Russia creates digital platform for 'the university of the future'
01 January 2018
The era of digital education has already begun. In Russia, a university of a new type is created from the collaboration of universities, businessmen and innovators.
This university is a digital platform allowing all and any participants to obtain new skills and competences and to follow their own educational routes. The platform will unite the best universities of the country and the world, employers, businesses, and technological start-ups.
What is a university of the future? One may say it is comprised of online courses, individual educational road maps, and the use of new technologies (for example, neurointerfaces). But when does the future start? Usually, this question remains unanswered.
However, Russia has already embarked on its creation. The University 20.35 project is being developed within the framework of the National Technological Initiative - a state program for the support and encouragement of the industries that are likely to form the foundation of innovative economies in the next two decades.
To Learn What's Relevant
University 20.35 is a new step in the development of the Russian educational system. It is not a traditional university with a campus, a schedule, and a degree certificate, but a digital platform offering its students a set of individually required competences and focused on the formation of personal educational road maps.
The platform will include cutting-edge AI technologies helping each student to lay down his or her own route to move along to the so-called target competence profiles allowing a graduate to fulfill certain professional tasks and meet the challenges facing the Russian economy and the world in general.
"We started our work with collecting the data and neural networks training to optimize the educational road maps of our students and mutual training of humans and AI. We learn from an artificial intelligence the same as it learns from us," comments Dmitry Peskov, the head of the Young Professionals segment of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives.
How can one understand what to learn to become a part of the future economy?
Here is when entrepreneurs come to help. The representatives of business will become full members of the University 20.35 digital platform. For them it will be a chance to develop their requirements for future specialists and maybe even to request a team for a particular project.
Moreover, member companies of "future markets" promoted by the National Technological Initiative will also participate in the operation of the platform.
Educational Content: The Best But Not Unique
The value of University 20.35 lies not in its unique educational courses. It does not offer its own programs or in-house educational content.
The universities participating in the project will provide students of the University with access to their best educational programs. Nina Yanykina, a member of the Supervisory Board of the University of NTI, the head of the Project and Innovation Department at ITMO University (one of the participants in the project), explains:
"The role of ITMO University in the development of the University 20.35 is, first and foremost, the delivery of the best solutions for networked educational programs and individual trajectories of the students, as well as their implementation in order to meet the personnel needs of the companies that are leaders of the STI markets.
"Now we are going to implement programs in the areas of artificial intelligence and quantum technologies. On the one hand, these areas are cross-cutting technologies; on the other hand, ITMO University has some very good competencies in this area. Our task is to ensure, through the educational process and the formation of specialists, the overcoming of technological gaps and foster the development of NTI markets."
Its main advantage is a vast network of partners selected (or rather, recommended to students) based on the objective evidence of training results. A student manages his or her road map on his or her own, and the only task of the University is to make this management responsible. "To organise the optimal trajectory of students, we will use artificial intelligence - not the person himself will choose which course to take, as it happens on a regular online platform. Artificial intelligence will suggest what a person really needs to learn in order to level himself up in some direction," says Nina Yanykina.
The founders of the University are positive that this educational approach is bound to be effective, at least because Russia has certain experience in organisation of training and assessment of skills according to similar models.
"Our digital platform will combine different training formats, both online and at traditional university buildings. We will use the whole range of Russian educational establishments and our foreign partners," explains Vasily Tretyakov, Director General of ANCO University 20.35.
One should mention the experience of eight leading Russian universities that decided to develop an open education platform three years ago. They are ITMO University, Moscow State University, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, National University for Science and Technology MISiS, Saint Petersburg State University, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University and Ural State University.
These educational establishments started digitalising their best competences and training experiences and offering it in an available format to millions of students in Russia and abroad. Moreover, today online courses at the above universities are parts of road maps for each student.
A digital profile instead of a degree certificate
After graduation students will receive digital profiles instead of traditional degree certificates. A profile of competences containing all information about an applicant collected in the course of his or her training may be presented to an employer. A profile will show what tasks this person is able to fulfill, what skills he or she has developed best, and in which areas she or he is the most effective.
According to the founders, the University won't have graduates at all in the traditional meaning of this word. You cannot graduate from University 20.35, you can just reach a certain milestone on you development road map.
University 20.35 is a road on which a student stays for the whole life. In the modern world a person is bound to change occupations several times during his or her life. Therefore the educational program that gives one a profession for life should remain in the past.
The University bets not only on particular professional knowledge and abilities, but on soft skills as well.
The first group of 100 students has already been enrolled on the first course. It consists of the heads of startups operating in the neurotechnological market (Neuronet). In spring 2018 registration in the platform will be opened for the public, and pilot individual training road maps will be implemented next autumn.