Dyatlov, A. V., Kovalev, V. V., & Latsveeva, A. V. (2022): Decline the quality of higher education in Russia: Negative consequences of moving to online education, International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering and Education (IJCRSEE), 10(1), 15-27.


Decline The Quality of Higher Education in Russia: Negative Consequences of Moving to Online Education

Alexander V. Dyatlov1*orcid, Vitaliy V. Kovalev2orcid, Alexandra V. Latsveeva3orcid

1Southern Federal University, Institute of Sociology and Regional Studies, Head of the Department of Economic Sociology and Regional Management, Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Region, Russia, e-mail: avdyatlov@yandex.ru
2Southern Federal University, Institute of Sociology and Regional Studies, Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Region, Russia, e-mail: vitkovalev71@gmail.com
3Platov South-Russian State Polytechnic University (NPI), Faculty of Innovation and Production Organization, Postgraduate student of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Novocherkassk, Rostov Region, Russia, e-mail: iluxin.2011@mail.ru


Original scientific paper

Received: January, 26.2022.
Revised: February, 24.2022.
Accepted: March, 26.2022.


doi: 10.23947/2334-8496-2022-10-1-15-27



Abstract: This article analyzes the possibility of online education to ensure the quality of higher education. A review of scientific literature led to the conclusion that in the Russian scientific discourse, the potential of online education to ensure the quality of higher education through the resource potential has not been studied. The goal is formulated as follows: to determine the sufficiency of online learning resources to ensure the expected quality of education in a social institution of higher education in Russia. The neo-institutional approach is the methodological basis. Before the empirical research, the basic concepts were operationalized: the quality of higher education, online education, quality resources of higher education. The operationalization resulted in the identification of two empirical indicators: 1) resources of students for obtaining quality education in the context of online education; 2) resources of professors to ensure the quality of education in environment of online education. They formed the basis for structuring the questionnaire. The same indicators are used to analyze the data obtained. The study found that the overwhelming majority of professors indicated a sharp decline in the effectiveness of their educational activities on the Teams or Zoom platforms. This includes a decrease in professional motivation and interest in the end result of work, mental detachment from students and indifference to them, increased anxiety due to fears of deteriorating health, indifference to professional development, loss of visual and non-verbal control over students, etc. The opinion of professors on the main positions is correlated with the point of view of students. However, there is a stable group of about 25% among learners that is focused on online education and demonstrates the belief that in the context of e-learning, resources for obtaining quality of education are increasing. We have formulated a proposal according to which this group of students should study in special online (digital) schools according to an abbreviated program, where accelerated vocational training is a priority.
Keywords: online education, quality of education, quality resources, institutional balance, transaction costs.


