The University of Helsinki’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the topic of education is now available for local and global audiences. Uncover Finnish Education MOOC is presenting the current situation of the Finnish education from a systemic perspective. Designed based on the students’ interests and needs, the course covers topics such as underlying values, educational ecosystem, administration aspects, curriculum development, quality enhancement, teacher education and current challenges. The content is presented in a wide variety of formats such as text, podcasts, videos, and VR resources.
The course has been developed by the Faculty of Educational Sciences in collaboration with the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL), a Ministry of Education and Culture-funded network of 20 Finnish higher education institutions(universities and universities of applied sciences). The vision of the development team was to create a course which is captivating, meets the needs of the learners, promotes personalized learning, brings creative approaches to online environments, has a modern and stylish UI and is available for everyone. Sharing a similar vision for online learning, Global Campus joined this course as a development partner. Interested in experimenting with VR tools in online environments, Global Campus supported the design of several features for the Uncover Finnish Education MOOC, as seen below.
The course includes two AI videos. One is presenting the structure of the Finnish education system and it is based on an infographic from the resource library of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The second video presents the learning experiences of Ella Kämper, a student at the University of Helsinki. Ella wrote the script and provided the photos and videos. The process of creating the videos was very smooth, faster and with less effort than it would have been to record videos in a studio. The editing of the videos was done in Premier Pro. You can see Ella as an avatar in the video below.
At the suggestion of the Global Campus team, we developed two simulation exercises for the course. And I must confess that it has been one of the best choices we have made for this course. Shortly into the design process of the simulations, I understood the high value these types of exercises can have in supporting the students’ learning. Being able to immerse yourself in a specific situation, practice different skills, and make decisions, is an opportunity that cannot be usually provided during courses.
To develop the simulations, we worked with two experts from 3DBear, a company which provides service solutions for AR and VR learning. Both experts had a pedagogical background, which was very useful when developing educational content. With them and a couple of course content authors, we developed one simulation about outdoor learning, which can be also used as a professional development tool and another video simulation, where the course students can experience being a Finnish teacher in a teacher- students- guardian meeting. You can spot the simulations in the Chapters 4 and 5 of the course.
We knew early in the course design that we would like to include immersive and interactive content. We wanted to create possibilities for the students to learn by discovery and by doing. Therefore, under the advice of the Global Campus team, we have used Thinglink to develop several interactive resources. Thinglink proved to be a very handy and versatile tool, which catered very well to our need for immersive content. We have created interactive resources using 360° photos and infographics.
Due to the intervention of Global Campus in this course, the variety of the content formats has increased considerably. Including AI and VR resources in online learning environments can make a difference on the students’ learning. We are hoping that Uncover Finnish Education MOOC will bring a holistic learning experience to everyone studying it. Take the course and let us know what do you think about the use of emerging technologies in online learning environments.
Uncover Finnish Education MOOC project planner/Faculty of Educational Sciences
The field of Educational Technology is rapidly evolving and the trends and advancements in online/digital learning are ever-changing with a fast pace. Online learning has been on the rise globally, particularly with a further acceleration during and after COVID-19 pandemic as a need for a shift from traditional education to remote learning. This shift has been driven by factors such as accessibility, flexibility, and the need for continuous learning. With an increasing impact of digitalization on education and a demand for digital transformation, educational opportunities are becoming more accessible and more flexible. Education sector has to prepare and adapt itself to ensure that all students can benefit from these advancements.
During the past six months, in addition to a number of local and small events and seminars on different topics in education, I attended a few major global conferences on online learning and digital education as well as the biggest EdTech event in Europe in which I was able to participate in many keynotes, workshops, presentations, and discussions. Here, I present a reflection on my observations and takeaways of these events .
Online Educa Berlin (OEB): a global leading cross-sector conference and exhibition on technology supported learning and training that brings participants from higher education, workplace and government sectors to discuss how technology opportunities and challenges are transforming the world of learning.
bett London: one of the biggest EdTech exhibitions in the world and a global meeting place for the educators, change-makers, startups and major companies in the field to present and discuss cutting-edge EdTech solutions.
EATEL Summer School : a major European event on technology enhanced learning held by the European Association of Technology Enhanced Learning which brings together researchers, doctoral students, and professors from a range of disciplines (computer science, educational science, phycology, social sciences ,and IT) to share and discuss their latest projects.
EDEN Digital Learning Europe: Europe’s leading network for advancing digital education Digital and a community to foster knowledge exchange and enhance understanding among professionals in distance and e-learning, and to promote best practices and policies throughout Europe and beyond.
