Virtual diploma: how to get online education in Russia

It is possible that in ten years we will not see a traditional summer crowds of students storming the reception Committee. The University campuses are empty, and the time of receipt will be marked by a sharp increase in traffic to online educational platforms. Already today it is possible to obtain a higher education diploma of the state sample in a prestigious University from the comfort of home — however, while in the test mode.

Race world universities in the sphere of online education comes from the humanistic Maxim: regardless of the place of residence of the person should be able to get a higher education relevant to their specialty. And although the thought of it not us, the very idea is particularly topical for Russia — with our, on the one hand, vast territories, on the other — with a sufficiently deep penetration of the Internet. A well-organized online learning can lead to real intellectual breakthrough of the country — especially if we are not lazy and in the coming years, do it right.

Catching up

The world’s leading platform for moocs of Coursera and EdX, which already work for an audience of millions, started just four years ago. Interestingly, both platform created on the initiative of universities: the first done by a joint effort of Harvard and mit, and the second — by the professors of Stanford. In addition to the global (read: American) players in the major countries has a local — in Russia, for example, Universarium, Lectorium, Stepic and launched last year (also at the initiative of the universities) national platform for open education (NPOO). Today hundreds of universities involved in creation of online courses and programs, and Russian universities are no exception — St. Petersburg state University, HSE, MIPT, ITMO, University, Polytechnic, Moscow state University, Ural Federal University were the pioneers in the field of distance education on the Internet.

The Russian platform of open education appeared not much later than their foreign counterparts, however, in the US have 10-15 years of successfully operating system is not a mass of online education when you can learn a few dozen or a hundred, but not hundreds of thousands. For example, at the University of southern California (USC), many classrooms are equipped taking into account the interests of those who chose online learning. With the help of such programs online graduate programs in the United States is prepared even space engineers, and technology are accompanied by structured administrative procedures to ensure, for example, the fairness of the exams.

In Russia it was always considered that to organize such training is too difficult and expensive, but the effect is weak. But the topic of online education is quickly picked up not very conscientious private universities who have started to trade diplomas, pretending to teach something over the Internet. The reputation of online education in Russia was hit hard by this.

Meanwhile, our Western colleagues in the past year, appeared the first master’s program that applies the tools of mass online education. For example, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Institute of Technology) with the help of a program already trains more than 3000 people, each of whom pays not the usual $50 000, and about $7000. That is, technologies used to teach in one course not 50 or 100 people, but tens and hundreds of times more.

All is not lost

Despite the aforementioned factors, and even in spite of them, in Russia, the huge development potential of online education. Courses made by the hands of enthusiasts, people showed the fundamental possibility of such training. In addition, in Russia in General is good, fast and cheap Internet that is not for those of US who suffer from their dependence on outdated infrastructure. I recently returned from Stanford, and if you look on the Internet in the homes of local residents, it is safe to say that the citizens of the Moscow suburb, it is much faster and cheaper.

In recent years much has been done for the emergence of mechanisms of fair compulsory exams. Everyone is cursing the exam, but it was a huge work: the Institute of public observation, video recording established across the country. This means that for higher education we these mechanisms will build on empty ground.

We have time to catch up with colleagues and due to the current in the Russian system of education. We have the ability to quickly conduct large-scale educational experiments, mobilizing all resources around a common goal. In the US, for example, impossible to introduce any innovation in one order: in all States of their legislation, including in the educational sphere. In Russia, the law is one, and in recent years has clearly shaped the willingness of the Ministry of education and science to participate in this process. Helps and operation of the service, which in recent years have closed many paid universities selling diplomas and discredit online education as such.

A diploma from the Internet

Now the state is clear that online education needs to not only maintain, but to make a mass, to build a structure of higher education system — and this requires mechanisms for the recognition of academic achievements obtained online. In Russia there are no regulations on this yet.

There is also the problem of quality of online education, and to speak intelligently about the quality, it should be able to measure. Assessment methods in Russia yet. So one of the key tasks of the region — in parallel with practice, to stimulate research and public discussion of their results.

This year we are the first Russian leading universities trying to start up a real full-line master’s diploma of the state sample. Specialization is called “Combinatorics” and corresponds to a similar full-time programme. Like any standard graduate, it will last two years. The master’s program devoted to the study of modern discrete mathematics and its applications in computer science and in the analysis of complex networks is a kind of mathematical Foundation needed as IT specialists and mathematicians of the future. After you graduate with a diploma, you can go to work as a programmer in IT company or an analyst in a Bank, to find ourselves in bioinformatics or Economics of complex systems.

This is an exciting step. For every University online program the opportunity to expand the involvement of talented students, but this is terra incognita. Because earlier in Russia did not do this we will have to step on all the rakes, to study all the nuances in practice and largely to build the program together with the students.

Today, the main problem is the transition to online education (in addition to the technological gap) is the confidence of society. But I believe that we will be able to fight it. If we don’t take the time to put some large experiments, to honestly examine their results, to understand how teaching online differs fundamentally from full-time to neutralize these differences — the country will have the unprecedented opportunity available a good education at any point where there is Internet. This means that areas suffering from depopulation, can leave the best shots for themselves, without depriving them of career prospects. Families who can’t afford to send a talented child in a large city will have high-speed Internet access. Instead of “brain drain” in large regional centers, intelligent clusters can appear directly on the ground. Online education will be able to drastically change the cultural and economic landscape of our large and complex country.

The authors ‘ point of view, articles which are published in the section “Opinions” may not coincide with ideas of editorial.