Project work during the Covid-19 pandemic

Henna Timonen
University of Easten Finland

The pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus has affected work and education widely in Finland, as in any other country in the world. As the University of Eastern Finland had to close its’ doors in March, remote working, learning and teaching have been introduced to the staff and students of the organization. With the already existing infrastructure and technical skills and equipment the transfer from face-to-face to online has not caused too many problems. The transfer almost seems smooth.

Effects on project work in UEF

For Ge&iN the first big change was to postpone our scheduled dissemination event that was going to be held in Trieste, Italy in May 2020. When the decision to postpone the event was made, the situation in Finland with the virus had not escalated and this was one of the first tangible effect of the pandemic for many. It was soon followed by schools and educational facilities closing their doors, gatherings for more than 10 people being forbidden and restaurants having to close their doors.

UEF is responsible for creating the formal University course. The course was piloted in August 2019 in the Summer School program and it was supposed to be run again in Summer School 2020. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic the program was cancelled. Our team in the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology had to come up with alternative ways of organizing the course. Luckily, the need for summer studies for UEF students has also increased in the situation where many students have lost their summer jobs and have a surprising free time window during the months that normally they would work. The course will be run as a summer course for UEF students. It will be organized online. Based on the student feedback from 2019 and the observations made by the staff, the course has been improved – instructions simplified, and some dialogical elements added as well as adding some new Open Access articles and additional material. To familiarize students with such concepts as ‘Active Citizenship’ and ‘Intergenerational Learning’ both scientific peer-reviewed literature and real-life examples are introduced. Here you can see a CC-licensed video example of intergenerational learning. In the video Jurriën Mentink talks about the Humanitas care homes in the Netherlands:

As an example of Open Access literature, check out this article:

  • Osoian, A. 2014. Memories, a Bridge towards Intergenerational Learning. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 142 (C), 499–505. Article in ScienceDirect

Online pedagogy

The hype around online learning does not seem to fade. As stated By Stommel (2019), online course must create a link between the content and learning, otherwise they’re merely repositories of information. Our aim is to provide learning tasks and learning material that invite dialog between students and encourage students in critical reflection.

Students are encouraged to ask questions such as these:

  • “What will I do with this new knowledge?”
  • “How are my attitudes, worldviews and stereotypes towards others changed?”
  • “What role do power and power-relations play in this phenomenon?”

It is not always possible to have students or participants in the same online platform at the same time     – especially in adult education­. For this reason, other ways of enabling communication and dialog between the participants must be utilized. In many learning platforms there are chatrooms, discussion forums etc. that can be used. A facilitator or an educator can make dialog easier for participants by making clear guidelines for discussion, asking interesting but easy to understand questions and providing material to raise thoughts.

Multiplier event in Joensuu, Finland

As the restrictions on mobility and gatherings continue, each partner in our project must think of the national multiplier events for dissemination and how to organize them. In our case in Joensuu, we embrace the opportunity to organize a webinar. There are many challenges and a lot must be changed in our “traditional” seminar-thinking to make this kind of webinar work. Fortunately, we are also encouraged by others organizing similar events before us and can take full advantage of their experiences.

Ending note: Importance of Intergenerational care

During these difficult times there is a serious need for human kindness and care. What more appropriate method to introduce than intergenerational learning and care as a way of helping ourselves and others. As people of older age are in a higher risk with severe health problems when infected with Covid-19, they have had to practice social distancing. In this wonderful article in Unicef India (2020) they list  six ways of helping older adults in this situation: running errands, giving social support and helping them “stay connected, feel involved, purposeful and less lonely”. This is something we all need, despite our age.

Stay safe and take care of each other,

Henna Timonen

University of Eastern Finland

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