Digiloikka and the ‘new normal’

When I was hired as Digiloikka project manager for the USP Master’s Programme, I was expecting to pilot a remote course, taking digitalisation and pedagogy into account, and offer ‘a meaningful alternative’ to the physical classroom for our international students.

Meanwhile, the world changed and with it, university education around the world and at the University of Helsinki. What was a meaningful alternative to be piloted and slowly implemented became an urgent need to be accomplished as efficiently as possible, under the threat of a pandemic. The international intake in Master’s Programmes also had a significant impact on the way to plan our courses: some students might not be allowed into Finland, due to temporary restrictions, or have decided themselves to postpone moving here. How to teach to a multidisciplinary and multi-sited group of international students?

Moreover, an urban studies and planning course requires going out, exploring, observing and analysing the urban as it unfolds itself in streets, construction sites, housing estates, and public and commercial spaces. How to do that remotely? What if a student feels suddenly unsafe or is unable to go out, because in a quarantine?

Discussing with the Master’s programme director and with its lecturers and students in a series of Digiloikka coffee breaks I organized in the spring, we decided to focus our digital skills onto the USP-301 Introduction to Urban Studies and Planning; in our plan, we had envisioned the possibility to work on an existing course.

USP-301 is the first course that our students take. It is a 10 ECTS intro course, which consists of twelve long meetings (9:00 – 16:00), each organised by a different lecturer of the Master. In its physical envisioning, the course had a lot of classroom work in groups in the fantastic Urbarium facility on the ground floor of Porthania and excursions around the metropolitan area. My main preoccupation has been how to translate all that into the remote environment.

I worked with the various lecturers involved in the course, first collectively, then individually, to help them frame their day according to some basic ideas. Through a previous survey, I knew that among them, I would have had experts in digital learning next to true beginners and my main challenge has been how to ‘talk’ to all of them. It doesn’t come as a surprise that we are using Zoom for lecturing and some of the group activities. It is definitely the best instrument to work in a synchronic way, that is, live, with the students present on the other side of the screen. Moreover, Zoom allows recording the sessions that can be later shared with students who were not present.

When designing course assignments, I advised the lecturers to keep in mind that the students don’t know each other and different scenarios are possible, including the one where they never meet face to face, for the whole duration of the course. Therefore I developed assignments, which they can all perceive as adequate and make them feel at ease, despite the exceptional situation. I divided possible assignments into three categories:

  • Individual assignments such as readings, writing a short essay, going out and taking pictures, which are always useful learning moments
  • Interactive assignments such as online discussions in Moodle forum, individual activity peer-reviews, blog posts, video or audio replies (new Moodle feature!) are all asynchronous activities, which might help them develop trust and get a sense of the classroom
  • Group assignments such as posters, presentations, problem-solving activities, which are a great way to work together towards common goals

Important is of course to offer students a platform for this. Moodle itself has plenty of embedded assignment/activities, moreover, we have been experimenting with Thinglink and Flinga with very positive results.

Combining live and asynchronous activities in the course has been a must, so that students that are not in Finland or/and are sick can rely on the lectures, without having to be present. Starting and closing the day a live interaction is a good idea, for instance introducing the day in the beginning and making a ‘wrap up’ and get feedback in the end. In the first lecture, we also had the chance to work with a video-lecture recorded for us by Meg Holden, Director and Professor of the Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University. This shows that remote learning and digitalisation has also had a positive impact on international collaboration and on implementing guest lecturing.

The course has just started, I will write a post about this in a few weeks, once it has finished and I collected some feedback from the students.

