FAQ for students (cont’d)

17. If a student wishes to opt for the distance learning format due to the pandemic, can they still attend classes in person if they wish to do so?

When you opt in for the distance learning option, you thereby confirm that throughout the time period outlined in your request, you will only study online. If you plan to attend classes in person, you’ll need to retract your request. A corresponding option will become available via ISU starting on August 29 in the Student Services Office tab.

The university will monitor attendance and reference it with the list of students on distance learning to ensure compliance with their chosen study format.

18. I am currently in a different city and will only be able to come to St. Petersburg for the period of September 2-4. Do I need to request distance learning for the period of September 1-4?

The academic year at ITMO begins on September 1. For that reason, you will need to notify us that you’ll be studying online during the period of September 1-4 (with reasons specified) and will then continue your studies in person.

This is important because the first classes are when the teaching staff familiarize students with the specifics of their discipline and the formats of final assessment

Teaching staff will be informed which students will need to receive these materials online.

First-year students must submit their request before or on September 4. For them, classes begin according to schedule on September 7 upon the completion of ITMO Enter (August 17-31) and Introduction Days (August 31 – September 4).

Online marathon ITMO Enter
Online marathon ITMO Enter

19. What’s the difference between distance learning and blended learning?

Distance learning is a study format in which students and teachers interact remotely with the use of digital tools. During distance learning, students not only carry out independent studies (watch pre-recorded seminars, complete assignments, etc.), but also actively consult with their professors using videoconferencing tools or chat apps and interact with fellow students using various digital tools and services.

Blended learning is a combination of conventional class formats where students come to class in person and an online format with elements of online learning and distance learning technologies, utilizing videoconferencing systems, virtual simulators, online courses, and so on.

This means that classes can involve direct or distanced interaction between students and teaching staff (synchronous and asynchronous).

Thus, distance and blended learning are organizational formats and are not related to forms of higher education (i.e. full-time, part-time, and remote).

20. Would it be a problem if I were to switch from distance to blended learning, say, in mid-October? Or am I supposed to complete the semester online?

If you have clearly outlined the period during which you’ll be learning online in your ISU request, there won’t be any issues. This information is needed to help organize the learning process at the university.

21. Will students who picked the on-site format still have access to the contents of classes held online?

Students have access to all educational material used by their professors during class.

22. What if I decided to attend my classes in person, but then fell ill? Do I need to apply for distance learning since I can’t attend classes?

If you have become ill, the process remains the same as it was before the COVID-19 prevention measures were instituted. Within three days of receiving the medical documents confirming your inability to attend classes, you must inform the Student Services Office by writing to so@itmo.ru about your absence and attaching scanned copies of your medical documents.

23. Have there been any changes to the preventative measures in St. Petersburg since August 16?

By a decision of the Government of St. Petersburg, educational activities will continue to be held online until August 30.

FAQ for staff

1. When and how will studies begin at ITMO University?

The academic year at ITMO University starts on September 1, 2020 in the blended format. According to the class schedule, this will be an odd-numbered week.

First-year students of Bachelor’s and Master’s programs begin classes on September 7, 2020.

Students of second-through-fourth years begin classes according to their schedule on September 1, 2020.

2. What is blended learning?

Blended learning is a combination of conventional class formats where students come to class in person and an online format with elements of online learning and distance learning technologies, utilizing videoconferencing systems, virtual simulators, online courses, and so on.

This means that classes can involve direct or distanced interaction between students and teaching staff (synchronous and asynchronous).

3. Is it mandatory for students to attend offline classes?

Students may not attend classes in person if they have remained in their home city/country or have come to St. Petersburg but opted for distance learning due to health concerns. In order to do that, students must submit an online request by August 28, 2020 through their personal ISU page by going to the Student Services Office tab.

4. Are teachers free to decide the format (in-person or online) of their classes?

All classes and practical training in the 2020/2021 academic year are implemented in the blended format. That means that teachers prepare their material in two forms: for on-site classes, during which students are directly present in class, and for online classes, during which students study course material using various digital means (online courses, video calls, etc.). Regardless of the format, a necessary element is live synchronous communication with students – “here and now,” even if that requires the use of remote communication technologies.

5. Can I teach my classes online instead of coming to university?

The university is focused on on-site learning and we expect 90% of students to attend classes in person. Nevertheless, teaching staff above the age of 65, suffering from chronic illness, or having other important reasons not to be present in person are allowed to continue self-isolation and conduct their classes remotely.

In this event, staff must notify the university in advance (by August 28, 2020) of how they plan to conduct their classes and whether they have all equipment or material necessary to conduct classes remotely. Such requests will be made available to submit via ISU; further updates on this functionality will follow.

If you do not yet have an ISU account and will not receive one by August 28, please notify the Office of Faculty Support (faculty@itmo.ru) or the Center of International Faculty Support (inv@itmo.ru). These notices will be processed by our staff and relayed to the heads of faculties (institutes, clusters, etc.).

If necessary, you will be able to recall your request by writing to the same email address.

6. Will online classes double as on-site ones by occurring simultaneously (via livestream) or will they be recorded for use by students studying remotely?

There are several options:

Option 1: the teacher conducts a class at the university and it is simultaneously broadcast online. Afterwards, a recording of the lecture is also made available.

Option 2: the teacher conducts a class via Zoom (or another conferencing tool) while recording it; this recording, too, is made available afterwards.

Option 3: the teacher records a lecture in advance and makes it available online; at the same time, they also conduct online or offline workshops and consultations on the subject of the lecture.

More challenging is the implementation of disciplines that include either practical or lab work. It would be sensible to conduct these in person; if you have students who are studying remotely, we suggest finding digital substitutes (virtual lab assignments, simulations, etc.); if no such substitutes can be found, the classes can be replaced with theoretical assignments that still require students to hone their knowledge and skills related to the subject.

Regardless of the format chosen by students, they must be provided access to all educational material (including recordings of the classes).

7. Which materials should I, as a teacher, prepare in advance to conduct my course online?

Teachers need to develop an approach to working with three student categories:

Group 1: those who will be present at all on-site classes;

Group 2: those who will be present at some on-site classes and will join others remotely;

Group 3: those who will attend all classes online.

If you believe that you’ll need the help of a student assistant, send a message to mentors@itmo.ru.

8. Where can I learn more about the blended learning format and the opportunities offered to teaching staff by the university?

The ITMO.Distant website is the main informational resource used to implement blended and distance learning.

A special intensive online course for all ITMO teaching staff will be held on August 24-29, 2020 and will cover the specifics of blended learning and the educational process in the 2020/2021 academic year. The course will be held online. To participate in the course, sign up here.

If you are unable to participate in the course, all its materials (including the interactive textbook and recordings of webinars) will be available at ITMO.Distant.

In addition, Introduction Days for staff will be held on September 4 and 7, 2020. There, you’ll be able to receive updates on the key new features of the 2020/2021 academic year and receive answers to any questions you might have left.

The September 4 event is intended for teaching staff who have recently begun working at ITMO University as well as those who wish to learn more about the specifics of the educational process at ITMO.

The meeting will be held on-site at Lomonosova St. 9. Sign up by filling out this form (in Russian).

Further information about the meeting on September 7 will become available later.

9. Where do I go if I have more questions?

Please direct any questions you have to the Office of Faculty Support (faculty@itmo.ru) or the Center of International Faculty Support (inv@itmo.ru).

Department of Academic Affairs