Entrepreneurs are a very special group when it comes to studying. How do you combine studies with the huge amount of work an entrepreneur faces every day? With these thoughts in mind, Haaga-Helia StartUp School initiated the development of the aHOTTIS service in 2014. The aHOTTIS concept is Haaga-Helia StartUp School’s implementation for recognition of prior learning* (RPL). The goal is to support the graduation of StartUp School students that have already established their own company or are planning to do so. I was lucky to be there from the very beginning and later to become the person in charge of aHOTTIS and its development.
The aHOTTIS students can complete courses by showing learning from their business experience through demonstrations on fixed scheduled days, approximately six times a year. The aim is to demonstrate what they have learned from their professional experience and how that corresponds to the learning outcomes of their study programme.
During aHOTTIS, I have seen both successes and challenges. The main challenge and fear is always the same: How do the assessors make sure that the student is really capable and has enough knowledge? Are they letting the student get away with their studies too easily? To reduce this fear, the assessors may try to demand too much from the student: make them do assignments, write a report, take an exam, and on top of all that, do an interview. We tend to think that during a 3 ECTS (=81 h) course the student should do the equivalent of 81 hours of work. However, the whole idea of RPL is that the student has already done all those hours by working, and the only thing they need to do is demonstrate it.
During aHOTTIS, I have seen both successes and challenges
The best thing about aHOTTIS are the moments of insight and excitement when during the demonstrations the students realize that they “know” and “can”. Not once have I heard them exclaim “Wow, I didn’t know I could do this!” after they receive an excellent grade. Entrepreneurs, in particular are not the “best students” in the traditional way of thinking. They do not want to sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher. They are active, they want to do things. I have seen how aHOTTIS helped them to get back the motivation to study and to graduate.
I am also happy to have seen the reactions of the teachers assessing the demonstrations. Hearing a teacher comment “Wow, I’ve learned a lot from this, I am going to use this information at my courses”, has been the best reward for all the work of organizing the demonstrations. Inviting teachers from different degree programs and campuses to assess the same demonstration has also proved to be an excellent idea. Teachers don’t often do things together with the colleagues from other units, and it was worthwhile to see them get to know each other and even decide on some collaboration later.
As a conclusion, I will share some statistics about aHOTTIS. Since the start in Autumn 2014 aHOTTIS has accumulated 711 ECTS; there have been 42 students and 70 teachers involved; about 172 demonstrations organized at 16 demonstration days. The aHOTTIS has never stayed the same, and it has been improved and fine-tuned after each demonstration day. I am especially proud that successful piloting of aHOTTIS has triggered the introduction of demonstration days to other degree programs. I am handing over the management of aHOTTIS to a new person, but I am confident that the development will continue, and new insights will be gained.
In the end, I would like to add just some comments from the students, and I want to thank everyone involved in the aHOTTIS.
“aHOTTIS has been a great experience and boost in our studies, tutoring teachers are attentive and helpful. It is definitely a boon to the education in Haaga-Helia.”
“aHOTTIS is a great way to demonstrate that you know the content of the course and get an honest feedback for your personal development.”
“I participated last year in the aHOTTIS project and I can pretty much thank you for my graduation.”
*I prefer to use simply “recognition of learning” since learning happens all the time and cannot solely be “prior.
The writer Anna Dementyeva was a StartUp School Coordinator.