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Everyday choices: As an expert of lifewide learning, what skill did you learn most recently, Laura Sivula?

The Head of Aalto’s Summer School thinks nobody is ever completely done – not even when it comes to cooking.
Laura Sivula valokuvattuna ulkona, kaupunkimaisemassa, taustalla näkyy kerrostaloja, kuvan oikeassa yläkulmassa on männyn oksa, Sivula on pukeutunut mekkoon, jonka helma hulmuaa, hänellä on jalassa valkoiset tennarit.
Laura Sivulan kuvasi Nita Vera.

School of Business researchers just published the Future of Work course in MOOC format. What on earth is MOOC?

The acronym stands for Massive Open Online Course, in other words we’re talking about courses that are open to everybody and aimed at the masses. Anyone, from toddler to granddad, from anywhere in the world, can take part in a MOOC course.

I’d say that that sets a pretty low threshold for accessing university-level education.

Who is Future of Work aimed at?

The course is for all lifewide learners. Perhaps most typically for people already in working life or returning to work.

An interesting part of the course is Finland Works, a module aimed specifically at international students. It covers the special features of Finnish working life and culture, providing some concrete tips as well.

Many find surprising how autonomous Finnish working life is, especially knowledge work. In some countries, it is unwise to go home before the boss leaves, but Finnish employers are rarely looking for a person prepared to work 80 hours a week.

What does lifewide learning mean?

Work and the ways of working have changed, and not only because of digitisation or corona.

Lifewide learning is about recognising the significant impact the ongoing changes will have on individuals as well as on societal structures and organisations.

There’s not much the individual can really do about the nature of work changing on the societal level. But changes will follow also at the workplace and these anyone can, depending on their status, actually influence. First and foremost, they can influence how their personal competence stays current.

Lifewide learning is only possible when learning can happen at work and during working hours.

You should be allowed to learn and develop at work, and time must be set aside for it. Everyone can personally influence what inspires them, how they envision their careers and what direction they’ll steer it towards.

Which skill did you yourself last learn?

I’m constantly trying to learn new things, I guess I practice what I preach. 

I’m passionate about cooking, I practise different techniques and try to master new regional food cultures.

I recently acquired a sous vide circulator, a device for preparing food with the aid of vacuum packing and very carefully controlled heat. I’m learning to create fine dining experiences in my own kitchen.

I think it’s important to be able to move naturally between working life and free time, drawing from both reciprocally. When, for example, I went to Japan to teach, I also got familiar with the local food culture.

Might lifewide learning become and obligation to learn forever?

I am, of course, familiar with such objections: some feel that it remains the responsibility of the employer to assign specific courses, the completion of which will enable you to succeed in your job.

In simple terms, lifewide learning is about acknowledging the fact that none of us is ever complete. It makes sense to seek out objects of interest that you want to grasp, to deepen your competence in. Employees can shape the ways in which they work quite a lot by acquiring fresh knowledge and skills.

As the world becomes more and more digital and automated, it will actually leave the more fun jobs, tasks requiring creativity and analytic decision-making, for us humans to do.

Text: Tiiu Pohjolainen
Photo: Nita Vera

This article was published in the Aalto University Magazine issue 29, October 2021.

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