How to Keep Students Interested in Distance Learning

26 May 2020

How to Keep Students Interested in Distance Learning
On March 17, Moscow Aviation Institute completely switched to the distance learning mode. Both students and teachers had to adapt to new conditions in a short time. The platforms for gaining knowledge became the MAI educational system LMS (Learning Management System) and the Microsoft teams program. More than two months have passed since the transition to the remote mode, the school year is coming to an end, and the students begin to take summer exams. We have already talked about how students and teachers interact at the LMS MAI, and how the educational platform is being improved with the skillful hands of MAI specialists.

This time we decided to talk with the teaching staff of Moscow Aviation Institute and find out from them how they work on distance learning. This will be a series of publications in which MAI teachers will tell you how they manage to maintain the high interest of students of different courses in their online classes, what methods they use, how they treat the distance learning format. The first to speak with the MAI PR Department was Associate Professor of the Department 305 “Automated Complexes of Orientation and Navigation Systems” of School No. 3 “Control Systems and Computer Science in Engineering” of Moscow Aviation Institute, Candidate of Technical Sciences Boris Valentinovich Koshelev.

How did you switch to the distance teaching format? Was it difficult or easy for you?

I was familiar with distance education earlier, participating in retraining programs for aviation specialists from helicopter plants in Rostov-on-Don, Ulan-Ude and Arsenyev, as well as at the Ramenskoye Instrument-Making Design Bureau. True, it is one thing to give a lecture from the MAI Resource Center for students you see and hear, and quite another for students whose presence is indicated only by a list on the screen and chat messages for feedback.

I will not hide that the first two weeks were difficult, because it was necessary to prepare a large amount of training materials in the form of presentations and adapt to the recommended educational platforms (MS Teams and LMS MAI) for distance learning. It helped me out that I had certain lectures in electronic format with animation elements, with which I diversified the routine lecture “with chalk at the blackboard”. There was still some baggage of training materials that were developed for training aviation specialists of Russian and some foreign airlines in the field of modern avionics during the active work of the Aviation Training Center (AEC) of Moscow Aviation Institute in this area.

How is the teaching process in your subjects going? What difficulties did you face?

First, I began to work remotely on the LMS MAI platform, where, according to applications from the departments, the “pages” of courses for specific study groups were organized with reference to teachers. Lectures in all three subjects were held in the mode of videoconferencing; on practical exercises in the student research during the student research work, I conducted video consultations on project works, mainly on an individual basis. It was harder with laboratory work, because it was necessary to organize video recordings of work on computer simulators that simulate the work of complex on-board systems (these simulators are the legacy of our AEC MAI).

Since at the initial stage LMS MAI was very selective in the format of video materials, preferring videos from Youtube, I had to master working with OBS Studio - a video recording program of what happens on a computer screen with the subsequent conversion of this recording into a video on Youtube. I began to conduct control classes at MS Teams, where you can easily quickly create team classes for diploma students. So all the tests were held in a videoconference mode with recording. I intend to hold the upcoming exams on the LMS MAI platform in the form of test questions and a subsequent interview in the video conference mode.

You teach several courses. Is it harder or easier to communicate with students on distancing learning?

I did not find a big difference in work, although it is most interesting to work with a concerned audience when students ask questions, trying to better understand the material. In this regard, it was pleasant to show the obvious interest of the senior students in my Instrumentation Systems of the Helicopter course, which was not one of their core courses. Even attendance was slightly higher than at the beginning of the semester live.

A teacher must always be prepared carefully in order to remain on the level! By the way, for our diploma group, soon-to-be graduates, I gladly gave a double lecture on Flight Safety Improvement Systems on my own initiative and was very glad that more than half of the group was present, especially since everyone had already worked on the diploma work, and the classes had actually ended. So I would distinguish not harder or easier, but interesting or uninteresting.

If we talk about the creative component of your work, what tools do you use to keep students' attention?

I must say right away that, without direct contact with the audience, you work at random, guided by the logical blocks of your material and by time: is it not time to slow down the pace of writing or to make an unloading pause. It is necessary to insert videos, animations or just graphic material into the presentation material. Even text material must be made convex (in font, color, configuration, abbreviations, etc.), at the end of the lesson you can ask a question about the material presented and try to discuss it. All these are the basics of pedagogical mastery, but you need to use them skillfully and have enough time to prepare.

The interest of the audience can be maintained if it is possible to link the material presented with events and phenomena in real life, unexpected analogies, parallels, which gives food for thought to the audience. The effectiveness of these techniques is significantly higher when giving lectures live, because you can respond very quickly to the state of the audience or individual students.

My workload is not only educational, but also organizational and methodological; I do not always succeed in taking a break. However, I decided for myself to record several training videos on Youtube and organize consulting platforms in MS Teams, which are much more effective than correspondence with students by email.

Is it comfortable for you to hold exams online? 

I have not yet fully felt the convenience of remote control of knowledge. When working in the videoconference mode, when you see and hear the student, there is practically no difference. Worse, if some students can only write in chat. This, of course, is not serious, but, apparently, it’s necessary to deal with it.

The testing that I plan to use during the midterm exams requires careful preparation so that, on the one hand, students will not misled by the complexity of the alternative answers and, on the other hand, the correct answer is not completely obvious. So, the dual approach, I hope, will allow to assess more objective, take into account the students' activity in laboratory work, class attendance (although the latter is not an indicator for me). There will definitely not be any accidents, since I well know almost all the students who attended classes, their capabilities. They also know my requirements from the previous session.
PR Department

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