SPOTLIGHT: Violetta Soboleva

Ambitious Plans to Use Instructional Design in Russia

Violetta Soboleva is an M.S. IDD&E student from Russia who came to Syracuse University as a Fulbright scholar. In this interview, she describes her interest in instructional design and how she intends to apply the IDD&E knowledge in the future.

What experiences in Russia led you to the U.S. to study instructional design?

I was led here by curiosity and desire to make the world better. With the background in primary education and EFL teaching in Russia and a semester in Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, I realized that the problem of the Russian K–12 education is not only school textbooks but also teachers and the methods they use. For my bachelor thesis, I researched Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), which is not as recognizable in K–12 in Russia as it is abroad. I found that in order to implement this approach in Russia, we need to develop instructions for teachers and universities which can clearly delineate ways of using CLIL in the classroom. Unfortunately, as an undergraduate student I had little knowledge, much less influence, to make it happen. Plus, the world does not appear to be as simple as find a problem, create a solution, and implement it. There are multiple ways of investigating the problem origin. It can be problems of motivation or other aspects that cannot be fixed with instruction—I can see it right now, after a semester in the IDD&E program.

Violetta Soboleva, Syracuse University, Fall 2021
Violetta Soboleva, Syracuse University, Fall 2021

What excites you about the IDD&E program at Syracuse University?

The beauty of instructional design by which the courses here were created. As a person who is passionate about technologies, I like that all of our projects have a place for creativity—be it on the website, in the knowledge base, within an instructional prototype, for a video or other medium. Various research paper-based and practical skills-based tasks help me remember the course material and implement it into different real-world situations, make the best use of course books, review information at appropriate intervals. The interconnectedness among the courses fascinates me. Back in Russia, there is not much practice on evidence-based course design, so sometimes it was absurd that professors told us one thing about teaching but themselves did the opposite in the classroom. How were students supposed to learn?

What parallels, if any, do you find between instructional design in the U.S. and in Russia?

This is a most challenging question to which I don’t have an answer. In the attempt to understand what instructional design is, some people ask me: “It’s like you create online courses?” True, but it is much broader, and I don’t know yet how to explain it in a few words. I think, a similar word in Russian to refer to an “instructional designer” would be a “methodologist.” I guess people who create rigorous instructional materials by using a systematic instructional design process can call themselves instructional designers. Still, I have never heard the phrase “instructional design” back in Russia.

How do you intend to apply instructional design knowledge and skills in the future?

As I said in the beginning, I have a very ambitious plan—make the world better. By the end of this master’s program, I may narrow down my ideas, start working in a university in Russia, and help change the system from below by creating instructional materials for professors, new syllabi for students, evaluation plans for administration. I also plan to engage in research. With the new knowledge of planned change and innovation, I hope to help introduce the CLIL approach to public schools. Additionally, nowadays teachers need guidance around using technologies in the classroom—they weren’t taught how to do it in their universities. There is a lot of work to do after I come back to Russia.

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