As a professional in the field with hands on development who is closely following latest developments and advancements in education and EdTech sector, I can summarize the key trends and directions in online/ digital learning as follows:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and generative AI in education:
Artificial intelligence and its associated technologies have been a major point of discussion in the past few years. Lately, this has been particularly augmented by the emergence of generative AI such as ChatGPT. As a hype, it has triggered very heated debates on their applications, risks, and challenges from technical, pedagogical, social, and ethical perspectives (see UNESCO’s recommendation on the ethics of AI). On a broader level, it has got the attention of all stakeholders not only on micro levels but also macro and global change/decision makers. While there are extreme viewpoints of both proponents and opponents on the impact of AI on human being, society, businesses, and future jobs, for us educators and EdTech innovators, what is most important is the educational applications of AI. Whereas AI technologies are increasingly being used for various purposes in education such as intelligent tutoring systems, AI-powered simulations and immersive experiences, automated assessments, personalized guidance, and virtual assistants to offer immediate support to students, it will be still a big challenge in education and learning that how AI-powered tools can be implemented in a pedagogical and ethically sound way in educational settings. As such, in our Global Campus project we strive to explore the potential of generative AI as an assistive tool and content creation in online learning, e.g., Creating Videos with Artificial Intelligence. Another bigger question for educational institutions’ decision makers is how to deal with use of ChatGPT and AI-powered tools by students as it increases the risk of plagiarism and cheating.
Micro-learning, bite-sized contents and stackable credentials:
With the rise of digital learning in various formats, micro-credentials are becoming more prevalent in higher education. Micro-credentials involves delivering contents in small, flexible, focused units and bite-sized formats that learners can access on their convenience with a possibility of combining them together to accomplish wider learning topics. While micro-credentials are emerging and being developed across education sector, numerous global initiatives seek to support the development, implementation and recognition of micro-credentials across institutions, businesses, and sectors. Such examples include: European Council recommendation on micro-credentials, UNESCO’s definition of micro-credentials, and OECD’s education policy perspectives, and a cross-university initiative is the Micro-credential in Sustainability by Una Europa which the University of Helsinki is part of. Combining micro-learning modules together can create stackable credentials to build up higher-level qualifications as a flexible pathway to up-skilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning. A natural result of digital transformation and micro-credentials is the development of a kind of non-degree education structure of online credentialing and digital badges. Many online learning platforms are partnering with universities and industry organizations to offer recognized credentials, such as certificates and digital badges. These micro-credentials provide learners with evidence of specific skills and achievements which can enhance their employability. While learning outside the formal education systems through online/digital formats is increasingly growing, a big challenge that faces the global education ecosystem is to find the ways to accredit alternative learning pathways. Thus, certification and accreditation of online learning is still an issue. To address this, there have been a number of initiatives to provide both technical and organizational infrastructures to promote the recognition of digital badges and online credentials. For instance, MIT DCC Digital Credentials Consortium. Another standard for verifying and issuing badges is Open Badges which is the world’s leading format for digital badges.
Mixed reality (XR), immersive learning and game-based learning:
Gamification as a learning and training method has been around for many years. In the recent years, however, new generations of immersive experiences have emerged and been implemented in education and learning. Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) are being incorporated into digital learning to combine physical and virtual worlds to create interactive learning environments enabling learners to interact with digital contents and virtual objects in simulated real-world contexts.
Applying appropriate pedagogical principles of entertainment, adventure, problem solving and exploration, virtual reality can create realistic simulations of complex environments such as historical settings, medical procedures, and science laboratories allowing learners to practice and experiment in a safe and controlled environment. The applications of XR in all its forms in education and learning are various. For example, they can cover a range of purposes such as skill development and training, collaborative learning and teamwork, storytelling and narrative-based learning, cultural interaction, art and design, and language learning. Apart from the many EdTech startups and SMEs developing their solutions on different aspects of XR, big enterprises such as ACER and Microsoft are also trying to provide tools and resources of the educational applications of these technologies. One of the main product development goals in our Global Campus project is to implement different types of XR technologies in our experiments of which we are currently focused on creating a a VR learning adventure for sustainability.
Data Analytics and Learning Analytics (LA)
The grow of online learning in very many formats and the emergence of massive (open) online learning environments such as MOOCs has resulted methods and tools for data mining and learning analytics. LA is both methods and tools used to collect, analyze and report data about learners, their interaction and behavior, and the contexts and harnessing the power of data to understand and optimize learning and the environments in which it occurs.
Data analytics and learning analytics play important roles in the field of education. A well-developed area of research in education in the past decade, LA has gained the attention of course developers, learning designers and educational institutions to implement different methods of LA in online and digital learning environments to gain actionable insights and make data-driven decisions to enhance learner performance, engagement, motivation, learning outcomes and to personalize instruction. In recent years, efforts to combine LA and learning design have been developed across universities to apply and translate these approaches into online learning development.
