Russian New University, 105005, Radio str. 22, Moscow, Russia

Vladimir Zernov: “The development strategy of universities changes dramatically”

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On June 17, 2020, the rector of the Russian New University (RosNOU) Vladimir Zernov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper about the work of universities after the pandemic, distance learning, and university development strategies.

Today we all live in new conditions. In the spring, almost the whole world switched to distance learning and remote work. But distance learning is a technology and, like any technology, especially educational one, requires a very careful attitude to itself and precise implementation.

Even 10-15 years ago, in order to teach in a remote format, it was necessary to obtain the appropriate permission. Universities were given an application for a license that allows teaching online. Then only seven universities throughout the country received such permission, including RosNOU. Why so few? Despite all the clarity and transparency, the criteria were very stringent, and then this procedure was canceled. Many universities actively introduced distant elements, and the availability of a license became irrelevant.

But our experience was not in vain, and this year we quickly transferred full-time education to the online format. Those universities that have never done this have had to take foreign technologies and use foreign courses. But high-quality distant learning is a complex and time-consuming process. Success here is possible only if the university designs its programs, courses, and develops clear requirements for examinations.

We can talk about the results of the "remote" learning after the exam session. But now it’s already clear: such studies require great efforts, first of all, from teachers. Work has become much harder. The educational process has become individual, therefore more difficult for students – this form of training requires truly miracles of self-discipline and self-organization from them.

We can say for sure: the development strategy of absolutely all universities will change. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that the university has always had two main tasks – the training of high-quality personnel and the generation of new knowledge. The second task will remain generally the same – education without science is impossible. But the learning process will be different. It is clear that much attention will be paid to distance learning. Maybe the students themselves will not want to spend all the time in classrooms, but they will want more practice. Maybe they will like to master the theoretical material independently and remotely and attend full-time only at seminars, practices, consultations, and exams.

Let’s recall the experience of Soviet higher education: students independently studied the discipline and then came to the university to take exams. In particular, they came from all over the country to be transferred to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and successfully passed exams, including taking the most difficult course in theoretical physics. And not always those who studied in person turned out to be the best on the exam. And then, and now a lot depends on the motivation of the student.

I am sure that in the new conditions the indicators of the competitiveness of universities will also change. It is not for nothing that in the criteria of the Moscow international rating “Three University Missions” there were entire subsections regarding the use of distance technologies, both in terms of online courses offered by universities and in terms of Internet communications between universities and society. Higher education institutions, where there are many laboratory classes, will find it difficult to fit into the new format, but after some time we will all get used to it. At the same time, the quality of specialist training will be far from suffering but may increase significantly.