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Collaboration in the time of restricted interaction

Finnish vocational schools have been educating students in the specific needs of industries, services, and other professional entities for multiple decades already. Universities, on the other hand, have only relatively recently started to ask themselves how to create truly employable work forces as well as world-class research papers.

We at the municipality of Sipoo have recently begun an Aalto Thesis collaboration with three Master's students from Aalto. I’m curious to find out how well the needs of the work-life can be met through academic papers and the people producing them.
People working
Aalto University students / photo: Unto Rautio

Motivating people through video screen

I'm also curious to see how the collaboration will work in these slightly troubled times, where most human interaction has been restricted to take place via digital devices. I miss meeting people, I miss watching how they react, and from those reactions deducing what motivates them. Some of these reactions, of course, can also be seen on screen, but most are invisible through the digital. Thus, motivating people via the digital is that much harder than it is face-to-face.

So, I wonder, how will we be able to motivate these students to do more and better than the minimum needed for a strictly academic performance? How do we get them to excel, to produce that elusive little extra, which we would need in order for the project to be a success from our point of view? How in fact, will we do that, without perhaps ever even meeting them in the same space? I don’t know. I do, however, think it is important that we manage it somehow.

Two-way advantages of student-industry collaboration

I believe it is highly important that students grasp the needs of work life already before graduating, and it is equally important that the work-life organisations would get to benefit from students’ enthusiasm and fresh points of view. There is much to be gained through an equally beneficial cooperation.

Many problems in the working life spring from the fact that the people working on any given issue are professionals of that very topic, and thus prone to regard the issue in a specific way. A new, questioning regard of the same issue can steer it in a new direction thus solving the problem surrounding it.

Also, students are in dire need of employers, (particularly in times of recession) once they graduate and knowing the needs of some of them can be an enormous asset. Indeed, knowing some employers personally can even lead to direct employment upon graduation.

Learning as an outcome

So, what I hope for is this: I hope that either during our project with Aalto University, or at least very soon after it, the world will return to a normal. There, people can share a physical space and learn from each other, in the way you only can through actual physical presence.

I also wish that the Aalto Thesis project we are doing will turn out to surprise us in how excellent results can also be produced in the new normal of restricted human interaction. May this era produce a true learning curve for all of us.

Author:

Elina Duréault

Elina is the Head of Economic Development at the Municipality of Sipoo, a mother of three future students (and hopefully also employable people), and an advocate for human connection.

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