics and how they will impact the global economy.
The UN Climate Change Conference is taking place from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow. The conference focuses on preventive measures against the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of rising average global air temperatures. Igor Makarov, Head of the HSE Laboratory for Economics of Climate Change, will be taking part in the Glasgow conference. In the following interview, he speaks about the pressing problems Russia and the world are facing, and the research HSE scholars are doing on climate change.
HSE University and Coursera are bringing together the world’s leading researchers, professionals, education and technology leaders, and business community representatives for the fourth international research conference eLearning Stakeholders and Researchers Summit 2021 (eSTARS). This topic of this year’s summit, which will run from December 1–2, 2021,is ‘Digital Transformation: Global Challenges to the Education System’.