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11:12 AM  December 3, 2020

Proactive learning: elements of quality education from TSU

© предоставлено пресс-службой ТГУProactive learning: elements of quality education from TSU

TOMSK, Dec 3 – RIA Tomsk. Modern education is undergoing global changes and brings to the fore the individual trajectory of a student's learning. Irina Kurzina, Executive Director of the TSU Institute of Smart Materials and Technologies told RIA Tomsk how this is implemented by Tomsk State University.

As reported on the website of the Institute of Smart Materials and Technologies, it was created at TSU as a Strategic Academic Unit (StrAU) within the framework of the competitiveness program (program 5/100) to form a scientific and educational center for interdisciplinary research of the world level.

The key task of the institute is to organize a unified scientific and educational environment based on a multi-level training system in order to accelerate the cycle of creating new materials and breakthrough technologies.

Education has to change

- Do you think education in Russia is getting better or worse?

- It is difficult to find criteria for the quality of education that would help answer this question. After all, society and technology are changing very quickly now. These processes affect relationships in society, the system of labor organization and, of course, education. There is an urgent need for proactive training of specialists.

High-quality modern education should include three elements: fundamental content, modern Internet technologies, additional soft skills and abilities. In general, the Russian education system is moving in this direction and seeks to prepare a specialist demanded in modern production.

- Will we be able to come to individual training, when the student himself chooses which courses he needs?

- Individual training implies the construction of an individual trajectory of personality development at the university, and not just the possibility of a variable choice of courses.

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
We see that the world universities – the leaders in the rankings – mainly build learning according to an individual trajectory and that the education of a modern specialist is much more complicated than education with a limited set of skills several decades ago. Therefore, we have no other choice but to move to an individual learning path.

Today's turbulence in the world is spurring the process of this transition and leaves an imprint on the implementation of experimental, practical disciplines. We strive to introduce into the educational process more courses related to modeling, situation analysis, process simulation, soft skills training courses.

But today we physically cannot carry out as many experimental works as it was possible earlier. This changes education, and there are heated debates about it.

Representatives of the traditional school are confident that students who have passed such a "virtual" training will not be able to work with their hands. I partly agree with this, but, nevertheless, we understand that the future belongs to deserted, robotic factories. So the education system for natural professions is being significantly modernized.

- How quickly will education come to such a paradigm?

- I think we are talking about a period of about 5 years. I cannot speak for all universities in the country, but I feel that the education system as a whole is changing.

At the same time, in order to get an effective specialist, to orient a student, you need to start working with him in the second or third years – to help with choosing his own educational trajectory, to include additional cross-disciplinary modules in the educational process. That is, to build that very individual training.

Need knowledge and skills from different sciences

- Let's talk about cross-disciplinary education at TSU. What are these new educational modules, what do they give the student?

- This is a separate educational product, the purpose of which is to provide key knowledge and tools for practical application within two to three semesters.

We started creating cross-disciplinary courses three years ago. Then it became clear that modern production requires specialists with new skills.

At the same time, launching a new traditional training course requires a lot of time and approvals. And the cross-module is not tied to a specific faculty or department, it gives interdisciplinary knowledge and skills to those students who are interested and want to acquire new knowledge, so that the creation of such modules can solve the problem of quickly introducing cross-modules into the educational process, tuned to advanced scientific research.

For example, the second stream for the "Quantum" cross-module under the guidance of Professor, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Semyon Lyakhovich has now been recruited. The module is in demand among students of natural science and technical specialties. The knowledge gained in the field of quantum technologies will help them in research scientific projects.

The first stream was attended by 160 listeners - students of TSU and other universities of Tomsk, this is quite a lot.

- How was the selection of listeners? Were all those who submitted applications accepted?

- Students with a certain level of knowledge in higher mathematics, basic elements of statistics, physics were able to get into the course. Those students who did not have sufficient knowledge were offered to take the "Prequantum" course to master the basic courses of the cross-module. This module can be included in educational programs at different faculties. It can be either basic or optional.

