On March 16, 2020, the Graduate School of Management of St. Petersburg State University (GSOM SPbU) moved to the online work format. It was effectuated in just two days — the deployment of the urgent measures required to meet the COVID-19 pandemic. Today it is obvious that the Business School has made a real breakthrough in digitalization as regards to education, scientific work, and informal communication.
GSOM SPbU will continue its Bachelor and Master programs online until the end of the academic year 2020/2021. The distance format remains to be the preferred format: it allows professors to work with large groups of students from different countries and time zones. For the sake of preserving this advantage, hybrid classrooms have been created (a combination of face-to-face and distance learning opportunities), and the necessary special technical support service is up and running.
Study: once used to it, it became convenient
Distance learning has been a serious challenge for first-year Bachelor and Master students. It is always difficult for students in their first year at university, but in 2020 freshmen had to settle down in a new communicative environment, unfamiliar for all participants in the process.
Bachelors with Russian citizenship had the opportunity to study the first month of the first semester in a blended format. But at the same time, many still chose to work online for their own safety.
All services of the Business School remain available and are ready to help in solving any issue related to documents or concerning educational platforms. Students say that Ekaterina Vakhrusheva, a specialist in educational and methodological work of the service for providing bachelor's programs in the direction of management, has become their best friend at a distance. Ekaterina helps students with organizational and paperwork issues.
Students said that it was initially very exciting to connect to classes online. But in the end it became a normal work routine: they got used to it, figured out the program, and it became convenient.
Now GSOM SPbU, with the support of the Advisory Board, is actively working to set up classrooms for a blended educational format at the Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus. Representatives of the Project Strategy Office have gathered a focus group, which includes students, staff and teachers to discuss and consolidate user experience in order to make the digital environment of the Business School as efficient as possible.
Session: without thinking, you will not answer
The exams were conducted using MS Teams and Blackboard. All participants were in a video chat with their teacher. while answering exam questions and completingi the test. Students say that there was simply no time to search for answers on the internet or in books. At the same time, the wording of the questions is structured in such a way that it is impossible to give a simple answer: it was required to build your response on the basis of an analysis of the information received.
Teachers and students of GSOM SPbU have been using the Blackboard Learning Management System for several years. It has broad functionality and allows teachers to create different formats for testing knowledge.
The faculty is committed to improving the quality of online examinations. The Knowledge Cafe, curated by Tatiana Klemina, Associate Professor of the Department of Strategic and International Management, holds monthly meetings where professors exchange experience and search for new and better ways of effective online interaction.
Communication: togetherness at a distance
Student life is not complete without informal communication, meetings, events and activities. Here, even the scattering of friends across continents does not have to mean separation. Students stay in touch 24/7 using social networks, instant messengers and constant calls.
The Business School does everything to ensure that members of the GSOM Family community feel connected even at a distance from each other. A career week, guest lectures, case championships, live broadcasts with alumni help to keep everyone abreast of events and to develop creatively and professionally. The telegram chatbot has become another platform for networking between community members. Of course, everyone is looking forward to returning offline to warm meetings, real communication and big events.
It cannot be argued that the anniversary of the transition to online is an occasion upon which, given the context, it is possible to share congratulations. However, it should be noted that GSOM SPbU has succeeded in passing through this difficult period with dignity, and having learned a lot. We are confident that these new skills and acquisitions will become the basis for further modernization of education at the Business School.