University of Helsinki Open Science Award given to builders of open learning and teaching communities

The University of Helsinki Open Science Award was given to Laura Riuttanen and to the Department of Computer Science for their educational development work

The annual University of Helsinki Open Science Award is a recognition of exceptional work in promoting Open Science. The theme of the 2020 Award was open learning and education. This is a broad topic that includes open educational resources and learning environments, open teaching methods based on peer learning and learner-centredness, and the use of continuous learning.

Nominations for the award were requested from the units of the University and via the Flamma intranet from everyone at the University. A nominee could be a person, a group, or a project that has made an outstanding contribution to promoting open learning and teaching at the University of Helsinki. Numerous proposals were received from the heads of faculties, students and individual researchers. The proposals were evaluated by the award jury, whose members were Vice-Rector Paula Eerola, University Librarian Kimmo Tuominen, Senior Advisor Tiina Käkelä, IT Manager Teo Kirkinen, Head of Services Sari Koski-Kotiranta, Chief Digital Officer Jaakko Kurhila, University Lecturer Jokke Häsä, and Chief Information Specialist Marja Moisio.

The quality of the proposals was outstanding. The proposals represented well the diversity of methods and starting points for implementing openness of teaching and learning at the University, and what a wide range of users open research-based educational resources can have. For this reason, the jury decided to grant the University of Helsinki Open Science Award 2020 to two nominees for their exemplary and wide-ranging work in developing open learning and education. The award was granted to postdoctoral researcher Laura Riuttanen and to the Department of Computer Science for their educational development work.

The award winners Laura Riuttanen and Kjell Lemström representing the Department of Computer Science will be appearing in the webinar (in Finnish) Oppimisen ja opetuksen avoimuutta rakennetaan yhteistyöllä [link to University of Helsinki intranet, only with UH user account] today, 22 October at 15.00.


Postdoctoral researcher Laura Riuttanen. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Climate change studies for everyone

Postdoctoral researcher Laura Riuttanen from the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (Faculty of Science) has been building, with determination, a learning and teaching community for climate change and sustainable development studies. She has led two initiatives in which multidisciplinary study modules of climate change and sustainable development have been co-created. Both initiatives are based on open educational resources and learning environments, and they utilise teaching methods based on peer learning and learner-centredness.  uses the MOOC platform (Massive Open Online Course), and the educational resources are used as part of academic degrees in nine higher education institutions in Finland, and in one Nordic joint degree programme. is a multidisciplinary study module available for everyone for studying and teaching the basics of climate change. Another initiative led by Riuttanen is Climate University. It is a collaboration project of 11 universities in Finland, and by the end of 2020 it will have produced nine online courses. Climate University also provides material for further education for teachers, and a course for Finnish upper secondary schools. The learning outputs of students are utilised in the Solutions.Now project course, where students solve real-life challenges related to sustainability issues faced by companies. Climate University was in September 2020 one of the 10 finalists in the Hacking Higher Education competition.

A Significant open education culture is created through systematic development

The Department of Computer Science (Faculty of Science) is an international pioneer in developing and using open online courses, and it aims at the democratisation of learning and knowledge. The topics of the over 30 open online courses created at the department range from the basics of programming to cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. The best known of these courses, Elements of AI, is the most popular AI course in the world, with over 500,000 students from over 170 countries.

The Department of Computer Science has also produced numerous pedagogical innovations and experiments. The department has its own online course platform, used by dozens of higher education institutions both in Finland and abroad. The department’s online courses are also offered to Finnish upper secondary schools, and in 2019  a quarter of all study credits of non-degree students at the Open University came from studies in computer science. Most of the online courses are published under a Creative Commons licence. This enables further development and new extensions by others to the course material created by the Department of Computer Science

The active participation of teachers in the development of online courses and teaching, and the supportive working culture has made the wide range of open education possible. Research-based teaching analytics has had a prominent role in the pedagogical work. The teaching methods are based on peer learning and learner-centredness. The students also participate in the creation of the educational material. 

Pedagogical innovations and good practices

The award jury also wanted to highlight the following, distinguished nominees: