09 Apr 2020

“The transition to online is an increase in the requirements for the quality of teaching in general”: how GSOM professors adapt to the new teaching format

Almost a month, GSOM SPbU professors have been conducting classes for students in a new format — online. We talked with professors from different disciplines who have been teaching in the classroom for more than two decades, and we found out from them how difficult it was to adapt to the new format, whether they see the benefits of e-learning, and what innovations it brought to the methodological work.

Despite the limited timelines for transition teaching online and the need to learn new tools, the professors managed to start to conduct all classes on a schedule by the end of the first week of quarantine.

According to experienced professors, online teaching has a number of difficulties. “An online lecture is a specific form of activity, but we are in conditions when we are forced to conduct them. Such classes have various kinds of restrictions, the main of which is the lack of eye contact with students, ” Nikolay Zenkevich, Associate Professor of Department of Operations Management, said. “I’m trying to keep the quality and the feeling of lecture the same as in the classroom, and transfer it to online.” The professor found a way to adapt the practical exercises to the online format: “I divided the screen into two parts. On one side, students worked on the assignment, and on the other they saw my image. They could see what I was doing, and, at the same time, they could do their work. After that, we checked our decisions and discussed the format of such interaction.”

Elena K. Zavyalova, professor of the Department of Organizational Behavior and Personnel Management, notes that the translation of classes online required the search for new solutions, increased the role of  textbooks and other resources for students to independently study the material. “As part of the Personnel Development course, I am collecting many additional materials, case studies, and videos that I post on the online platform for students. Students then receive assignments for discussion. In the online format, pedagogical design in the form of a combination of several interaction formats is especially important,” Elena K. Zavyalova said.

“The main challenge is that you do not see the audience, you do not see the eyes of students and you do not feel the atmosphere in the classroom. So it is more difficult to understand when you need to change the format of interaction and show a video, give a task for discussion in groups, tell a case from the experience of a particular company. At the moment, this is one of the main challenges for me. I hope that over time I will be able to debug all processes,” Tatyana N. Klemina, Assistant Professor of Strategic and International Management. Tatyana Klemina plans to focus more on information tools that are better perceived visually, rather than aurally, and to integrate real-time videos and polls into lectures so that students can immediately discuss their results.

Professors consider that it is still more difficult to control students' involvement online than in the audience, but at the same time, online learning is a good opportunity for students to study more independently and practice self-control. “It is very difficult to explain new material, ask questions and record the involvement of students at the same time. This often goes beyond the capabilities of lecturers. Group work in seminars is possible online, but no more than 15-20 minutes, since it is difficult to further understand how students are involved in the process and whether they have lost interest,” Yury E. Blagov, Associate Professor of Department of Strategic and International Management, shared his experience. “Active students are doing very well. Passive ones can fall out of the process, since during classes in large groups it is very difficult to control everyone. But, I believe that lecturers of higher education are not obliged to force everyone to study. We provide every student with the opportunity to gain knowledge and try to help them as much as possible in realizing this opportunity.”

Lecturers note that the transition to online is not only a necessity, but also a competitive advantage for the educational system as a whole. “This crisis situation will lead us to a new level of using online technologies. Those who do not reach this level will be uncompetitive in the education market. Therefore, the main task now is to optimally integrate the processes that were in the audience into the online format. At the same time, we should not forget about the unique opportunities that only traditional offline education can provide. What we are faced with is not only the transition to new formats, it is an increase in the requirements for the quality of teaching in general,” Yury E. Blagov, said.


It is planned to finish the spring semester at GSOM online, and professors will be able to tell in more details about the effectiveness of such teaching later. So far, GSOM Family members have noted that the faculty very responsible attitude to the transition to online, and classes are held without interruption. Students say that most lectures take place in full, and the goals are achieved. The School successfully copes with the spring semester program.