VolgaTech Resource Center: A New Paradigm of Learning

In 2011 Volga State Technological University (VolgaTech) became one of 13 universities to win an award of the Federal Center of Education Program Support for its project entitled "Improving Elementary and Secondary Vocational Training for Forestry Professionals at the Interregional Professional Resource Center".

Training in Forestry requires considerable financing, and only a few colleges or professional schools can find the money to acquire the necessary equipment or develop the necessary instructional and methodological literature. This is where resource centers come in handy with all the necessary resources that educational institutions providing training in Forestry can use.

The VolgaTech Interregional Professional Resource Center has been in operation since 2008. It had initially included all the divisions and branches of the Faculty of Forestry, Faculty of Forestry and Ecology, Faculty of Management of Natural and Water Resources, and branches of the university that provide secondary professional education programs. The Center will serve as a VolgaTech hub of educational, research and resource innovations.

Last year, in the process of implementing the proposed project, the network of Resource Center partners increased considerably and now includes 18 colleges and professional schools from 13 regions (Volga, Central and Northwestern Federal Districts). By the end of last year more than 200 teachers and professional training coaches attended the events organized by the Resource Center, learning to share the best practices and use interactive education techniques. In 2012 the Center provided in-service training to more than 200 teachers and professional training coaches from various institutions within the partnership network.

The growing geography of the center’s activities and the increasing number of students necessitated a change in program administration. An optimal solution was found in the form of an online program hosted by the VolgaTech website. Using this program, distance education students had access to all methodological and instructional materials.

A word about the educational programs. At first the Resource Center provided 16 professional modules, six of which had already been successfully field-tested. The programs were assessed by major employers and faculty representing various educational institutions from 17 Russian regions. VolgaTech also plans to deliver a set of new up-to-date textbooks and instructional brochures in Management of Forests, Parks and Gardens.

The University has acquired some state-of-the-art equipment. Last year VolgaTech purchased brand-new harvester and forwarder. This equipment has been actively used by all participants in the network to help students acquire practical skills.

The Smart Greenhouse as it is known around here, an innovative energy-independent greenhouse facility, deserves a special mention. It is a fairly small facility that includes a greenhouse, two wind generators, a solar energy collector, a gas storage tank, a heat storage tank, and a power station with solar batteries and bioreactors. Soon similar smart greenhouse facilities will be set up in other educational institutions of the network. They will serve as training grounds for a new program in maintenance and servicing of greenhouse facilities in arboreta.

The VolgaTech project has definitely become a milestone for the entire forestry sector. Rector Evgeny Romanov says that Interregional Professional Resource Centers will help professional education programs reach new heights and allow program graduates to meet the high demands of their employers.