SUSU quickly moved to the distance learning mode. Alexander Demin, Director of the SUSU Institute of Open and Distance Education, talked about the implementation of the process and the way the current situation would affect the development of distance education.
Distance education depends on several conditions. Firstly, you need a good reliable Internet, powerful servers with disks of big capacity, since due to large-scale distance learning a lot of information is accumulated that needs to be stored. We need specialists who will monitor the maintenance of the system and the faults when these occur. All these conditions can be found at the university and they work in an organized manner in the system.
These three parameters are very important; however, there is one more that is the success of distance learning, which is the training of teachers for this format of work. It is impossible to prepare people overnight, you need to start doing it in advance and gradually. SUSU has been intensively engaged in this work for the last 5-6 years. Special educational programs were created for the portal's functioning, e-learning and pedagogical design. One of them is a professional retraining programme “Pedagogical Technologies in Distance Format at SMART University”. It was attended by about 560 teachers, which is one third of the teaching staff. This training was conducted remotely, and the teachers had the opportunity to feel as students.
“It is an important moment, when you are in a student’s shoes, as then you start thinking about the way the information can be conveyed more effectively. When a teacher happened to be an attendee him-/herself, s/he would understand the advantages of a forum and what questions could arise, how a lecture could be conducted in an accessible and understandable way,” noted Alexander Demin, Director of Institute of Open and Distance Education.
In 2015, SUSU entered Project 5-100. The Institute of Open and Distance Education participated in four fields under this project. The essence of one of them was that all courses should have a “mirror” in a distant format. Therefore, in 2019, the Rector issued an order to create courses in the distance learning system Electronic SUSU. So, all the university teachers learnt the principles of the portal.
SUSU planned to expand the possibilities of distance education, and in November 2019 a powerful server designed for distance learning was purchased. The teachers had a task to download information to verify its operation. Then 300-500 people could enter the portal at the same time. And now, when there is a need to massively use distance education, additional big-capacity disks have been purchased for this server. Today, up to 4000 people can log into the portal at the same time, which is 10 times the peak value of the last semester.
Electronic SUSU is a resource that helps the work of teachers and students; with its help you can return to the material of classes at any time and keep in touch with each other. For successful studies, the portal has almost everything you need: theoretical material, algorithms for solving problems, tips that you can use in case of difficulty, training tests, and reference materials. Students have the opportunity to personally "attend" online lectures by their teachers without leaving home, or watch lectures later in recording. Today, on the distance education portal of SUSU there are more than 100 different courses for schoolchildren, students, postgraduate teachers and public officials. A common educational innovation are the massive online open (free) courses (MOOC), which allow you to demonstrate the advantages of national education to an unlimited number of students from around the world with different interests and levels of training, and thus form brands of specific universities.
Every year, distance education is gaining momentum, and in the current situation it is the best way to continue learning. In addition, the university has noticed the interest of applicants to distance education programmes already now, long before the start of the Admissions Campaign. Over the past week, letters were received with questions from the future students. In the previous years, such an early interest was not noticed.
SUSU has been engaged in distance education for a long time. The Institute of Open and Distance Education has been functioning since 2001. Its work began with case studies, when paper materials were sent to students. Then the CDs with the same materials in electronic format were replicated.
In 2007, the university moved to online education, as a stable high-quality Internet channel for the entire structure of the university appeared at SUSU. This is a powerful Internet capable of transmitting big amounts of data, including ensuring online broadcasting. When the Internet began to spread further and further to the most remote corners of Russia, SUSU registered a great increase in students studying remotely. The target audience has changed: earlier, only students from large cities could study on a distant basis, and now many of such students live in rural areas.