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Why HSE Isn’t Transitioning Back to In-Person Classes Yet

And other questions about course formats at HSE

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

A week ago HSE announced that it will continue online instruction until March 29.  Together with the Degree Programmes Department, we discuss why this decision was made and how the University could return to on-campus instruction earlier.

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Classes will be held in person beginning March 29

Beginning February 8, all Moscow universities will return to in-person classes. Why is HSE continuing online instruction?

Unlike the overwhelming majority of universities, HSE is on a quarter system, meaning that the academic year is comprised of four modules. We resumed classes after the winter break on January 11. Other universities are only returning to classes at the start of February.

Since the schedule for the third module has already been finalized, teachers have already made their course syllabi available, and course materials have already been adjusted for online instruction while maintaining the necessary number of contact hours, it would only be necessary to return to on-site classes before the end of the module if a reduction in educational quality were discovered.

We carefully examined the situation by comparing the results of second-module student teaching assessment for this year and last year. We found that students’ ratings of both their teachers and their courses did not go down (in fact, if there were differences, they were largely in favor of this year, though these differences were quite negligible).

In addition, the share of those who highly rate the opportunity to discuss educational issues with their teacher increased by one percentage point, amounting to 87%. This indicates the effectiveness of measures taken to maintain and even expand the consulting support for students.

Scores in clarity and consistency improved by 2% (up to 84%). This shows that HSE teachers have done some serious methodological work, and as a result, their presentation of course material online has been no less structured than it was in the classroom.

Before determining when HSE should return to in-person classes, we conducted a survey of student councils. The survey showed that the majority of students preferred to complete the third module in the same mode in which they started it.

Why was it decided to return to campus at the start of the next exam session rather than the beginning of the fourth module?

A significant number of HSE students have returned to their hometowns. Traveling back to Moscow, even if it only takes one day, can seriously cut into class time for students who are studying remotely. We have very tight course schedules every module, so it is better to avoid this risk.

Given HSE’s cumulative grading system, the exam session (especially when the exam weight is not critical) is a less busy week. Therefore, it will be more convenient for students to return to Moscow at the beginning of the session (or during the weekend preceding it).

How will the exam session of the third module be organized? Is it possible that classes that were taught online will now have in-person exams?

This issue is currently being discussed. Some faculties will decide to maintain the online format (for all or some exams). Students will learn the format of their exams for all of their classes no later than February 10. Changes will be posted on programme webpages or communicated via email by programme managers. It is possible that courses that have been taught online may have in-person exams.

Most of my classmates are ready to return to campus now. What do we need to do?

Contact your academic supervisor. Your supervisor, together with the student council and the dean, will determine whether it is possible. They will take into account how many students are currently outside Moscow and whether the teachers are ready to restructure their courses. Decisions on the early return for some or all classes before March 28 are made by Vice Rector Sergei Roshchin on the basis of the dean’s appeal.

My programme is returning to campus now. For personal reasons, I would prefer to continue studying remotely. What can I do?

You may write an appeal addressed to your academic supervisor outlining the reasons you wish to continue studying remotely. Academic supervisors will grant approval to such appeals on a case-by-case basis.

February 01