St Petersburg University has become a co-founder and the first representative of Russia in the Global Alliance for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). To celebrate this event, the University provides an opportunity for students from Russia and China to master online courses in various fields of study for free. Vladimir Starostenko, Director of the University’s Centre of E-Learning Development, said this during a press conference at the Russian News Agency TASS.

‘We are confident that cooperation within the framework of the Global Alliance for Massive Open Online Courses will be efficient and challenging. We have therefore put forward the initiative to provide free access to a number of courses hosted on the Chinese educational platform XuetangX. The platform has enthusiastically responded to this initiative and offered to include St Petersburg University courses in the MOOC scholarship programme for students who successfully complete their studies. Additionally, St Petersburg University made a number of courses for the Russian-speaking audience available for free from 25 December 2020 on the Open edX platform. Everyone can enrol in them, study in them and, upon passing them, receive a free certificate’.

The Global MOOC Alliance is a non-profit partnership of universities, online educational platforms, and international public organisations. Among its founders are: the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE); Tsinghua University (China); the three largest online educational platforms: XuetangX, Thai MOOC and edX; and universities that are actively engaged in designing and using massive open online courses.

For the Russian-speaking audience, we are talking about such educational products as:

Fundamentals of Law’; ‘Fundamentals of the Constitution and Constitutional

Law’; ‘Counter-Terrorist and Counter-Extremist Activities’; ‘Fundamentals of

Working in a Digital Environment’; ‘SARS-CoV-2 Coronaviruses and Causative

Agents of Acute Respiratory Viral Infections’; ‘Autism Spectrum Disorders’; ‘Fundamentals of Economics’; ‘Genetics of Plant Development’; ‘Fundamentals of Sustainable Use of Agricultural Landscapes’; ‘Genetics of Symbiosis: Principles of Formation of Plant–Microbe Genetic Systems’; and ‘Transcription and the RNA World’. Registration for a special session for these courses will last until 31

January 2021. All the content and assignments will be available to people who are interested. From 1 May to 31 May 2021, there will be an opportunity to take the final testing in asynchronous proctoring mode and receive a free certificate.

Another four St Petersburg University online courses will be available for XuetangX students. They can take them and receive certificates for free. It should be noted that St Petersburg University has become the first and remains the only Russian university to be represented on the Chinese national educational platform. Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University, spoke at the press conference about what other forms of cooperation currently unite the University and its partners from China.

‘Our longstanding work with colleagues from China has become a reliable foundation for the next step: the joint development of projects using information and communication technologies, that is, online courses. The global-spanning pandemic has made it possible for us to switch over to a new phase of cooperation and use all our joint potential and the opportunities that exist today in China and Russia. I am confident that the establishment of the Alliance will also set an example for many of our partners in Europe and the United States. I hope that in the very near future we will make great progress,’ said Sergey Andryushin.

Additionally, the event was attended by: Ms Xiaoxiao Wang, General Secretary of the

Global Alliance for Massive Open Online Courses, Associate Dean of the Office of Lifelong Education Management and Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office at Tsinghua University; Mr Wang Shuaiguo, President of XuetangX; and Mr Wang Hui, Deputy Chair of the International Department of Tsinghua University. Ms Xiaoxiao noted that the launch of the Global MOOC Alliance in 2020 was very timely.

‘We have been cooperating with St Petersburg University for a long time. However, it was 2020 that became a turning point. We can say that this was the heyday of online education. You can witness how it is developing’.

Today we are aware that its role in international cooperation is on the rise and that it is impossible to be alone in the business of online education. The development of information and communication technologies provides us with tremendous opportunities. Today we must promote the most up-to-date technologies and combine them with educational traditions.

Xiaoxiao Wang, General Secretary of the Global MOOC Alliance

In the final part of the press conference, Vladimir Starostenko noted that in 2021 St Petersburg University plans to release new online courses on: digital marketing; quantum computing; law; interface design; and many other areas. Among language courses, it is planned to release: a cycle of courses in Korean; the continuation of courses in Russian as a foreign language; a course in business English; and an English-language course in Chinese. Additionally, according to Vladimir Starostenko, the University is going to announce an open contest for developing massive open online courses. Researchers and teachers from any educational institution who are ready to design such an educational product in conjunction with St Petersburg University can take part in this contest.