«sis Daniya Akhmetova, Liliya Vorontsova, and Ilona Gennadyevna Morozova Institute of Economics, Management and Law, Russia Abstract The article is ...»
The Experience of a Distance Learning
Organization in a Private Higher Educational
Institution in the Republic of Tatarastan
(Russia) : From Idea to Realization
Daniya Akhmetova, Liliya Vorontsova, and Ilona Gennadyevna Morozova
Institute of Economics, Management and Law, Russia
The article is devoted to the unique experience of distance learning development in the
conditions of Russian reality. The model of distance learning in the Institute of
Economics, Management and Law (Kazan city, Russia) is created on the basis of educational sphere diagnosis taking into account foreign and Russian experience. The specificity of the model is the permanent diagnosis of the components of the educational environment such as teachers’ qualifications, level of students’ actual knowledge, filling the educational process with information technologies, availability and quality of electronic resources, the correct choice of learning technologies, and policy in the field of the computerization of the professional education process.
Keywords: Distance learning; Russia The Experience of a Distance Learning Organization in a Private Higher Educational Institution in the Republic of Tatarastan (Russia) : From Idea to Realization Akhmetova, Vorontsova, and Morozova Introduction During the last decade, a robust system of distance education has been created in Russia, especially in higher educational institutions, where serious attention is being paid to the reform of the existing system of education. The experience of the Institute of Economics, Management and Law (IEML, Kazan city) is a good exemplar of distance education reform. The Institute passed several stages in the development of distance learning in order to implement the most appropriate model of e-learning.
Development of Distance Learning Education in the Institute of Economics, Management and Law The Institute of Economics, Management and Law began the delivery of educational programs using distance education in 2003. In the first two years, IEML built the technical, pedagogical, methodological, administrative, financial, and organizational foundations for the successful implementation of distance education programs in the following specialties: Finance and Credit, Law, Organizational Management, and Pedagogy and Psychology. As a result, IEML was the first institution in the Republic of Tatarstan to create a multi-service corporate network. This high-speed network was comprised of a telecommunication system with voice-over-IP, which supported direct tele-bridging for both audio- and video-conferencing in real-time with any location on earth. To take advantage of thissystem, course-relevant e-textbooks were created (Akhmetova, 2009, p. 93).
The first students were admitted to the technology-enhanced distance education programs in 2004. The special organizational structures needed for distance education were created, based on a decision of the institution’s Academic board along with orders and instructions from the rector. First, the Center for Distance Learning was established, followed by the Institute of Distance Learning and regional centers for distance learning in five satellite campuses. In 2012, more than 3,000 distance education students were studying in the Institute and its five satellite campuses.
From the beginning distance learning was considered by us as a pedagogical system.
We investigated the experience of distance learning organizations in many countries, for example Great Britain, Australia, the Czech Republic, and so on. We studied the status, trends, and basic models of online distance education in the U.S.A, the experience of some universities in the U.S.A, and the historical stages of distance learning development (Jensen, 2005). Special attention was paid to the study of using videoconferencing systems in some countries. We studied the use of the VTC (via video teleconferencing) technologies in Athens, the RESIT non-profit corporation in Greece, whose mission was to establish a centre of excellence for research and education in the areas of software engineering, telecommunications/networking, embedded systems, and electronics (Tomkos, 2005). With great interest, we acquainted ourselves with the experiences of the International Institute of Management LINK, Moscow State
Industrial University, Peoples Friendship University of Russia, Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics, and so on.
We received specific support from the Russian State Institute of Open Education under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. We also signed a formal agreement with the Distance Learning Laboratory of the Institute of Learning Content and Methods under the jurisdiction of the Russian Academy of Education. This agreement included carrying out the seminars devoted to the role of information technologies in the development of professional education. Also it included the training of teachers of educational institutions in the region. Taking a scientific approach to the organization of distance learning, as well as to the psychological, pedagogical, and technical aspects, is important for supporting quality. Overall, the technologically enhanced distance learning system is influencing educational processes throughout the Institution. The system is promoting the integration of interactive learning technologies in the teachers’ lessons, even among those instructors who are not actively involved in distance learning.
Russian laws, which regulate the organization of distance learning, pre-determine the need for a blended learning model of part-time education using distance learning technologies. For example, physical classroom lessons are required during both the introductory class and the examination sessions. Distance support of the educational process is possible with automated controls to help students absorb the training materials.
The institutional distance education implementation was based on several key principles, integrity, unity, interoperability in a systemic approach, which would support maximum efficiency along with excellent quality of learning. The educational and methodical basis as well as the legal basis for the creation of this model were the following documents; some were developed by the Ministry of Education and Science
of the Russian Federation and others were locally produced by IEML:
• Training plans and curriculum for the specialties: Finance and Credit, Law, Management of Organization, Pedagogy and Psychology;
We have created a special introductory course, Information and Communication Technologies for Learning, which is aimed at providing students with a smooth entry into the world of information and communication technologies (ICTs); teaching students how to use the educational portal of the Institute; working with electronic textbooks; and showing students how to interact online with teachers, staff, and other students. Practice showed that this has been the right approach: During full-time lessons the potential of students is aligned because of this individualized work, which is carried out with the novices, raising their level of knowledge and skills using ICTs. It is expected that in a distance learning system, the students are significantly more active and responsible than in traditional forms of education (full-time or correspondence study).
