Research

FinEd: Study Plans for Working Life

May 14, 2018

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Denise Villikka, MHC, Senior lecturer, Department of Health and Welfare, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, [denise.villikka@arcada.fi];
Christa Tigerstedt, M.Sc.Ed, M.Sc.Econ, Senior lecturer Business, Leadership, HR , Intercultural Business, Educational Leadership, Department of Business  Management and Analytics, Arcada UAS, Researcher in Education sciences, Åbo Akademi University, Finland [christa.tigerstedt@arcada.fi]; Fred Nordström, BA, MA, Degree Program Director, senior lecturer, Media Culture Program, Department of Culture and Communication, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, [fred.nordstrom@arcada.fi]; Anne Kokko, MSc, Lecturer, Physiotherapy, Department of Health and Welfare, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, [anne.kokko@arcada.fi]

 

Background
The demographics of students entering university continues to change as national boarders disappear, immigration increases and individuals seek degrees during different stages of life. As a result, those entering university may possess hidden knowledge and skills obtained previously during formal studies or in relation to working life; however, it seems these competencies are not taken into account when developing study plans during the early days at university. The reasons seem to vary from student’s inability evaluate and project their current level of competence into that of their future profession, to a lack of simple, systematic structures available on university campuses that would facilitate the progression of studies for diverse student cohorts. (Ministry of Education 2018a) Therefore, through the creation of models and strategies that take into account previous studies and skills gained through working life experience when forming study plans and through the creation of type of “self-service” assessment portals, students can graduate faster allowing them to enter working life expeditiously instead of consuming time repeating what they already know. Indirectly, through this national initiative, cross-sectional networks and best practices are shared, strengthening the overall collaborative efforts of higher education throughout Finland and internationally. (Arcada 2018; Haaga-Helia 2018; Ministry of Education 2018b).

Purpose/Aims
TOTEEMI supports the policy aims of Finland communicated in the governments most recent action plan. Developed through this national initiative are different concepts that support student’s needs during university and enabling faster transitions into working life. (Ministry of Education 2018a) There are three development packages in this national research and development initiative. The first deals with flexibility at work, where identified are bottlenecks or other gaps that are not conducive to inclusive and flexible study paths and new solutions offered. The second development package focuses on bridging university life with that of working life, where the student takes an active role in competency development according to their chosen career path. In this development package, research-based data on student employment, career and entrepreneurial paths are in focus, along with the creation of new assessment strategies that take into account previous proficiencies gained earlier either through formal education or through working-life. Together, these are considered at the commencement of studies thereby allowing optimal exploitation of prior knowledge and skills. The third development package is wellbeing in learning at work where student unions and associations assist in mapping out the student experience during work placement focusing on wellbeing. The data collected will be used to put in place, new guidance strategies based on a student-tutoring model. (Arcada 2018; Haaga-Helia 2018; Ministry of Education 2018b)

Realization
According to the latest strategic action plan of Arcada, students should possess the skills necessary to drive their own studies; therefore, the ability to perform continual self-assessments both on campus and off campus during internships is a necessary component that allows smooth progression. In order for students to uphold their mandate, educators should provide clear learning outcomes and competence objectives by which students and faculty can perform assessments and track their progress. (Arcada 2018) Therefore, the first stage for Arcada will be to conduct a type of internal audit to assess how learning objectives/outcomes are communicated with students and working life partners. Once this has been accomplished, the next step will be to support the creation of assessment tools using digital solutions that are easily accessed and navigated, transparent and fair that support a diverse student cohort as they progress through their studies. For example, by providing a type of digital tool that allows students to perform a “self-service” assessment upon commencement of their studies, knowledge and competencies are identified. This tool will support decision-making and allow easy access to different stakeholders as the student progresses through graduation into working life. (Arcada 2018)

Partners & Timeline
At present, the internal partners include responsible persons from different departments, including: the Department of Economics and Business Analysis- Christa Tigerstedt-who is the project leader and contact person for this project; the Department of Health and Welfare- Denise Villikka and Anne Kokko, and the Department of Media and Communication- Fred Nordström.
Arcada launched the TOTEEMI initiative in September 2017. Initially, time was spent generating a cohesive mix of actions that would support national, organizational and departmental objectives. In the spring or autumn of 2018, the concepts in the different departments at Arcada are disseminated and impact evaluated. The spring of 2019 marks the end of this research initiative and planning for the continuation. (Arcada 2018)

Results
The expected results of this initiative are the creation, implementation and evaluation of digital models and strategies that will facilitate the progress of university studies for a diverse student cohort resulting in expedient graduation and transition into working life. Dissemination includes universities within Finland, partners inside and outside the Nordic network. Publications, keynote presentations including workshops will follow. In the end, the concepts developed through this initiative will stimulate genuine and constant collaboration with working life partners through genuine collaboration, transparency and the sharing of best practices. (Arcada 2018; Haaga-Helia 2018)

References:
Arcada webpages, URL: https://intra.arcada.fi/en/pedagogy. Accessed: 6 April 2018

Haaga-Helia webpages, URL: http://www.amktoteemi.fi/en. Accessed: 6 April 2018

Ministry of Education and Culture: Higher Education Policy and Development in higher education and science. URL: http://www.amktoteemi.fi/fi/yrkesh%C3%B6gskolan-arcada-arcada. Accessed: 6 April 2018a

Ministry of Education and Culture: Korkeakoulutuksen Kehittämishankkeet. URL: http://minedu.fi/documents/1410845/5914081/Korkeakoulutuksen%20kehitt%C3%A4mishankkeet%202017-2019/6ee0470d-fefa-4837-8d54-cb7581586c4e. Accessed: 6 April 2018b