Experts from higher education institutions play an important role in ensuring that the Opin.fi service developed by Digivisio is optimally designed for learners. In spring 2023, four theme groups consisting of experts from different fields were set up to bring top-level expertise to the development work of higher education institutions.
The groups will consider how data, educational offerings, guidance and enrolment issues can be addressed in Opin.fi. The theme groups include data analysts, study advisors, pedagogues and service managers from all over Finland. Each higher education institution can nominate 1–2 experts for each group, with whose support Digivisio shapes the continuous learning services into working concepts.
“All in all, there are more than 200 people in the theme groups,” says Iida Jääskeläinen, Service Design Specialist, Digivisio 2030.
The theme groups meet 4–6 times a year for remote workshops and also work on the Howspace platform in between meetings. They explore, for example, what kind of continuous learning services are currently offered by higher education institutions, who uses them, what challenges they face and how they could be addressed on Opin.fi.
The interests of learners at the heart of development
The theme groups are linked to the strategic design phase of service development, which is guided by the Digivisio steering group and the General Assembly. The theme groups do not therefore make decisions themselves, but help to build understanding and outline preliminary ideas for solutions. Once these ideas are sufficiently advanced, they are taken forward for further development and testing with the pilot higher education institutions.
“We need to be constantly seeking understanding on many different levels,” says Jääskeläinen.
The range of topics is also wide. The Data theme group looks at the ethical and legal principles of data use, while the Guidance and Recommendation group discusses, for example, guidance services on Opin.fi. The focus of the Educational Offering group is, among other things, on pedagogical development. The Enrolment, Application and Payment group, on the other hand, outlines, for example, how to enrol for free and non-degree courses.
“The shining star of development is that we are providing a service for learners.”
Core groups focus on more specific issues
Core groups of 4–10 people also work in theme groups that delve more deeply into issues that require further attention. In 2023, they have considered small skills sets and MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) provision, and outlined a battery of questions frequently asked on Opin.fi. A core group focusing on the further development needs of the VIRTA study information system will soon start work.
These ad hoc groupings are made up of in-depth experts, and participants usually sign up from within their theme group.
“They are a really big help for us when we need to delve deeply into a topic,” says Jääskeläinen.
Experts get a peek outside their bubble
One of the experts of the theme groups is Mikael Uusi-Mäkelä, Development Manager for Digital Education at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Uusi-Mäkelä, who is part of the Educational Offering group, describes the work as “the acid testing of ideas”. The theme group gives people the chance to express the views of their own institution on the proposed solutions and to look outside their own bubble.
“These are good fora for bringing a wide range of perspectives to the table,” he says.
Between meetings, Uusi-Mäkelä relays messages from his theme group to his colleagues and reviews ideas with his team. Online courses to be taken independently or MOOCs are important for Laurea, which is why Uusi-Mäkelä is also part of the core group that is working on them. For example, the group has been considering how the idea of flexible learning could be taken into account in the language used in online courses.
“It must be possible to tell the learner that they can do the studies, for example, after knocking off from their night shift or when the children are asleep at night.
Plans for 2024 to be finalised soon
The key issues of the theme groups are inspired by the objectives of Digivisio, which is why the priorities of the groups are refined each year. Completely new groups can also be set up.
Opin.fi is being developed as a series of sub-publications, which means that it will be gradually refined. In 2023, the theme groups have mainly been focused on the 3.0 sub-publication. Next year, this will be moved to the pilot institutions, so the issues of the 4.0 sub-publication will then land on the theme groups’ tables.
“We’re moving on to the next version of product development,” concludes Jääskeläinen.
Are you interested? You can explore the materials and recordings (in Finnish) from the theme groups’ 2023 closing event on the Digivision wiki. The site requires logging in.