The E-courses of the FIEP Educational Programs Allowed to Continue the Educational Process Amidst the Pandemic

20 May 2020

One of the features of the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Education Programs (FIEP) programs for excellence and retraining of the professionals from high-tech companies is the use of e-learning courses (ELC), virtual laboratory work, and simulators. After the introduction of restrictive measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus infection, the availability of ready-made online modules, as well as the experience in creation thereof, allowed the Fund’s partner universities to quickly switch to remote learning formats.

The remote educational technologies have many advantages, which include flexible management of the learning process, 24/7 access to content, the ability to pre-work skills in the process virtual simulation, minimizing the off-site training of specialists. The latter is especially important because the nanoindustry is usually represented by a medium and small business, where every employee is as good as gold and practically irreplaceable.

Since its inception, the Fund has supported the innovative business in additional training of specialists capable of working on advanced production, creating, and using breakthrough technical solutions. As of today, at the initiative of almost two hundred enterprises from 40 regions of Russia, 200 modular educational programs in the fields of modern technologies in electronics, engineering, healthcare, construction, metallurgy, chemical industry, and other sectors of the economy have been developed. More than 70 Russian universities and research institutes acted as the authors thereof and based on the materials of the new programs provided training not only to employees of enterprises who applied to the Fund, but also other specialists and students.

“We talked to colleagues from universities, clarified how the e-courses created in the framework of projects with the Fund were used this spring, when the education system from the classrooms had switched to remote,” said Stanislav Nisimov, Director of the Department of Educational Programs and Professional Skills of the Fund. “We asked them to comment on whether our courses were in demand, and whether they suited students.”

The ready-made digital content and distance learning experience has helped the Fund’s partner universities to effectively continue their student training. The use of the ELC was discussed at the Physics Department of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, at the Belgorod State Technological University named after V.G. Shukhov, the Vladimir State University named after Alexander and Nikolay Stoletovs, the Ural Federal University, the Voronezh State Technical University and others. For example, the electronic course of the Development and Production of Nanocomposite Polymer Materials with One-Dimensional Nanoadditives Program developed at the request of OCSiAl, RUSNANO portfolio company by the Novosibirsk National Research State University in 2018 is actively used in the master’s degree programs of the Novosibirsk and Altai Technical Universities (AltGTU), and has also entered the main Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology course.  

The remote courses developed by the Bauman Moscow State University are fully implemented in the educational process as part of a set of additional education programs in the field of wind energy. According to the authors, in 2020 these courses will be studied by more than 1,800 students of non-traditional energy, metrology, and other engineering specialties. Students who have already tested electronic courses were quite satisfied with the new education form. “Conveniently, you can listen to lectures at any time, and at your own pace, as well as re-study the material and test your knowledge with the help of tests,” says the student of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University Yulia Raspopina, the observer of the ELC “Metrology and Metrological Support of Wind Power Plants (WPP)”. “WPP Designing. CAD-modeling course is well-equipped, allowing to remotely master the methods of designing various WPP parts using modern automated design systems,” confirms Ivan Lifantyev, student at the Department of Gas Turbines and Non-Traditional Power Plants.

First of all, the main theoretical part of educational programs has switched to the remote form. Advanced teachers have long gone from the role of “screen-speaking heads”; actively use animated infographics, high-quality design, professional video shooting, and other best infotainment techniques. The technology of checking the quality of the received knowledge through computer tests with automated results has been well mastered.

Video workshops, representing full-fledged educational films, and video lectures of electronic courses on the use of molecular genetic markers for early diagnosis of prostate cancer and innovative methods of local destruction of tumors of parenchymatous organs have significantly diversified the training of residents of various departments of the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry named after A.I. Evdokimov, namely urology, hospital surgery, operative surgery and topographical anatomy, oncology and radiotherapy, and others. At the end of April, more than 100 junior doctors started these courses.

“The organization of the production practice of engineering students, which traditionally hosts industrial enterprises, has become a serious challenge in the transition to remote learning,” said Sergey Litvinets, Prorector for Science and Innovation at the Vyatsky State University (VyatSU).  The virtual internship, which was based on remote courses of advanced training programs cycle for personnel of biopharmaceutical industries, developed by the VyatSU in partnership with the RUSNANO’s portfolio company NANOLEK, LLC and the Fund, has helped the students to get acquainted with the features of real production and gain valuable experience without being able to directly participate in the production process. 

For example, the NANOLEK’s unique video workshop created in the real-world production environment allows to personally master the sequence and technique of performing basic and supportive operations for the production of biopharmaceuticals rather than through viewing windows or CCTV cameras. The effective practice of the skills of the personnel working in clean rooms playfully at the MFT Simulator and the 3D version of the Aseptic Manufacturing virtual reality simulator gives a unique opportunity to try yourself in several positions at different production sites.

The students praised the alternative to the practice during forced self-isolation. “Because of the coronavirus pandemic, my trip to the production practice at the research center of a major Russian biotechnology company did not take place,” said Anna-Anastasia Misterova, the 2nd year student of the VyatSU Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Program. “I was interested in the opportunity to remotely master the production of sterile biopharmaceuticals, especially since in the real world during the practice I would hardly have had the opportunity to work in the aseptic zone of the pharmaceutical company since it is the most important area because of the risk of exposing all production to contamination (pollution) in case of erroneous actions of personnel.”

In May this year, in order not to violate the professional development schedule, the Gruppa Magnezit, LLC (Satka, Chelyabinsk region) at the MISiS National Research University of Technology, under a new program in the field of improving technologies for the production of magnesial fire-resistant materials and products instead of the university’s full-time practice, made a selection of virtual laboratory works and video lectures previously developed with the participation of the Fund. According to the project manager, Head of the Functional Nanosystems Department, Denis Kuznetsov, and the use of virtual simulators to develop skills on expensive analytical and test equipment stimulates the interest of listeners to introduce innovative approaches in research and development of new types of fire-resistant products.

Today, about half of all Fund program trainees (more than 43,000) are students. This result was achieved due to availability of all the educational materials developed to the Fund’s partner universities. Besides, the experience of creating remote modules has also led to the emergence of specialized departments and creative teams in several universities engaged in the transition of educational content into the online form.

Recently, the National Research University Higher School of Economics has published the results of an interesting experiment involving 325 second year students from three Russian universities studying in the fields of engineering and construction. The students were randomly divided into three groups: one studied completely offline, the second switched to a mixed format, i.e., they attended seminars in person, and listened to lectures online, and the third group mastered the entire course remotely. As a result of the exams, it turned out that the level of knowledge obtained almost did not differ in all three groups; moreover, the marks of distance learners were even slightly higher. “Quality online courses can no longer be considered a second-rate way of learning. They form competencies in students no worse than face-to-face classes,” concluded Igor Chirikov, the Head of the Study, and Senior Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and associate fellow at the HSE Institute of Education.

Reference

The Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs was established in 2010 in accordance with Federal Law No. 211-FZ “On reorganization of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies.” The Fund aims to develop the innovative infrastructure in the sphere of nanotechnology and implement the educational and infrastructure programs already started by RUSNANO.

The supreme collegial management body of the Fund is the Supervisory Board. Under the Fund’s Charter, the competence of the Supervisory Council, in particular, includes the issues of determining the priority directions of the Fund’s activity, as well as its strategy and budget. The Chairman of the Fund’s Executive Board, the collegial management body, is the Chairman of the Board of Management Company RUSNANO LLC Sergey Kulikov.