Traditionally ITMO University organizes Entrance Competitions (or Olympiads) for high school students. According to the new rules established by the Ministry of Education and Science in 2015, the winners and those who take the medal places gain extra points for their results of the Unified State Examination. The first round is an online contest aimed at selecting participants for the final round [One can take part in Math, Physics, Chemistry, Russian and a foreign language as well as Social Studies Olympiads -Ed.]. This spring the Non-classical University is to reach a new level — this will be the first time when the online round is based on the social network VKontakte.

To participate, schoolers have to join the official online public page of the entrance competition, fill in the form and wait for the tasks. The interaction with a testing platform looks the same as if you chat with your friends in a social network. These conditions may seem like the perfect chance to cheat, but it will not work because for the second offline round participants are forbidden to bring any notes.

The participants have to submit an application before 14 February. The online part will be on February 15−28, the offline one will be on 25 March. Some ten Russian students with the best results who live out of St. Petersburg will be awarded with a grant for visiting the city. ITMO and VKontakte have prepared presents for those who will take the medal places. Russians and citizens of the CIS can participate in the Olympiad.

According to Lidia Perovskaya, tutor at the Computer Technology Department, who organized lots of programming Olympiads and contests, for many people, social networks became an integral part of their lives. That is whу the idea of expanding platforms for interacting with newcomers and students through social networks is a top-priority goal for ITMO.

"Many parents don’t allow their children to spend too much time on social networks, as it prevents them from preparing for exams. However these days it is impossible to prepare without using a computer and internet. VKontakte is one more information source, as students interact with their classmates and discuss tasks," says Ms. Perovskaya.

Previously social networks were used for these purposes when Vkontakte organized its Hackathon and when Facebook initiated its Hacker Cup, an international open coding championship where Gennady Korotkevich, ITMO’s student, won twice.

As Ilya Krasilnokov, head of VKontakte’s Press Office, noted, it is a new trend when schools, colleges and universities use social networks for interacting with students. VKontakte has various tools for these purposes: it is possible to create an online community where all participants can chat, there is a service for online broadcasts, which can be used for giving lectures or passing oral exams. There are also special apps for testing students or developing an interactive schedule.

According to Anna Veklich, Head of the Strategic Communications Department, solving Olympiad tasks with the assistance of social networks will become something common, as schoolers use them for communication much more frequently than other sources.

"Youth is definitely the university’s target audience. They are always the first to look for new ways of getting information. If a university doesn’t keep up with the times, it loses its audience. We speak the same language as our students so as to attract gifted children," noted Ms. Veklich.

ITMO was one of the pioneers who used new communication tools: it has communities on VKontakte and Facebook (both in Russian and English languages), an official blog on Habrahabr, courses for the edX project, services for online entrance exams for Master’s and PhD students, and ITMO.STORE where you can buy clothes and gifts with the university’s motto online. ITMO also plans to increase the amount of communication facilities. As Ms. Veklich noted, in the nearest future ITMO may use the VK Live application for organizing remote testing.

Read more about "ITMO VKontakte" Entrance Competition in Russian, here.