Online education is gradually becoming an integral part of the educational process being implemented in the Russian Federation. The catalyst for this was the unfavorable epidemiological situation in the country. As of January 6, 2022, Russia ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of infected citizens. Such statistics create objective conditions for changing public opinion in favor of the benefits of online education. First of all, because it is safer to study online, since the risks of contracting a dangerous infection are reduced. But, as you know, safety and quality are not identical concepts. For a long time, from its appearance in the 21st century and up to 2020, online education was viewed in public and scientific discourse as a low-status educational format, focused mainly on the poor, who lack financial resources to receive quality education. However, in connection with the transition of leading Russian universities to online education, it became necessary to check whether this form of education is really incapable of providing a high educational level. For two years now, the Russian educational system has been working in a mixed mode, combining classroom learning with learning activities on Teams or Zoom platforms. Professors and students have gained personal experience of working in the new environment. Now there is a unique opportunity to evaluate this experience. Its uniqueness is due to the fact that almost all Russian students and professors have acquired skills in both online and offline education. If the epidemic goes down, students and professors will return to the classroom and cease to be the sources of information needed to simultaneously evaluate both forms of higher education. As for modern generation of students and professors, they have such resources, using the opportunity to make comparisons and speak in a qualified manner about their attitude to online education, comparing it with their personal experience of education received in classical universities. This provision can be considered an exceptional research situation, which must be used in order to obtain the most objective data on the quality of education in online and offline.
In Russian sociology, both concepts - the quality of education and online education - have been studied in detail. Actual interest in the first of them was formed back in the 1990s, when there were many complaints and complaints about the work of higher education from the public. Hence, a large number of works, among which the dominant topic was the analysis of the content of concept of quality of education. In defining this concept, there are three main approaches: consensual, managerial and subject-oriented. In the first, quality is understood as an educational standard, jointly developed by the subjects of the educational space (Bondarevskaya, 2003; Gerasimov, 2013; Korneenkov, 2011; Selezneva, 2009). From the standpoint of a managerial approach, quality is considered as a positive result of the implementation of control and supervisory functions for compliance with the educational standard prescribed by the state in educational activities (Alieva, 2019; Galimov, 2011; Golovanova, 2019; Danyushenkov, 2017; Masalova, 2018). From the point of view of a subject-oriented approach, quality is equated with satisfaction (most often among students) with the results of the educational process (Zemlyanukhina, 2019; Sokolova, 2009; Tikhonov, 2013).
Despite the enormous scale of the existing discourse on the study of the quality of higher education, its sociological component contains a number of gaps and blank spots, among which the most urgent should be the lack of developed methodological foundations and the unclear criteria for assessing the quality of higher education in the unity of interests of its main actors. It seems to us that the main problem of sociological research in the field of quality assessment, regardless of whether we are talking about education as a process or a result, is to ignore the methodological possibilities of the neo-institutional approach. This paradigm is ideal for integrating the positions of the actors of the social institution of higher education. Integration of interests in this context is considered as an essential condition for ensuring the quality of educational activities. This can also become a cognitive tool in the study of the quality of education in the context of online education.
The number of publications on online education in the Russian scientific discourse is estimated at several thousand. But there are few works that touch upon the quality of higher education. On this aspect, three main approaches can be distinguished. Within the framework of the first of them, researchers believe that an acceptable quality of higher education using online education can be provided now (Grechushkina, 2021; Gul, 2014; Kryaklina and Rettikh, 2018; Smirnova, 2019). From the point of view of the second approach, the position is determined according to which quality can be ensured in the future when solving a number of problematic issues that have arisen in the process of implementing online learning (Gulaya, 2014; Ibodova, 2020; Kuznetsov, 2020; Olshannikova, 2020). Representatives of the third approach claim that the quality of online learning in the foreseeable future will be inferior to the classical one, because has limited capabilities (Ivanova and Morugova, 2020).
The analysis allows us to conclude that despite the vastness of the existing discourse both on the quality of education and on online education, there is one important subject aspect that has not been practically studied by specialists. The question is whether online learning resources have the appropriate potential to provide students with the expected quality of knowledge, skills and abilities when abandoning classical education. As a rule, all comparisons of both forms of educational activity are carried out formally, without taking into account the resource potential of both forms of education. Thanks to this, the controversy between supporters and opponents of online education is held as a competition of the power of belief in one’s righteousness. As a result, the overwhelming majority of works replicate the same arguments “for “and “against”, but there is no real increase in knowledge. We see the solution to this problem in the application of the neo-institutional approach to study the sufficiency of online education resources in ensuring the quality of education.
Therefore, the purpose of the research in this article is to determine the sufficiency of online learning resources to ensure the expected quality of education in a social institution of higher education in Russia. In other words, we are faced with the task of finding out whether online education does not lead to a decrease in the generally accepted quality standard of higher education, and if it does, then in which quality components it is manifested.

