Modern digital educational environment

Russia is set on creating better conditions for continuous education; online courses are to play an important role in their development. The Ministry of Education and Science's project Modern Digital Educational Environment in Russia is aimed at promoting online education; it is expected that by 2020, there will be about three and a half thousand online courses on Russian platforms for online education, and more than six million university and school students, as well as more than 10,000 lecturers, will follow them. Such were the numbers reported by Vladimir Timonin, Deputy Director of the Governmental Higher Education Policy Department of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

Why has online education come to play an important role in the government's policy? The case is that it can provide the students with the opportunity to form an individual schedule and study from where it's most comfortable, following the programs they find most suitable. What's more, in future the students may get the opportunity to get credits for completing online courses.

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Despite the online format being a great complement to traditional educational processes, no one's talking about completely switching to it, underlines Ludmila Ogorodova, Vice Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. What is being discussed is solving different organizational and legislative issues, which will allow to fully implement online education as part of the country's educational system. Vladimir Vasilyev, ITMO's Rector, also noted that IT-solutions are to not just contribute to automation, but change the current business processes.

"If some IT-solution just provides for the university's business processes, there's no significant change or transformation - though that is yet a considerable improvement. The situation changes when the IT-solutions define the business process. This is what transformation means. You know how it happens in real life - I'm talking about uberisation, when an IT-solution fully transformed the taxi market. If we draw a parallel with universities, we can soon expect that lecturers will not teach students but bots will teach students. If we plan to transform, we have to understand that IT-solutions will define the business solutions. Everything else is just automation, where IT-solutions just provide for traditional processes," commented Vladimir Vasilyev.

ITMO University will develop a common portal for online courses

To carry out its project on developing online education, the Ministry of Education and Science initiated a contest on providing grants for project realization. ITMO's team got the grant on "development and approbation of a single-window system for accessing online courses with a common user identification and authorization system and creation of digital portfolios". So, what does this mean?

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The team took up the demanding task of creating a common portal that will bring together different online courses of Russian universities from different educational web-platforms. The portal will give the students an opportunity to find the desired course and get a link to the platform that hosts it. The advantage of a common portal is that only the courses that passed a certain quality assessment will be included; also, the users will be able to keep digital portfolios and store information about the courses they've completed.

ITMO is responsible for developing the access method to the online courses. Andrei Lyamin, Director of ITMO's Center for Distance Learning and the project's head, shared about the technical requirements that the courses will have to comply with. When filing an application for the course to be presented on the portal, its authors will have to give the experts access to its content, so it can be evaluated; also, there is to be pass-through authentication for the system, as the users will register, check the list of courses and use it to access the content via a "single window".

Andrei Lyamin

"An important part of this "single window" system is the digital portfolio. It will consist of two parts. The first will include marks for all the tests completed on the platform and the second - certificates published by educational establishments. Another requirement to the system is that it should collect data on how users complete online courses so as to analyze their content and give recommendations for improvement," explained Andrei Lyamin.

As of now, the common portal is still in its development stage, yet it will already host 200 online courses this year, and according to the Ministry of Education and Science's requirements, by 2018, their number is to reach at least 500.

ITMO's online course wins EdCrunch award

The results of EdCrunch Award-2017 were also announced at the conference. There were four nominations: Best practice for creating a mass open online course, Best practice for introducing an online course into the curriculum, Best course from the consumer's point of view (students' evaluation) and Best course from the guest experts' point of view. ITMO's Fundamentals of Management course developed by Boris Kovalenko and Alexandra Klochkova, lecturers at the Department of Financial Management and Audit got the Best course from the consumer's point of view (students' evaluation) award.

The course includes the fundamentals of enterprise management and offers an unusual representation of the scope and essence of management. The course's original feature is that its followers can train the skills they get on real cases by taking on the role of a manager or executive to analyze a particular situation.