Students and teachers of the Applied Sciences Faculty of the Ukrainian Catholic University talk about hybrid learning, a combination of distance learning and in-person classes.
Oleksii Molchanovskyi, head of the UCU Master’s Program in Data Science and himself the co-founder of Promotheus, a platform of massive open online courses, says that hybrid learning is becoming more important in Ukraine and the world. “We have to understand, however,” he notes, “that online can’t replace live interaction for us. Instruction and time spent on campus is an important component of integrating first-year bachelor’s students, for whom the university plays an important role in forming the personality and building social connections with their fellow students and teachers.”
He teaches the course Algorithms and Data Structures, which he has adapted to hybrid learning. But he says the biggest challenge for hybrid learning is to prepare teachers for it.
Long before the quarantine, UCU launched its Center of Instructional and Innovative Technologies, which helps ground teachers in technical possibilities and recommends how to use them with maximum effectiveness in hybrid learning.
Stepan Fedyniak, a teacher at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, tries to use all technical means possible in education. He mentions Learning Management System Moodle, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Meet, Zoom, and others. “But,” he adds, “clearly, students, especially new ones, need live contact and communication.”
Taras Svystun is a first-year student in the Bachelor’s Program in Information Technologies and Business Analytics. As a resident of the city of Kyiv, he is very glad that all the courses of the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty are adapted to the hybrid format. But he still notes that he “belongs to the ‘old school’ … and direct contact is important for me.”
Alina Vorobchuk, a third-year student in the same program, comments that it is easy to listen to lectures and seminars recorded on Microsoft Teams. She says it helps her master the material and manage her time. “However, online learning leaves us more lonely,” she laments. “The lack of live interaction with fellow students and teachers, finally, influences motivation and the general emotional state of each of us.”
Yaroslav Prytula, Dean of the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty, also considers the emotional and communication components as important characteristics in students’ education and growth. “Still,” he adds, “we teach students to find solutions in such situations and look for other possibilities to interact or work together. We begin to appreciate our interaction significantly more when we spend the majority of our time seeing one another on a screen.”
UCU’s Machine Learning Laboratory, which conducts research in artificial intelligence, has entirely gone online in its work. Oles Dobosevych, head of the Bachelor’s Program in Computer Studies and a worker at the laboratory, says that the quarantine, in a paradoxical way, has significantly helped improve the results and intensity of academic research. He mentions online seminars which can involve researchers and mentors from abroad and online internships at other educational institutions of Europe and the world. “I am entirely convinced,” he says, “that the online format teaches better discipline, for it is important to plan one’s time well and use it with maximal effectiveness.”
Researchers from the laboratory are now conducting three joint projects with Facebook, on the subjects of indoor navigation, symmetry detection and camera auto-calibration.
(Based on a Ukrainian-language text by Andriy Hrynykha)