At Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences all study programmes contain a certain degree of online work for students and teachers, from a mere support environment for classroom courses to full-time eLearning. Pretty much all students and teachers (96%) are thus affected by this learning paradigm. Some are trained specifically for the purpose of online studying and other merely suffer it as they go along, but few ever wonder WHY we employ eLearning in all degree programmes, even for our fulltime day students.
So, why do we offer online education in one form or another to all our students? Why does the Finnish government encourage eLearning in all secondary and tertiary education?
Naturally, our adult students are best placed to provide answers to those questions. Most students in fully online study programmes cannot afford to study in traditional face to face settings due to time constrictions, or other obstacles such as remote location, full-time employment, physical handicaps, or the care of infants or elderly family members. However, while indicative, this is not the whole answer. It does not explain why we have our daytime students study in Moodle and Mahara in addition to their contact classes. Hence, we have to take a broad perspective to see the relevance of eLearning to all students.
We have to consider that within one lifetime the world we live in has moved from hand-written letters to email and SMS, from rotary dial telephones to smart phones and VOIP, from movable type printing presses to faxes and laser printers, from mechanic typewriters to word processors and spell checkers, from card catalogues to electronic databases and cloud computing, from plain old copper cables to fibreglass and wireless networks, the list goes on and on. The electronic revolution has affected our society profoundly, especially in the way we handle information. Developments in economy and technology have consequently sped up, leading to the need for and development of such concepts as information society and lifelong learning.
Now consider that Finland is a small country with a high standard of living. To compete with the world at large, a country like Finland needs to remain ahead of its competitors in terms of hi-tech and the ability of its work force to deal with technology, to adapt to constant change, to educate themselves further even before the need arises and, furthermore, to do so while remaining active participants in working life. Such a country needs an education system that not only provides this continuing education, but that also enables its students to partake of it.
A good school prepares its students for working life. In a modern, globalised, information society that means that the students have to be taught the skills to navigate the digital information ocean, to retrieve, evaluate and process data, to communicate these data via electronic channels and, moreover, to do so while holding down a full-time job in any location in the world. This is where the eLearning effort at Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences comes in. This is why teachers and students engage with virtual learning environments, social media and virtual classrooms as part and parcel of their studies. This is what the eLearning Centre of Kemi-Tornio UAS supports and develops and it is an area in which we lead the way for many other schools in Finland and abroad.