Developing new ways of learning through education technology

Wanting to develop new models of learning has been a driving force in Chris Hutchinson's career. As the Covid-19 pandemic is changing the way we live and learn, the skills of a learning designer are in high demand.

When Chris Hutchinson was studying in the Learning, Education and Technology (LET) master's programme at the University of Oulu, little did he know that his chosen field would soon be in the headlines around the world and his skills would be in high demand. Sure enough, he got hired as a Learning Designer by the Helsinki-based Claned Group soon after graduating.

As the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to switch from contact teaching to holding remote classes at breakneck speed, education technology became a part of the global conversation overnight.

”Soon, it seemed obvious that the demand for education technology solutions would explode and we would need actual new formats for education,” Hutchinson says.

Before Hutchinson embarked on his new career at a company developing an online learning platform, let alone made the choice to go to the University of Oulu, he was making a living in Taiwan's Taipei teaching in kindergarten. He had been teaching for a few years by that point, and while he loved education, it seemed more and more that teaching was not the way for him to pursue a career in it.

”More than teaching, I was really interested in changing existing models, or developing new models for education. I wanted to find something that would have the most impact on changing education,” Hutchinson recalls.


Change of pace

Hutchinson says that he was well aware of Finland's reputation in education and in education technology, which came into play when he was looking into master's programmes he could enroll in. He applied to a few programmes and the LET programme in Oulu was one of the most exciting. 

”It really lined up nicely with where I saw myself as an educator. The programme was really open-minded, it had a diverse group of students coming from various backgrounds and experiences, and those things led me to accept the offer from Oulu in 2018,” Hutchinson says.

While Hutchinson was well-travelled, he hadn't visited Finland before. He was pretty accustomed to winter, coming from Canada, but the darkness was a new thing for him. The bigger adjustment than daylight conditions, however, was life in Oulu after living and working in a bustling metropolis. The transition to the peace and quiet of Oulu was very refreshing and an exciting time for him, and it felt like an adventure and the start of a new chapter in his life. 

Hutchinson's decision to join the LET programme in Oulu paid many dividends. The programme got him interested in things that he hadn't been before, or at least hadn't realised he was.

The studies introduced him to a lot of knowledge and concepts he now uses daily in his work. He says the programme gave him the ability to find his direction within education as a professional field and an idea what he could do with his degree.

”By the start of my second year, I knew I wanted to work in education technology and with people who do something with online learning. I was beginning to figure out what kinds of roles I would be suited for as well. The programme was a great stepping stone for the next thing,” Hutchinson says.


Chris Hutchinson found a new focus for his career in Oulu, when he made the decision to join the Learning, Education and Technology programme.


An open letter to a company

Hutchinson had kept a list of interesting education technology companies around the Nordic countries during his studies, and Claned was high on that list. While he was sending out applications for work, he sent an open letter to the company.

”It was just to let them know that I liked what they were doing and that this is my background, maybe we could have a conversation. It turned out that they were in a growth phase and were looking to hire new professionals at that time when I reached out to them,” Hutchinson explains.

Hutchinson was hired and he relocated to Helsinki. Having worked at Claned for only a few months so far, there is still a lot to learn for him at his new role.

He says he is most excited at his work when he sees a client really benefit from their co-operation.

”For me, the most enjoyable aspect of work is when the client is really invested in producing something with our platform that makes not only a good experience, but a great experience for learners,” Hutchinson muses.

Hutchinson says he really believes in the company and is thrilled to be working at it. It ties into his future aspirations as well, developing his professional skills as well as the company. Developing one's skills and rolling with changes is essential for every professional, and as the global pandemic showed the world, the changes can happen at a blistering pace. Aside from everyday skills he can use at his work, he says that his study experience in Oulu also taught himself how to be a good learner.

”These days, everybody needs to be able to learn new things on the fly, and we as learning designers are by no means exempt from that,” Hutchinson says.


Text and photographs: Janne-Pekka Manninen

Last updated: 11.1.2021