European Best Practices of Adult Education and Training Project Team Visits KMi

KMi were delighted to host a group of Finninsh academics from the ESF funded ‘European Best Practices of Adult Education and Training’ project. The team of eight from Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences, University of Joensuu, Savonlinna Centre for Continuing Education and Regional Development, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences and The Small Business Centre at the Helsinki School of Economics were on a fact-finding tour of e-learning. They had identified the Open University as “a big player in e-learning and distance learning”.

The group initially spent some time with Dominic Newbould of OU Worldwide, who outlined current thinking on e-pedagogy for the OU and demonstrated the OU global presence.

The group was hosted by KMi’s Business Manager, Alan Fletcher, who demonstrated the OU’s e-learning tools and applications, giving an insight into current student experiences, web 2.0 presence, communication tools and looked at the future potential of web 3.0 and other KMi developments in key research fields.

The group were particularly interested in the OU presence in iTunesU, currently unavailable in Finland. They were all impressed by the quality of the OU content and the potential for the channel to deliver rich media content in the growing mobile market sector.

As the project is actively seeking to understand the dynamics of e-learning, the team were impressed by the meeting analysis capabilities of FlashMeeting, the KMi powered on-line video meeting tool and are keen to run some meetings within their project group.

Similarly, the group could see real potential for connecting groups of learners with Hexagon, KMi’s ambient video presence tool.

KMi’s leading presence in the Social Learn and STELLAR projects, both focussed on the future of technology enhanced learning, certainly struck a chord with the group and they expressed real interest in the possibility of project collaboration.

The Future Internet discussion led the team into conversations about the power of semantic web engines and the potential of technologies such as Magpie for developing learning outcomes and the fascinating possibilities of Multimedia searching in the PHAROS project.

After the meeting I asked the team leader,Mr. Pekka Hytinoski some questions about distance learning in Finland, what inspired his team to come to the OU, whether any universities in Finland offer distance learning, had he had any experiences with studying with the OU in the UK and where does he see the OU as a player in distance learning? Mr. Hytinoski replied:

“Distance learning isn’t really popular in Finland yet, but we do use it as it is the easiest option. We have many different platforms where you can choose a course that you wish to study and basically all universities offer some distance learning. There is no designated university for distance learning, we all do it!”

“We use the traditional VLE to help learning because we find it is easier to use but we currently don’t use the likes of Facebook very much, we mainly use discussion forums”

“We blend our uses of teaching methods. We have the VLEs and sometimes we use the traditional paper method, but we prefer to use the VLE, it saves time and trees”

“The reason we, or me personally were inspired to come here is because I have worked and studied in OUs in Finland, although not over here. So I have OU background and I also see the OU as a big, big player in distance learning”

The group will take back their experiences and insights into the OU and KMi to the Project as part of a wealth of research data that they aim to analyse in developing the Best Practice Models for Adult Education.

The group were keen to find ways of expanding links with KMi in potential research activities in the future and look forward to further contact and collaboration.

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