A PARADIGM SHIFT IN DISTANCE EDUCATION IN RUSSIA TOWARDS OPEN, MASSIVE AND EXPERIENTIAL MODES OF TRAINING
The need for the study has been caused by the growing interest of educators in Russia in various electronic forms of teaching and learning capable of providing easily accessible high-quality and financially sustainable education at university level to anyone, anywhere and at any time. Accordingly, an increasing number of universities offer multiple educational opportunities to their students and distribute formal courses both in a traditional on campus mode as well as through a non-traditional delivery system at a distance. In order for distance education (DE) to be a viable alternative to traditional method of teaching and learning, it must be in line with the major trends and evolving practices of modern digital society. On the one hand, the labor market’s demand for highly qualified specialists with numerous skills and competences revives interest in university courses, expands the number of students and makes education a really massive phenomenon. On the other hand, the required specific job skills and competencies can only be achieved and developed based on the quickly updated knowledge and technologies, which inevitably cause a total paradigm shift in education towards open and experiential modes of training of future specialists.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze and identify best strategies and models of distance education applicable to Russian universities in terms of effective massive, open and experiential teaching and learning. Other critical factors for the success of university education, such as access, equity, quality standards, student’s engagement and involvement, teacher’s training and readiness to non-traditional delivery modes, evaluation at all levels (including recognition and validation) and content design have also been considered. The emphasis was placed on growth and innovations instead of fixed traditions.
The methodological framework of this research rests on comparative analysis of the best practices of distance education offered by top universities worldwide. A comprehensive study of technical, pedagogical and managerial issues of distance education has also been provided. Based on empirical approach, testing, evaluation and control of usability, accessibility, availability and safety of some related techniques, tools and resources have been performed. An experimental study has also been conducted aiming to obtain, compare and employ certain relevant data concerning attitudes, priorities and learning outcomes of students in a traditional versus distance learning environment. The main result of the study is the design of a massive, open and experiential distance teaching and learning model that enhances the quality of university education in general and foreign language training in particular.