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11:12 AM  July 15, 2020

Time for double classes: TSU academic year begin despite the pandemic

© РИА Томск. Андрей КузнецовTime for double classes: TSU academic year begin despite the pandemic

TOMSK, Jul 15 – RIA Tomsk. Video labs, lectures in recording and a lot of work on themselves – in that way TSU students and teachers survived the first "distant" experience. In RIA Tomsk interview vice-rector for academic affairs Evgeny Lukov told what will be the training in a new academic year, how freshmen will be met and why "offline" will always be better than "online".

Were ready to change

© РИА Томск. Таисия Воронцова
TSU vice-rector for academic affairs Evgeny Lukov
– What was the transition to the online format for Tomsk State University (TSU)? What difficulties did you encounter?

– Tomsk State University is large and very different, so it is impossible to make one decision for physicists, for example, and journalists ... Both teachers and students are also different: someone is comfortable working with a computer, someone is not comfortable.

For teachers, the difficulty was that it was necessary to quickly transfer the familiar format, familiar forms to remote ones – this is a completely different didactics, it is necessary to reassemble the course, it needs to be felt that students understand you, – these are, let’s say, completely different ways of holding attention.

Students who worked a lot in remote forms even without coronavirus switched quickly enough and did not experience discomfort. For those students who did not use these tools, but traditionally came to the library and read books, of course, it was harder. And distance format requires self-organization very much, but not all students can self-organize on time.

– What helped to cope with the transition?

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
– The University has been experimenting with different formats for about six to seven years. We are creating experimental zones, platforms for the development of new ones, we have developed these formats. They were local, in the form of models, but they were. We had the infrastructure, we had the tools. In general, probably, people were ready to change too.

Team laboratory classes via video

– Was it possible to transfer the entire educational process online? In what forms were the classes held?

– According to student reviews, approximately 50% of the activity – these were synchronized classes. In different faculties in different ways: somewhere it reached 100%, somewhere it was 30-40%, but we managed to prevent the “absentee” format.

Of course, part of the activity went into asynchronous forms. See, we don’t always start to act differently. It seems that the rain will pass and the umbrella does not need to be taken out. Therefore, the teachers also “froze” somewhere and thought: “I will give the task for a while, and after two weeks everything will be over, will get back on track, and I will continue to work as usual”.

– Have teachers been helped in any way to master new formats?

– How to conduct a better lecture, how to conduct a better seminar, how to include a student in activity – a large number of such short online courses were collected in a very short time. Therefore, teachers, in any case those who wanted to, got the opportunity to quickly build up their competencies in the possession of tools and in how to repack their courses.

– What about the labs of applied specialties’ students – after all, they can't be moved home or carried out via video?

– We transferred a significant part of the practices and laboratory classes to a later date, replacing them with theoretical courses from the senior program so as not to lose time. But one cannot say that nothing can be done at all.

– And what can be done?

– For example, you need to form a student’s ability to observe and describe what he sees. Therefore, the experiment, for example, of chemists, is recorded on a video camera, a video is posted, and the student observes and describes – this can be done online.

© РИА Томск. Таисия Воронцова
TSU hypercube

– How will such classes be organized further if the regime is extended?

– Now we are working on several options for how classes will be held for a mixed format, when some of the students are in the classroom and the other is outside. Now we are preparing a number of classrooms with special equipment that allows you to broadcast and record everything that happens there.

Each will have from six to 10 cameras that work in automatic mode. Artificial intelligence for a number of signs switches the focus, that is, it captures the board, if the teacher writes, it films experiments, there is a high-quality sound recording. At the same time, people are looking on the other side of the screen, and in the audience. Then the record is posted, and one can work with it later.

Better, worse or the same

– What feedback did the university receive from students and teachers about the organization of training? Has it gotten better, worse, or has nothing fundamentally changed?

– From the very beginning of the “distant”, we have been monitoring the educational process, we are receiving feedback from students and teachers.

Quite often, positive assessments of the online format were heard, in the sense that you can save time on the road, put the lesson at a more convenient time for everyone. However, it’s clear that this is not for everyone, somewhere it’s psychologically difficult, somewhere you don’t feel the audience, and this is very important. Students noted that if the lecture is on the record, you can always stop it, listen again, do not frantically write a compendium.

