Fulbright Scholar Violetta Soboleva Discusses Instructional Design, Planned Change, and Educational Innovation

Violetta Soboleva is an M.S. in Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation student from Russia who came to Syracuse University on a Fulbright scholarship. Also studying at Minin University, she describes herself as passionate about technologies, neural networks in education design, edutainment—and creating quality content. In this interview, Soboleva discusses her interest in instructional design and how she intends to apply her knowledge in the future.

Violetta Soboleva headshotWhat experiences in Russia led you to the US to study instructional design?

I was led here by curiosity and a desire to make the world better. With a background in primary education and English as a Foreign Language teaching in Russia—and a semester at the Autonomous University of Barcelona—I realized that one problem with Russian K-12 education is not only the 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 that can clearly delineate ways of using CLIL in the classroom. 

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 a problem’s origin. It can be a problem of motivation or another aspect that cannot be fixed with instruction. I can see that now, after a semester in Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation.

What excites you about the IDDE program at Syracuse University?

The beauty of the design with 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 a 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, and review information at appropriate intervals. 

The interconnectedness among the courses also 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 did the opposite in the classroom. How were students supposed to learn?

“I have a very ambitious plan—to make the world better.”

What parallels, if any, do you find between instructional design in the US and 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 “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?

I have a very ambitious plan—to make the world better. By the end of this master’s program, I may narrow down my ideas, start working in a Russian university, and help change the system from below by creating instructional materials for professors, new syllabi for students, and evaluation plans for administration. 

I also plan to engage in research. With my 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 because they weren’t taught how to do it in their universities. There is a lot of work to do when I return to Russia.

Learn more about the M.S. in Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation or contact Professor Jing Lei, IDDE Chair, at jlei@syr.edu or 315.443.1362.