Upskilling, digital skills and the future skills:
With the ever-changing nature of the society impacted by digital transformation, the skills needed for the present and the future citizens are evolving in a very fast pace. Not only the workforce of tomorrow will need new sets of skills but also today’s workforce needs to continually learn new skills and adapt as new jobs emerge. This digital surge requires a skills revolution in Europe, as well as globally. Today’s learners need to develop both multidisciplinary competencies, soft-skills, and digital skills to be equipped with the demands of the society and the future job market. As such, Future Skills are currently being developed all over the world in various shapes and forms, and the focal point is the changing nature of social conditions for work, education and life and the importance of the skills for workers in a digitized world (a). Digital learning is increasingly recognized as a means to upskill and reskill individuals in a rapidly evolving job market. This calls for alternative forms of learning that the stakeholders should respond to. For instance, the European Commission calls to provide high-quality, inclusive and accessible digital education and training to develop the digital skills of the citizens. Part of the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027), European Commission launched European Digital Education Hub to reinforce cooperation between stakeholders to promote digitalization agendas. An effective approach of lifelong learning is key to ensure that everyone has the knowledge, skills and competences needed to thrive in personal and professional lives. Defining skills for citizens, Mckinsey & Company has identified 65 fundamental skills that will help citizens thrive in the future.
Alternative formats of education such as digital credentials, micro-learning and badges require appropriate standards and protocols for verification, certification, accreditation, transferability and security. One way of applying blockchain in education is to use it as a Credentialing Ecosystem to create portable, interoperable, user-controlled digital credentials. While the use of blockchain technology in education is still in its infancy, in recent years blockchain has been a debated topic to explore what are the promises and challenges of Blockchain in education. Here are a few ways and purposes that blockchain can be applied to educational contexts:
issuing, sharing, and verifying educational qualifications
Blockchain can help educational institutions for a better security, anti-fraud protection and optimization as well as students to have their personal lifelong learning passport stored on Blockchain for use as part of their future career. While blockchain holds significant promises, implementing it in education requires cautious consideration of technical, regulatory, and organizational factors.
OER/OEP and open education:
The notion of open education is not new, however, and it goes a few decades back when there were efforts to change institutional practices to eliminate barriers and expand access to learning (b). Open education in its wider definition includes open educational resources (OER), open educational practices (OEP) encompassing a range of concepts and strategies that promote the accessibility, sharing, and collaboration of educational resources and practices. They are characterized as learning opportunities which are informal, personalized and distributed largely outside the boundaries of established educational institutions. MOOCs as the results of OEP and OER are the main formats of opening up learning possibilities to all that have been increasingly expanded in the past ten years and still are the major form of open online courses developed globally covering a wide range of topics.
With the widespread use of smartphones, tablets, and handheld devices, mobile learning has become prevalent in recent years. Learning platforms and educational apps are optimized for mobile devices enabling learners to access learning resources anytime, anywhere. Still, mobile learning is remaining a relevant solution to be more explored and adapted in the future of digital learning as a solution to address accessibility and equity in education. With the increasing development of mobile apps for various purposes, mobile learning is becoming even more prevailing in the future to empower learners on the go and with bit-sized digital learning materials, as mentioned above. More recent kinds of wearable technologies such as smartwatches, eyewear, AR/VR headsets are being implements and researched for their learning potential such as in-situ and real-time learning, immersive and interactive learning, and learning anytime/anywhere.
Empowering Education through Artificial Intelligence
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of conducting an online workshop on the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The event, organised by UniPID, is in line with the broader vision of Global Campus to harness the power of AI and bring it to professionals in higher education.
I introduced the attendees to innovative tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. ChatGPT, for instance, offers a conversational approach that can assist teachers in course design, from creating exercises and tasks to developing syllabi. On the other hand, Midjourney stands out with its unique ability to generate images that closely represent real-life objects, enabling teachers to bring their imaginative ideas to life in visual formats.
We delved into the potential of AI in creating personalised learning experiences, ensuring that students from diverse backgrounds can receive quality education tailored to their needs. Furthermore, we touched on the ethical implications of the use of AI in education. Global Campus emphasises the importance of responsible AI use, and it was enlightening to engage with educators and stakeholders on this critical topic.
This workshop was a reminder of the incredible impact we can achieve when we collaborate, share knowledge, and drive innovation.
In conclusion, my experience at the workshop was both enlightening and inspiring. We’re not just envisioning the future of education; we’re actively shaping it through workshops like this. I’m excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
Artificial intelligence (AI) provides us with new opportunities for creating videos. The variety of different types of video applications and features is rapidly increasing. One of the easiest ways of producing lectures or other video learning material is by generating virtual instructors, avatars, to present the content.
