ITMO: EduLeaders Contest Presentations Day Two

On March 30, the final presentation by participants of the ITMO.EduLeaders contest for the best educational projects among lecturers of ITMO University took place. Out of 40 applications, 10 were selected to present in front of experts. Announcement of winners and award ceremony will take place on May 21 as part of the ITMO.Open Education conference.

The finalists have demonstrated both their methodological solutions in terms of remote learning as well as explored the accent on implementing active learning techniques in the educational process. As part of the Young Lecturers track, three out of seven projects were related to video content, such as video blogs and live broadcasts of lectures, while at the Lecturers track, the movement towards having more group activities in the classroom was discussed.

“The projects that are directly related to real-life problems and acquire both practical and aesthetical aspects are the most interesting ones. If you have a great idea, it’s not enough to share it – you should also take its implementation seriously. That’s what makes the project great and proves that its author is a professional who deserves to be noted,” says Anton Pyrkin, dean of ITMO’s Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics and one of the contest’s experts.

We have written about some of the educational projects in . Today, we’ll share projects created by other participants.

The main problem that IT lecturers face is that by the fourth year, students understand their major and have an idea of what they will do at work, and that’s why they tend to not put too much effort into courses that they think aren’t useful for them. Another problem is the limited communication between students of the same year. The lack of knowledge exchange between groups slows their progress: despite the fact that students work on the same problems, they don’t help each other find answers to questions.

The goal of the proposed project is to simulate real processes that are at work in modern IT companies so that students could practice in an environment that is similar to what they will face once they start to work. The tasks were designed based on the personal experience of lecturers and coordinators who have worked with companies like Dell Technologies, Yandex, Sber, etc.

The course was conducted for 160 students of the fourth year at the Information Technologies and Programming Faculty. All of them were divided into small teams of four to six people with different majors. This solved the problem of involvement and interest among the students with different professional interests. Each group had its own leader, who not only dealt with technical issues but also controlled resources and managed tasks. The development was carried out according to the flexible SCRUM methodology, which is used in most modern IT companies. This methodology is about an iterative achievement of the goal: every week the teams, together with the teacher and the project manager, gather at a meeting, discuss current tasks, evaluate each other’s results, and set goals for the next iteration. With such an organization of the learning process, the role of the teacher is different from that in traditional learning approaches. They are more like an observer and consultant who interferes with the students’ work process as little as possible.

It’s important that both individual and team evaluation was involved: each member of the team received points from the lecturer and team leader. You couldn’t receive a score for an iteration once it was over. This has significantly influenced time management and attendance. The course’s concept was supposed to motivate students to communicate with each other: extra meetings were approved.

Throughout the entire course, the students took eight surveys. As a result, 87% of them have liked this format of study. They said that the course helped them solve tasks more efficiently at their workplace, understand internal processes that take place in companies, and requirements that are present in the business world. The knowledge they’ve received helped them succeed at job interviews at various IT companies. Two theses by the students will be related to materials they’ve compiled as part of the course.

The labor market is harsh and requires our graduates to be not only professionals in their field but also to possess a number of soft skills: emotional intelligence is now 11th place on the list of the most demanded competencies for the year 2025 and is already one of the five most demanded skills among employers today. Many companies have conducted research and found that the skills associated with emotional intelligence determine a person’s success at work. Back in the early 2000s, Google created the Leadership Institute and the Search Inside Yourself program, which hundreds of employees go through each year.

The Emotional Intelligence course is one of the elective courses in the Soft Skills core educational module. It’s aimed at developing competencies that are included in the concept of emotional intelligence, namely: self-awareness (understanding your emotions, feelings, moods, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, developing high self-esteem and correct self-diagnosis), self-motivation (understanding your needs, ability to set the right goals, and fight procrastination), self-control (the ability to regulate the intensity of one’s emotions, cope with negative patterns of thinking and non-constructive behavior), empathy (the ability to understand the emotions, needs, behavior and thinking of others), and, finally, control of relationships (the ability to build effective communication with other people, build strong business and close relationships, achieve your goals without violating the personal boundaries of other people).

The course is based on materials from internationally recognized experts in the field of emotional intelligence from Oxford, Stanford, and the Harvard School of Negotiation. The linear form of teaching has been excluded from the learning process. Instead of regular lectures, there were inverted classrooms and instead of practical exercises – analysis of students’ individual cases, role-playing games and simulations, discussions, and brainstorming sessions. Another unique method developed personally by the author of the course is a workbook with exercises for practicing emotional intelligence skills. It contains memos and excerpts from lectures, as well as a diary of emotions.

