Higher professional education always reflects the current trends in social development. Currently, many universities pay special attention to the issues of high-quality training of competent specialists, taking into account the specific features of digital education. To achieve this goal, the basic principles of a competence-based approach should be taken into account:
• the goal of education is to develop students’ skills to independently solve problems in various fields and types of activities based on social experience including their own reflections;
• the content of education is didactically adapted social experience of cognitive, ideological, moral, professional and other issues;
• the study process should provide appropriate conditions for the development of the learning experience as applied to finding independent solutions to cognitive, communicative, organizational, moral and organizational problems that make up the content of education.
The following solutions to the problems of optimizing the use of professionally-targeted language training have been proposed by LSP (Language for specific purposes) teaching methodology.
Here are some principles of LSP teaching relevant to distance learning implementation: raising career awareness, individual approach to students, promoting study autonomy and individual study trajectories, modeling quasi-professional activities, active communication, as well as taking into account the requirements of the social and professional environment, the problematic nature of training, the variability of the content and learning technologies, interactivity, as well as the adequacy of study materials .
Today, the goal of teaching a foreign language is shifting from the formation of a secondary linguistic personality towards the development of a specialist capable of participating in intercultural and professional communication by means of a foreign language. The training process should involve familiarization with the national and cultural values of Russia to enable an individual to participate on equal terms in intercultural and professional communication in a foreign language in the context of the dialogue of cultures.
The next strategic goal, which today is in the focus of attention in all spheres of our life and is represented within the framework of the National project «Education» (2019–2024), is the development of «Digital Educational Environment». It is the type of learning environment that is charged with the enormous tasks of developing breakthrough projects in the education system, including foreign language training. It is the «digital format» that the successful transformation of the technologies of the future into innovative practice is expected from. All this determines the development of language training methodology (lingvodidactics), in general, and computational linguodidactics – in particular . So far there have been quite a number of theoretical works that provide scientific grounds for the relevance and usefulness of large-scale digitalization of education. But still more attention should be paid to the issues of using a wide range of information technologies in teaching foreign languages at all the levels of education. In modern conditions, educationalists emphasize that informatization and globalization form a new society, which is referred to as a knowledge society and a new economy. This type of a society requires an education system ensuring the training of highly qualified specialists involved in lifelong education characterized by different strategies, models and technologies .
It should be noted that so far there is still no unity among experts as to both the specific features of the content and the means of distance learning, as well as the motivation of students for learning activities in the distance environment . With distance learning, the traditional set of tools and methods for managing the educational and cognitive activity of students undergoes significant changes, but at the same time conditions are provided for the individualization of training . Teachers are faced with such an important task as the formation of an interaction culture in the digital environment based on the principles of productive cooperation and mutual respect. Therefore, the ethics of virtual classroom interaction comes to the fore.
The purpose of the study is to rationalize individualization of virtual classroom interaction with different types of «problematic» students, taking into account the specific features of their communicative behavior in the distance environment.
The personality-oriented approach actively used in the study process implies the development of ethical competence. The latter includes the mastery in the field of virtual classroom interaction ethics, a certain set of moral and ethical qualities, as well as a readiness for ethically relevant behavior in moral dilemmas and collisions. S.E. Shulpin  notes that today's students must master knowledge with a clear understanding of the goals and content of the pedagogical process. V.A. Kan-Kalik  mentions the three most prominent components of the pedagogical process: content, methodological and socio-psychological. The experience of pedagogical activity demonstrates that it is not enough for teachers to possess only the subject content and methods of teaching and educating: all their knowledge and skills are transmitted to students only through a system of live direct communication. Even the most exciting and effective teaching and learning materials, the most advanced and progressive methods of pedagogical influence will work only in purposefully created optimal conditions for virtual classroom interaction, in particular, study and quasi-professional communication cases when performing various types of active and interactive tasks.
I.I. Makashina  notes that when a foreign language is used as a means of professionalization, a so-called integral phenomenon arises, which may be called a «language- and activity-based» education, which simultaneously combines both the subject matter and the means of instruction. Thus, when using the content of foreign language training as a means of forming professional ethics, professional ethical norms are actualized by students trying to do self-reflection and self-diagnostics then.
