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Regular version of the site

Just as Good as Offline

How students assess the transition to distance learning

© Daniil Prokofiev

In the recent module, new survey questions were added to the Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) form. Students were asked to evaluate how prepared instructors were for conducting their courses online, how well course content was adapted for the online format, and how MOOCs (massive open online courses) were used in teaching.

Judging by the TQA results, the university has successfully transitioned to distance learning. The students highly rated their teachers’ preparedness for teaching online and the adaptability of the course content, giving them average scores of 4.5 and 4.3 out of 5, respectively. These results are comparable to the scores received on traditional TQA forms and are even higher in some cases.

The criterion ‘Preparedness for distance teaching’ closely correlates with the other aspects of teaching, which are assessed in the TQA, according to the Centre for Institutional Research. This may indicate, for example, that teaching quality is a general characteristic, independent of whether the person is teaching in person or online.

Read more

What students think about strict teachers and why seminars are more popular than lectures

What Was Different This Year?

As compared with this same period last year, student assessment of teachers and courses during distance learning haven’t worsened, and in some cases, have even improved. For example, on questions regarding the teacher’s ‘availability outside of class for discussion of academic or research-related matters’, ‘teacher-class communication’, ‘clarity and consistency of study materials’, and ‘clarity of requirements of students’, scores improved.

Anna Korovko
Senior Director for Full Degree Programmes

‘The stability of the median scores of the TQA is a sign that teachers have managed to maintain the quality of their teaching, despite the change in format.

This is possible when both students and teachers have a high level of preparedness and ability to work in an online format. This is thanks to HSE University’s experience of using various IT systems before the pandemic, and a decent level of digital education. In addition, our advantages in the spring of 2020 were the compulsory requirement that students take at least one course as a MOOC and that teachers supervise such a course (advising, exams).

I believe that the improvement of scores in categories such as ‘teacher’s availability outside of class for discussion of academic or research-related matters’, ‘teacher-class communication’, ‘clarity and consistency of study materials’, and ‘clarity of requirements of students’ was predictable with the use of distance learning technology in the study process.

Online, teachers aren’t able to react to students face to face in the classroom, and they have to structure their assignments more clearly, including those aimed at assessing whether students have understood the topic or not. When teachers prepare materials for online classes, they pay more attention to timing and trying to put things more clearly (avoiding diverging from the topic and contextual remarks). This is what many teachers have mentioned in their feedback.

The schools’ and departments’ message to the teachers to preserve and expand opportunities for advising to students has also played a role. The communication means chosen by teachers, which allow to identify students by their names, really help them maintain contact with students outside of the classroom. I believe that these opportunities will be further used by our teachers in the ordinary, post-crisis learning process.’

Massive Open Online Courses

One of the online learning mechanisms, which has been implemented in the university’s curriculum a long time ago, is MOOCs on Coursera and the National Open Education Platform (NOEP). The recent TQA campaign also assessed (for the first time) the inclusion of MOOCs in students’ curricula – in 390 various subjects at all four university campuses. The students were very interested in the issue and left over 1,500 detailed text comments about the MOOCs they took.

Sergey Roshchin
HSE Vice Rector

‘For the last three years, the university has been consistent in implementing elements of online education in all of its programmes. The requirement to include MOOCs in the curricula since 2017 has helped both teachers and students gain skills for online teaching and learning.

I would like to mention our teachers’ professionalism and their interest in innovations, which helped many of them take initiative in mastering the new teaching technologies. This experience has been networked by the school of online education, which was organized in the first days of transition, where teachers shared their experiences.

An important contribution to maintaining the quality of education in the new circumstances was made by our colleagues from the IT Office, who were quick to provide access to many digital teaching tools and organized consistent advising support for the teachers.’

What Problems Do the Students Mention in Their Feedback?

The students were able to leave a comment and explain the grade they have put in TQA. Usually, the low grades (1-3) were due to the organization and timing of their classes (for example, the teacher cancelled the online classes or sent late notifications), the lack of adaptability of the grading system to distance learning, and bad selection of MOOCs on Coursera and NOEP.

A Heterogeneous Situation

The TQA data demonstrates that different HSE faculties and departments adapted to distance teaching differently. Students of the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs have had relatively fewer questions to the quality of distance teaching. Students of engineering and natural sciences (MIEM HSE, Faculty of Physics, and Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology) were a bit more critical about the transition to distance learning. A major part of their studies is laboratory work, which is probably the most difficult thing to be organized online.

Read more

On June 16, HSE’s final Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) for this year comes to its conclusion. This is an important mechanism, which helps us receive student feedback about courses and instruction at our university. Below, HSE University Life considers five key questions of the TQA.

Ivan Gruzdev
Director for Internal Monitoring and Student Academic Development

‘Over the last several months, my colleagues and I have carried out several sampling studies on Russian students’ experience with distance learning. These surveys demonstrate that despite certain problems, most students are more or less satisfied with how universities have organized the online studies. HSE University students’ assessment of the process has been a little more positive on average than that in other universities. Today, we’ve got the TQA results with two new criteria aimed at assessing the online format specifically. This is a complete assessment, rather than a sample, but I would say it is consistent with what we’ve previously observed in surveys. HSE teaching staff managed to prepare for distance teaching in a short time and adapt their courses accordingly. It is particularly interesting that the scores in the ‘traditional’ TQA criteria are not lower than those received last year.'

The Centre for Institutional Research has launched two projects at the Project Fair, which are related to student teaching quality assessment. The first will analyse the text comments by HSE University students, which describe their impressions of the study process at the university. The second will investigate the global experiences of student surveys about the teaching quality. Interested students are welcome to participate!

July 06