Is it sometimes inconvenient to make a video? Does it feel awkward to show up with your own face and voice? Instead of escaping and having an assistant to do the job, you can recruit an avatar. Or in fact create one with AI-based software like Colossyan, Synthesia, or D-ID. They may slightly differ in features, but all of them let you generate a realistic-looking virtual actor to give a talk with a preferred accent and tone. With some of the applications, it is also possible to make more fantasy-like characters or to customise an avatar with your own face and voice.
What is the video production experience like in practice? You can first look at the video below where the process is described, or sign up directly for a trial, type in a script, customise a character and background, add media, and generate an edited video. With a purchased plan you can tell a story through several scenes.
If you are struggling with visuals or even the script, you can ask AI to help you with templates, ideas, or a draft based on a set of parameters like context, goal of the video, audience, presenter, and tone of the presentation. This type of prompt-to-video feature may speed up your work and still let you customise everything. We asked Colossyan to create a video about the features of the text-to-video generators, and here is the result (unedited):
How do learners regard avatars as teachers? A lot more research will be needed, but some studies have already indicated positive impact. For example, it was found in MIT that a virtual instructor can increase students’ motivation towards learning, cultivate positive emotions, and boost their appraisal of the AI-generated instructor. Since a student’s relationship with the instructor can have a significant impact on attitudes, motivation, and even learning results, an avatar resembling a person that a student likes or admires – or maybe a favourite cartoon or movie character – may inspire and even improve performance. (Pataranutaporn et al, 2022.) – After all, wouldn’t you like to be taught by Einstein or Bill Gates? 😊 Well, of course we must respect everyone’s privacy and ask for consent to appear as an avatar.
Pataranutaporn, P., Leong, J., Danry, V., Lawson, A.P., Maes, P., Sra, M. (2022). AI-Generated Virtual Instructors Based on Liked or Admired People Can Improve Motivation and Foster Positive Emotions for Learning. Published in 2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, pp. 1-9.
Before even thinking about product development, you need to identify clearly who are your users.
Can you really say you know what your end users need? What would be the coolest thing ever for them? What is important for them in their lives?
Some see themselves as experts in education because “everyone has gone to school”, and people easily reflect their own experiences. But if that was some 20 years ago, it is fair to say that things have changed in our society during that time. Even in the organization, that was founded in 1640 – the student generation is entirely different now than 20 years ago. Their everyday life and learning tools look very different. That’s why we keep meeting with our university students, who will ultimately be the end users of our solutions.
You don´t even know what to ask, before you go and talk to people.
Furthermore, we have students working with us on a regular basis. Having students as an integral part of our team, as a learning designer, I find reassurance in their presence next to me every day. Together, we engage in brainstorming sessions to re-imagine online learning and jointly make design decisions. This collaborative approach has led to numerous design changes based on the valuable student feedback. In fact, we have received ideas from students that surpass our own original concepts. It’s important to recognize that what we might perceive as enjoyable could be super boring for students, and vice versa.
What we have learned from co-creation is that you should never assume anything.
When designing solutions for international students as well, it has been even more valuable to have international student trainees on board in the team. This way, we have been able to see immediately if our ideas would be also working for example for students coming from global south. For example just this week we were able to test how an AI solution works in Arabic, and in another situation, we have changed the text and expressions to be more inclusive to different cultures. We have been also able to take into account the different educational traditions in higher education in our design: not all are used to reflect and present their own critical ideas as much as we do at University of Helsinki. These observations have led us to fruitful discussions and further development.
Students have been sometimes laughing when I have been telling them that they are my highest authority in learning design. We are eager to find out if we have managed to create truly engaging learning experiences for them. Students are always brutally honest and that’s the fuel for our product development.
My Journey Through Laval Virtual: The Quest for Immersion in the World of Virtual Reality
To give you some context you will find a brief summary about myself at the end of this post.
As an enthusiast of the concept of virtual realities, I was eager to attend Laval Virtual, the premier event showcasing the latest advancements in VR, augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) in short XR in as someone put it humbly the capital of VR! I couldn’t wait to dive into the world of cutting-edge technology, engaging discussions, and artistic creations. Throughout the event, I found myself constantly questioning: “What truly defines immersive experiences in XR?”
This is my personal journey to and through Laval Virtual as I explored innovative brands, participated in thought-provoking discussions, and found inspiration in the arts, all in the quest for immersion. But before I let you read the text itself I offer you the possibility to immersive yourself in a few 360° photos from various stages of my trip.
You can freely navigate with your mouse within the 360° image, there is even a hotspot you can click on and move on to the next image.
