The Great «Distant». How Educational Companies Rebuilds to Online in Russia

The Internet appeared to be very on time: thanks to it, both educational projects and office workers have been able to go to a remote mode with virtually no loss of quality. SOL Center talked with those, who quickly transferred their work to online — ITHub Сollege of Information Technology, IKRA  School of Innovations and Creative Thinking, Smart Course Educational Project Company and Theory and Practice T&D B2B Platform (all based in Moscow) .

Vadim Polyuga, Director of Development of ITHub College of Information Technology

— How quickly you succeeded in transferring students to distant learning?
— We prepared the transition to distant very quickly — literally within a couple of days. This became possible thanks to two factors: we already had distance learning (for example, one of our students lives in Canada).

Second: our main classes are mathematics and programming — it is IT, that is, numbers, that can be easily transmitted remotely. In addition to the fact, that our students have been accustomed to work in the distance «since they were knee-high».

— What tools do you use in remote educating?
— For three months now we work with a self-developed online platform, it serves as a navigator for our materials, which, in turn, have been prepared by our Methodological Laboratory (we call teachers and methodologists there «architects of the major»). But students can modify content also, for this the UGC  mechanism (User Generated Content) has been embedded on the platform.

We constantly use Trello and Teams applications, our platform draws information and combines everything in one place.

— Do you use external content providers?
— Open content on such resources as Coursera or Udemy helps us a lot, but we have used it already. Often we gather a Board of Tutorial, which together with the Methodological Laboratory approves courses for training. We select several online courses on one topic and conduct ABC-testing: give different courses to the different groups, quickly determine the best one, and use it in our work.

— How did the teachers assume the distant?
— We have teachers, who were already trained for the platform since the Fall of 2019, and they accepted the transition very easily. Some of the teachers were not so ready, we were forced to prepare them on an emergency basis. But, in any case, all our educators  are from the IT industry, they are open to the new things, like to experiment. I can already note — when the number of those who love distant, exceeds half, the more horizontal connections arise, and the transition to new form of learning passes faster and easier.

— And what do the students say?
— Students predictably accepted the situation enthusiastically. For them, distant learning is rather an advantage and a joy than some radical difficulties. They, of course, lack the walls of ItHub College and live communication, but since childhood they have been used to being online most of the time. Last of all, they are studying programming!

Vasily Lebedev, founder of the IKRA School of Innovations and Creative Thinking, author of the book «CRAFT: How to Create Big Ideas»

— How you rebuild the work on the remote and what did you run into?

— The first thing that happened at the moment of quarantine — everyone «froze» at first. In the first week, about 20 projects were canceled or postponed to the end of the year! Big practical sessions, business games, two events… And we began to restructure our offline experience for online. Main challenge in the whole story was how to preserve the gained experience of team work — group reflection, contact with the audience, separation of teams. How to recreate it online? These are two completely different environments with different educational effects, goal-setting…

After a week of methodological digging, we were ready to rebuild the business process for an online ecosystem. We found and developed 15-20 different tools and settled on about five. And literally in a few days we will have a large online workshop with Netology Online Learning System, on which we begin to test them.

My forecast is that in the next month a lot of events will be saved only as online programs. What is the output? I think, somewhere by May IKRA will issue a new interesting product, both for remote access and offline. It seems to me that for us as a company this is an opportunity to enter the CIS market, or any Russian-speaking communities, that could not previously attend our creative sessions remotely.

In particular, we strongly restructured the marketing process, focusing on the speed of launching ideas and activation of pilot programs, rather than a long detailed engineering of proposals. From the sales and communication point of view, it is now more important to try different formats quickly — in order to feel the market. And this is a real anti-crisis solution, which definitely should bear fruit.

Mikhail Mordasov, co-founder of the Smart Course Educational Project Company

— What has changed in your company because of the quarantine?

— In fact, everything is quite simple with us — for a long time we used chat rooms in Telegram and the Slack as communication tools, because from the beginning we worked in a distributed manner. So, there were not many people in the office, and the transition to online turned out to be really soft.

From what has changed,  we began daily team meetings at Zoom’e at 10 in the morning (there are 19 of us). And the story with project management at Trello has become even more relevant. As for Smart Course customers, we opened free access to the Self-Care Course (since burnout is already creeping up to many).

About offline projects — we’re thinking how to reform one of our events for 500 people into an online festival on the Granatum.Solutions venue. I presume we will more clearly understand the situation by mid-April.

Nadia Makova, CEO & Managing Partner of Theory and Practice, T&D B2B Platform

—How did the restrictions on face-to-face communication influenced T&P business solutions?

— We are absolute devotees of live communication and are convinced that in training, and especially in pumping soft and leadership skills, online courses will never replace the  effectiveness of full-time formats.

Recently the T&P Expert Center conducted an audit of all our solutions and identified those that, after repacking, can be carried out remotely with minimal loss of efficiency. Also we formed #QuarantineNotForShow project, it is continuous remote campaign for pumping hard and soft skills, effective socialization; development of experimental practice and real team building.

These are not recorded online courses, but precisely a lively class format, interactive webinars. We will keep our eyes on the ball, and maximize the quality in the given conditions.

— Why do the companies need your project?

— I have three answers:

  • To shift the team attention focus from a negative destructive agenda to the development of personal and professional potential in a period of turbulence.
  • To support a systematic approach of the development of managerial and soft skills among team leaders — for effective management and preservation of team productivity in the conditions of remote work.
  • To strengthen the emotional ties between employees of different departments through the format of «intellectual leisure» (especially relevant in the conditions of telecommuting).

— What do you think is most effective in remote work?

— T&P training designers offer the three most popular formats:

The first completed projects have already shown the high involvement of the employees, which was achieved thanks to the following factors: curiosity, experimentalism, personalization, content support in corporate communication channels and USG.

Contributors: Mikhail Voronin, Natasha Poletaeva, SOL Center.