Educational projects of Mail.Ru Group: 4 years, 1206 students, 101 teachers

    Hello, Habr! Four years ago, the Mail.Ru Technopark project appeared, which we have already talked about here more than once (for example, here , here and here ). The principles laid in its foundation turned out to be so successful that during this short period two more similar projects arose on their basis ( Technosphere and Technotrek ). In addition, we began to launch projects based on the Technopark model in the regions. Today I’ll tell you not so much about the project itself, but about the meanings generated by this project, about what, sometimes quite unexpected, results can be obtained. But we will start with the idea, or rather the history of its appearance.

    We set the task

    The premise of the project now seems obvious, but then, four years ago, it was not entirely obvious. We discussed the personnel crisis. We talked about the demographic pit, the complexity of recruiting young specialists with the skills appropriate for an IT product company, the cost of their adaptation in the company, etc. It seemed that there was no acceptable solution to these problems, that we generally should not focus on attracting young specialists as on regular HR practice. But, as often happens in our company, the word "experiment" was spoken.

    What is an experiment? This is when quickly and at minimal cost it is necessary to confirm or refute some hypothesis. What is an experiment in education? This is definitely not fast anymore, since receiving feedback from a graduate is years, if not a decade. And it’s not at all cheap, because it is necessary to ensure several years of reproducible educational process when teaching a statistically significant number of students. Nevertheless, we decided to experiment and rushed to develop educational competencies unusual for IT business together with our first partner - MSTU. N.E. Bauman.

    We formulate a hypothesis

    What hypothesis did we test? It seemed to us a reasonable idea that if our specialists begin to train students of an excellent technical university, we will get several important "business" benefits.

    • We will reduce the costs of adaptation (training) of interns in the company due to the centralization of training. That is, instead of the model “one mentor - one intern”, we are implementing the model “one mentor - many interns”, which, all other things being equal, is more economical.
    • Increase the loyalty (read - the term of work in the company) of our interns . Firstly, due to the training of our technologies and the production process, and secondly, due to the fact that they are imbued with our working atmosphere.
    • We will increase the loyalty (yes, again about survival) of our trainees by introducing communicative practices into the learning process: trainings and teamwork on educational projects (with subsequent collective defense of the results of these projects).
    • We will increase the quality of the interns' work (read - we will reduce the adaptation time) thanks to practice-oriented training: a project approach in education plus internships in the company or work in the laboratory.
    • Significantly increase the loyalty of our own employees who are selected for teaching in our projects. Firstly, work as a teacher is paid extra, and secondly, teaching students of the best technical universities in the country is prestigious.
    • We will positively change the general culture in the company , involving people in the process of training, mentoring and transfer of knowledge.

    We are looking for a solution

    I can’t say that all of the following arose immediately and suddenly. Something appeared and died, some ideas were born as a result of random conversations in the elevator. But most of this list is the result of the team’s hard work.

    • We are teaching seriously . Our educational program cannot be simple and / or short. In its content, it should correspond to the goal, that is, there should be no untreated aspects of the professional training of our future trainee. In its complexity, it should be slightly higher than the company's input requirements for a specialist in this area of ​​training. In other words, a graduate of our program must successfully compete with a specialist who has several years of experience in the relevant field. Now the typical duration of our program is two years, it consists of 12-16 semester disciplines. It is completed by about 25% of applicants, that is, 3/4 we deduct in the learning process.
    • We teach the best of the best . Our selection should be aimed at identifying not only knowledgeable students, but those who, in addition, are extremely motivated to learn and develop professionally. To do this, we should not lock ourselves in any particular department or even faculty, we need to create the widest possible funnel of attraction, which will allow us to find the most-most. Now the competition that we have achieved in the Technopark is more than 15 people per place.
    • We teach specific things . We do not want to compete with university study programs. We consider them necessary, but not sufficient for the optimal training of an IT specialist, especially a programmer. Therefore, our programs complement university ones in terms of practice-oriented training. We try to ensure that after each discipline (we have one semester lasting), the student has something that you can "touch" with which you can brag to friends and family, which can be inserted into the resume. We strive for the ratio of theory and practice in our programs to be 30/70, while reaching approximately 50/50.
    • We teach the most sought after . Our teachers are only practitioners, excuse me, from the plow. All of them, without exception, work every day with the technologies that they teach. Therefore, our courses are live, we change (supplement, improve) them every semester. Therefore, we did not have and will not have “stuffed materials” and ridiculous educational tasks about anything. Now 101 (I like to say - more than a hundred) teachers work in our projects, there were 112 of them for the whole time of the project.
    • We learn and learn together . Our students are full-fledged and most important participants in the project, our partners. We don’t take money (although we don’t pay scholarships) and look forward to a full-fledged and adult dialogue that helps us to develop the project. Now our students evaluate each lesson conducted according to nine criteria, at the end of each semester they participate in the certification of teacher teams, work with us on the automation of the educational process, and are part of the team.