Note: While writing this on Friday 14 April, Laval Virtual is still on-going, but unfortunately I have to catch a train and then plane to make it home still today. Greetings from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
During my first day on Wednesday 12 April, I was thrilled to explore the innovative brands and technologies being showcased. As a newish VR enthusiast, I was particularly impressed by Movella‘s Xsense, found the approach L.A.P.S. is taking interesting and thought Olfy had taken the next logic step in bringing one more of our senses to the XR table, very refreshing. Xsense’s groundbreaking work in motion capture, live avatar performance solutions, and sensory integration expanded, seeing it live, my understanding of what’s possible in VR and AR experiences. L.A.P.S.’s solutions on the other hand enable real-time facial expression tracking, which allows avatars to mirror the movements and emotions of the performers in real-time. Finally Olfy is a virtual reality system that simulates smells to create a more immersive experience. In their own words: The sense of smell allows virtual reality experiences to be more engaging and immersive. Our goal is to enhance the emotions and effectiveness of virtual experiences by allowing you to experience them 100% (Olfy).
As I attended the various discussions and keynotes, the Immersive Digital Learning topic stood out as a highlight for me, particularly the engaging panel discussion featuring Anaïs Pierre, Bogdan Constantinescu, Jayesh Pillai, and Thierry Koscielniak. Anaïs passionately emphasised that technology serves as a tool, and we must prioritise learning goals before seeking the appropriate technological solution. The use of tech tools must be purposeful and meaningful.
This is exactly how I feel about the use of technology in general. Content and (in my case usually) learning goals first, otherwise your course or product will not find its full potential.
I listened to Kent Bye’s fast-paced talk on the topic of XR moral dilemmas and ethical considerations. He discussed several crucial concerns that we should all be pondering, including the digital divide in access to XR technology, threats to privacy (e.g., biometric data), apparently there is no legislation on this and similar issues.
Furthermore a new concept I hadn’t heard before: mental privacy which is part of a proposed set of rights called the Neuro rights. Mental privacy refers to the protection of an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and mental processes from unauthorised storing and access, particularly in the context of novel technologies that can potentially monitor or manipulate these aspects of the human experience. This really jump-started my brain and I am still processing all the possible implications and reflecting on the ethical and practical considerations of using XR technologies in education and beyond.
During another panel discussion, I was introduced to the concept of eco-design, which involves reducing the energy footprint of eg. VR headsets. It became clear that as VR technology evolves, we must be aware of and address the energy-intensive nature of these devices to create a more sustainable and ethical future. By incorporating eco-design principles, we can minimise the environmental impact of VR and ensure a more responsible approach to technology.
Finding Inspiration in the Arts
Now of course Recto VRso cannot go unmentioned in this blog post. Recto VRso is a component of Laval Virtual, which this year took place partially at Le Quarante, a cultural center in Laval and L’Espace Mayenne. It showcases innovative uses of XR in the field of art and culture. Attendees can interact with some of theinstallations that push the boundaries of what is possible in XR art, providing a platform for networking and inspiration in the field – further fueling my passion for the intersection of technology and creativity.
I’d like to single out one installation called Memory house by artist Jiahe Zhao.
According to the artists own words an my rough translation into English: Numerous items hold cherished memories, ranging from beloved family toys to treasured travel souvenirs. “Memory House” offers a solution for storing these memories in a virtual realm. By using 3D scanning technology, memory objects are brought into the virtual space, and through transformation by AI (artificial intelligence), they are manifested into a one-of-a-kind virtual edifice that is ideal for exploration.
And yet Recto VRso seems to be an exception. Over and over have I noticed that XR related applications are heavily situated in the engineering, training/onboarding and skills learning sectors, very little is to be found in the liberal arts world, sadly. Having an academic background in field of liberal arts myself I was excited to discover the creative applications of XR technology at Laval Virtual. I found inspiration in BavARt, an AR-specialised firm that combines art and technology in a Pokémon Go-style app.
As I left LavalVR, I couldn’t help but reflect on my initial question of what defines immersive experiences in VR. Throughout my journey, I discovered that immersion is not just about cutting-edge technology and realistic visuals. It also involves connecting with our emotions, bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds, and finding inspiration in the creative fusion of art and technology. The quest for immersion is a never-ending journey, one that continuously ignites my enthusiasm for discovering the boundless opportunities that await in the world of virtual reality.
This was my first conference I attend on my own, I knew no one at Laval and because I am not really an extrovert, but an observer if you will, I struggle connecting with strangers. Most attendees were there in larger parties and would therefore communicate and entertain themselves among each other which makes it for outsiders as myself hard to mingle. I am not complaining just stating what I noticed.
Yet at the hotel I couldn’t help but be involved in socialising with the French during breakfast. As people were arriving to the breakfast they were greeting everybody and they were greeted by the ones already there. People would ask each where they’re from and what they’d do and so forth. There was active communication throughout breakfast. I loved it
And finally, note that the venues for the Laval Virtual are kilometers away from each other and not just quelques pas (a few steps) as was repeated by officials a few times =) Nonetheless I took this as an opportunity to walk and boy did I do some walking, a total of 27km on two and a hald days between my hotel and the three venues.
