Aalto University's A!OLE (Aalto Online Learning) project has been funding pilot projects since early 2016 for developing online and blended learning approaches for courses of Aalto. At the moment A!OLE has more than 80 pilots, which have come through open idea proposal calls.
A!OLE project manager Tomi Kauppinen says that projects that were granted funding have varied from interactive online books and automatic assessment to virtual reality and from educational games to video production. For instance, the Introductory Finnish MOOC, the gamification of the courses, and augmented reality in interactive storytelling have been excellent pilot topics.
'This year we are especially looking forward to pilots that utilise virtual and augmented reality to support learning. A!OLE funding goes to ideas that seek to bridge educational gaps and solve challenges with novel approaches – and not to courses that are already in production. All idea proposals need to develop teaching and courses, or related tooling and pedagogical methods.'
Events boost a sense of community
A sense of community is central to A!OLE's operational philosophy. At the moment about 150 people from Aalto are in the network. About 40 events are held yearly and the arrangements for the two biggest events, The [email protected] and The [email protected] Gala, will easily involve thirty people from Aalto.
'At A!OLE we specifically want to help people meet each other. When people look at things and development projects from different angles, the results often prove to be tremendous.'
'Developing ideas and learning together are magnificent opportunities. It is good to bring the ideas forward for comment at as early a stage as possible. Giving feedback is often very enriching and provides new ideas for further development of the pilots.'
Freedom, creativity, and trust are important
'Online learning is today's thing. People learn from a diversity of materials online and meet face to face in workshops to talk and reflect on what has been learned. Freedom is important. Micromanaging only kills freedom, creativity, and trust. We need structures, fruitful check points, and community-building events to support the implementation of freedom and creativity', Tomi Kauppinen says.
The A!OLE community is open to all at Aalto who want to develop online and blende learning together. The idea is that each person should have something to contribute to the network.
'We want to be a so-called coaching network, the A!OLE Coaching Network, in which everyone has the desire to participate both in the capacity of a coach and as someone who gets coached. Many have noticed that they are pretty good experts', Kauppinen says.
Tomi Kauppinen serves as the A!OLE project manager. He defended his doctoral dissertation at Aalto in 2010 and for the past 20 years, has been working in both Finland and Germany on new media, online projects, knowledge representation, artificial intelligence, information visualisation and data-driven storytelling. Professor Lauri Malmi serves as the chair of the A!OLE coordination group.