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From UC to Helsinki: attending digital lectures in Finland

From UC to Helsinki: attending digital lectures in Finland from New Zealand

In a joint teaching initiative between the University of Helsinki and the University of Canterbury, students from New Zealand and Finland are working together on assignments and lectures delivered via Facebook and a chat app.

UC’s Head of Media and Communication, Associate Professor Donald Matheson, says this international digital classroom expands students’ horizons, while building international bridges in an educationally meaningful way.

“It works really well, thanks to the lead and expertise of the Finns, and is about to expand to Nanyang, Singapore, and the University of Technology Sydney,” he says.

The University of Helsinki granted €39,000 of funding to its Swedish-language Master’s Programme in Social Sciences for the promotion of digitalisation in teaching. The purpose is to further develop the concept of a digital and global classroom.

Dr Kim Zilliacus, senior lecturer in political science, and Christian Lindblom, e-learning specialist, have been developing the model of a global and digital classroom since 2007 at theSwedish School of Social Science in collaboration with various international partner universities. The model was tested in 2013 together with the University of Technology Sydney and Monash University, and was established in 2016 in cooperation with the University of Canterbury and AUT. This “laboratory course” now serves as the basis for the further development of digital flagship courses in the Swedish-speaking Master’s Programme in Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

“The project is the result of several years of experimentation where we tried to create a viable model that would establish a teaching format based on both online and face-to-face teaching,” explains Dr Zilliacus.

Assoc Prof Matheson and Dr Zilliacus have co-authored a scholarly article* on the development of the “global classroom” and the use of social media and e-learning tools in teaching. The research suggests that social platforms and interactive tools engage students in active learning. The model enables a meaningful and international dialogue between students and teachers throughout the learning process.

“It’s been incredibly productive. The system works just as well live as it does in the digital classroom. It works because students use social platforms that they are already familiar with in their social lives,” Assoc Prof Matheson says.

En¬ga¬ging and in¬clus¬ive teach¬ing

In practice, the course participants meet on opposite sides of the globe – the students of the Master’s programme in a lecture room in Helsinki and the UC Communications students in a Christchurch lecture room. The lectures are broadcast live from the classroom where they are held to the partner university where students attend the lectures through an online connection and are able to comment in real time. If a lecture is held, for example, in Christchurch, New Zealand, the course coordinators are present there, while a teaching assistant is available in Helsinki, Finland, where students attend the lecture in a classroom or online.

The students are engaged before, during and after the lectures in discussion of the relevant topics via Facebook and a customised chat tool, Presemo. A Facebook event is created for each lecture, allowing students to send questions and comments in advance which can then be addressed during the lecture. During the lecture, students participate through Presemo. A more reflective discussion follows the lecture in the Facebook event so as to make students even more involved.

*Moring, T. A.; Zilliacus, K. O. K., Rupar, V., Treadwell, G., Joergensen, A. S., Larsen, I., Munk, I. & Matheson, D. Oct 2017, “Global Interaction as a Learning Path towards Inclusive Journalism” In: Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies. 6, 3 p. 485-506.


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