Currently, the ethical foundations of students’ behavior at a university should be formed not only within the framework of pedagogical subjects. Virtual classroom interaction ethics should be implicitly and purposefully formed through mastering the content of many subjects, in particular, «Foreign Language». This course, due to its communicative capacity, can serve as the basis for the development of ethics. In the distance learning environment, certain features of both the ethics of virtual classroom interaction and the means of its formation are observed.
To increase the effectiveness of distance learning, it is necessary to take into account the individual characteristics and needs of students, analyze the specific capabilities of the learning format itself, and create an optimal educational environment [9, 10].
Communication in the distance environment is implemented, as a rule, on the basis of a polylogue. The concept of polylogic communication is revealed in the fact that the interests and needs (personal, professional and social) of all participants (stakeholders) of the pedagogical process are taken into account . In the process of mastering the study material, students strive to achieve their own personal, professional and social goals, including self-improvement, self-implementation / self-expression, increasing the level of social acceptance, gaining personal and communicative experience, obtaining new professionally significant information, etc.
As implied by a case-study approach in education, the concepts of «pedagogical case» and «pedagogical task» were formed. A pedagogical case is a short-term interaction of a teacher with a student (a group of students) on the basis of opposite norms, values and interests, which is accompanied by explicit emotional manifestations and is aimed at changing the existing relationship (for the better or worse). This poses a pedagogical task to be solved. Some pedagogical (regular) cases occur quite often. Analyzing the actions of students, it is possible to quickly formulate a pedagogical task, solve it, and eliminate the conflict. Others (non-standard) are less common, they are complex and unique, while requiring effort and a long time to resolve. At the heart of every pedagogical case is a conflict:
• dissatisfaction (negative attitude towards someone or something);
• disagreement (lack of agreement due to dissimilarity in opinions or views);
• counteraction (action preventing another action from happening);
• opposition (resistance to the action of someone);
• rupture (broken communication, coherence between something or someone).
Three phases of the pedagogical case are conventionally distinguished. The first phase is an acute conflict beginning with a clear violation of socially significant norms and values by one of the participants in the situation. The second phase is the response of the “opponent”, the form and content of which determines the outcome of the confrontation, and, most importantly, the consequences, or possible changes in the previously established relations. Undoubtedly, the second phase is the centerpiece of the situation; as a rule, it is stressful by itself (endangers the honor of the individual; lack of time and information reduces the possibility of a decent response, etc.). The third phase is a relatively rapid and radical change in the prevailing norms and values (sometimes leading to the destruction of individual norms) in two different directions – improvement or deterioration of previously established relations. In any case, the pedagogical consequences resulting from the third phase can be quite significant. Correct resolution of conflict situations is an integral element of professional training . Often the source of conflict situations is a sharp, tactless reaction of the teacher to the deviant behavior of students. For example, the student behaves unworthily, the teacher is rude and directly reacting to this behavior, as a result, the group and the student, in particular, turn against the teacher.
Various psychological and pedagogical cases arising in the course of distance learning can be analyzed on the basis of the methodology developed by Yu.N. Kulyutkin . The scientist identifies the following stages of solving a psychological and pedagogical case:
• designing the subject content and forms of students’ activity, which, in the teacher’s opinion, could help solve the task;
• implementing the planned project in direct interaction with students;
• final assessing the results achieved.
One of the goals of analyzing pedagogical cases is the individualization of pedagogical interaction with different types of students, taking into account the specific features of their communicative behavior in a distance environment. Thus, educational communication becomes a space for personal development and leads to the formation of ethical thinking and, to a certain extent, the morality of students. In addition, such interaction may have anticipatory value-rational action, since students, taking part in assessing and resolving the situation, purposefully contribute to their own moral development. In this case, it is especially important to encourage students to comprehend the problem that has arisen in the situation, and this comprehension should help them realize the importance of finding optimal ways to solve the problem, assessing the possible methods and making a decision based on subsequent outcome forecasting. Thanks to this, students begin to navigate the world of moral and ethical values. According to A.V. Kiryakova , search, assessment, choice and projection are the mechanisms helping an individual to orientate in the world of values.