Materials and Methods

The study is based on the neo-institutional approach (North, 1990). Its application will allow us to combine several concepts that form the theoretical framework of the subject field of research into a single consistent concept. First of all, we are talking about “Quality of education” and “Online education”. Both concepts are embedded in the system of elections implemented by social actors of higher schools in Russia, the rationality of which is tested through the sufficiency of online learning resources to ensure the achievement of individual goals declared by the participants in the educational process. In Russia, higher education is traditionally focused on three goals, which are reflected in one form or another on the official websites of universities: training, scientific innovation, and socialization of students. An important role in the construction of the author’s concept and the formulation of empirical conclusions is played by the category of institutional balance, detection (or absence) of which acts as a methodological indicator of the ability of the institute of higher education in Russia to ensure the quality of education. At the stage of analyzing the results of empirical research, the leading role belongs to the concept of transaction costs, through which the willingness of professors and students to spend individual resources on receiving either classical education or online education is assessed. It can be assumed that obtaining classical education is associated with the cost of more personal resources than online education.
The quality resource of higher education is a potential opportunity to provide the expected result of the educational process from the society and institutional actors. All existing resources are divided into several groups: social, material and technical, informational. The first group in terms of relevance includes professors, students and management personnel of the university. Potential opportunity in the indicated perspective consists of five components: intellectual, knowledge, methodological, motivational and communicative. The second group of resources is material and technical. These are premises suitable for educational and scientific studies, means of inclusion of people with disabilities, inventory, scientific equipment, technical means of creating, processing and transmitting information. Information resources are all potential channels of information transmission. In the context of the needs of online education, it should be especially noted that there are information programs, software simulators, information and communication technologies.
In order for respondents to assess the quality of education, each allocated resource was differentiated using the corresponding questions included in the questionnaire. The survey involved professors and students from eleven universities in a representative all-Russian sample. The sample population in the group of students was 2794 respondents, in the group of professors - 305 respondents. The sample type is improbable with the division of respondents into quotas. Selection criteria for respondents in the group “students”: The level of educational background (bachelor’s, master’s, postgraduate studies), the direction of educational training (pedagogy and psychology; social sciences; engineering specialties; mathematics and computer science; economics and management; natural science; jurisprudence; physical culture; medicine; architecture and art), place study (name of the university). Selection criteria for respondents in the group “professors”: Age (24-30 years old; 31-39 years old; 40-54 years old; 55 and older), area of knowledge (meets the criteria laid down in the group “students”), Scientific degree (doctor of sciences; candidate of sciences; without a scientific degree), place of work (name of the university). These criteria were used to form quotas and assign assignments between performers. The quantitative characteristics of quotas were determined on the basis of the proportional correspondence principle. The necessary statistics were taken from the website Unipage.net in section “Universities in Russia” (https://www.unipage.net/ru/universities/best/russia). The survey was conducted in the form of face-to-face interview. Data processing was carried out in the SPSS-22 program. Period of survey: September-November 2021.

Results and Discussions

As a result of the operationalization of basic concepts - the quality of higher education, online learning, quality resources of higher education, two empirical indicators were formulated: 1) students’ resources for obtaining quality education in the context of online learning; 2) resources of professors to ensure the quality of education in an online learning environment. They formed the basis for structuring the questionnaire. The same indicators are used to analyze the data obtained.
All questions on the first and second indicators are defined as follows. First, the respondents are asked to assess the resources of students (the first indicator) for obtaining a quality education in an online learning environment. The latter do it in a self-assessment format, and professors - from the perspective of experts. The following are questions aimed at identifying appropriate resources among professors (second indicator). When answering them, the teaching corps carries out self-diagnostics, and the students become experts. This technique was chosen in order to increase the representativeness of the survey. But, first of all, its use is justified by the chosen neo-institutional methodology. We need to confirm the existence of institutional balance, since it acts as a condition for ensuring the quality of education, regardless of educational technologies. The mismatch in value and target orientations will inevitably lead to a loss of students’ trust in professors regarding their (professors) ability to provide the usefulness of the transmitted knowledge and skills (skills). We will assess the quality of education through such attributes as reference, consistency, trustworthiness, and usefulness.
The first type of resource is motivational. Realizing that the question of motivation is one of the most important for making a decision to switch to distance technologies, we asked a question in which we asked our respondents to give a direct answer about the state of motivation in online learning.

Table 1
The state of motivation to study online in comparison with the classroom, in %


By category “motivation” online learning has a resource that improves the quality of education for 22.4% of the surveyed students. This indicator can hardly be called significant, since the group unites less than a quarter of the total number of respondents. Even the number of those who directly indicated a decrease in motivation outside the classroom is noticeably higher (34.1%). As for the largest group in terms of the composition of the respondents, its members can potentially be both supporters and opponents of distance learning. However, for us it is much more important that the transition to online is not considered by them as a factor that increases the quality resources of education. Whether it is true or not, this group declares a willingness to study in different educational formats with equal interest.
The expert assessment of professors, due to personal experience of interacting with students online, shows a sharp decrease in the motivational resource of students. 67% of all respondents insist on this. Only 6.3% saw an increase in motivation on online platforms and 26.7% noted that it does not change in comparison with the educational process in university classrooms.
The next type of resources is communicative. In a direct form, it is associated with the importance of social ties, which are traditionally formed in the system of classical education, and indirectly, with the influence of social communication on motivation for learning. When formulating the question, we opposed two extreme positions. One is based on the fact that classical education not only creates an appropriate intellectual environment for development, but also enhances the motivation for learning activities. The other is built on the idea that modern students are more effective when learning is carried out through individual educational technologies. If the second position is fair, then the role of the communicative resource will be insignificant.