The results of surveys on student activity and interviews revealed that the students lack self-organization skills, lack experience in self-study (setting up a study space, preparing for the work, following through on the planned exercises, dealing with difficulties as they arise, etc). This was expressed in procrastination as students put off studying until “the best time” or “when I have free time”. Tutors at IEML have developed detailed instructions, which explain how to succeed using the training material (modules) and a concise timetable for task completion in order to support students in the organization of their self-study.
From the very beginning of the distance education implementation, there was a need for specialized training of pedagogical staff in the normative legal requirements stated in documents, which regulate distance learning in the Russian Federation. Six teachers passed this specialized training at the Russian Institute of Open Education and received the certificate “Internet-based Learning” granted by the Russian Public Institute of Intellectual Property under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Russian Federation. A program of advanced courses for teachers entitled “Using ICTs in Distance Learning” (with a duration of 72 hours) was developed and published as an electronic textbook for tutors and used in training courses in a blended learning environment (24 hours – full-time lessons, 48 hours – distance lessons). This program included the presentation and evaluation of the participants’ creative work and the issuance of an official state certificate. More than 600 IEML instructors passed this training. Individual consultations on the use of multimedia equipment, on the creation of training courses, and on test items, and so on were organized for teachers. Along with the targeted training of teachers and specialists in courses and seminars for higher Vol 14 | No 3 July/13 The Experience of a Distance Learning Organization in a Private Higher Educational Institution in the Republic of Tatarastan (Russia) : From Idea to Realization Akhmetova, Vorontsova, and Morozova qualifications, other forms of training were used, such as internships in the most successful higher educational institutes, mentoring (supervising of novices by more proficient tutors), and so on. In aggregate form, these measures created an internal institutional system for improving the professional competence of teachers and specialists in distance learning.
The material and technical foundation for distance learning was strengthened not only at the main Institute, but also in the satellite campuses. In addition to the corporate institutional multi-service network of more than 2,000 computers, special computer training classrooms have been set up, equipped with multimedia projectors and screens, both at the Institute of Distance Learning and in the faculties and satellite campuses. If necessary, students can work directly at the Institute if they do not otherwise have access to a computer. These students do their assignments on the computers with internet access in classrooms designated for that purpose.
In order to support the distance learning system a multimedia technologies laboratory was created. It was equipped with the most modern equipment designed to support the learning process, for the wide implementation of ICTs in education. The laboratory is used to conduct research and analyses of existing software and multimedia technologies to determine the most efficient technologies for their possible use in distance learning processes. The laboratory also supports the development of multimedia textbooks in the natural and engineering sciences and humanities as well as the development of modern technologies for the distribution of educational materials based on interdisciplinary themes and heterogeneous sources using a single methodological platform. Other uses for the laboratory include the design, development, and use of digital presentations; the copying of multimedia products using electronic media, as well as on magnetic media for use in both training and promotion campaigns. New learning technologies using portfolios and case studies are also being studied along with multimedia technology and other approaches to learning design using ITCs. The development of materials supporting different teaching methods using the network of distributed resources (educational Web sites, online tutorials, etc.) will also support learning processes.
Special attention was paid to the development of electronic training and practical guides in the Institute of Distance Learning. We created a technology “passport” for electronic guide creation on orders from the director of the Institute of Distance Learning for the replication of these e-guides on disks and placing them in an e-learning portal. A group of experts takes responsibility for the quality of these e-guides along with the author.
The department head takes responsibility for ensuring that the guide content conforms to state educational standards. An e-learning design specialist checks to ensure the inclusion of mandatory components. These include the subject matter, the modular structuring of the educational material, assignments for checking on the achievement level of the students (tests, formative and summative evaluations), a glossary, and the time limits set for the completion of the learning tasks. A multimedia specialist creates supplementary video lectures, working with audio and video applications to Vol 14 | No 3 July/13 The Experience of a Distance Learning Organization in a Private Higher Educational Institution in the Republic of Tatarastan (Russia) : From Idea to Realization Akhmetova, Vorontsova, and Morozova complement the textbook. Every year teachers review the content of the etextbooks in order to improve them, make corrections and changes taking into account new standards and regulations. Students receive etextbooks recorded on a CD-ROM, and at the same time they can access them through the electronic library. Presently, more than 450 electronic manuals are available in this elibrary.
Special attention was paid to the development of video courses. The most qualified teachers recorded introductory or final lectures on video disks which were replicated so that students could learn independently. The main program and technical aide for the implementation of distance learning at IEML was an automated system – a virtual representation of IEML, which was located on a federal government portal RGIOO (http://vueml.openet.ru ). This educational portal facilitates the registration of students, teachers, trainees, and elibrary users. They can also access certain (closed) portal resources to carry out their educational activities. Information, training materials, and tests are located on this portal. Maintenance of the software and hardware systems was carried out by the system administrator of the portal.