Research methods included the analysis of scientific and pedagogical literature on the problems of digitalization of education, analysis of pedagogical experience, participant observation, questionnaire survey, expert assessment. Methodologically the research is based on acmeological, personality-oriented and competence-based approaches.
The problem of individualization of virtual classroom interaction was studied in Russian State Agrarian University – Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy by the teaching staff of the Department of Russian and Foreign Languages.
The experimental part of the study involved a survey conducted in the form of self-questioning, in which first-and second-year bachelor students from Russian State Agrarian University – Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy, as well as first-year master students took part. The total number of respondents amounted to 100 people.
The experience of teaching in the distance environment has shown that not all students are equally actively and responsibly involved in the training process. One of the main properties of the digital environment is interactivity, which consists not only in the interaction of participants in the training process with objects on the screen, but also in their interaction with each other. On the other hand, educators note that during distance learning centered around the actions of the teacher only, it turns out to be difficult to retain the attention of students and manage their involvement.
This requires a separate effort on the part of teachers: they find it important to monitor and respond quickly to distractions, to apply interactive teaching methods when organizing group work of students, and also to actively influence the motivation of individual students. In addition, to maintain attention and control understanding, it seems reasonable to comment on transitions to new activities, ask questions for understanding and guesswork, invite students to summarize and evaluate the results of the work done.
The degree of motivation to participate in certain types of training activities depends, in particular, on the opportunities provided by specific cases of virtual classroom interaction. The established learning environment determines the conditions for meeting the specific needs of students, in particular, in self-expression .
In the process of exchanging pedagogical experience with a number of practicing teachers of domestic universities, some «problematic» categories of students were identified based on the characteristics of their communicative behavior in the distance format. In particular, in addition to active participants – Achievers, we have identified such generalized «problematic» types of students as Sleepyhead, Freak, Ghost, Grumbler, Busy, and Beaver, the main distinctive features of which are presented in Table 1.
Generalized typology of «problematic» students – participants of virtual classes
— is constantly late
— misses important information
— does not understand what to do
— takes the teacher's time with clarifying questions
— is always waiting for the class to end
— instead of taking part in the virtual class, tends to send private messages to other students
— shows himself/herself off, behaves inappropriately
— tries to grasp attention by any means
— distracts the teacher and classmates, leaving the topic of the class
— always offers a provocative comment on any topic
— connects to the virtual classroom, but does not take part in any activities
— never turns on the camera, due to its “alleged” absence
— periodically, the microphone is allegedly out of order
— there are constant communication problems
— often drops off the virtual classroom for unknown reasons
— is constantly dissatisfied with something during the class
— concentrates on errors and faults
— distracts the teacher and demotivates other students
— believes that everything can be better organized
— any task causes dissatisfaction for him/her
— connects to the virtual classroom, but is constantly distracted by the phone, mail, etc.
— tries to urgently check relevant information on the Internet
— is periodically distracted by extraneous matters
— always tends to stay online in social networks
— always tries to pay attention to his/her importance in public life
— cannot independently set tasks and outline effective ways to achieve them
— is constantly trying to do something, but without much success
— needs constant correction
In the experimental part of the study, students were asked to conduct a self-assessment in the course of an anonymous questionnaire survey, during which they were asked to answer questions reflecting the typical behavioral characteristics of a particular category of virtual class participants. Based on the analyzed results, the share of certain types of students in the total number of respondents was determined, on the basis of which a bar graph was drawn up, shown in Figure .
Based on the data obtained about the main types of «problematic» students, we have offered some active and proactive methods of dealing with them, which are presented in Table 2.
The main ways to solve the problem of interaction with «problematic» students
— set a rule to start connecting to the virtual classroom 15 minutes before the appointed time in order to have time to test audio and video connection
— from the outset, discuss the rules of conduct during the virtual class, as well as possible sanctions
— at the beginning of each class, outline the class plan so that students can imagine the sequence of tasks and tune in to work
— pay attention to the passive participants so that they know that they will not go unnoticed; ask a question: |«I see you are not participating. Maybe, something is not working out for you? How can I help you?»
