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Continuous learning
International benchlearning enhances quality and trust

An inter-institutional benchlearning process uplifts benefits of benchmarking to a level of co-creation as partners in three countries collaborate to crystallize a shared vision on chosen themes in a micro-community of practice.


Marjaana Mäkelä

yliopettaja, PhD, FL, YTM
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Elina Iloranta

kehityspäällikkö, jatkuva oppiminen
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 21.04.2022

Aligning with the regular quality assurance process of Finnish higher education institutions, Haaga-Helia UAS will undertake its next quality audit in 2023. The process is steered by the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC, in Finnish “Karvi”). A team of experts is assigned to write the institutional self-assessment report that is expected to unfold the entire quality assurance system, with an analysis of learning from the best practices of other higher education institutions.

Learning from other higher education institutions is always incorporated in the auditing process of Finnish higher education, based on ESG 2015. In this third round of audits, institutions may moreover include a dimension of systematic, international benchlearning in their preparatory work.

At Haaga-Helia we promote international collaboration and co-creation in all areas of development, including quality assurance. Hence, opting for an international cooperation stream in the audit preparation was a natural choice. Two outstanding partners with a long-term cooperation, NHL Stenden (the Netherlands) and HES-SO (Switzerland), were selected to join the two-year process, launched in 2020.

The objective is to focus on two pivotal themes in higher education that were intensified by Covid-19, namely e-learning and continuous learning. Both are key variables in the constantly mutating, globalising world and determinate future success in the digitalising higher education sector.

Benchlearning in practice

Given the severe pandemic situation in early 2020, the cooperation was initiated with a series of online meetings and virtual visits. They were carefully prepared in digital learning spaces where the team also worked on key questions, institutional objectives and definition of concepts related to the two main themes. The aim was to have a shared understanding of the complex and multi-dimensional topics.

In October 2021, the Dutch and Swiss partners were able to visit Helsinki, and the second real-life visit was organised at NHL Stenden in April 2022. Both encounters enhanced mutual trust and respect, triggering a variety of future development ideas for pedagogy, research and quality work. Joining conversations off-line was welcomed with enthusiasm, and even more, as it made possible the discovery of physical spaces for learning.

The concluding visit to HES-SO is planned to be organised in September 2022. It will not end the cooperation however!

Cross-pollination ensures development

Entwining international benchlearning to broader quality assurance work is enabled by thorough documentation. This supports future auditing and development needs. It engages faculty, students and administration and enhances research collaboration that is expected to be launched alongside the audit process. Pedagogical curiosity and co-creational spirit shared by all three partners promise fruitful outcomes in the future.

An inter-institutional benchlearning process truly uplifts benefits of benchmarking to a level of co-creation as higher education partners in three countries collaborate to crystallize a shared vision on specific themes in a micro-community of practice. This cross-pollination of ideas sets off development ideas on pedagogy, research and quality assurance, and paves the way to a post-pandemic higher education sphere where digital solutions support continuous learning organically, for the benefit of learners.