Education is now seeing its greatest changes in all history. It is no longer an effort to achieve universal literacy, nor a factory for churning out narrowly-qualified specialists, nor even a means for improving one’s social status. Education has become individual and open to all. Many universities have already launched online learning platforms where one can earn a diploma without even leaving home.
The Open University is also a form of online learning, but it goes further. The education of the future is connected not only with new technologies but also the new tasks that society sets for it. Today it is no longer enough to gain a specialization in something. Rather, for people to realize their potential and achieve success depends on the conditions in which they live. After all, one cannot become truly successful in an unsuccessful country.
Changing things for the better demands an ability to think critically, to rationally state one’s position, and to uphold one’s interests. It requires being a responsible citizen who knows how society is structured and is familiar with the nation’s history, what its laws and economy are based on. It is precisely this kind of education that the Open University is concerned with.
In 1991 the USSR ceased to exist and a new era in Russia’s history began. The wild 1990s, the fat 2000s, and the catastrophic 2010s – how did we end up here in the present day? Open University’s first program, “A New History” is a tale of crises and points of no return, of bandits and siloviki, of popular culture, politics, economic reforms, of successes and blunders, of the striving for Europe and the clampdown, of the road from Kuryokhin’s “Lenin is a Mushroom” to running a steamroller over cheese banned under sanctions. Most importantly, however, it is about a future where we will have to draw on all this historical experience to decide what our country will become at its next turning point in history.
“A New History” consists of six courses on the culture, politics, economics, and society of Russia in 1991–2015 and the fate of the other post-Soviet countries. Each course in “A New History” consists of a cycle of reflections on the main developments and issues of the era, its key events, interviews with major participants, and a few “theoretical” lessons that allow one to view the course’s material in a wider intellectual context. The lessons are accompanied by a large amount of archival photo and video, key texts, and tests to check students’ progress.
Open University’s second program, “Living by the Code: the basics of civil awareness” continues to highlight key aspects of the knowledge of being part of a society. It introduces students to the concepts used in the social sciences for analyzing current affairs. The course consists of eight thematic sections, each of which contains from six to eight lectures accompanied by supplementary materials. The key issues that determined each section’s content are: how a democracy functions, how ideologies are formed, how the legal field is organized, what the purpose of the state is, how history teaches us to understand the present, how economic relations are governed, and finally how the society in which we live is organized. These and other topics are covered in lectures presented by prominent Russian-speaking professionals and experts from the academic and media worlds. The final block of lectures is dedicated to certain significant concepts that have become widespread in the social sciences under the last quarter-century. In this way, the course speaks not so much about past or present events, as about how to analyze and understand the life of society, and how active, aware citizens can make use of this understanding.
The cycles in the 2018 academic year are made up of video lectures by the course authors. Within the structure of the course, these video lectures will come together to form a sort of handy reference for the basic concepts that responsible members of society should know. Open University aims to make not only the facts accessible to students but also a knowledge of how to describe them. Making the theory clear, and putting complicated things into a simple form, are the fundamental aims of this part of the project.
The subject of the third course of the Open University is The Map of Russia, an overview of the social, cultural and entrepreneurial activities of citizens in different regions of Russia beyond its capital cities. The course tells about phenomenas and practices reflecting socio-political maturity of the regions, that has been developed during post-Soviet time. We make special stress on civil initiatives, activism and on human capital in general.
The course demonstrates that regions of Russia are not only sources of raw materials and the network of monotowns, but also spaces of intellectual, cultural and civil creativity. In our course we divide Russia into eight large regions. These regions are not the subjects of the Russian Federation, they are not krays or oblasts. These regions are united on the basis of shared traditions and cultural exchange. 1) the Northwest, 2) the Arctic, 3) the Region around Moscow, 4) the Volga Region, 5) Southern Russia and the Caucasus, 6) the Great Ural Region, 7) Western Siberia and the Altai, and 8) the Big Asia.
The 2019 course is tied together by the interactive map of Russia. During the course active points- cities will open on that map. It will be possible to enter and view the materials about the region. They include experts’ opinions, short doc films about the region, infographics, chronicles of public and cultural life with focus on the civil initiative.