    Total (ChTD)

    In the previous enrollment, this fall, we studied 1206 students. Of course, I mean not only Mail.Ru Technopark based on MSTU. N. E. Bauman, but also the Technosphere at Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov, and launched in the fall on the basis of MIPT Technotrek. This number includes not only students of the main two-year programs, but also students of the so-called open courses (semester disciplines on topics that are not included in the main program, but are indirectly related to it). And still more than 1200 people. Of the three best technical universities in the country. With a competition of up to 15 people per place. Not bad, right?

    We have more than 100 teachers in three Moscow projects. In four years, only 11 people left the team. I find this to be a surprisingly low yield. Over the years, we have done 53 semester disciplines with a total duration of about 3,500 class hours. This is a full-fledged bachelor's program, especially when you consider how much time we devote to extracurricular work of students and teachers.

    Online courses
    We do a lot to distribute our programs and courses among all those interested in IT and programming. Our channel contains 820 video lectures. In the past month alone, those interested have watched over a million minutes. Just a few days ago, we launched five online courses.with, five more are on the way. We would like to transfer all the disciplines of our projects to the correspondence format, thus making “Technopark online”.

    Team of educational projects
    The project team is four permanent employees of the company and four more employees on a contract. I am proud that we managed to gather real fans, those who truly understand the importance and responsibility of education as a process of changing the lives of other people. It is not always clear how, with a ratio of 1 administrator for 250 students or 1 administrator for 25 teachers, we manage to sleep, but somehow it turns out. Apparently, because we like what we do.

    Our graduates are already 96 people, of whom 88 work in their field, 55 of them are in our company. Particular pride is that eight graduates have returned to teach in our projects. This year, one of the graduates of the Technopark, having graduated from the bachelor's degree at MSTU, entered the magistracy of the Moscow State University and at the same time to the Technosphere. It seems that in two years we will have a “twice graduate”.

    Open courses
    Now, in addition to the three main two-year programs, we have ten open courses, some of which are exclusive. This year, together with NVIDIA, we launched a course on programming in CUDA C / C ++, traditionally successfully at MSU there is a course in programming in Perl (we break patterns, yes), in mobile development (Android and iOS), and Linux administration. We work a lot with “non-core” students, have done six-month preparatory courses for the main programs. It seems important to us to give a chance and opportunity to try yourself to everyone who is interested in the profession. Well, from the point of view of practical career guidance, this is correct.

    Lectures and master classes
    We hold 42 events (lecture or master class) per year. This is like a big technical conference - both in terms of the composition of the speakers and the level of topics. They were visited by about 2,300 people who left just over 300 reviews. We carefully recorded all the speeches on video, put them in public, and also decrypted the speeches and published them here on Habré (special thanks to the PR department of the company for the care).

    This year for the second time we held an enchanting summer championship of functional prototypes Technostart. About 1200 students of MSTU and Moscow State University took part in it, in the final the best nine teams received 3.6 million rubles for the development of their projects, as well as many other worthy prizes. It is especially important that the idea and implementation of the championship is the work of our students (more precisely, students), and the project itself is implemented with virtually no costs on our part.

    About two students work in our two laboratories at MSTU and MSU. The guys launched several highly loaded projects, made platforms for all of our championships, a project to develop the LMS of our educational projects (aka the Technopark portal). These are 3650 commits on GitHub since October 2014 and the architecture is completely rewritten in Python. A separate subject of pride is the mobile application for our partner, the project, which the guys made in three months and which got into the top 5 free educational applications on Google Play.

    This year we conducted an experiment (sic!) On the regional replication of the Technopark model: we became a methodological partner in the creation of a design school for the AIR of Mordovia and Moscow State University. Ogareva (Saransk). In September, more than 60 students came to the first lesson, colleagues received recommendations from us on the training program, we provided them with automation tools, we help solve pedagogical problems.


    Where are we going? Next year will be a year of stabilization. We ran so fast that it was time to collect stones. First of all, we will do online learning. Depending on the results of this year’s experiment, we will develop or change the approach to creating online courses, but we will definitely continue to work on the distribution of our programs on the network.

    We want to actively develop the direction of cooperation with regional companies, universities and associations. It seems very important to share our best practices, knowledge and experience with partners who want to develop IT education with us. Here, a lot depends on the desire of the regions - I think that this topic will be interesting to many.

    Continuing to unite students of our projects, we will expand the holding of our tech champions, we will connect MIPT to it. Last year, we received more than a hundred requests for this from the physical laboratories, and I am very glad that now we can implement it.

    And the most important thing. We will continue to educate children according to our principles. In a year, all three projects will reach their “planned capacity”, two more issues will be held, and I hope to write something like “Hello, we have 2000 students” by the fifth anniversary of our educational projects.

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