Table 2
The ratio of the importance of training in a student group and on an individual educational trajectory, in %


It is symptomatic that the majority of students (52.6%) chose the traditional model, which assumes that the key to high-quality education is the need for communication in the student group, referring to the growth of motivational resources, competition, and comparison of each other’s achievements. Exactly half (50%) indicated that the role of student communication is manifested in the acquisition of social connections and acquaintances, believing that the usefulness of the education received will be higher if there are people who want to get a job in the profession they have acquired. Within the specified values, there was a significant decrease in the number of students who believe that intrinsic motivation is sufficient for effective learning (22.9%). Obviously, this decrease is caused by a more complete understanding of the internal motivational resource in connection with the hypothetical loss of the usual conditions for the educational process. And the choice of the opportunity to study according to an individual educational trajectory turned out to be completely insignificant (15.6%). From this perspective, it becomes clear that, in the opinion of students, in the conditions of individual learning (online learning), a communicative resource that is significant for them is leveled, and because of this, the rejection of online learning is actualized, as it is unable to provide the expected level of usefulness of the knowledge acquired.
The expert assessment of professors in all positions, adjusted for an even greater rejection of online learning resources, turned out to be comparable to the student’s one.
In conclusion, let us turn to those resources that were previously touched upon superficially (intellectual) or were not considered at all (methodical, material and technical, informational). To solve this problem, the respondents were offered an integrated question focused on assessing the willingness of students to refuse to help the professor in mastering practical skills.

Table 3
Mastering the skills of practical activity in the context of online education, in %


A significant part of students (40.8%) are focused on practical classes in a hybrid format, about a third (31.5%) - exclusively on classical education and a little more than a quarter (27.7%) - on online education. The range of opinions turned out to be very striking, with some bias in favor of the classical educational model. In any case, there were fewer categorical supporters of online learning than in the other two groups. This allows us to conclude that, in the opinion of the majority of students, they do not have enough intellectual, methodological and material and technical resources to ensure the quality of education in an online learning environment.
The expert assessment of the professors coincided with the student’s only in one position - in the group of supporters of hybrid learning. There are few specialists convinced of the possibility of ensuring the quality of education in the course of practical educational activities on electronic platforms (4.6%). There are many more opponents of online education (54.7%) who are convinced that this form of education does not have the resource potential to achieve the quality of education that meets the established benchmark standards of higher education.
Next, we move on to presenting the results for the second empirical indicator. In this aspect, the roles change: the teaching corps carries out self-diagnostics, and students become experts.
Traditionally, the most important resource of a professor is the ability to highlight the individual characteristics of students’ perception of knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as promptly, that is, right in the classroom, to make appropriate adjustments to the educational process in order to provide an opportunity for all students, regardless of their personal abilities, to receive a quality education. A complex set of pedagogical resources is intertwined here, which includes the intelligence of professors, teaching methods, and types of interaction with students. Variable of the Table 4 is oriented on this.

Table 4
Possibilities of taking into account the difference in perception and different levels of students’ abilities in the context of online education, in %

