Launched in the spring of 2018, the ITMO.EXPERT project is aimed at helping ITMO University lecturers use digital technology in their work, as well as creating a platform for ideas and experience exchange. A total of 316 people have taken part in the project so far, with 145 new lecturers joining this year.
The program of this year’s project featured 20 workshops grouped into 10 modules: online learning, e-learning, digital pedagogics, motivation strategies, project-based learning, research work, collaboration & communication, team building, methods of group work, and the School of Aspiring Lecturers. Among the most popular were the School and the workshop on project-based learning; these activities attracted the biggest number of participants and received the best feedback. What is remarkable about this project is that lecturers had the opportunity to participate in it as both speakers and students.
“The main goal of the ITMO.EXPERT project is to help our lecturers boost their competences in pedagogics and start using modern educational technologies in their work more extensively in order to propel the quality of education at ITMO to the next level. I participated in the project as both a speaker and a student, and it was a very enriching experience for me. For example, I learned about the benefits of the Trello platform. I myself gave a lecture on the latest advancements and future prospects in the field of digital technologies. There are many interesting ideas in education which aren’t brought to life for one particular reason: the majority of lecturers aren’t ready to neither use new technologies in their work nor even try to grasp their meaning and benefits. Take interactive boards on the internet as an example. Most people only use these for drawing, and just a few understand that it can be a useful tool for building a collaborative environment and engaging students in more interaction and productive work,” shared Alexey Dukhanov, a professor at ITMO’s Institute of Financial Cybertechnologies and chief research associate at the National Center for Cognitive Technologies.
Each workshop is conducted as part of a particular module, featuring the main trends in higher education, such as digital pedagogics, online technologies in education, etc. What is truly special about ITMO.EXPERT is that it gives its participants an invaluable opportunity to share knowledge and experiences.
“This year, there were more lecturers who didn’t hesitate to share their negative experiences and hear out their colleagues’ opinions about what could be done to solve a particular problem. It may well happen that when preparing for the meeting, a lecturer can find the answers to the questions that they thought they couldn’t answer before,” explains Olga Eliseeva, head of the Department of Educational Quality Assurance, and ITMO.EXPERT project manager.
A new module, the School of Aspiring Lecturers, was introduced into this year’s ITMO.EXPERT program. A total of 16 meetings was organized as part of this module, which became one of the most popular among the participants. The main goal of this initiative was to help young ITMO University educators blend in and familiarize themselves with the university’s corporate culture and educational traditions. The main focus of workshops in this module was on modern approaches to the assessment of students’ academic performance, development of skills in students and overcoming difficulties associated with teaching first-year students.
“Both the university administration and lecturers understand that the main focus of today’s educational system is on students,” continues Olga Eliseeva. “However, it doesn’t mean that students are always right, it’s just that students and lecturers should work as equals in the educational process. A lecturer is still a professional, but their key task now is to help students reach the same level of professionalism in their studies. Thus, we can build trust-based relationships with our students and show them that they can contribute to the development of the educational process and that their opinion is important.”
Another crucial part of this year’s ITMO.EXPERT project was the academic mobility contest for ITMO lecturers. The thing is that participation in the project gives teachers additional benefits when applying for an academic exchange program.
The second season of ITMO.EXPERT ended with a meeting, during which participants discussed what an ideal modern lecturer should be like. Participants were offered to think about and discuss with colleagues this ideal teacher’s lifestyle, their aspirations and challenges they may face in their work. When discussing positive features, all lecturers mentioned good communication skills and creativity. Among the key competencies noted was expertise in one’s field of study, good conflict management skills and ability to monitor students’ emotional state. In addition to that, modern lecturer should use digital technologies in their work and be willing to help students not only in their working hours.
“This is my second time taking part in the ITMO.EXPERT project. What I like about it is the format of its activities, the topics discussed at the meetings and the opportunity to build your own educational trajectory. I’m not new to teaching, but I still found it really useful,” shares Svetlana Banar, an associate professor at the Faculty of Cryogenic Engineering.
In the following season of ITMO.EXPERT, the coordinators plan to use new formats of interaction, including remote ones, and also attract invited experts. This will allow the organizers to give the project more visibility and make its content more flexible and comprehensible for ITMO University educators.