Pilot universities seek best practices to provide digitally supported content

The world is changing, and learners, learning and higher education institutions are changing with it. The need for different types of learning content is constantly increasing, and the demands can no longer be met by degree-oriented options alone. But how to offer and produce new types of learning content in a flexible manner? The Digivisio 2.0 pilot institutions embarked on a quest to find the best practices to produce digitally supported study content.

Continuous learners are at the heart of the Digivisio 2030 project. For nearly 50 years, open higher education has responded to the expectations of adults developing their competence for a variety of reasons. During this period, the expectations of both learners and society have changed.

While open higher education used to consist of study units that were largely based on parts of degrees, today, the available options also include a variety of multidisciplinary competence modules tailored to meet the needs of the world of work, and open learning with free content. Learners can embark on their path to open higher education studies, for example, by familiarising themselves with contents that support their own work. For some, this may include listening to podcasts, for others, learning on web-based MOOCs.

From the perspective of continuous learners, studies that utilise different forms of digital teaching and learning environments play a key role.

– When the aim is to offer an increasing range of learning opportunities for continuous learners, it is of great significance for higher education institutions to consider how to plan these digitally supported studies and produce them efficiently, says Satu Hakanurmi, E-learning Expert at Digivisio.

Common challenges and development ideas were identified at workshops

How should digitally supported studies be produced in order to offer learners high-quality content and make the process run smoothly for the higher education institution?

Answers to this question were sought by the Digivisio 2.0 pilot universities, including the FiTech network of universities, Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Karelia University of Applied Sciences and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences.

The first joint workshop identified common challenges that are shared by all higher education institutions. These include, for example, assisting learners in transitioning from open content to credited learning and guiding them in a modular education environment, as well as processes for identifying and recognising competence. Most of the development proposals were related to the higher education institutions’ own internal processes, but they also included ideas for developing the Opin.fi service.

Guiding learners in transitioning from open content to credited studies

When learners compile their studies from educational content offered by several different higher education institutions and move along their own learning path, it is a good idea to examine guidance in a systemic manner. In particular, descriptions of educational content play a vital role in guiding learners to take part in studies. The better the description, the less guidance is likely to be needed at a later stage. In other words, investing in the descriptions could solve challenges related to guidance.

Guiding learners in a modular educational environment

Modular and stackable studies aimed at continuous learners include competence modules tailored to the needs of the world of work. Continuous learners progress in a modular manner, either by delving deeper into the same theme or examining themes from different perspectives. The educational offerings consist of individual parts, study units or larger entities, and guidance is provided to learners through, for example, describing the preliminary knowledge requirements and further possibilities on the learning path. In other words, the guidance needs of continuous learners differ from the needs of those studying according to the degree curricula.

The planning of stackable content and studies for continuous learners is a team game for education providers. For example, research and development projects feed the latest research information to those already active in the world of work. In addition, different ways of developing competence in higher education institutions form a path from open content to micro-credentials. For some, the path continues towards complete degrees.

The implementation of studies and open content is planned and produced by teams that combine the expertise of different specialists. This requires competence in learning design, knowledge of the needs and practices of the world of work in different fields, expertise in planning different forms of teaching, and skills in guiding continuous learners. A workshop highlighted the fact that teachers could specialise in blended teaching for continuous learners, which would enable guidance and support services in the evenings and at weekends.

Identification and recognition of learners’ prior learning

The identification of prior learning is a challenge for both individuals as well as higher education institutions and society as a whole. Higher education institutions need more courage to identify and recognise learners’ prior learning. At the moment, the practices of identifying and recognising prior learning also vary from one higher education institution to another.

Demonstrations of competence could be one new way of displaying the prior learning of continuous learners. AI will also support the identification of learning, paving the way for personalised and meaningful journeys for continuous learners.

The development projects’ final results will be made available to all higher education institutions

In addition to joint work, all of the 2.0 pilot institutions have carried out their own development project on a topic of their choice. The projects have addressed themes that have emerged during the workshops, and discussed them in individual higher education institutions and between the pilot institutions.

The pilot institutions’ development projects will be presented at the Digipedagogiikka joukkuepelinä [E-learning as a team game] event in Keilaniemi on 12 March 2024. The topics include:

  • Developing a workplace-oriented course: what should be taken into account?
  • Results from practical experiments on micro-learning and micro-credentials
  • Instructions for producing high-quality educational content from RDI projects
  • Describing and developing the pedagogical and administrative support process for non-stop courses
  • Instructions for informal content
  • Finding targets for development to meet the e-learning quality criteria

The final results will be openly available to all higher education institutions at the end of the pilot project.

Welcome to the ‘E-learning as a team game’ event to hear more about the development projects! The event is in Finnish.

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