The resources of professors, traditionally involved in classroom work, cannot fully manifest themselves in the context of online learning due to the loss of visual control and non-verbal communication. This outcome is obvious to everyone. However, it is quite reasonable to raise the question of the advisability of such resources. It is believed that in modern conditions this is an excessive luxury that can be replaced by simple testing. There is also a point of view according to which only those who really want it should receive education, which implies the refusal of motivational efforts on the part of the professor (“Professor should not control anyone, education is everyone’s private matter” (13.7% / 32.4%)). The position of the majority of professors on this aspect remains orthodox. A professor is an active participant in the educational process, directly helping students to acquire knowledge, skills, and abilities (68%). The other two positions did not find a great response when choosing the answer options. Particularly noteworthy is such an option as distrust of testing. This is very important because the loss of the ability to visual control largely makes the question-answer model of interaction between professor and student meaningless. Explanations, I think, are superfluous. The student can easily find the answer on the Internet in order to inflate his real knowledge in a dishonest way. Taking tests is no exception. Our personal experience of testing students on online platforms shows that, as a rule, they have the same, close to ideal, level of mastery of information. It is permissible to assume, based on the results of survey of professors, that online education resources do not provide an opportunity to adequately assess the quality of the education received, and therefore take into account the difference in perception and different levels of students’ abilities.
The expert position of the students revealed the proportionality in the range of opinions. The proposed answer options divided the student body into three groups of the same size. The choice of the second set point is clear to us. Apparently, many respondents were irritated by the wording with the word “control”. Not everyone is ready to admit that they need control. As for the choice of the third answer option (34.3%), it can be assumed that education is not so valuable for everyone as to voluntarily place oneself under the tutelage of a professor when there is an opportunity to get education with less effort. It is more difficult to study in a real classroom, and the complication of educational activities should have a meaning equivalent to the increasing resource costs. Therefore, a conscious choice to reduce the resource potential in the context of online learning among some of the students may reflect a low level of educational needs.
The latter hypothesis led us to the need to ask an additional question about the problem of “dishonest testing”, which will allow us to evaluate the information resource of online learning.

Table 5
Evaluating possibility of proctoring to solve the problem of “dishonest testing”, in %


The majority of professors explain the ineffectiveness of testing by the inventiveness of students in coming up with ways to bypass technical control (68.8%) and the help of IT specialists in developing appropriate programs (25.2%). Among the students, a proportional division was again revealed: one half believes in the possibility of solving the problem of assessing the qualitative assimilation of information with the help of tests, the other - at any level of development of information resources, doubts the reliability of the results. Of course, this does not mean that the first half is in favor of online learning. The reason for such a loyal attitude towards testing, apparently, is the desire to get out of the control of the professor at the stage of knowledge testing in the form of exams. The test is desirable for students who are not motivated to learn.
As well as in relation to students, the professor’s motivational resource plays an important role in ensuring the quality of higher education.

Table 6
Will formalization of the educational process online prevent the professor from working with high quality and enthusiasm, in %


The wording of the question, transferred without adaptation to the title of Table 6, reflects our hypothesis, according to which online learning is a technocratic model of the educational process. In this model, the role of the professor is transformed from dialogue interaction to supervising the study group. In this status, the professor’s functions are implemented through the broadcast of information content, which potentially leads to the formalization of the educational process. As a result, one can expect a decrease in the motivational resource of professors, as well as a loss of the ability to satisfy the students’ need for intellectual and spiritual development. We have proposed to assess the likelihood and significance of this risk.
Three quarters of the instructors responded by stressing the need for real-world learning. Failure to do so is actually equivalent to the loss of the basic types of educational resources necessary for personal development. In addition to this, 39.9% indicated a decrease in motivation for professional activity due to work outside the classroom. The percentage of those respondents who did not update the risk stated in the title to the Table 6 is insignificant.
The expert assessment of students, in general, confirms the layouts obtained by the professors, but with a lesser degree of expressiveness of positive values.
The study showed that there is a stable group of about 25% among students, which is focused on online learning. The same number of convinced opponents. About half are aimed at hybrid education, in which e-learning elements perform complementary functions, playing the role of an additional resource that improves the quality of higher education. An analysis of student and faculty attitudes towards online learning was done through quality resources of higher education. He found that the overwhelming majority of professors and most of the students choose education based on classical principles as a priority. At the same time, it is very important that the positions of students and professors on the main points of assessment coincide. This testifies to the presence of institutional balance in the system of higher education in Russia. The goals of its two main actors and the means of achieving them in the main positions coincide.
At the same time, there is a group of students and professors focused on online learning. It can be hypothesized that this group is heterogeneous in its target orientations. Some of the actors may be true supporters of online education, convinced that this format of education will not lead to a decrease in its quality. But it is assumed that it additionally included students and professors for whom education, and therefore its quality, has no significant value. Let us check this assumption in two parameters: the size of the educational group (Table 7) and the attitude to the quality of online education among its supporters and opponents (Table 8).

