The coronavirus-related social distancing measures have meant for many a move from a safe and familiar work and study community to a home office and online connections. This has created new requirements for both technologies and people using them. In 2019, we still talked about the digital leap – now it feels more like a digital bounce.
Principal Lecturer Kimmo Mäki at Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education has had a chance to reflect on the ways the shift and the speed of development have changed studying and the work of teachers. As part of the Digiä ja keitaita (Digi and oases) study, he is researching how remote work and teaching have been received in the higher education community and how they should be developed.
“As a result of the pandemic, almost all of us have in one way or another had to adjust to the new normal of work and study life. For example, after teaching became mostly online-based, teachers have had to spend considerably more time preparing for lessons.”
The flexibility of remote working and studying as well as the freedom to choose your location have created new requirements for students too, such as self-discipline and self-management skills.
Classroom teaching ≠ virtual teaching
Some actions, such as meetings, are easy to transfer from a physical space to an online environment. However, many others must be rethought partly or entirely from scratch. Mäki stresses that teaching should never be transferred completely as it is in the classroom to a virtual environment.
“The progress of teaching sessions must be much more carefully planned, and teaching should also include elements of participation. The challenge is to use the tools pedagogically instead of just applying the technology.”
Mäki firmly believes that the need for instruction and training for remote studies will grow in the future.
“Our research emphasised the need to develop this competence. At Haaga-Helia, we offer support for this at the HEPEDA workshop where we study, develop and offer training on themes related to higher education pedagogy.”
More interaction on our screens
The significance of interaction will be emphasised when the people being taught might, at worst, be represented by more than a hundred black squares on a screen.
According to Mäki, work and studies may suddenly become boring and repetitive when all activities take place in front of a screen.
“Remote learning has also meant that many may not get to experience student communities and the joy of shared learning. Remote teaching online could also challenge students to get in contact with others in a new way. When body language is out of the picture, we need to re-examine the relationship between functionality and lecturing.”
Hybrid teaching is the future
As the nature of work changes, many wonder if remote work is really here to stay. Mäki believes that the future of teaching and studying will not remain fully online-based, but at the same time there will be no return to the old once the crisis eases. He hopes that we could apply a hybrid model combining the best of remote and in-person teaching with the tried and tested ways of working.
“I believe that face-to-face contact will return as one of the ways to meet during higher education studies and work. In the future, online teaching will not be something separate but will become, at its best, a natural part of pedagogic activities as one of its many forms.”
How has the pandemic affected the education community?
The Digiä ja keitaita (Digi and oases) study, co-ordinated by the Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education, aims to find answers to how the pandemic has changed the higher education community’s structures of work and what new demands it has placed on the actors’ digital skills and coping at work.
The School of Vocational Teacher Education’s HEPEDA workshop in co-operation with the Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ) implemented a questionnaire related to skills, management and wellbeing during the pandemic. The respondents were individuals in a variety of expert roles in universities and universities of applied sciences. The results will be reported during spring 2021 on various forums.
TEXT: Nina Finell