I have been teaching since the mid-90s, since 2005 at the Kharkiv National University of Economics. In 2013, he became a professor of the Department of Information Systems. In parallel, I cooperate with ERAM University, teach programming to schoolchildren, prepare high school students for specialized Olympiads. Without exaggeration in teaching, I see the meaning of my life.
But in recent years it has changed somewhat. Due to the pandemic, and now the war, there has been a significant distance between those who study and those who teach. I and many colleagues lack eye contact, and without it it is difficult to understand whether the material is being absorbed or if it should be presented differently. Feedback, a light in the eyes of students or pupils is important to me. If I don’t see understanding, I rearrange the structure of the lecture, give other examples, adjust so that the topic is mastered. This communication is what is lacking, and its absence reduces the quality of training.
Online as a rescue of the educational process
On the other hand, such training has its advantages. The pandemic prepared us for online classes, and therefore, during the war, both ERAM and KhNEU relatively quickly resumed the educational process. Most of my students and pupils moved to safer cities and continued their studies. Of course, they are not available in real time for everyone: someone cannot find a stable Internet, someone has electricity cut off, someone goes to a bomb shelter. So that students do not miss the opportunity to study, we are looking for various forms of interaction. For example, we publish many lectures in a recording so that you can watch them at a time convenient for you. And of course we stay in touch: students and pupils can write, clarify something – I answer at the first opportunity. But the fact remains that all students are different – both in peacetime and now. Some complete tasks in advance, and some procrastinate until the last.
But there are certain disadvantages. Although online provides a self-directed learning experience, for it to be effective, one needs to be mature enough and aware. This cannot be said about all students now. Some of them are simply not ready to independently search for information and analyze tasks. They need to get everything on a plate from the teacher. And that’s the problem. My colleagues and I are currently updating the materials for our online courses, making them as practical, understandable, and transparent as possible.
How to change the educational process for the better
I note that I do not consider myself an expert and do not pretend that my point of view is completely correct. These are just my observations as a teacher and father of two. I think that three components are involved in the educational process: pupils or students, their parents and teachers. And each of the parties can do something to change the current situation for the better. I will try to analyze step by step.
Parents. I start with them, because adults shape the future personalities of their children. They should change their approach to the motivation of schoolchildren, because even now many parents aim to ensure that the child receives high grades. But the question that should be asked today is not “what grade did you get?”, but “what new did you learn today?”. Be that as it may, the assessment is a very subjective thing and it does not always reflect the real skills of the child.
Pupils or students. If a child understands that high grades are important to his parents, he starts going to school purely for them. And then the assessment replaces knowledge – which is the most important. Good grades can be obtained in different ways. For example, write off. But all this leads to the fact that in higher education there are students who say “the minimum grade is enough for me not to be expelled” or “put it higher so that I don’t lose the scholarship.” When I hear such phrases from my students, I recommend changing your perception. After all, it is worth making an effort to understand the subject – and a good grade will definitely appear. Knowledge will remain for a long time, but evaluation is always secondary.
Teachers. I think that not always and not all educators do their best to motivate students. Often they do not understand why we tell them this or that information, how it will help them in the future. And when there is no understanding, there is no desire to learn. Therefore, every teacher must find a way to the perception of information by students.
I believe that if we can change the approaches from these three sides, it will be a significant shift in the positive direction. After all, the goal of any education is not grades, but real skills for future life, career and development.
IT future of Ukraine
We recently completed the second launch of the Pre-Junior program – a joint project for high school students from ERAM University and the IT Association of Ukraine. Since January of this year, several dozens of teenagers from different parts of Ukraine have started getting acquainted with the basics of IT at our lectures. Unfortunately, most of the classes took place during the war. I am very grateful that, despite this, many children returned to them: when it all started, they wrote that they were interested and wanted to practice despite everything. Of course, as one of the teachers of the program, I provided the necessary consultations, shared lecture notes.
The Pre-Junior Program is logically divided into several modules. The first is general, about IT technologies, their impact on the world, the industrial revolution, professions in the IT business and teamwork. Next, we provided three directions to choose from – Front-end, Cloud Computing, programming. But the schedule was such that children could even register for all at the same time. Many did so.
I really like the program. My colleagues and I formed it in such a way as to give high school students the opportunity to cover a wide range of topics and look into different areas of the IT industry. I hope this will help them make a more conscious choice of profession in the future.
Today’s schoolchildren will rebuild our country
In fact, I was amazed that the teenagers approached the classes so responsibly. After restarting the program, we talked to them. I said: “You are all old enough to understand what is happening in our land. But you are 14-15-16 years old and you cannot defend the country with weapons in your hands. But you, the children, are our future, our hope that it will be bright. Your struggle is not to give up your studies, but to work even harder, because when the war ends with our victory – and I am sure of this – we will have to rebuild the country. And then we will desperately need young, smart, strong people who are ready to work for Ukraine.” The teenagers understood and got to work.
In recent years, IT has brought significant export opportunities to Ukraine. Now, when many factories have been destroyed, sowing is possible only on part of Ukrainian territories, and the ports are actually blocked, the importance of our industry is growing even more. The IT industry can become the locomotive that will pull the economy of Ukraine after the victory. This is exactly what we talked about with the participants of the Pre-Junior Program. And here is the result: after completing the course, several trainees asked what’s next, can they continue their studies? For those high school students who are older than 16 years, we have offered standard programs of EPAM University. I also teach them, and therefore I can state with confidence: the level of some of our high school graduates is no worse than the level of senior candidates. I see in this a positive and hope that everything will be fine with us in the future.
Good salaries and remote work are only the tip of the IT iceberg
An important role of the Pre-Junior Program is also to protect children from mistakes when choosing a profession. As a teacher with many years of experience, I know that teenagers often enter this or that specialty because their parents recommended it, friends went there, they promised a high salary after graduation, etc. But this is not a conscious choice. And a person does not learn, but suffers, although he could enjoy himself and develop much better in another field.
The Pre-Junior Program has a career orientation component and it helps to understand even in high school whether work in the IT field will suit a person or not. It’s better than spending long years at university and then finding out at work that you hate it. I am sure that quality career guidance programs help to use life time with more pleasure and benefit. Someone makes sure that they make the right choice, and someone thinks before making a wrong one.
Now, for many, the IT field is associated with high salaries, a good social package, the ability to work remotely and other advantages. And of course they exist, but one must understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Underwater is hard work that will be needed to reach a certain professional level. I always emphasize to first-year students that IT professionals are forced to learn throughout their lives. It’s not enough to get a degree, it’s just the beginning. Some people are disappointed by this, while others, on the contrary, are motivated to develop from day one.
The IT field is not for everyone
I am convinced that, despite all the advantages, IT is not suitable for everyone. And that’s good, because a society of ITishniks themselves is unsustainable. We need builders, doctors, teachers, salespeople and many other specialists, so it is very important to find the right place and professional path.
Nevertheless, I believe that everyone without exception needs basic knowledge of programming. I once found the following definition in a philosophical dictionary: “Programming is a special form of organizing problematic thinking and activity by creating programs.” In my opinion, it covers development programs, business field, nation building and so on. This profession teaches to think first, and then to act. And this is what I emphasize to students during their first labs: take your time writing code! First, understand the task, realize it, and only then get to work.
I am convinced that programming teaches to create cause-and-effect relationships, to think in advance of the strategy of behavior, to predict sequences of actions in order to achieve the best result. These skills are needed by every person and that is why I consider it necessary for everyone to learn the basics of programming. But becoming a professional IT specialist should be a conscious choice.