— nominate students to answer randomly so that they understand that their participation is important
— ask students at random so that they understand that their participation is important
— ask for feedback at the end of the session
— explain how to give feedback in a constructive format, noting not only the disadvantages, but also the advantages
— discuss the rules of conduct during the virtual class
— design interaction patterns in such a way that every four-five minutes students take part in a different activity and are less distracted by other things
— give short and feasible tasks (to stage cases of success)
— gradually complicate tasks, pushing to find the right ways to solve the assigned tasks
— training in cooperation with stronger students is optimal
It also makes sense to analyze possible options for interactive tasks in which students could actively participate without the direct presence of the teacher. As shown in Table 3, it is advisable for active participants (Achievers) to offer additional types of pair and group work in which they could provide support and show a positive example to the «problematic» class participants. In particular, the following types of training activities presented in Table 3 have turned out to work effectively in practice.
Sample formats of interaction between «active» and «problematic» students
Format of interaction with «active» students
— joint drafting of a case-study dialogue on a current topic
— doing an interactive task (guessing words by their humorous definitions, «crocodile», linguistic quizzes)
— completing a task in the web-quest format (limited in time, in a competition mode), preparing a presentation (finding a non-standard solution to the problem)
— preparing and staging a discussion between the advocate and the opponent of a certain idea (technology, practice)
— playing out the scene of telephone conversations (video call), solving a production problem
— reviewing work (exercise, essay, translation), discussing mistakes together, and looking for ways to improve the outcomes
In the process of studying at a university, students need to form ethical maturity, which implies stable awareness, responsibility and independence in situations of choosing a model of behavior in typical and problematic cases of training activity. The formation of ethics of virtual classroom interaction in the course of learning a foreign language can become an effective means of personal and group professionalizing if:
• training takes into account the principle of individualization of the virtual classroom interaction of the teacher and students;
• the training process includes comprehension and moral assessment of educational and quasi-professional communication cases;
• the course content includes personally and professionally significant information;
• a foreign language is used to redesign a model of professional cases in which students can assess themselves as future professionals, which implies team and pair interaction between active and «problematic» students to solve general study problems (in the process of preparing case-study dialogues, role-playing, discussions, cases based on the analysis of problematic study and quasi-professional cases);
• finally, when organizing interaction, the teacher must set an example in relation to the ethics of virtual classroom interaction: make transitions between topics and types of activities with an appropriate summary; avoid off-topic conversations, ask questions that are really relevant and meaningful; check in a timely manner whether the material is understandable, and offer assistance.
The study has shown that students tend to behave in various ways during virtual classes. The questionnaire survey results helped distinguish some characteristic types of «problematic» students. Anyway, in practice the communicative behavior of certain students may include a combination of several roles. At the same time, the teacher's task is to identify the typical prevailing characteristics and individualize interaction patterns in virtual classrooms in order to establish the most optimal conditions for achieving the prescribed learning outcomes. Therefore, the study did not pretend to determine statistically significant differences between the types of students. The task was to show the objectively existing differentiation in the communicative behavior of students-participants of virtual classes and, consequently, to design algorithms for the most effective virtual classroom interaction.
To sum it all up, in order to optimize virtual classes in the «Foreign Language» course, it makes sense for teachers to take into account the following generalized recommendations:
• to consider the content of the «Foreign Language» course as one of the means of forming the ethics of virtual classroom interaction on an implicit basis;
• to individualize virtual classroom interaction with different types of students, taking into account the specific features of their communicative behavior in the distance environment;
• organize team and pair interaction of active and «problematic» students to solve general study problems (in the process of preparing case-study dialogues, role-playing, discussions, and cases based on the analysis of problematic study and quasi-professional cases).
All these measures can help increase students’ motivation to the studied course, develop skills of solving standard and non-standard study and professional tasks, and also be the key to successful professional self-implementation.