Table 7
Matching the size of the study group that is optimal in terms of the number of students in the estimates of supporters and opponents of online education, in %

A few words in support of the first parameter. Every professor knows what is easiest and most effective to work with a small group. You can interview the same students every day, involve the whole group in a discussion of a problem, keep everyone in the focus of their own attention, not allow students to divide practical classes into those where they should participate in the work and where it is not necessary, because agreements between the students will be made by other students. In small groups, the student is forced to prepare for all the seminars and for each question of the homework. Meanwhile, in Russian universities, the composition of groups for practical classes, as a rule, forms 20-25 students. This is much more than is required for the high-quality organization of the educational process. In order to somehow reduce the negative effect of large groups, professors in the course of the lesson often divide them into several smaller ones. In the online format, where the mechanisms of visual and non-verbal interaction practically do not work, all of the above problems become even more urgent. Moreover, the professor is forced to work with each student separately, since he cannot see what other students are doing at that moment. In this regard, the demand for reducing the size of the study group is growing even more. This leads to a direct correlation between the student’s interest in quality education and the size of the group: the smaller the group size, the potentially higher the interest. All of these problems are becoming even more urgent. Moreover, the professor is forced to work with each student separately, since he cannot see what other students are doing at that moment. In this regard, the demand for reducing the size of the study group is growing even more. This leads to a direct correlation between the student’s interest in quality education and the size of the group: the smaller the group size, the potentially higher the interest.
In this context, the results obtained in Table 7 are of particular importance. They are presented in three columns. In the first two, the positions of supporters and opponents of online education are recorded. The third section gives an idea of the optimal size of the study group of those professors who spoke in favor of the transition to online education. It is indicative that the positions of students who are opponents of online education and supporters of online education among professors coincided almost identically. We do not question the attitude of the teaching staff to ensure the quality of education. Consequently, their position is perceived as close to the standard. In the data obtained, it is easy to see that small and medium group sizes are chosen as preferred by students opposed to distance learning, and by professors, focused on online learning. This paradox can only be explained by the fact that in the group of online education supporters there is a higher percentage of students for whom the quality of education is of no significant value.
The second parameter is about the attitude towards the quality of education. Applies to students only.

Table 8
Attitude to the quality of online education in the assessments of its supporters and opponents, in %

The pairing of results in both groups actually revealed a rift between students on the question of the possibilities to ensure the quality of education in environment of online education. The data show the incompatibility of ideas about quality and, probably, the need to separate such students into educational institutions of different types. But, returning to the search for negative goals in online education on the part of a certain part of the actors, it is easy to see that at least a quarter of students admit the likelihood of a decrease in the quality of the education they receive due to the transition to distance educational technologies. It is significant that they understand and realize that the level of education will decline, but at the same time support the transition to online education. This conclusion is confirmed by the conjugation of attitudes towards the goals of education and the quality of education. We have identified fictitious learning as one of the goals of education. Since in Russia state funding of universities is carried out according to the number of students studying, the administrations of educational institutions secretly prohibit the expulsion of those who study not well enough. Because of this, a large stratum of formally enrolled students has formed in state universities. They study imitatively, with the intention of obtaining a diploma with a minimum investment of time and intellectual resources. In their view, it is this type of behavior that is considered as the most rational. This education goal was chosen by 24.4% of those who would like to transfer all education in their university to the Teams or Zoom platforms. Among the opponents of distance learning, only 5.3% made this choice. As it can be seen, the difference in values turned out to be significant, which confirms the hypothesis that among the supporters of online education, a greater number of students are set to minimize the resources spent (transaction costs) and, accordingly, to the result with the worst quality of education.
Conclusion on two parameters. In the student group of supporters of online education, the percentage of students focused on reducing educational activity is higher than in the student group of opponents of online education. Distance learning for such students is a convenient opportunity to hide their indifference to the acquisition of knowledge and professional skills, which ultimately leads to a decrease in the quality of education.


