Taitaja: Where there is a will, there is a way!
Year 2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic and remote learning. Many lessons have been learned since. Education is undeniably one of the environments that has been most disrupted and changed due to the circumstances that Covid-19 presented the world. As a provider of vocational training, Adult Education Taitaja took this challenge as a catalyst for change and opportunity to use digital learning and VR-technology.
The goal of education is to prepare students for their future professions. Hence, their professional competencies should involve a range of complex skills. Critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration are the most relevant skills that students should acquire during their studies, in addition to domain-specific knowledge and the skills to be able to make professional decisions and implement solutions.
Changing the mindset of lecturers starts with the institution’s management and its capability to technically and pedagogically facilitate and support teachers. Additionally, it must be made clear that everyone is expected to use the digital learning environment, and no one can choose not to participate in the ‘digital leap’.
During the process, the teachers learned that by thinking out of the box, they could teach almost any course remotely, even those that required students to be in a workshop or kitchen. The biggest challenges were:
- The technical problems: Students in some instances were not able to get online. Passwords were lost of forgotten. Lack of sufficient digital tools for distance learning. To tackle this Taitaja provided students with the necessary tools – laptop, iPad, headset and the applications. Also continuous technical support for students was offered.
- Some of the teachers were hesitant with the digital learning environment. If the teacher feels insecure or uncomfortable, this will trickle down to the students. Therefore, continuous technical and pedagogical support for the teachers was offered.
- The digital learning environment must offer multi-faceted activities for the students.
- Zoom or Teams must not be used as a channel for the teacher´s ‘monologue’ but as an interactive platform for discussions. Also, breakout rooms should be used to facilitate group work and project learning. At Taitaja the students are also co-builders of knowledge by sharing their experience and presenting their own results.
Of course, there are some traditional courses that have required a lot of hands-on work, such as car mechanics or professional drivers. In these fields of education, a balanced combination of innovatively constructed distance learning, simulations and practical hands-on exercises in the actual vocational environments (at school or on-the-job training) is the best way to teach and learn. Simulation-based learning can start early in study programs, as it works well for beginners and advanced learners. The effect of simulation is greatly enhanced by the use of recent technologies.
The old saying “Where there is will, there is a way” describes the situation quite well. At Taitaja the pedagogical innovations were boosted by the pandemic. It forced the teachers and students to do things differently. Of course, the situation was quite stressful for everyone, but it also gave a sense of achievement and joy when the teachers were able to reach the “next level” in distance learning and create new ways to teach.
XAMK: Learning in different disciplines
XAMK’s presentation was divided into three individual sets dealing with the approach to learning within three different disciplines.
3D and laser cutting
The first set started with introduction in the principles of and various tools for both 3D scanning, 3D modelling and 3D printing as well as laser cutting. These topics together combine into a multidisciplinary methods course targeted for both degree, exchange and open university students and aiming in providing interdisciplinary students with an approach to a coherent skills package intertwining traditional and up-to-date PD methodologies.
The process applied during the course was then revealed more in detail through two parallel but somewhat different development processes- “step-by-step” case examples. Process phases, applied methods and materials and their combinations as well as the intermediate and final outcomes were portrayed in a dense pecha-kucha-like presentation.
The second part of the XAMK presentation was about the degree programme in Game Design. The degree programme focuses on game art and design, design methods and professional tools. Studies in Game Design enable students from different cultural backgrounds to build an international career.
Studies aim to provide competence in the global game design industry with hands-on experience. The studies cover a wide range of different study subjects with an emphasis on 3D modeling, game art and game design.
The students develop their design skills and learn to use professional tools through working on their own game projects. During these projects, different game design concepts and prototypes are explored with the aim of improving the students’ aesthetic, production, design thinking, visual communication, and team working skills and competences.
Graduates of the Game Design Degree Programme are able to create games and interactive products to meet the needs of customers and end users. The graduates are aware of the potential of gamification and game development opportunities in the market, including the public and private as well as the entertainment sector.
The third part of the XAMK presentation was about the degree programme in Data Analytics. Unique data analytics training combines business, data analytics and communications studies. In the training, students learn how to manage a business using information and how to develop a new business. Students learn to operate in a changing business environment and gain the skills to be an entrepreneur.
Training is important for basic business skills, but skills related to data processing and presentation are the key to training. The studies include data analytics and information communication as well as visualization through procurement, business collaboration, small group work, self-study and expert lectures.
The studies can also be completed in easy working life contexts. Through close collaboration, students learn about companies and their needs in the new field of data analytics. This is how students learn to understand a business and produce data for its needs, as well as to come up with a new business.
KSAO: working life orientation in education
In the first part of the presentation, KSAO told about the working life orientation of its educational programs. For instance, learning in an environment that closely resembles a real-life car repair shop, students can learn how to operate the same electronics, tools and equipment that a commercial car repair shop uses. To further illustrate and demonstrate this method of training, KSAO had prepared a 7-minute video, which showed a student learning the whole process of fixing a client´s car. The video began with the student making a work order for the car, and demonstrated the whole process of learning through actually fixing a car, with a teacher closely monitoring and aiding the student the whole time.
The second part of the presentation was about the possibilities of using an apprenticeship or a training agreement between a vocational college and a workplace. The presentation outlined the basics of both apprenticeship and a training agreement and discussed the requirements and benefits of such training methods.
The third part of the presentation told about the collaboration between vocational colleges and employers, and the possibilities that such a system creates for all the parties involved. In the beginning of the presentation, KSAO outlined the idea behind this partnership between schools and work life, and then continued to tell about building interaction between parties. They also spoke about educating workplace instructors and how educational institutions can provide support for companies. KSAO also spoke about how the actual training is organized in the workplace and how the content of instruction can be developed in cooperation with companies to better suit their needs.