“At first it seemed like a random choice for me because I mostly enjoy creative arts and have completed a diploma in ballet dancing. Then I realized that wellbeing combines physical activities and creativity and it can be a most interesting field of study for me.”
She has been studying the first year online from Tallinn. The first-year curriculum has been filled with a wide spectrum of topics.
“I did not expect that we would be covering topics from anatomy to marketing. There has been lots of new information and experiences for me. I know so much more now.”
Manage your time
She starts her studies usually at 10 am and takes one or two classes. If there is time she will take a break to have something to eat, goes for a walk or dance classes. Instead of ballet she now takes contemporary dance classes.
Her tips for studying online are simple. It is important to manage timetable and calendar so that you know a few days in advance what you should be doing.
“On the other hand, online studies are flexible and you can combine studies with work, hobbies and travel. You need to make sure that you are not isolated from the world but see people. At first it seemed tough to motivate myself but I got over it and started enjoying myself. In my agenda studies come first, then work and after that hobbies.”
To be able to study online one needs a laptop with a camera and a decent internet connection. Usually, the internet speed is sufficient if you can watch youtube videos without problems.
“Xamk is all about group work. That is a great way to be in contact with your peers online and learn to know other students. I like to interact with group members who are ambitious in studies, stick to timetables and do not postpone things. Then we get things done together in time.”
When she does not have online classes, she works at an Estonian company selling tickets for different events and concerts.
She will be moving to Mikkeli to study in the middle of August and is looking forward to meeting her course mates.
Most students in her class are of Finnish origin but she has already learnt to know international students from Costa Rica, South Korea, Dubai and Sweden.
“We international students have one common lesson, the Finnish classes. There we have a great opportunity to get to know other students and their cultures and can communicate more.”
Easy to approach staff
Ms Mirva Pilli-Sihvola has been a member of the Xamk staff since 2000. Currently, she is coordinating online studies with the focus on teachers´ pedagogical support at all Xamk campuses. Xamk has one of the longest histories in Finland for organizing online and hybrid studies.
“Over the years, I have learnt that hybrid studies allow people to study so that they do not get stuck at their desks by themselves. Xamk online studies include, for example, group meetings with fixed timetables. We also stream and record lots of lectures and events to give students flexibility with timetables.”
The focus is on giving students opportunities to learn by completing learning tasks.
“Online studies include different kinds of assignments. Some of them are completed individually, some require group work. Some assignments have a fixed timetable and some do not. We try to encourage students to visit places close to their home and write learning assignments that are related to their own lives and hobbies.”
Xamk is a university of applied sciences. To Ms Pilli-Sihvola it means that studies are based on research findings. Assignments are structured to help students to apply knowledge in real-time work life situations and contemporary working life.
“The hierarchy is low here at Xamk. Our teachers are very easy to approach. They are interested in their students and happy to help them. I think that is very important and appreciated here at our campuses.”
She knows that online studies require self-orientation from students. On the other hand, Xamk teachers have been qualified over the years to tutor students to take responsibility of their own timetables and structure their studies in an independent manner.
“Our teachers provide students with optional timetables to get started. At Xamk, we trust that our students concentrate on completing their assignments and that they are able to gather information for themselves. Students and their thoughts matter to us. On the other hand, our teachers give students much freedom and expect them to be worth their trust.”
Pilli-Sihvola has learnt over the years that international students value highly Xamk online studies. They trust that they can get easily in contact with their teachers and expect lectures to be interesting and of good quality.
Students can access virtual learning material banks related to their studies with net browser when they have received passwords needed. This also applies to library services on the campus and online. Very little learning material needs to be printed or bought in hard copy.
“When all elements are there, it is easy for the student to make progress in an environment where tutoring is always available. All you need is a sufficient web connection and PC or laptop to study online. And strong motivation, naturally.”
Hybrid models have it all
Xamk campuses are very compact and combine many fields of study. There are now degree programmes where the students study the first year online, the second year on campus and the rest online.
“On the campus the ways to support each other are different than online ones. Contact studies during the second year will increase motivation and give the support of the peer group. That is the year when students form a community, build their networks and learn to trust in each other´s support no matter what comes ahead.”