How higher education has been forever changed since Covid-19: 5 key trends – Newstrack English | Team Cansler

The pandemic has significantly transformed higher education and accelerated many trends related to digitization. Moscow City University conducted a study and Kirill Barannikov, Vice Rector for Development of MSU, Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences, identified five main trends and higher education will never be the same.

blended learning

As the pandemic raged, learning in schools and universities had to transition to a distance learning format. Around 1 billion students from around the world started learning via Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms. In Russia, universities switched to distance learning, then to a hybrid format. While only 5% of students took online courses in 2015, in 2020 it was 49%.

Hybrid learning has become commonplace by 2021. According to the Moscow City University survey, 70% of university faculty now believe blended learning will become the norm (up from 22% before the pandemic). At the same time, 25% of students are willing to study entirely online, and among professors only 37% oppose distance learning (vs. 47% a year ago).

In the world of education, there are already universities that operate entirely in the distance format: for example, the online university Minerva, which has beaten the Ivy League universities in a popularity rating. There are no lectures at the university; the main format is the “flipped classroom” in which the students learn the material themselves and then discuss with professors and do projects.

Development of digital ecosystems

What will the blended learning format look like in Russia when the pandemic is almost over? Lecture hall classes are becoming fewer, online events more numerous. Digital university platforms are developing that enable students to listen to online courses, create personal student and teacher accounts, communicate with each other and carry out joint projects, download timetables and homework, find information in the digital library and add portfolio. In addition, it allows students to be evaluated using big data, taking into account the entirety of their work, thus excluding the exam format in some subjects.

Today, various leading Russian universities have such platforms: some use standard platforms for learning process management, while others develop their own solutions. For example, Moscow City University has created a service for intellectual analysis and prediction of student results, while Kazan Federal University has developed a digital system for studying factors of students’ academic success.

Many universities have also started creating their own course files. MСU launched a site with open online educational courses OK.MGPU, facilitating the transition to interactive, adaptive digital content.

Education that meets everyone’s needs

Another important trend in higher education is the focus on students and their actual needs. More and more universities are giving students the opportunity to design their curriculum themselves and thus shape their own educational path. The student does not become an object but a subject of the educational process. He designs learning as if the student were building a house from the blocks of subjects he needs and modeling his own program.

Universal courses are created for all students, regardless of their field of study: ITMO, for example, has developed a system of university-wide courses on digital skills and soft skills. Tomsk State University has already established a special tutoring service to help students build individual educational pathways.

There is an interesting example from around the world: At Columbia University in New York, students can not only design their own educational program, but also choose how they want to participate in class: in person, via Zoom or by watching lecture recordings at their leisure.

The digitization of the university campus is not only taking place in terms of equipment, but also through the creation of “intelligent” public spaces that can easily be converted into a lecture hall, a seminar or self-study room or a laboratory. For example, MISiS is developing a project to upgrade libraries to co-working spaces and create multimedia classrooms.


Universities are starting to introduce micro-courses that last from a few minutes to a few days. Each of them helps to learn a specific skill, to learn how to solve a specific work task. Therefore, formats such as open mass online courses (lectures often last 7-12 minutes), TED (it is an informal monologue on a scientific topic, usually up to 18 minutes) are gaining popularity in higher education.

Micro-education does not replace the usual university way of life, but expands its possibilities, provided that the students already have basic professional knowledge. Leading universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and the companies Volvo, IBM and Adobe are turning to microeducation. With the help of such courses, extensive skills are gradually formed.

MIT was the first to introduce what is known as the micromaster’s degree program – a series of micro-courses leading to the training of a specific skill that can be credited by the university as part of the course taken on campus.

Micropedagogy for individual modules or subjects is being introduced at Russian universities. Students can watch the video at any time, are focused and immediately get the result: the answer to the question, the skill, the solved problem.

Augmented Reality Technologies

Technologies that help students develop practical skills in augmented reality are appearing on the walls of global and Russian universities. For example, the University of San Diego uses simulators in their medical education, where students can see a patient in augmented reality and diagnose symptoms of illness. Sechenov Medical University uses augmented reality to perform surgeries.

Hasson University has developed the AR StageCraft program for artists and decorators to design paintings and backdrops in university spaces. Westminster University uses the REVRLaw project to study criminal law. In the simulation, the student sees a crime scene and conducts criminological research.

At Columbia University, a hybrid environment is being integrated into virtual reality. People from different parts of the world can virtually gather in a classroom with the help of glasses and listen to a lecture.

In Russian universities, VR technologies are used to conduct laboratory experiments, visit theaters and museums virtually, create three-dimensional models, and practice various types of skills.

So the pandemic has accelerated the movement towards digitization that started a long time ago and is progressing at a rather quiet pace. The new reality has had a surprisingly good impact on students’ educational outcomes: technology is now helping them build truly relevant and applicable skills for the future workplace. Universities are evolving in this direction, and their main task now is to design a new educational didactics in which traditional and new forms of learning coexist harmoniously and complement each other.

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