What does remote teaching require of the teacher and the student?
The absolute number one requirement is for the teacher to be present. It also requires the teacher to be prepared and to have a plan B, even a plan C, just in case. In my opinion, a teacher can show their own interest in a theme or subject and use it to motivate students, even in remote teaching. One does not have to be an expert in remote teaching tools, either: a teacher can be open about their skill level to students and ask them to learn together.
In my doctoral dissertation 'Opettaja ohjaajana verkossa – tuutoreiden kokemuksia verkko-ohjaamisesta Akateemiset opiskelutaidot -verkkokurssilla' (2007) (Teacher as online instructor – tutors' experiences instructing an online course on learning skills) I studied how a teacher's duties and role change as they begin to use learning technology in their teaching. The course in question was based on online learning alone. One of my key findings was the importance of a peer group for teachers.
Co-teaching has lately been brought up in Aalto University in several ways. The teachers I interviewed for my dissertation saw co-teaching as important and felt like community and working as a network supported the development of each teacher's competence. Collaboration between several actors opens the door to the classroom and encourages teachers to work together to develop the content, implementation and assessment of teaching as well as everyone's teaching in general.
The student must also be present, active, and committed to their studies. The teacher's task is to design a kind of streamlined teaching that motivates students.
How has Aalto fared with regard to remote teaching?
Aalto had to move to remote teaching and instruction in spring 2020 in quite a hurry, much like other universities and schools. The teachers of those spring courses were truly tested, for which they are owed a huge debt of gratitude. Many of our Aalto teachers are very adept when it comes to remote teaching tools and methods, and there's a decent amount of support available for everyone. Remote teaching and learning are lonely pursuits, and maybe as a result of this COVID-19 ordeal we can all appreciate contact teaching and learning more than before.
The members of my team in the School of Engineering Learning Services have also smoothly and flexibly adopted tools like Teams for student guidance. Teams has also proved to be a nice platform for holding meetings and morning coffee sessions.
What do you think could be the teaching tools of the future?
What an interesting question – there are many different visions of this, I'm sure. I believe we have learned much during this exceptional period of remote teaching and that there will be no return to the way things were before. We have discovered tools and practices that can even make some tasks or matters easier to handle remotely than face to face. One professor mentioned that while students rarely visited their office on campus, their meeting hours became noticeably busier after the move to remote teaching.
I also believe that hybrid teaching will continue, with only the most crucial subjects taught through contact teaching and the rest handled through remote teaching and independent study. Flexibility and not being tethered to a physical location are also important principles.
However, both teachers and students miss and require contact teaching and instruction as well as opportunities to speak face to face in person. This is important for all of us and has become highly valued in this time of remote teaching. Community supports the well-being of teachers and students alike!