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Image: @MarinaIskh

Image: @MarinaIskh

Zooming through COVID-19

13 May 2020

6 minute read

Before moving to The Australian National University (ANU) in 2016, Dr Marina Iskhakova had lived, studied and worked in Russia, Norway, China, the US and the UK. Despite working across countries and various institutions, she rates her transition to online teaching as one of the most uncomfortable moves she has had to adapt to. 

Marina is an award-winning lecturer at the University, whose goal beyond academia is to be the first Russian academic-woman to climb Mount Everest.

We virtually sat down with Marina as she candidly discussed her new way of life that involves delivering education from home. 


Q. How have you found the transition to teaching online and what does your workspace at home look like?

I’ve lived in and travelled to several countries throughout my career, but I have found the move to online teaching to be quite hard, as well as the most time-consuming transition for me to adapt to. I realise how much I actually enjoy in-person teaching and feel grateful about the learning environment where I can interact with students who are ever ready to learn. For these reasons, while I have everything I need to confidently work from home, what I miss the most is the constant, zealous interactions with the students, who are filled with fearless ideas, initiatives and plans.


While I have everything I need to confidently work from home, what I miss the most is the constant, zealous interactions with students.


Q. What does a typical workday look like for you while you are teaching remotely
?

At home, we’ve developed and tested several ‘work-and-home-school-models’ to find the optimal balance as we continue to work while teaching our two daughters. My husband and I work alternate full days, 9am–5pm, to provide a quality home-schooling experience for our children who are in primary school. Following dinner, we dedicate another shift, 8pm–midnight, on preparing for lectures and working on our respective research projects. I’d not say it was an easy time. Somewhere in my day, I do need to go on an hour-long run or bike-ride, a must routine that helps me stay sane.


I check on my students several times during the week to let them know that they are not alone on this tough journey during COVID-19.


Q. What are some of the tools and tricks you use when delivering an online lecture?

I ensure that there is enough communication around my courses, keeping in regular contact with my students by sending them reminders before Zoom lectures or tutorials. I also contact them right after these web sessions to follow up on how they are progressing. I check on them several times during the week to let them know that they are not alone on this tough journey during COVID-19.

I tend to stick to the same methods of teaching during my Zoom sessions as I would typically do in a classroom, calling students by their names and translating my passion for the subject to their learning interests. I also bring very recent data, news, and analytics to my Managerial Economics class, where students can relate concepts to the current context.


Don't forget to pat yourself on the back after each day of remote study or work.


Q.
What advice would you give students to help them find coursework-life balance while studying remotely?

My top advice is:

  • you should do one activity that you are passionate about every day, as this will give you strength and a sense of stability to help get through the pandemic

  • don’t lose focus of your big picture as COVID-19 should not stop you from dreaming

  • help those who need help

  • maintain your discipline and your daily schedule

  • don’t forget to pat yourself on the back after each day of remote study or work.


With my global family, who are across continents, we have set up weekly Sunday Zoom tea-time to support each other during this period.

Q. Do you have a favourite YouTube channel or online game or show that you have enjoyed during isolation?

For me its TED Talks because they give me a lot of inspiration. These videos embrace incredible ideas that are worth spreading, but also help you learn new skills on how to present and communicate the most challenging sophisticated ideas in a fun way.

With the family, we really enjoy several classic ballet performances on the internet. With my global family, who are across continents, including my parents in Russia, we have set up weekly Sunday Zoom-tea time to support and connect with each other during this period.

 

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers a specialised program in Managerial Economics. Click here for more details.

Updated:   13 May 2020 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team