How going to a Finnish university has changed my perspective on studying

After studying in a few different places, we come to a point when we don’t really expect anything outside of the normal learning environments we have been a part of before: watching lectures, taking a few tests, doing some group work. Studying at the University of Oulu allowed me to discover and explore new learning strategies.

Collaborative learning

I thought I had already learned how to be a good learner, I was able to reflect on that and create strategies in an environment where learning to learn is highly encouraged. In Finland and at the University of Oulu, many of the aspects I thought were exceptions in learning became the rules.

In the Learning, Education and Technology (LET) master’s programme, collaborative learning is one of the main topics studied. In educational studies, a lot of people agree that collaborativeness is highly important, and it is not a surprise that it is encouraged. However, in my previous experiences, collective and group learning were not the usual practise; in most cases, we would sit at our own tables and carry most of our learning by ourselves, and sometimes join other peers to do some work.

At the University of Oulu, I was able to experience a different reality: many of the rooms we have classes in are actually designed for collaborative learning.

It was first a surprise to see that even tables are designed to be put together, but now I am used to it. Some classes even have couches close to each other, so we often get to be in close contact with our colleagues and learn with and from each other. It is beyond interesting to learn by discussing and collaborating with others in a master’s programme with diverse backgrounds, such as LET.

Our little friend teddy bear sitting in one of the couches in room KTK149.

Regulation of learning in practise

One of the major topics on the LET programme is regulation of learning: a cycle in which one is able to plan, monitor, and reflect on their own learning processes. And while studying about it is already very interesting, getting to apply it in practice is even better!

The courses offered by the university are well structured and have aspects that help you become a better, more self-regulated learner: assessment, for example, is used as a form of feedback to promote reflection and better learning and can be done in many different ways, such as group and individual work, presentations, projects and others. If you’re used to doing one final exam to determine your whole semester’s grade, be prepared for it to change: here, this is not standard since learning is a process and is seen and treated as such. This leads us to our next topic.

Problem-based and project-based learning

Ever since the beginning of my studies, I could notice that we would have a lot of hands-on learning. And my perception was not wrong!

The LET programme combines theory and practice, and we learn a lot by developing projects, which gives us more practical experience.

For one of the courses right in the first semester, one of our group tasks was to create an educational board game. We were able to define the main educational goals, the theme of the game, the target age group, and the board and the pieces of the game itself. For that, we could use 3D printers, sticker makers, laser cutters, and even manual handicrafts. It was a very interesting way to explore the technological features the university has to offer. In the end, we got to play other groups’ games and to give and receive feedback.

The cover photo shows the board game my group developed - it was about learning how to identify fake news. It was a very fun, practical, and interactive assignment, and I know there are many more to come!

A picture I took on my first day going to the university.

Considering all that, I feel confident that studying my programme at the University of Oulu has been a very positive experience and has been playing a huge role in making learning a stimulating and enjoyable journey. The possibility of conciliating theory and practice and learning from different people and experiences is surely very enriching for us as students and future professionals! :)

About the author

Beatriz Mello is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is currently a master’s student in the Learning, Education and Technology programme. She is adjusting well to the cold weather but still feels amazed every time she sees snow falling.