The results are great: 95% of students have attended from 8 to 11 classes out of 11 and gave top feedback to the course. 96% of students also think that acquired skills and knowledge will come in handy in real life.

This project reflects modern trends in digitalization of the learning process: application of new forms of communication, new tools, and new forms of interaction between students, lecturers, and the educational materials. The new generation of students prefers online communication through various devices and platforms.

The project was implemented in the spring semester of the 2019/20 academic year among students of the Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations who attended the Business Models of Key Innovation Economy Sectors course. Around the same time, all classes were moved online. Teamwork and gamification lie in the foundation of this project. The students formed groups similar to startup teams and designed business models that they would present to a potential investor. So it wasn’t about abstract tasks – they had to achieve real-life goals.

At the same time, it wasn’t possible to present results offline, as remote learning was still on. That’s why it was decided to use YouTube for the final defense. The students recorded videos, posted them, and answered comments. In that manner, experts, lecturers, and fellow students could evaluate each project regardless of when and where it took place. Implementation of YouTube helped capture the final result and make it more visible, even though the students had to put in more effort. It also gave students an opportunity to see their projects from another point of view, look for similar disadvantages in other’s work, and realize in what direction to grow in their subject area.

Apart from knowledge and skills, the students gained experience and competencies in virtual teamwork, digital culture, project assessment, etc. All students who took this course have successfully completed and defended their projects.

The main idea behind this project is to make the regular course paper a tool for the real growth of students. For this purpose, the authors have designed a course that helps students in their final year of study apply in practice their skills of construction of complex technical devices and systems. To assess the expertise of students in the courses they have previously taken, they were given a task to test devices for vulnerabilities. The students had to analyze the risks and come up with measures to recover systems in case of failure. It’s important to note that these skills are crucial for future specialists in the world of constant updates and the modernization of devices. At the same time, in Russia creation of instructions for critical situations (device failures) isn’t a popular practice. This means that this project makes our students unique specialists.

Tasks of that kind will help practice skills and develop critical thinking that would come in handy in the future. This requires a new approach to study: it’s not about submitting the final paper that is a separate activity from the rest of the learning process, it should be something that would help assess students in the process of studying, not at the final defense.

The course was divided into three parts: preparation, active studying, and improvement. At the first stage, the students received instructions and standards so that they would know what will come next. They not only had to read the documentation but also analyze it, highlight the most important things, and see the goals they need to achieve through them. Then, the task got more difficult: they had to study specific cases that are related to real-life problems. The students formed teams, each leader acquired a tool for analysis and became an expert of sorts to further share this knowledge with the rest of their team. Representatives of the industry were also involved – employees of the Ural Works of Civil Aviation were invited to assess the learning process and how ready the students are for work. As a result, the students can use their projects not only while writing papers but also their thesis.

This project is an experimental course Management of Competitiveness that was conducted for third-year Bachelor’s students at the Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations (FTMI) last semester. The course was developed using feedback received from students, researchers, and business representatives who were involved in the implementation of this project. It turned out that there are three key problems: the lack of subjects with real-life projects and cases, the workload of studies that doesn’t allow them to work full-time and receive practical skills, and as a result, after graduation, students have no experience in their field of study. At the same time, the students themselves note that they would like to gain useful knowledge applicable in real work, develop project management skills and communicate with investors, participate in the development of relevant and promising projects, and, ideally, find a job or internship in their specialty in the middle of the learning process.

The goal of the project is the implementation of the learning by doing approach: students get to move from lectures and classes to real projects and presentations in front of industrial partners, investors, and venture funds. Thanks to the collaboration between students from the field of economics and research teams, which work on innovative hi-tech projects at the School of Biotechnology and Cryogenic Systems, the students not only get to design the marketing project plan and communicate with potential customers and experts but also receive an opportunity to become full-time team members or launch a startup to start commercialization of their rides. The authors of the project were actively involved in the work.

As a result, the top nine teams presented their presentations at a pitch session with representatives of large companies such as HEINEKEN, Coca-Cola, JACOBS DOWE EGBERTS, and others. All winners received certificates for admission to the Master’s studies at the FTMI as part of the portfolio contest. After completing the course, two teams of students continue to work on the projects of the School of Biotechnology and Cryogenic Systems.

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