Our second cross-module is molecular biotechnology, headed by Professor Eduard Sazonov, Associate Professor Gleb Artyomov. Students of different specialties were also interested in this cross-module. In addition, several employees of manufacturing companies were also interested in this module as a professional development.

- Will there appear any other cross-disciplinary modules at TSU?

- Now we are developing an open cross-disciplinary module "Analysis Tools and Design Thinking for Industry 4.0" together with Tomsk Polytechnic University (Associate Professor Mikhail Semyonov) and Econophysica Ltd., Cognitive Technologies companies and key cases from EFKO Group (Sloboda and Altero brands). Company employees participate in the development of practical cases. It is important here that business supports science and wants to be a partner in the training of qualified personnel.

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
The new cross-module will be devoted to tools and algorithms for design thinking, data analysis, and the choice of directions for solving complex problems. Listeners will be offered real cases from the company. Such a case involves solving a production problem using a large amount of data and special algorithms for working with them. These skills are needed now by specialists in various industries.

The design thinking module will assist students of natural-scientific and technical specialties in developing decision-making abilities in non-standard environments. Together with the EFKO team, we have developed four cases for this cross-module.

- The scientific product should also be promoted among students ...

- ... therefore, another cross-disciplinary module will be associated with the training of specialists in the field of communications, negotiation in a foreign language.

It is suitable for specialists of any technical or natural science profile who plan to work as project managers in the international market and promote new developments.

We are also thinking about a module dedicated to the ability to present and visualize the obtained data and results. This is a skill that the specialist of the future must possess. Scientific information and results must be presented in the form of effective graphics, diagrams, concisely and succinctly. And we can provide basic tools for developing such a skill.

- What other projects with large companies are you implementing?

- TSU actively cooperates with Rostec, RUSNANO, EFKO, BIOCAD, SIBUR, Gazprom and others. Partner companies participate in olympiads, for example, "I am a professional", in the implementation of educational programs, internships and real research projects. In addition, specialists from companies undergo advanced training courses with us.

Learn from partners and create better conditions

- How important is it for Russian universities to have connections with foreign institutions and companies? Does the openness of the university lead to a drain of personnel abroad?

- Interaction with foreign universities is very important in order to have an idea of ​​how the educational and scientific environment is built in foreign organizations. Students and young professionals should have experience of working in various scientific teams, build communications, gain experience in working with modern equipment.

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
Brain drain is a common problem. Therefore, it is important for us to create here, locally, conditions for the self-realization of talented people. Tomsk is a student city, and of course, most of them leave after graduation to other cities, but I would like to see the best in our university.

Moreover, the very formats of joint research are changing. In the recent past, the scientific advisor and research workers worked side by side, in the same laboratory. Now research projects and joint scientific work are based on the interaction of various teams from different cities and countries. The presence of the Internet allows to always be in touch.

We have been doing this for six years. Our fellow scientists work in Germany, France, Brazil and the Netherlands. We communicate regularly via Skype or Zoom, being in close scientific contact all the time. In this state of affairs, the employee himself plans his working day, performs the assigned tasks.

- What seminars or webinars do you organize with foreign scientists?

- There was a very interesting seminar with the EFKO company. At the end of September 2020, Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Stefan Rokem conducted an educational intensive in microbiology for Tomsk students. We hope that the company will invite other scientists as well.

We organize regular courses of lectures – intensives with Professor Lothar Heinrich, Julia Krzyszkowska from Germany, we look forward to meeting with Professor Oleg Mayboroda from the Netherlands and other foreign scientists. This interaction is very effective, it allows to reduce travel time and focus on scientific research.

- That is, you were not surprised to work remotely because of the pandemic?

- With such a wide experience of working with a distributed team, the pandemic did not become a crisis for us. Previously, we were criticized for this style of work, but now many teams are moving to a remote and distributed style of work, and this is becoming the norm.

We hope that new training courses and formats will help our students to successfully solve the problems of the new reality and become truly specialists of the future.

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