“I spend about 14 hours a week on checking one assignment in one discipline. It’s almost 2 full working days, ” says Daria Kapralova, Ph.D. in biological sciences, senior lecturer, Department of Environmental Monitoring and Forecasting, RUDN University
“I spend about 14 hours a week on checking one assignment in one discipline. It’s almost 2 full working days, ” says Daria Kapralova, Ph.D. in biological sciences, senior lecturer, Department of Environmental Monitoring and Forecasting, RUDN University

Daria Olegovna, what is the most difficult thing in organizing online seminars on environmental cartography?

This is a practical subject, where students learn to visualize information on the state of the environment using maps as a research tool. To do this, you need specialized software that is "left behind" at the faculty - you need at least Surfer Golden Software, Easy trace and AutoCad. Fortunately, we managed to find the official demos and available analogues of some programs.

The specifics of the subject does not allow you to perform work on the phone. Therefore, the problem is old computers some students have, you cannot install the necessary software, while someone doesn’t have computers at all. I have 2 students who have long been in the country with one laptop - they work in turn.

How do you test students' knowledge? Do they make reports and presentations or draw maps?

After each lecture, students perform short tests or surveys. This is important to ensure that they are at least familiar with the material. It also helps to systematize and remember key terms and concepts.

In online classes at MS Teams, we analyze the tasks that students then perform on their own - basically, draw maps in specialized programs. For example, according to the data of 13 drilled mines, it is necessary to build a digital model of a conditional mineral deposit, construct a section and calculate the volume of this mineral.

How much time do you spend preparing tasks?

All assignments have long been downloaded in RUDN telecommunication system. Now I’m just adding something: I’m changing source maps, adding instructions for the right software, updating source data, etc. I have found some good video tutorials in English which I also recommended to watch.

It takes a lot of time to check. Tests are checked automatically, but each practical work must be downloaded, unzipped, analyzed, rated and commented on. I have 86 students in one cohort. It takes up to 10 minutes to process one student’s work if the Internet connection is good. That is, on average - I now spend 860 minutes per week on checking one task in one discipline. This is 14 hours - almost 2 full working days. Moreover, we meet with some students online for one-to-one consultations, because it is important to explain the mistake in time. This is another 2-3 hours.

How do you set up for working mood?

My workplace is on the couch with a laptop, blanket and tea. And when I have to go online - I put on an official dress because this is a real adventure already. Before the online lessons I close the door - everyone knows that this is a sign that you can’t come in with questions like what is there for lunch and cats are completely out even if they badly need me.

What is your current view of the fully distant higher education format?

I believe that distance formats in higher education are possible, but not in all areas and not always. No simulation can replace work done by hand - for example, in analytical chemistry, where you need to smell and see color shades. But lectures and meetings can be online - this is convenient.

What do you especially miss?

Now I have a feeling that the whole day consists entirely of correspondence and checking. I set so many tasks for myself that I do not have time to solve them. As far as I know, many of my colleagues are also working 24/7. Therefore, I really miss the students' energy and the speed of communication - what could be checked in seconds before, now needs to be downloaded, unzipped and forwarded 86 times...

Environmental cartography is an important discipline for an environmental specialist. It is impossible to imagine our work without the use of GIS, remote sensing systems. We work in programs for creating maps, diagrams, and other means of visualizing source data: Surfer, Inkscape, Easy trace, Autocad. The subject is not simple, but it is really interesting to study, in many respects, thanks to Daria Olegovna, who gives presentations with detailed instructions on how to complete the work at RUDN site, and links to interesting sources. Then we meet at Microsoft Teams. Daria Olegovna does everything and even more! However, distance learning lacks interaction between students and teachers. There are much more questions, and it is more difficult and longer to find solutions.

It is clear that all that is happening to us now is the creation of a new reality. This is unusual and difficult, but at the same time extremely interesting. Life challenges us, and we must meet these challenges 

Ekaterina Krivosheeva
2nd-year student of Ecology and nature management
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