How to migrate your course to digital 1.0

this is a short text I wrote and sent to the teachers of the USP Master’s Programme and I felt it might help some other colleagues at the university, so I decided to turn it into a post for this blog.
The digital ‘leap’ has happened overnight in all higher education in the US, Ireland and in less coordinated ways in Italy, some interesting reflections about it can be found here.
If you are already trained and have experience in digital teaching, you don’t really need to read further, if the case is not so (33.3 % of my teaching survey responded that they don’t have any experience in that) please bear with me for a quick introduction.
First of all, I hope that all of you set up a Moodle for your course.
I normally organize my moodle into blocks such as introduction to the course, schedule, slides, readings, assignments, some others organise them temporally, according to the lecture dates.
In a course I started teaching yesterday, I already set up various assignments to be done within Moodle forums.
Forums are a simple function of Moodle students can upload assignments such as texts, pictures, videos or sounds and then interact by commenting on one another. You can also tutor this activity remotely, by commenting yourself on the entries.
Very important is to provide clear simple instructions and reasonable deadlines for performing the tasks.
If you are interested in working with videos and or streaming here you can find a full list of alternatives.
The best in a state of emergency is Zoom:
(If you have a laptop of the University, Zoom is pre-installed, otherwise, you should download it, although it also works as browser-based)
Zoom also gives you the chance to record your lecture (for future uses for instance) on your computer or on the cloud.
Please remember that following a full lecture (90 minutes) in front of a computer can be very boring and that pauses or moments of interaction (someone suggested telling all students to stand up and do some exercises after 30 minutes) are very important.
The Guardian published an interesting article about backgrounds and dressing etiquette when streaming from home.
Maybe it is wise developing the lecture with individual learning (having a look at the slides beforehand / reading an article) followed by the teacher streaming presentation or video (lasting no more than 30 minutes).
if you want to work with recorded videos, you could simply record with your telephone and a selfie-stick or with your computer and upload the videos on Moodle.
The university has professional dedicated studios and software for that as well, the UniTube that you can book and find here.
It takes time and experience to get to build an online course and bringing a live / in-person course online is even more difficult, but I hope that some of these instruments will help you.
There are of course plenty of other activities that can be performed through these instruments and with others, these are some of the basic ones. If you need tutoring, please refer to the Hy helpdesk and the university has just set up a page with some developing info.

The power of allowing oneself to try

Risk money – riskiraha, there’s a word that doesn’t come up often in a university context!

But yet here we are, all of us leading Digiloikka-projects with a blessing that we are allowed to try, take risks and perhaps in the midst of everything, realize that a particular maneuver was a great trial but was followed by an error.

I am happy to say that in our Digiloikka, the ROUTE-project, major setbacks have not occurred, albeit there is always something to learn from your actions. I am more than excited to report that staff and students of ECGS have been eager to seize the opportunities provided by the Digiloikka funding. In the past months we have seen our students emerge themselves into twitter training, organize a streamed and recorded event, the ECGSustainability NOW,  and take their first steps in clarifying their aims and skills through portfoliowork. Our staff and students have also eagerly taken into use the new study planning tool SISU and attended multiple live-streamed sessions both as a part of courses and new Personal Study Planning activities. Currently we have recruited two student teams, one working on establishing a Sustainability Science blog together with HELSUS and the student network Resilience, and the other planning and executing videos of our Master’s programme.

The level of enthusiasm and involvement has been heartwarming and inspiring. And I dare say one of the main things behind these successes has been the knowledge that we are allowed to try, as individuals and as a community. We do not have to master everything at once and the first version can be a mere idea of something. The first time we do a portfolio we are still trying to grasp the idea and figure out the best ways of doing it all. When we stream a lecture for the first time, it might mean that the sound ends up being slightly off or we do not always remember where the camera is.

Or we might nail it on the first go.

Allowing oneself to try and risking that it will not be perfect from the get-go, does not that we program ourselves for failure, but rather that we acknowledge that there is a first time for everything. And that, indeed, it is better to try and have a mediocre or even poor first result than to never step out of your comfort zone.

With this being said, I hope that we all dare to make the most of this unique possibility. And if you ever wish to share what you are doing or get a glimpse on what has been going on in our project, don’t hesitate to be in touch! I’d be more than happy to share, what I consider, our success points, as well as things that have not gone according to plan A (or even B).

Opettajien vastaanottoajat näkyvät Opiskelijan ohjeet -sivustolla

Opettajat ovat voineet lukukauden alusta julkaista vastaanottoaikansa Opetukseni-sivulla osoittessa teacher.helsinki.fi. Vastaanottoaikojen julkaisemisen yhteydessä opettajan on valittava yksi tai useampi koulutusohjelma, jonka yhteydessä haluaa vastaanottoaikojensa näkyvän.

Opiskelijat näkevät vastaanottoajat opiskelijan ohjeissa Opettajien vastaanottoajat -sivulla. Vastaanottoajat näkyvät, kun opiskelija on valinnut sivun ylälaidasta oman koulutusohjelmansa. Halutessaan opiskelija voi vaihtaa sivun ylälaidasta toiseen koulutusohjelmaan ja etsiä kyseisen koulutusohjelman opettajien vastaanottojat.

