When the corona pandemic stopped Finland at the beginning of the year, educational institutions urgently had to find new solutions for securing teaching and work. 3AMK Universities of Applied Sciences in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Laurea (https://laurea.fi/en), Haaga-Helia (https://haaga-helia.fi/en) and Metropolia (https://metropolia.fi/en) quickly switched to distance learning and teleworking practices.
The transition to full distance learning and work forced higher education institutions to face a new kind of situation. Although good distance practices had already been used in the past, teaching and work had to be reorganized and alternative ways of implementing them had to be invented.
The need for digital support for teachers increased
One significant and necessary change in all three UAS’s was the increase in digital support for teachers. The transition to distance learning and working required the use of a wide range of digital tools and the introduction of new ways of working.
In Haaga-Helia, pop-up counseling organized by the university’s digital pedagogy mentors, which takes place every workday morning, was introduced as an aid in providing digital support. Pop up counseling was open to all college staff.
Hannu Turunen, Metropolia’s lecturer and coordinator of digimentors, says that Metropolia used the Digiklinikka (digital clinic) platform shared to all the university’s campuses. Among other things, the digital clinic arranged reception hours for digimentors, where anyone could come and ask for advice. In addition, video instructions, training and advice were distributed, and it was possible to ask for questions through thematic channels.
Laurea’s digital support practices during the pandemic included digital morning coffee clinics held every weekday to support teachers in the use of digital tools.
A hybrid model was introduced in higher education institutes
With the pandemic, especially in the autumn, universities have also switched to using a combined model in teaching, i.e. the so-called hybrid model. The hybrid model means combining contact and distance learning in teaching.
Haaga-Helia’s service director Kari Salmi says that for the hybrid model to work, it has been planned and calculated exactly how a controlled return to campuses would be possible. Contact teaching on campuses was prioritized for beginning students so that grouping and the start of studies could start as smoothly as possible.
3AMK activities during the pandemic
3AMK alliance’s many events were managed using remote tools. One of the prides of 3AMK was the coding event Hackathon, which was organized as a virtual implementation and received praise from international students. Read more about the Hackathon here (article in English).
Other implementations were also organized virtually. The intensive course Digital Wellbeing Sprint, where students develop services together with health companies, succeeded beyond expectations. Transferring teaching online required flexibility from both students and teachers. The tools were made to work through solution-oriented attitude although technical problems were not avoided.
In addition, 3AMK wanted to help the working life affected by the pandemic. As an agile player, it quickly set up the SUN project to help companies in crisis in the travel and restaurant industry. The project quickly received provincial crisis funding.
Created practices survive
The new norm in distance learning and the hybrid model has developed a lot of distance learning and teleworking practices, and some of the practices created during the pandemic will probably survive in future.
Mikael Uusi-Mäkelä, Laurea’s Development Manager also says that the pandemic period and teleworking have partly acted as a catalyst for more cross-campus cooperation and that openness to teaching has also progressed a lot.
– Distance learning practices will not replace face-to-face or multimodal teaching, but certainly best practices will remain to be exploited. Pandemic times have blurred the boundaries between remote and short-range operations, and in future there will probably not be such a black-and-white decision as to whether to operate remotely or on the ground.