Among the students, three groups, uneven in size, were formed. The first (as minimum - 20-25%) includes active supporters of online education. It is characterized by the belief in the possession of intrinsic motivation for independent and placed outside the professor’s control of learning, and low requirements for the quality of education, which can be traced through the acceptance of the limited set of resources that online education has. There is a willingness in this group to learn not only on Teams or Zoom, but also to move completely to e-learning standards. The second group (25-30%) are supporters of classical education. In their opinion, online education does not have the necessary amount of resources to ensure the required quality of education. The third group (45-50%) can be attributed to the category of undecided, or, most likely, focused on the search for some kind of hybrid model, in which online learning resources should be applied complementary. This is an additional resource that needs to be somehow built into the classic format in order to improve the quality of education.
As for the professors, the general conclusions can be transferred to these actors of the social institution of higher education. However, the size of the groups identified on the example of students will sharply shift towards opponents of online education, since, in their opinion, it has a scarce set of resources to ensure the quality of higher education.
In conclusion, we will formulate specific proposals on how to optimize the use of online learning resources. The proposals formulated below are consistent with the goal stated in the Introduction: to determine the sufficiency of online learning resources to ensure the quality of education in different segments of the educational process of higher education. If we take into account the results of empirical research, then it is quite acceptable to say that online education does not have sufficient resources.
The overwhelming majority of professors indicated a sharp decline in efficiency in their educational activities on the Teams or Zoom platforms. This includes a decrease in professional motivation and interest in the end result of work, mental detachment from trainees and an increase in indifference towards them, increased anxiety due to fears of deteriorating health, indifference to professional development, loss of visual and non-verbal control over students, etc. In general, professional degradation of professors in the environment of online education can be expected. Already on the platforms, MOOCs are used to organize the verification work of former students. Obviously, this is the further way of transforming the resource base of professors - falling to the level of an ordinary consumer of information services, equated to a certified specialist in the MOOCs environment. The activities of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Russian Federation, which literally stands for “online-transformation” of higher education, in this context should be considered extremely negatively.
Assessment of student resources cannot be so linear. The survey showed the presence of at least three groups in which different characteristics are given to both their own resources and the resources of professors. A frequency analysis was carried out, and all the necessary pairings were made for groups of supporters and opponents of online education. The views of those who deny that online education resources are sufficient to provide the required standard of quality in education is almost identical to that of the teaching staff. And the number of such students, depending on the type of the estimated resource, fluctuates in the range of 55-85%. However, the position of supporters of online education in the student environment is diametrically opposite in almost all respects. And it is precisely this circumstance that presupposes the necessity of reforming higher education in Russia.
Here we will restrict ourselves to a few recommendations. The depth of reforms should not be excessive. The large-scale introduction of online education can only harm the social institution of higher education. We have seen that in most aspects related to the quality of education and online education resources, the positions of social actors (professors and students) do not contradict each other. If we exclude from the comparison those students who advocate the transfer of all education to the online format, then it is permissible to say that educational activity in higher education is based on a stable institutional balance. This does not mean that there are no problems or there are no mutual claims. There are many of them. But the institutional framework of the classical school, which developed through the interaction of professors and students, does not need global transformations.
First proposition. The growth of the number of supporters of online education in modern society is due not only to its convenience, but also to the decline in the quality of education in classical universities. This is largely due to the pressure of managerialism, work on indicators that are not supported by real quality. Its provision depends on difficult conditions and difficult, intensive activities, which the administration of Russian universities is not interested in. As a result, the indicators break away from the content and begin to form an imitation reality, and the category of quality is replaced by quantity. In these conditions, educational work with students is carried out according to the residual principle. What happens in classrooms doesn’t have a big impact on reporting metrics. In this regard, the main resources are spent on activities that are insignificant for the implementation of the educational function. Students have the feeling that no one is seriously interested in their teaching, and this reduces their faith in the professor’s ability to teach students socially and professionally significant skills. To ensure that the credit of trust in universities on the part of students is not completely spent, it is necessary to abandon the work on quantitative indicators.