Thank you Laval Virtual et à la prochaine!
I am fairly new to the XR world, in fact it was only last October (2022) that I had a VR headset on for the first time, imagine that! Having studied languages, folkloristics and other liberal arts subjects (at the University of Helsinki (UH)) I have noticed that I have a somewhat different approach to technology than most of my peers. I have been working in several positions at UH over the last, almost two decades including as an International exchange expert and Edtech specialist before joining the Global campus team. As a lifelong learner I started studying university pedagogy last year at UH believing it will give me a strong understanding of educational technology. Furthermore I am the chair of Una Europa’s Educational design and technology cluster. For more coherent info on me see the Us section.
Sustainable Health is a multidisciplinary online course that discusses sustainable development themes in the context of healthcare and life sciences. It serves as the discipline-specific counterpart to the University of Helsinki Sustainability Course (SUST-001). It is currently being piloted in the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Pharmacy, and development is ongoing for its expansion into a massive open online course (MOOC).
The course employs a highly learner-centred approach, giving participants ample freedom in terms of how and when they choose to complete it. The students construct an e-portfolio, where the participants compile reflections on sustainability challenges and solutions. The portfolio may be based on pre-defined assignments or other freely chosen topics that align with the learners’ interests. Mid-course, students exchange peer feedback on their portfolio drafts, and at the end of the course peer assessment is carried out to verify that the portfolios meet the passing requirements of the course. The participants can choose whether they wish to complete the course within one teaching period or over two consecutive periods.
The collaboration with Global Campus begun during the development phase of the first pilot version of Sustainable Health. At the time, large parts of the course content had been prepared and the outlines of course completion mechanics drawn. What we felt was still missing was a unifying concept to tie together the individual topics and tasks of the course in a way that would keep the students motivated throughout the extended periods of self-paced studying. Additionally, we wished to gain expert insight into the execution of the peer feedback and peer assessment workshops. This is where Global Campus stepped in.
I was immediately amazed by the can-do attitude of the whole Global Campus team. In the beginning of the collaboration, I was asked to compile a wish list of features and enhancements for the course that the team could help me with, which felt like a strange position for someone whose work typically involves catering to the wishes of other teachers. Not having a clear sense of the full range of possibilities, I was initially hesitant with my hopes, but it soon became evident that the options would be only limited by my own imagination. For example, what started as an idea for using text-to-speech snippets to introduce the course content was transformed by Global Campus into a full sci-fi narrative, delivered in a post-apocalyptic virtual reality environment by an avatar from the future. Such a mind-blowing reference point has taught me not to hold back my scope based on what I expect to be within the realms of possibility.
Furthermore, I received valuable advice on how to organize the exchange of peer feedback among the course participants and got excellent insight on how to formulate the feedback instructions and questions in a way that would make the assessment process motivating and useful to the students.
Despite the creative and uninhibited atmosphere, working with Global Campus was very organised. With Sasa Tkalcan’s excellent coordination and comprehensive documentation on the shared project whiteboard, the goals were set very clearly, and progress towards them was regularly monitored. I really liked this approach and hope to apply it in other collaborations later on. This was also my first time working with some of the project management tools involved, like Kanban, so I also acquired new tracking methods for my projects.
During the development phase, Sustainable Health was one of two concomitant Global Campus pilots. Despite the completely different disciplines and course topics of the pilots, we had several meetings between both developers and the whole Global Campus team and ended up having an extremely fruitful collaboration based on the shared goal of creating quality e-learning. Some unique ideas that arose in our joint discussions ended up as crucial parts of Sustainable Health (and vice versa, I hope), highlighting the impact of the interdisciplinary brainstorming. I have no doubt that we will keep in touch and continue sharing ideas and good practices with the developers of the sibling pilot also after the finalisation of both projects.
The biggest challenge I faced during the collaboration was the allocation of my personal resources between developing the e-learning mechanics of the course and producing learning materials. The latter task was initially hoped to be shared within a larger group of subject matter experts, but the dynamic nature of the working group and the limited time resources of the experts proved challenging for co-creation. Eventually, I took on a large portion of the scientific content creation to ensure that the course would be ready for piloting on schedule, which limited my availability for the conceptualisation of experimental e-learning elements. On the bright side, the content is now in place with the pilot, allowing the future development of the course to focus purely on educational technology innovation and making the course as fun, engaging, and inspiring as possible. Conversations with the Global Campus team and other pilot developers revealed that the issue may in fact be more general, as it may often be challenging for subject matter experts to find the time to produce certain types of content, such as video lectures. However, it was also highlighted that AI-assisted technologies, such as text-to-speech and digital avatar tools, could significantly reduce this barrier and make it easier to co-develop learning materials in the future.
