• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 11, No 6 (2020)

Higher Education and Digitalization of the Economy: The Case of Russian Regions

Higher Education and Digitalization of the Economy: The Case of Russian Regions

Title: Higher Education and Digitalization of the Economy: The Case of Russian Regions
Ekaterina Koroleva, Anna Kuratova

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Cite this article as:
Koroleva, E., Kuratova, A. 2020. Higher Education and Digitalization of the Economy: The Case of Russian Regions. International Journal of Technology. Volume 11(6), pp. 1181-1190

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Ekaterina Koroleva Graduate School of Industrial Economics, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg, Polytechnicheskaya, 29, 195251, Russia
Anna Kuratova Graduate School of Industrial Economics, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg, Polytechnicheskaya, 29, 195251, Russia
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Abstract
Higher Education and Digitalization of the Economy: The Case of Russian Regions

Building on the resource-based theory, we examine the association between the digitalization of the economy and the quality of higher education in Russian regions. We use the regression model to analyze data collected in Russian regions from 2011 to 2018. The quality of higher education is measured by the education potential in the regions. Regional factors of economic digitalization are categorized by mobile and Internet activities, technological background, and innovation activities. The information database contains official dates drawn from federal and regional statistical sources. The results showed that regions that had higher levels of innovation activities had a higher quality of higher education. On the contrary, mobile and Internet activities had a weakly negative influence on the quality of higher education. Our results are controversial with respect to the technological background of the region and its influence on the quality of higher education. Nonetheless, the study provides insights into the resource-based theory, demonstrating that the factors of economic digitalization increase the competitive advantage of the region regarding education, and they play an important role in regional sustainable development. 

Digitalization; Education potential; Quality of education; Regional development

Introduction

The new trend to digitalization has penetrated each sphere of modern life, including education. Recently, the education process has been significantly transformed by the emergence of digital platforms, mobile educational applications, audio classes, and so on. The transformation of education has led to the increased accessibility of education, as well as changes in the skills acquired from communication to visibility and involvement in the educational process (Shcherbina, 2020). Most previous studies have analyzed the attitudes and satisfaction of students with the digitalization of education (Chen et al., 2020; Popova et al., 2020) and the development of convenient application interfaces (Korableva et al., 2019). To the authors’ knowledge, no previous study has interpreted digitalization as a competitive resource in regions and a tool for upgrading the quality of education.

 The theoretical background of this research is the resource-based theory (Barney et al., 2001). We propose that digitalization in territories, particularly regions, is a rare, difficult-to-imitate resource that influences the quality of higher education. We evaluate the association between digitalization and the quality of education in the case of Russian regions. One of the characteristic features of Russia is the unsustainable development of its regions, which is due to the uneven distribution of resources (e.g., human, social, material, etc.). This imbalance has been the source of serious long-term threats to and negative influences on the stability of the country’s development overall. Because of these characteristics, Russia is an interesting case for research.

In this study, we apply a cross-sectional regression model to a set of data on Russian regions collected from 2011 to 2018. The research was run before the COVID pandemic, so the influence of the COVID pandemic was not analyzed. The quality of higher education is measured by the education potential of the region. Digitalization factors are distributed according to the following categories: mobile and Internet activities; technological background; and innovation activities in the region. This research is based on information drawn from regional statistical sources (Federal Service State Statistics, 2020).

        The results of our study showed that regions with higher levels of innovation activity had a higher quality of higher education. On the contrary, mobile and Internet activities had a weak negative influence on the quality of higher education in the regions. Our results are controversial regarding the influence of the regions’ technological background on the quality of higher education. Nonetheless, the study demonstrates that the factors of innovation and mobile and Internet activities in the region led to increased competitive advantages in education, and they played an important role in sustainable development.

        The article contributes to the literature on the resource-based theory (Barney, 1991; Rothaermel, 2012; Sharma et al., 2019), in which digitalization is considered a difficult-to-imitate resource for improving the quality of education in regions. It could be concluded that digitalization would have a positive influence on the assessment of education in Russian regions because, in general, the implementation of digital technologies improves its quality and contributes to the further development of the economy.

        The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 provides a literature review. The data collection and methods are described in section 3, and the results are discussed in section 4. Finally, section 5 provides a discussion of the findings and concludes the paper.

Conclusion

Using a resource perspective, we analyzed the relationship between the factors of economic digitalization and the quality of higher education. The results were considered from a regional perspective. We used the methodology developed by Russian authors Balatsky and Ekimova (2009), and we regarded the education potential of regions as the quality of higher education.

The results of our study showed that high levels of innovation activity were correlated with the high quality of higher education in the region. Thus, H3 was confirmed because the introduction of technological marketing and increased operational innovations had a strong positive relationship with the quality of education. The variables in the ratio of inventive activity demonstrated the strongest influence, thereby stimulating the creation of innovation platforms based on higher education institutions and providing opportunities for students to consolidate their acquired professional skills.

Innovative activities in regions, such as the creation of special educational platforms, transformed the educational process, increasing the accessibility of education and drawing the attention of students. The new technologies aroused the interest of students and involved them in the educational process. The studies reviewed reflected the results obtained, which showed that complex and challenging academic tasks based on students' prior knowledge allowed them to develop their own understanding of the content. These tasks were more likely to increase students' motivation and confidence in their cognitive abilities in applying technology. The formation and introduction of innovative tools in Russian regional universities may contribute to the emergence of strong universities that engage in applied and fundamental research, closely interact with industry, and introduce knowledge in research (Medinsky, 2018). Moreover, the introduction of innovative technologies would increase the attractiveness of universities and increase their effectiveness in preparing competitive specialists for the labor market.

Improving the quality of education in Russia’s regions depends on digitization because of the introduction of the online educational environment in universities through the creation of online courses and their application in the educational process.

The hypothesis (H2) that the region's technological background has a positive influence on the quality of education was ambiguous. Research has shown that digital economic factors create stronger competitive advantages for regions in education and play an important role in regional development. The technological background will ensure a quality digital transformation in education, which will have a positive influence on the quality of education in general. However, the lower share of digitization of the network in cities characterized the higher quality of education in regions. This finding neither confirms nor rejects H2. The further development of the technological background will ensure the quick reorientation of education to accommodate new tasks in the labor market (Plotnikova, 2018).

The factors related to mobile and Internet activities (H1) had a weak negative influence on the quality of education in the region. This finding is explained by the following: according to the requirements of the Ministry of Higher Education, any educational organization should have a personal website, which is the reason that the share of such educational organizations is high. Another statistically significant variable related to mobile and Internet activities was the share of organizations using Internet access. It had a slightly negative influence, but it was statistically significant. This influence could be interpreted as the gap between educational organizations and real sector enterprises in Russia. Unfortunately, the educational process in educational organizations lacks the support of industry professionals.

The factors related to mobile and Internet activities include entertainment as well as the educational environment, which could have affected the negative dynamics of the indicator (Chen, 2019). According to statistics, many students spend much time in contacting social networks or playing games, which has a negative influence on the educational process (Wang, 2013).

Our study revealed that the factor of economic digitalization led to a stronger competitive advantage for regional education, and it played an important role in regional sustainable development. Based on the findings of this study, it could be concluded that digitalization has a positive influence on the assessment of the quality of education in Russian regions. In general, the introduction of digital technologies in various areas, including education, allows for improving quality and contributes to further economic development. Moreover, during the current pandemic, the use of distance technologies and online courses is inevitable. Their introduction is aimed at increasing the level of safety, particularly regarding the health of students, administrative staff, and teaching staff.

Acknowledgement

The reported study was funded by RFBR according to the research project No. 18-310-20012.

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