A project focused on the future of teaching and learning at the University has just completed three future scenarios that describe alternative and potential changes to the external operating environment from now to 2035.
The need for such scenarios stemmed from the pandemic, which boosted the community’s crisis awareness, necessitated new practices and demonstrated that some changes are extremely rapid.
“The change brought about by the pandemic period was not just about digital solutions or whether we worked and studied online or on the campuses. When time together and shared experiences were taken away from us, or at least when the way of being together changed overnight because of the pandemic, we paused to reflect on what we may yet face in the future – both good and bad,” says Director of Development Susanna Niinistö-Sivuranta.
For the benefit of services and expertise alongside teaching
The scenarios contain intentional exaggeration, and are aimed at highlighting significant and mutually distinct future trends.
In addition to anticipating the future, the goal of the project is to empower people to see that the future does not just come about by itself – it is made. It is important to identify, in time, various trends and their potential positive and negative consequences.
Kai Nordlund, Vice-Rector for academic affairs, notes that the scenarios describe, to a certain degree, even radical societal change, which can markedly affect wider factors relevant to university education.
“The scenarios provide us with a solid foundation to challenge our traditional lines of thought and think about how we can transform ourselves to best meet the diverse educational needs of the future. At this stage, the scenarios have already affected the ongoing redesign of the University’s teaching philosophy. They provide a good foundation for faculties and degree programmes to create their own pedagogical roadmaps,” Nordlund says.
In addition to teaching and learning, the scenarios describe change in the operating environment more broadly. The scenarios can be used to take ideas further and for inspiration in a wide range of contexts and from a variety of perspectives. They make it possible to develop the teaching and methods of faculties, as well as the support services for and expertise in teaching. In addition, they serve as catalysts and drivers of innovation for all development activities.
Reaching the goal collaboratively in under a year
The scenario effort was launched in October 2022 in a workshop for vice-deans in charge of academic affairs. Subsequently, teachers and students as well as staff of Teaching and Learning Services were interviewed. In addition, workshops were organised for students and the entire community, including a separate workshop in conjunction with the Learning Adventure event.
Professor Auli Toom, Director of the Centre for University Teaching and Learning, who was a member of the project group, is pleased about the opportunity to examine university teaching and its pedagogical management from a new and broader perspective.
“The scenario effort challenged us to consider what kind of learning we wish to enable for students and what kind of teaching we wish to provide at the University of Helsinki, even if the circumstances – political, economic, health-related or otherwise – change. The effort helped clarify the kind of learning and teaching we wish to hold on to in any case. Caring for and encountering students, interaction in teaching and the establishment of inclusivity are central issues,” Toom notes.
The scenarios and the final report are intended for long-term internal use by the University community. So far, they have been used in renewing the university teaching philosophy, in pedagogical development, and in mapping the future capabilities of teaching and student services. The future scenarios for teaching and learning were drawn up with reference to a futures studies methodology developed by the consulting company Capful.