Overall, working with Global Campus has been a great experience that has really expanded my perspective on what is achievable when open-minded enthusiasm meets with the latest technology. In addition, the collaboration between the two parallel course pilots served as a great example of how multidisciplinary teamwork and idea exchange can greatly enhance course development projects when facilitated by a great team. I feel that by sharing knowledge and best practices between the projects, we established a framework that could be easily adopted to guide future course development initiatives.
University instructor / Post-doctoral researcher
Faculty of Pharmacy / Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)
University of Helsinki
Introduction: The Global Campus of the University of Helsinki is committed to exploring innovative methods for enhancing educational experiences. As part of this ongoing mission, our recent “AI methods in course material production” presentation at the university’s Learning Adventure showcased the potential of cutting-edge AI technologies in creating engaging and dynamic course materials. While our primary audience was the university community, we believe these insights hold value for all EdTech enthusiasts.
In this blog post, we’ll share key takeaways from our presentation, which encompassed five sections: Text, Images, Audio, Video, and Q&A.
Text: Harnessing ChatGPT’s Potential. Kicking off our presentation, we introduced ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. By delving into the concept of prompting, we unveiled various techniques, including Chain of Thought (CoT) methods. Highlighting the effectiveness of role prompting, we showcased ChatGPT’s self-criticism and self-evaluation features as a means to generate meaningful responses.
Images: Visualising Ideas with Midjourney. Transitioning to text-to-image (T2I) generation, we presented Midjourney as an exemplary case. Demonstrating seamless integration between Discord and Midjourney, we revealed the process of creating images through prompting in Discord. For a deeper understanding of the Midjourney case, we invite you to read our earlier blog post here.
It’s worth noting that in addition to Midjourney, there are several other AI-based applications that allow for the creation of images through text. One notable example is DALL-E, which uses a transformer-based neural network to generate images from textual descriptions. And let’s not forget about StableDiffsusion, a new AI-based technology that allows for the generation of high-quality, realistic images by leveraging the power of diffusion models. With so many exciting applications available, the possibilities for creating images through text are truly endless.
Audio: Bringing Text to Life through AI. Our third segment explored the realm of text-to-audio conversion. We shed light on AI tools and techniques capable of generating lifelike speech from written text, making course materials more engaging and accessible to auditory learners.
Video:Creating Dynamic Learning Experiences with AI. In the penultimate section, we investigated AI’s potential in video production. Discussing the role of artificial intelligence in crafting compelling and informative videos, we emphasised the importance of delivering course content in a visually engaging manner. In addition to Synthesia and Colossyan, there are several other noteworthy applications that are worth exploring. One such application is D-ID, which is a deep learning-based technology that allows for the anonymisation and replacing of faces with natural or fantastical looking options in videos using AI-generated imagery. With the increasing demand for video content in today’s digital landscape, these and other AI-based text-to-video applications offer opportunities for teachers and students to create high-quality videos quickly and easily.
Q&A: Encouraging Audience Interaction. To wrap up our presentation, we engaged the audience in group discussions, addressing questions and concerns stemming from the event. This interactive session fostered a deeper understanding of AI’s role in education and promoted collaboration within our university community. Participants were interested in for example if it was possible to produce materials in Finnish language with these new tools and yes, usually that is also possible.
Conclusion: Embracing AI-powered tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and other text-to-audio and video production solutions is revolutionising the way we develop and deliver course materials. By adopting these innovations, we can create more engaging, accessible, and dynamic learning experiences for students across the globe.
AI is not taking away your job, it’s the person that adopts AI that is taking away your job!
When considering if a new emerging technology, such as virtual reality (VR), would be a right tool to use in a certain educational situation, one should always think about the specific need.
People usually refer to virtual reality (VR) as a 3D environment that is experienced with the VR headset. It can also be understood as a virtual gamified learning environment, a simulation or 360 content that can be used with the laptop or mobile device. According to Helsinki XR Center´s good glossary and definitions:
VR can mimic reality or be something totally different.
Sometimes other type of media like a video is more powerful, sometimes not. To sum up when VR could be used, teachers could think about the following. If something is not possible in the classroom or with traditional EdTech and online learning tools, then maybe that is possible in VR because:
VR can make impossible possible.
Here is a list of some of the identified benefits of virtual reality as a learning technology:
You can travel in time, back and forth. This allows learners to be uniquely immersed in different kinds of future scenarios too.
You can travel in place. A teacher can take the class into space or they can live someone else´s life on the other side of the world.
You can travel in size. A learner can make big things small and vice versa. It is possible to observe the objects that otherwise would be impossible, like travel inside a cell or a volcano.
The complex cause-and-effect relations are easier to understand when seeing the consequences in front of you. What a learner does in VR is affecting to the end result.
