Nina Yanykina: Digitalization around a person should be embedded in the ideal model of a digital university
— Thank you for the opportunity for this interview. Please tell us about the university 20.35. what is its uniqueness and what to expect from the university in the near future?
At the University at 20.35 new tools and solutions appear every day. The university is a combination of 3 entities: a startup with its own AI-based human development platform; development institute which implements state assignments to strengthen the growth of human potential in the country, the growth of competencies within the framework of NTI (National Technological Initiative); university in the full sense, because it is about a person and his education.

The university platform is both a tool and a separate product aimed at helping a person to develop as far as possible. In addition, the University 20.35 is a competence center for the Human Resources for the Digital Economy initiative. We also issue personal digital certificates for acquiring and improving qualifications in the field of digital economy.

A combination of incongruous accumulated in one entity. And in this entity, the team shares the logic and moves in a common goal-setting which corresponds to the higher education system as a whole and the logic of talent development for the National Technological Initiative. There is no such combination anywhere, so it is unique.

— Before our eyes, dramatic changes are taking place in all spheres of human activity. what does the future hold for the education system? How does university 20.35 allow a person to keep up with progress in their professional skills?
Definitely, changes occur unprecedentedly quickly. At the same time, the demand for education is growing steadily. According to the World Bank, there are over 200 million students in the world today which is twice as many as at the beginning of the millennium. Analysts predict a steady increase in the number of students in higher education at a rate of 4% per year, that is another double increase in demand in the next 15–20 years.

The University 20.35 educational products catalog includes hundreds of online courses from leading Russian and foreign universities which allow any Russian citizen to start in a new or advance in an already studied major. Our specialists create a taxonomy for passing the courses that helps to set up recommendation services for students. Tools for analyzing the digital footprint and creating competency models have already found demand among Russian business.

— How does university 20.35 work with universities? what are the successful cases?
One of the examples is the part-time education format using university tools with the help of the project-based educational intensives. The format has been delivered since 2018. It concerns the development of soft skills in a team mode based on specific cases. Overall about 600 teams and 4500 students took part in it already. Universities have integrated this format as a project activity, which obviously influenced their educational process. During the training the university gives the student an opportunity to try out different types of activities. Thus, we provide an increase in quality.

Another example is the NTI academic franchises in partnership with Russian universities and large technological centers. As part of this program, leading Russian universities provide online delivery of their academic content, their best practices, and methodologies to students. The partner university, whose students are enrolled in this program, provides offline support building a hybrid format which is now so much talked about and to which we all come. Such formats of interaction between advanced and developing universities, federal and regional universities are aimed at increasing the quality of human capital in Russian regions. A student of a regional university can study under the program of a federal university and get access to a content that is in demand in the markets of the future.
The third example is the large annual educational intensive called Archipelago 20.35 that was first conducted in November, 2020.

— Please tell us about Archipelago 20.35. is it related to the islands and serves as their continuity?
In 2018, the University 20.35 held an educational intensive Island 10–21 on the Russky Island. It was the first time when we tested solutions based on artificial intelligence for the entire educational process, from the selection of participants to recommendation systems. In addition, the University team collected and analyzed the digital footprint of the islanders and tested other solutions that were recognized as the best practices and have gradually become an integral part of the higher education system. In 2019, Island 10–22 and Winter Island took place. All three Islands were held offline, while Archipelago was completely delivered online due to the pandemic. It has become an unprecedented educational intensive training for distributed teams in the field of artificial intelligence and data analysis. 16,250 individual applications were submitted for participation. As a result of Archipelago, teams developed and presented almost 800 ready-made solutions and products based on artificial intelligence, which are now being scaled and implemented in various sectors of the economy — from smart agriculture and medical diagnostics to cloud products for business. However, Archipelago has not ended there, and today participants use various forms of support for their projects and companies: from information and PR support to personalized search for specialists in a team, engaging into NTI work groups and participation in public ratings.

— Do you think it is possible to completely transfer education online? how would you assess universities moves right now?
In summer, University 20.35 began a survey on the digitalization of universities. The results showed that more than 90% of universities switched to distance learning. At the same time, the answers showed that the pandemic led to the digitization of many processes by force. However, many have not returned to traditional formats after the restrictions were lifted. I support blended learning because you cannot transfer everything online and you cannot completely stay offline. The most important thing is user friendliness. We have a service of collections of online content and academic content on various topics called Steps. These collections can be used by universities in the implementation of educational programs and fixing the digital footprint.

Each participant will independently vote for the degree of digitalization of the educational, research, and administrative processes. Now it is difficult to make an unambiguous forecast or characterize the ideal model of a digital university. Mechanisms and tools in digital are still to be finalized. Digitization around a person and data about a person are the keywords that should be embedded in the ideal model of a digital university.
Nina Yanykina. Director General, Rector of University of National Technology Initiative 2035. She worked as the Head for Academic Partnerships at PAO Sberbank and was a part of the Supervising Committee at University 2035.