Distance learning: A response to contemporary challenges?

On July 2-3, Troitsk hosted the 31st Modern Information Technologies in Education (ITE 2020) conference. This is an annual practical platform where school teachers, college and university lecturers, workers of pre-school and extracurricular education facilities exchange teaching methods and best practices in using and teaching digital technologies. They also improve their skills by attending IT workshops.

This year’s conference was held online which made it possible to improve the selection of speakers and increase the number of participants. The virtual panel sessions were joined by 870 professionals from 48 Russian regions. There were also representatives from Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The conference co-organizers included the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Development, Bytic foundation for new education technologies, Moscow Center for the Development of Education Talent, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Computer Science and Management Federal Research Center, the Faculty of Computer Science at the Higher School of Economics, and the Coordination Center for the TLD .RU/.РФ.

The conference opened with a plenary session. Head of the town of Troitsk within the city of Moscow Vladimir Dudochkin offered his welcoming remarks while moderators, Bytic CEO Maria Grigorenko and Andrei Vorobyov, Director of the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ, briefed the participants on the conference program. The events included workshops given by Russian IT industry leaders, subject-specific sessions for teachers of computer science, programming, robotics and 3D modeling; sections for teachers of the humanities and natural science who use information technologies in the educational process, and a roundtable for top managers of children’s techno parks.

“The Smart World Created by Children national children’s conference is also part of the ITE 2020 program. Schoolchildren and university students will present 50 engineering and IT projects. Participants will also be able to attend a virtual exhibit of software, equipment, manuals and other products for the education industry. In particular, the Coordination Center’s stand features our social and educational projects, teaching aids for teachers on protection of personal data and internet governance. I would like to take this opportunity and invite computer science teachers and young IT specialists to attend the Coordination Center’s Internet Governance Summer School. It will be held in Russia for the first time. Registration opened on July 1. Classes begin as early as August,” Andrei Vorobyov added.

Andrey Sebrant, Strategic Marketing Director at Yandex, delivered the first report at the plenary session, Legends and Myths of Online Learning. He presented survey results that show that 60 percent of Russian schools had not practiced distance learning until lockdown measures were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and only 20 percent of teachers and 4-6 percent of schoolchildren had any experience with distance learning technologies. This is one of the reasons why it was not easy for schools and universities to move online. The overall process has not yet been completed in Russia still stumbling at a number of issues: “Our society still has a conservative perception of school education and 49 percent of educators do not understand how they can effectively organize an online lesson whereas 18 percent of teachers openly admit their insufficient level of digital literacy,” Andrey Sebrant reported. He added that there needs to be a breakthrough as using information technologies in education expands opportunities and boosts motivation both for teachers and students. He believes the teachers need support and assistance with digital adaptation.

Lyudmila Bosova, Distinguished Teacher of the Russian Federation and Deputy Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Teaching Theory and Methods of Teaching at the Moscow State Pedagogical University, also pointed out that the conventional teaching system failed to adapt in virtual reality. She mentioned four problematic areas that emerged when schools had to switch to distance learning on a massive scale. These problems include poor technical capacities (in particular, lack of computer equipment and high-quality internet connection), insufficient educational content, lack of online teaching guidelines, low digital literacy of both teachers and students. According to Lyudmila Bosova, systematic work on building digital skills could solve these problems, along with auditing educational programs designed specifically for distance learning and bringing them in compliance with industry standards.

Another problem caused by the mass transition of schoolchildren to online studying was reported by Yulia Fyodorova, Head of Digital, Interactive and Distance Technologies in Education at the Moscow Center for the Development of Education Talent. “Over 90 percent of schoolchildren speak about their online interests. Their internet exposure has significantly increased during the lockdown: they uploaded 40 percent more personal information and photographs. The number of cyber bullying cases increased four times. Schoolchildren also began to more frequently look for information in the so-called Darknet. According to Yulia Fyodorova, both teachers and parents should understand the importance of cyber security and use all available algorithms to protect their children or ask for professional help.

Olga Dymarskaya, Head of City Career Counseling at the Moscow Agency Innovations , spoke about online education as an opportunity to kick-start one’s successful career. She thinks the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic has created even more difficulties for the youth in the labor market. job offers for entry-level specialists tanked by 70 percent. Young people now have to compete for jobs with more experienced professionals who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The situation cannot be resolved without support measures. Olga Dymarskaya spoke about projects for different categories of students who want to understand their opportunities in the labor market. “Schoolchildren and college students get a chance to take up on-site and virtual internships at Moscow’s major companies. For example, participants in the Future Tech program solve real business cases and expand their portfolios. Skillfolio project helps young candidates to develop soft skills such as emotional intelligence, communication skills, creative and digital thinking.”

Representatives from Sberbank representatives and the Kvantorium children’s techno park chain presented their educational projects. Daria Satikova, Director of the Digital Skills and Competences program at the Sberbank Charity Foundation, spoke about the Artificial Intelligence Academy for schoolchildren while Irina Kuznetsova, curator of the Kvantorium children’s techno park chain and IT-Cube center, spoke about the Lifelong Learning system of continuous professional development for teachers and curriculum developers.

The main conference program was followed by workshops and subject-specific sections. Viktoria Bunchuk, Social Projects Director at the Coordination Center for TLD.RU/.РФ, was among the speakers at one of sections titled Computer Science and Programming. Her report covered the Coordination Center’s Study the Internet and Govern It project that helps people expand their knowledge of information technologies through games and other interactive tools. For instance, one can learn new interesting facts about the internet, explore the technologies and learn the rules of safe conduct by means of a quiz, mobile applications and online tournaments. The project promises exciting and useful content not only for schoolchildren but also for teachers who will be able to use it in their teaching process.

The conference materials and speakers’ reports are available on the conference’s official website at

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