Digital mentors help teachers diversify online teaching

This autumn, a number of digital mentors have started working in the University of Oulu’s faculties and in Languages and Communication. The mentors provide support in tasks relating to the digitalisation of education and help to draw up digitalisation programmes for the faculties.
Kuusi digimentoria seisoo ryhmäkuvassa.
In the back row, from left, are Joakim Tervonen, Henri Takalo-Kastari and Juuso Kojo, and in the front row, from left, Hannu Liedes, Henrika Honkanen and Riikka Tumelius. Missing from the photo are four other digital mentors.

“We at the Faculty of Humanities are in the process of creating various web-based courses, developing the old and experimenting with the new, for which help is needed. Together with me, people can consider things like how to increase interactivity using digital tools, develop their own online teaching materials, edit the structure of their Moodle space or test the possibilities of hybrid teaching,” says Riikka Tumelius, university lecturer and digital mentor.

“If you are unfamiliar with digital environments, I’m happy to help you get started.”

“As an engineering faculty, our readiness to start using new technical solutions is certainly good. However, we need support on how to identify the digital competence that already exists in the faculty and how to get information on new digital pedagogical techniques and practices that will improve the quality of teaching,” says Hannu Liedes, university teacher and digital mentor from the Faculty of Technology.

Skills for learners and teachers

Society and everyday environments are being digitalised at a rapid pace, and people cannot always keep up with everything.

“Mobile devices and social media have become commonplace, but the utilisation of digital tools still needs to be learned separately. This applies to both young and adult learners. Digital leisure-time activities are very different from what is needed in studies or working life. Even among young people, there are many who need support in learning basic skills. It’s important to note that digital skills are not limited to technical skills, but skills needed for evaluating, using and creating information are also very important,” Riikka Tumelius says.

Hannu Liedes sees the bottleneck of progress specifically in teachers’ capacity and readiness to introduce advanced forms of activation:

“Digitalisation is both a threat and an opportunity. It becomes a threat if we are unable to take advantage of its opportunities and others do it. Digitalisation provides an opportunity to succeed if teachers are able to develop their competence and if their competence is channelled into the competence of students. It’s not an end in itself.”

“Many people would like to learn to use new tools, but learning something new and designing good pedagogical apps takes time. I’d like to encourage people to try new things and take it one step at a time. For example, there is one course where you can test how Moodle discussion forums could be used for peer review and, based on this experience, assess whether you’d use this way of working in future or whether you’d like to make changes,” Riikka Tumelius says.

Part of education development

The faculties’ upcoming digitalisation programmes aim to ensure that high-quality education is flexibly accessible through advanced online and other solutions. Each programme records the faculty’s strengths and key next steps in improving digital pedagogical quality and staff competence.

The network of ten digital mentors is coordinated by Paula Vaskuri from Digital Pedagogy and Video Services. Vaskuri is supported in promoting the network’s activities by Change Coordinator Minna 't Lam. Funding for the pilot will currently continue until the end of 2024.

In addition to digital mentors, the University of Oulu has had a volunteer-based network of digital tutors since 2017. It gathers people interested in the development of teaching and education together to receive and share information. At the moment, there are about twenty digital tutors, and you can join the network at any time. The digital mentors work in close cooperation with the digital tutors.

The utilisation of digitalisation is included in the Noste development programme for education. Launched for the University of Oulu, the programme is led by Tapio Koivu, Vice Rector for Education, with Elina Niemitalo-Haapola as the Programme Manager. The university’s digitalisation is promoted in close cooperation with the Digivisio 2030 project, and the development goals of the entities are in line with each other.

Currently, goals identified in the digitalisation of education include the provision of pedagogically high-quality and learner-oriented online and flexible education and guidance for different learner groups, the utilisation of learning analytics and feedback data as well as the utilisation of cross-institutional study opportunities and educational partnerships.

The activities of the digital mentors are the first concrete step in the implementation of the digitalisation goals of the Noste programme. The digital mentors also have a valuable role to play in brainstorming how the University of Oulu can utilise the nationally developed continuous and flexible learning tray in the future. This common platform is currently being planned in the national Digivisio 2030 project.

The digital mentors are:

Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine: Henrika Honkanen

Faculty of Humanities: Riikka Tumelius

Faculty of Education and Psychology: Juuso Kojo

Faculty of Science: Anu Tuomela

Faculty of Medicine: Henri Takalo-Kastari

Oulu Business School: Joakim Tervonen

Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering: Heidi Leinonen

Faculty of Technology: Hannu Liedes, Ari Vuokila

Languages and Communication: Sini Pirskanen

Last updated: 31.10.2023