World against COVID-19. Our colleagues' thoughts about the situation: Nataliya P. Kuznetsova

April 04, 2020

Nataliya P. Kuznetsova, Doctor of Economics, Professor, Saint Petersburg State University, Russian Federation.

Some comments on the disaster’s impact on the teaching and learning process

“We be of one blood, ye and I”― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books

Since March 15, 2020, the whole training process in all universities (and in primary and secondary schools as well) has been rechanneled to the online format. The new learning model allows drawing some conclusions about the process of education digitalization taking place in one of the leading Russian universities, Saint Petersburg State University, over the past year. The University (as did the whole of Petersburg, which immediately closed museums, theaters, concert halls, etc.) turned out to be deserted without students and teachers: no noise, no laughter, and no discussions in the faculty’s classrooms, corridors and dining rooms.
Initially, students of all levels and training programs (bachelors, master's students, Ph.D. candidates of the Faculty of Economics of the University) considered this new educational format as a vacation. Some teachers thought that virtual learning is simpler and easier than the real one. As it turned out, both were wrong. Students mistakenly hoped for the weakening of control and, consequently, a decrease in learning load. Some young teachers, who are proficient in using the most sophisticated gadgets, have switched over to communication via e-mail, phone calls, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, or Viber ... Teachers sent huge amounts of materials, literature, textbooks, articles and monographs, lecture texts for further processing; they also assigned homework in the form of presentations, essays, short scientific reports, and video conference speeches.
The universities’ academic staff was not fine because of the need to strengthen control over each student. Collective training has almost become individual, which turned out to be a significantly more labor- and time-consuming process compared to traditional training modes.
The government’s decision on self-isolation, adopted as the epidemic developed, from March 28, 2020, and now continued until April 30, further enhanced individualization and estrangement. This deprived everyone – both teachers and students – of the "luxury of human communication." Such a dramatic development of completely unexpected events seems to interrupt a series of experiments in the field of education in crisis and returns us to the “golden canon” of national education-upbringing-development, which combines the best examples of Western and Eastern traditions in training.