Second proposition. It has a more specific character. About half of the students surveyed expressed a desire to switch to a hybrid education model. It may include trainings by renowned practitioners connected to a real audience on the Teams (Zoom) platform, the possibility of synchronous broadcasting of classes for disabled or temporarily disabled students, participation in various forms of extracurricular work (conferences, independent work of students, consultations). It would be wrong to ignore the wishes of students. Moreover, the implementation of the idea of hybrid education in the presented form is quite capable of bringing the quality of higher education to a higher level. To achieve this goal, all classrooms should be equipped with interactive whiteboards or at least projectors. We need appropriate video cameras and other equipment to organize synchronous online broadcasting to the student audience. This will allow this idea to be put into practice. Undoubtedly, this innovation requires financial investments, but if the management of universities, not in words, but in fact, is ready to contribute to the improvement of the highest quality and satisfaction of students, then these investments are justified. At the moment, the introduction of remote technologies is going in a different way, through the choice “course-sacrifice”, which is not a pity to translate online. Most often, those academic disciplines are chosen that professors could not protect from transformation into an online format. The origins of this situation stem from the obligations of the administration of universities to transfer at least one training course to an electronic resource so that the target obligations of the federal Program for the Development of Education for 2018-2025 are fulfilled. to involve 11 million students in online courses by 2025. These figures themselves are not supported by scientific research, but are given as a target imperative. Fulfilling them objectively will lead to a decrease in the quality of education. Therefore, the training course is chosen that is considered less important. As a rule, the victims are history, philosophy, a foreign language or physical culture.
We propose to abandon the removal of certain disciplines from the curriculum in order to translate them into an online format, and to integrate online education itself into classroom education by creating appropriate technical conditions that will provide synchronous connection to classrooms for students with disabilities, temporarily disabled students, well-known specialists practitioners, and will also significantly expand the possibilities of out-of-class interaction for consultations, conferences, methodological seminars, department meetings.
Third proposition. The main takeaway from all of the research we have come to is that online education resources do not have sufficient capacity to ensure the quality of higher education. First, this is indicated by a sharp decline in the volume of social resources for professors and the majority of students on Teams, Zoom platforms. Secondly, due to the lack of the required amount of other types of resources: logistical and informational. This is manifested in the insufficient power of the Internet, a small number of classrooms equipped with suitable technical resources, the absence of training simulacrum programs, and more. Also, one cannot ignore the fact that the provision of the listed resources is impossible without large financial investments in universities. The transition to online education will lead to a massive reduction in professors and reduce the burden of government spending on the payroll, but at the same time, it will actualize the risks of not achieving quality. Traditionally, all education is based on the transfer of culturally significant experience from person to person, and there was no other practice of organizing it. It is possible to destroy a working model and not get anything of equal value in return.
Historically established classical education is the most optimal for ensuring the quality of higher education, which was confirmed by the opinions of the main social actors. However, one cannot but take into account the aspect that about a quarter of the total number of students support online education. Therefore, they must be given such an opportunity.
Making conjugations for different variables, we found that the group of online learning supporters falls into two categories of students. The first consists of highly motivated learners focused on an individual educational trajectory, with the desired perspective of professional interaction in networked communities. The quality of education is of value to them, but only in the context of acquiring professional skills. The second group consists of students who view any education as a useless and, accordingly, costly luxury. It has significance only as a condition for obtaining a diploma of exclusively symbolic value. Consequently, this category of students is aimed at minimizing all spent resources.
We consider that, albeit for different reasons, both of these groups would be justified to move to e-learning. This does not mean Teams or some similar resource, but electronic in the form of online learning, which at this stage can only be obtained on MOOCs platforms. As we consider, both of these groups are ballast for the social institution of higher education in its modern form. Supporters of online education are aimed at a sharp reduction in learning time and activation of the internal motivational resource, which will give them the opportunity to quickly get a profession and go into “adult life”; opponents of online education are guided by long-term learning activities, gradual mastery of a profession with the possibility of subsequent retraining or leaving for science, orientation towards an external standard of quality of education and expectations of mobilization of motivational potential from the teacher. It is clear that maintaining institutional balance requires such students to study in different types of educational institutions. Online for the first of them is the most optimal option. But the teaching of this group of students should categorically not be carried out in the institutional space of classical education. In this regard, we propose to create appropriate digital schools, which would be given the right, subject to the necessary conditions, to issue state diplomas of higher education. Such schools should be provided with all the necessary material, technical and information resources. Education in them must be paid, because any form of online education requires a large amount of financial investment. The most costly of them is the development of simulation programs that could recreate the intellectual and methodological resource of professor in electronic space. Currently, these programs are practically not used. Consequently, the formulated proposal is forward-looking, and now it would be rational to abandon the forcible transfer of state universities to online education and return to the proposed reform at an appropriate level of information technology development.


We thank Aslanov Yakov Andreevich, vice-rector for youth affairs of the Southern Federal University, as well as Professor Vodenko Konstantin Viktorovich for help in conducting the sociological survey.

Conflict of interests
The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Corresponding Author:

Alexander V. Dyatlov, Southern Federal University, Institute of Sociology and Regional Studies, Head of the Department of Economic Sociology and Regional Management, Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Region, Russia, e-mail: avdyatlov@yandex.ru


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