Online learning experience: from better to best

Education 13 May 2020
UTMN switched to a distance learning format almost two months ago. Currently, we can say that our strategy isn't just working, but is gaining momentum.

Elena Tumakova, Acting Vice-Rector of Academic Affairs of UTMN, comments: "The transition to the online format was so rapid that we had to seriously reevaluate our approach to organizing the educational process. Our main goal is to provide educational content and ensure its quality. Now we have almost all the necessary regulations in place for organizing online education. Of course, some students felt that the study load increased. I do believe that the study process has become more intense, which should give us a better result".

We asked students of UTMN to share about how they were managing to adapt to new conditions and how their educational process was going.

Alexey Larionov, Institute of State and Law:

– Initially, we received assignments by e-mail, completed them, and sent them to teachers for feedback. All interactions took place through e-mail. Now we are moving on to videoconferences. Changes are always happening, and you have to adapt constantly.

  It’s great that our university has the opportunity to organize this type of education. There is a separate corporate mail with services connected to it. And Microsoft Teams is proving to be a convenient outlet. The main thing is that now you can hear and see your classmates and teachers because exclusively written communication can be inconvenient sometimes.

  Some of the downsides – not all of the teachers can organize a videoconference, and this is a little frustrating, although not critical. Perhaps, now it is important to provide teachers with tech support, because they are new to these digital platforms too.
It is great that we can continue our studies. It seems to me that the difficulties helped us, students, to understand how valuable personal meetings and simple human communication are. I still miss the classes at the university.

Vladislav Siutkin, School of Advanced Studies:

– I like online learning for several reasons. First, it is convenient to study at home: usually, I need an hour to get to campus, but now it is done in one click. Secondly, the feeling of formal and informal settings blending is interesting: we are simultaneously in our private worlds but still connected through a common space. But no matter how entertaining and time-saving this format is, higher education can not be reduced to seminars and lectures. The time we spend between lectures, on lunch breaks, after classes, it is an important part of learning, an important part for students and professors.

  I quickly adapted to distance learning. We communicate in Zoom, via email, through the Canvas platform and, at the request of students, in instant messengers. Some professors even talk to us on the phone, like my Thesis Director, for example. The learning process is standard: the teacher sends us a link to a meeting in Zoom and we join in. During the lesson, we can click a button – "raise your hand" and ask questions. We exchange materials by mail or on the Canvas platform, where the entire exchange of information between teachers and students at the School of Advanced Studies takes place.

Alisa Frolova, Institute of Physics and Technology:

– I like the format of distance learning: I have all the tasks in front of me, so I don’t have to scramble to remember what I was asked to do two weeks ago; it’s easier for me to e-mail a professor instead of waiting a week for a class to ask them in person; plus, I don't spend money on commuting.

  But the interaction with teachers is not going as well as we would like (professors at our institute are a bit older so to say): someone does not know how to do mass mailings, some can pass the information on only through our class leader. But there are several professors with whom communication is 100% established!

  It’s good that we have a corporate mail where you can exchange information with both students and teachers (though not all teachers manage to have a full dialogue through it).
Another plus of distance education is that we learn to correctly allocate time and set priorities, to think about what we should do today to meet the deadline. Since we at a point in our course where there are no laboratory works in physics that requires us to be present in person, we were lucky in some respects, because we can study all disciplines in a remote format.

Anna Scherbinina, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities:

– In all honesty, distance learning is not for me: I cant manage my time, I was unable to fully adapt to studying online, and generally the lockdown had a negative impact on my mental health. I am a very social person, and it is hard for me to be living without the possibility of moving around the city and meeting people.

  However, the educational process goes on. Interaction with teachers is done through webinars – there are no problems except my own – faulty internet connection; video lectures, when a teacher records lectures on a video and sends us mail, there is nothing to complain about; and, finally, communication with teachers by e-mail – we can ask questions and stay in touch. In general, interaction with teachers can be called well-organized. But my current state does not allow me to fully get involved in the process of distance learning.

Alena Gelenidze, Institute of Psychology and Pedagogical Sciences:

– Distance learning is going well. There is no shortage concerning sources of information provided. Teachers always share textbooks, articles, and materials, as well as answer any questions. Online consultations with video and audio communications proved to be very productive, they help us to better understand the topic, as well as ask about more complex concepts (I would like more of such consultations, lectures, or seminars in the future).
It is tricky to stay organized during distance learning. But it also allows you to notice the difficulties that arise in the process of studying, and learn to solve these problems over time, look for ways to develop time management skills, etc. Sometimes teachers advise us on how to stay on track.

  Unfortunately, sometimes there is not enough feedback from teachers about the work performed. We need it because, you can always find flaws and fix them, understand what the problem is, but without it it is quite difficult to do so.
In general, distance learning is as fulfilling as studying in a classroom. You can track your development because everything depends only on you. You can’t just sit back and do nothing, you need to do the work and to meet the deadline, so it’s important not to waste time, to use the opportunities to gain knowledge and develop yourself.

Nikita Gerkula, Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science:

– Many teachers found platforms (Google class, Microsoft Team) for moving classes online. They give out homework, which can be easily checked by yourself. I would like to say separately about the team of teachers of Digital Culture class, who have created groups for lecture and practical classes, where they post all the lecture classes and practical materials for laboratory work. I think this is very convenient!

  But there is a different side to online-studying. We are used to classes, where teachers can work with each student personally, which was not possible online. Many teachers do not conduct online classes, simply giving us a lot of extra assignments. To complete such tasks, you need to study new material independently. Besides, you must complete a rather impressive amount of practical tasks, it takes up to sixteen hours in a row (mathematics). For those teachers who succeeded in joining online lectures, everything turned out most successfully. I wish everyone else to look up to their colleagues and conduct classes in the same format.

Tatyana Tyumeneva, Institute of Finance and Economics:

– In general, thanks to the current situation, many realized that you can study at home, remotely. It's great that we have a connection with teachers. Most of them e-mail us and are very understanding. But there are also disadvantages. We have a lot of assignments. Tasks build up really quickly and it turns out that the students have a mountain of homework with a limited time to deal with it. Additionally, some of us are still confused about the "hows" and "wheres" of listening to a lecture. Unfortunately, assessing the knowledge of all students in this format is very difficult, and grades can falter. Personally, I can say that this training as a whole is interesting, but because of the difficulty of understanding how the online lectures work, how to meet the deadlines, we just lose time and interest. I wish there was more time for us to finish the assignments and, possibly, a different format for lectures. I want to note that I like the English language classes via Skype and the recorded philosophy lectures. They are clear, simple, and easy to use.

Source: UTMN Department of Strategic Communications

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