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Opetuksen ja opiskelun uudet digitaaliset työvälineet, info Kumpulassa 22.8.2017

Opetus- ja opiskelijapalveluiden kampuskierros päättyi tällä erää Kumpulaan. Infossa olivat esillä opetuksen ja opiskelun järjestelmäkokonaisuus, opintohallinnon uusi perusrekisteri, lukujärjestys- ja tilavarausjärjestelmä Optime sekä uudet opiskelijan ohjeet. Yleisinfon jälkeen yleisö jakautui työpajoihin kuulemaan ja keskustelemaan sähköisestä tenttimisestä sekä Opetukseni ja kurssisivut -kokonaisuudesta. Alla tilaisuudet materiaalit.


Opetukseni ja kurssisivut
Sähköinen tenttiminen


Tiedote: Opiskelijat ohjataan Opintoni-sivun käyttöön lukuvuoden alkaessa



Opettaja, joko olet ottanut käyttöösi kurssisivut sekä Opetukseni-sivun? Kurssisivu auttaa sinua viestimään opiskelijoillesi ja Opetukseni kokoaa yhteen kaikki kurssisivusi sekä näyttää opetusaikataulusi. Jos nämä uudet digitaaliset työvälineet eivät vielä ole tuttuja, katso lyhyt esittelyvideo.

Ota kurssisivut käyttöösi heti, sillä kaikki uudet opiskelijat ohjataan Opintoni-sivun käyttöön lukuvuoden alkaessa. Saat kurssisivut käyttöösi Opetukseni-sivulla osoitteessa teacher.helsinki.fi.

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Digi-tori Siltavuorenpenkereellä 8.6.2017

Opetuksen ja opiskelun uusia digitaalisia työvälineitä esiteltiin henkilökunnalle Siltavuorenpenkereellä tiedekunnan ja opetus- ja opiskelijapalveluiden yhteisessä Digi-tori -tapahtumassa. Ohjelma koostui kaikille yhteisistä tietoiskuista sekä työpajaosuudesta. Alla linkkejä tilaisuuden materiaaleihin.

Tilaisuuden avaus
OPA:n tietoiskut

Opetukseni ja kurssisivu
Sähköinen tenttiminen


Opetuksen ja opiskelun uudet digitaaliset työvälineet

Helsingin yliopistossa on tehty isoja kehittämishankkeita: DOO, Optime, OTM, KSHJ, koulutustarjonta, Exam. Alkaneella strategiakaudella työn alla ovat kehittämishankkeet: OJK, Optime, digiloikka. Projektit ovat muuttaneet opetuksen ja opiskelun digitaalista ympäristöä ja muutos jatkuu edelleen.

Ympäristö on monimutkainen ja palvelut hyödyntävät toistensa tietoja. Alla olevassa kaaviossa on kuvattu keskeiset opetukseen ja opiskeluun liittyvät järjestelmät. Opiskelijavalintoihin ja liikkuvuuteen liittyvät järjestelmät on rajattu kaaviosta pois.

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Kuulumisia Mixed Reality -workshopista

Tiistaina 9.5. meillä oli koko päivän workshop / tutorial digiloikkamme aiheesta Mixed Reality. Workshopin tavoitteet onnistui, eli nyt osaamme itsenäisesti tuottaa MR sisältöä opetus- ja tutkimuskäyttöön. Päivän opit dokumentoitiin muistiinpanoin, videoiden, sekä screen recordia käyttäen. Paljon monimutkaisia asioita tuli esille, joihin yhteistyökumppanimme kanssa kehitämme user interfacea sekä plugineja / nappuloita, jotta hommat sujuu helpommin lopullisessa järjestelmässä. Paikalla olleet rekrytoimamme digituutorit Pilvi Ahtinen OKL:stä sekä Jaana Rantala Metsätieteistä olivat iso apu ja innokkaasti mukana. Muita oppeja hakeneita ja ideoita antaneita oli Tropiikki instituutista (Vitri), sekä Fysiikan laitokselta. Dokumenttien perusteella määrittelemme vaatimukset järjestelmän kehitystyölle sekä niistä koostetaan myös ensimmäiset tutoriaalit.

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