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
Students, in particular, of master's degree programs, are entering at an older age. Many start families early, work, and it is not always convenient for them to attend classes. At first we make concessions and tried to set classes in the evening. Now we upload many things to the network so that they can work remotely.

This format allows to distribute time differently and use it more efficiently. Therefore, those who want to enroll, but doubt that they will be able to combine work and study at the master's degree programs, – just enter. Your senior colleagues have tested this format.

– Did the quality of education change during this period?

– There is no need to prove that online is better than face-to-face format. It is initially targets other tasks. As a rule, if we are talking about quality training, this is training directly with the teacher. Only in the formats of personal communication with him you adopt the norms of professional activity. No online will help you here, but you can use it to solve certain educational problems.

Different scenarios

– What does TSU expect in the new school year after all? What are you preparing for? How will the learning process be organized?

– We can’t say exactly how we will start the school year, everything will depend on the epidemiological situation. Therefore, we are developing several scenarios. With the full-time format is everything clear, the curricula for it are developed.

There is a scenario for a mixed form of training, when some of the students are in the audience, some are online. And, of course, full online. I think that September will be, judging by the situation, online. Then gradually there will be a transition to mixed, and we really hope that at least in October-November we will reach the normal format. For different scenarios, we prepare different events and activities.

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
The university will establish new rules. The safety of the campus is important for us: the rules of resettlement, hygiene standards, including how students will enter the campus, how to move, how many times the surfaces will be treated, how the student will sit in the classroom.

– Are you planning to use any training formats that were updated or appeared during the "distant"?

– There are interesting formats, they were used for other purposes, and they can now be used in different ways. In the format of group work, various roles are determined, for example, who is the experimenter today, he comes to the laboratory, and the rest are in touch with him: one develops theoretical model, other looks for partners, then they gather and discuss. The next run you are changing.

Thus, fewer people are in the laboratory, social distance is maintained, and the same skills are set.

Probably, there will definitely be a format when a person works with his own educational goal and seeks information for it himself. That’s what the information society’s meant for. As man already joking on some programs, "Google is always there". Why fill your head with remembering a certain number of data, especially since they change.

Remote freshmen

– What awaits freshmen who are not familiar with the university and do not yet fully understand why they came here? How will they get into the process?

– We are making every effort to enable freshmen to begin training in a mixed format and to conduct part of the classes in person so that they can feel what a university is. At the same time, we hold several summer schools for teachers who will “go” to the first year: how to properly communicate information to students and not “lose” them if you still have to start the school year online.

Secondly, it is being worked out how students work independently. Thirdly, how to work with the electronic environment, what is a secure campus – these are the things for first-year students will be immediately put into curriculum.

– It turns out that their arrival in Tomsk at the beginning of the year is not planned at all?

– It is planned, we really want to accept freshmen in full-time format, for which a model of a safe campus is being developed, but everything will depend on the specific situation in Tomsk.

"New war" and its lessons

– Did TSU manage to learn any lessons from the experience, was it useful?

– As a rule, we always prepare for the last war, and then it turns out that the war is completely different. And no matter how we prepare for modern challenges, life is still more diverse, life is more complicated. Let's just say that the challenges that we saw were fixed, but it seemed that the solution to these problems would still be tolerated, that we would wait a little longer, the situation caused by the coronavirus exacerbated very sharply.

We started to look very seriously at what kind of software we had. Now we are trying to find those software products that, on the one hand, are free, as a rule, but at the same time allow us to solve our problems.

Infrastructure issue – how much space do we need to store files? For example, records of many of our workshops, lectures are stored – this is a huge array of information. Question about servers: how many of these servers are needed?

A very important point of training formats. What will be the didactics, what will be the methods, teaching methods after the end of the virus. If the lecture is in an online format, then what should it be: the same or different? As practice shows, digitizing the old process is pointless; you need to digitize the new one. We are now paying close attention to this didactics, to new techniques, and generally to rebuilding programs.

And how do you implement it online? There's no way. No need to implement it, this is a bad story. The important question is methodological: what are we doing and why? And then only – how. Online – is about how. But the main thing is to answer what and why.

The university should create a technical opportunity, a system of flexible curricula, provide a different time tracking, another schedule, another logistics. The role of the university, its administration, faculties, to create opportunities for program managers to make the most effective program.

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