You can change the perspective and learn empathy. Probably one of the most important benefits of VR is the possibility to see the world from someone else´s eyes. When you imagine the world from another person´s point of view, the gap between oneself and the other decreases and the other becomes more “self like”. This way, VR helps to avoid stereotypes and false or comforting narratives. The research has found out that VR experiences in perspective-taking are especially powerful for people who in general have a hard time feeling concern for others and be empathetic. (Bailenson, 2018)
You can explore your identity. Immersion is important in identity exploration because virtual identity doesn´t need to worry about the physical attributes such as gender, race, and disabilities. (Slater, 2009 in Dede et al, 2019). In a virtual world, you can be anyone.
A learning theory that is often referred in relation to VR is situated learning or transferability. Transferability is also one of the key learning design principles defined by OECD (2018). Higher priority should be given to knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that can be learned in one context and transferred to others. A major criticism of instruction today is the low rate of transfer. Even high performing students often are unable to apply what they have learned in the class to similar real-world contexts (Dede et al, 2019). With virtual reality it is easier to create authentic learning experiences and simulations that feel like real.
When thinking about the virtual reality and other immersive tools as an educational technology, a teacher can think about the use cases through the following questions:
What is the most difficult thing to teach?
What is expensive?
What needs to be scaled?
What is the most important thing to teach?
VR applications are perfect tools for immersive experiences. Immersion is described as the mental state of being completely engaged with something. When learners have a safe space where they can explore things and try if their strategies are efficient, they can take more risks too. When being fully immersed in the virtual world, learners can be so motivated to learn more and are interacting with the content even deeper so that they can even reach the “flow”. That means that they can lose everything else around, even their sense of time (Csikszenthmihalyi, 2014). The educators can also think about the level of immersion they are aiming at – we also have great semi-immersive environments to use like 360 pictures or videos.
We encourage teachers to test and try the possibilities of virtual reality in education. We are excited to hear the use cases you have found and are happy help the teachers at the University of Helsinki to experiment different kind of virtual technologies.
Bailenson, J. (2008). Experience on Demand. What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow and the foundations of positive psychology.
Dede, C. G. (2019). Designing immersive authentic simulations that enhance motivation and learning: EcoLearn. In R. Feldman (Ed.), Learning science: Theory, research, practice. (pp. 229-259). New York: McGraw Hill.
OECD. (2018). The Future of Education and Skills. Education 2030.
Slater, M. (2009). Place Illusion and Plausibility can lead to realistic behaviour in immersive virtual environments. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, 364, 3549‐3557.
Greetings, avid reader! Allow me to introduce you to the delightful world of ThingLink. Where the only limit is your own imagination! If you’re looking to add a touch of finesse to your images and videos, look no further than the humble tag. These interactive buttons bring your multimedia content to life and they’re the secret ingredient of ThingLink. In this blog post, I’ll give you a quick rundown of ThingLink in the form of a video. BTW we used ThingLink for our very first project. You can read about it in our blog entry called Message from the future.
First of all, let’s define what ThingLink is. Simply put, ThingLink is an online platform that allows you to add interactive tags to your images and videos. These tags can include text, images, audio, and video, making your multimedia content much more engaging and interactive. Whether you’re a teacher, a student, or simply someone looking to add a touch of sophistication to your social media posts, ThingLink is the tool for you. Check out the following Miro board where I have put together a very simply yet effective sequence of slides to highlight what ThinLink is.
Now, why is this relevant for our context which is higher education and Edtech and at the end of the day the learners? Well, for one, it is a very intuitive tool and it gives students control over their own learning journey. No more dull lectures or tedious presentations. With ThingLink, students can interact with the material in multiple ways, truly grasping and internalising the information. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bit of control? According to Yarbrough (2019) “more visuals are not only learner preferred, training and educational professionals have identified that visuals support efficient teaching.”
A ThingLink can be considered a version of an infographic. There are ample studies supporting the claim that infographics are very powerful tools. What makes infographics and in an extended way ThingLink too, so useful? Visuals tend to stick in long-term memory, they transmit messages faster and improve comprehension to name a few (Shiftlearning).
Here is a roughly 7 min video walking you through all the tags and how to create them. In Edit mode tags can can be dragged around the base image – you can even pull a line from under a tag and anchor it to a specific point.
In a next tutorial blog post with video we’ll have a look the settings and dive into the immersive world of 360° images and videos in ThingLink.
In conclusion, ThingLink is the tool you didn’t know you needed. With its interactive tags and multimedia-rich approach, ThingLink empowers students to take charge of their studies and reach their full potential. So what are you waiting for? Give it a go and see the magic unfold!
BTW when storyboarding the video I had a clear vision of how to implement text to speech (TTS) with an AI voice – little did I know how NOT easy this was Stay tuned as at some point I will write a how to post about the process of producing the above video.