Petra, you are managing a minor program with 90 students working with company partners during the summer. It is still unsure what the mode of teaching will be during the summer semester, how are you preparing for different teaching scenarios?
These are interesting and exceptional times we are currently living. As a considerably new Program Manager at Aalto University, I am undoubtedly jumping right into the deep end of the pool and similarly facing unexpected challenges like we all do. However, I strongly think my freshness could turn into a blessing if ITP, Aalto University’s summer minor program, will be moved online. The program has been running for 25 years and never before has there been a need for online teaching due to the strong challenge-based nature of the program. If ITP goes online, this change would inevitably be almost like a full make-over on what comes to teaching methods and organizing the program.
We are prepared to be very flexible and agile with new kinds of teaching arrangements with the students and the lecturers. I think that exceptional circumstances require exceptional arrangements and flexibility from all stakeholders (e.g. students, lecturers, business partners). The current situation has decreased people’s sense of safety but with good communication, the feeling of safety can be restored. This hopefully decreases the resistance to change and allows us to quickly adapt to new ways of providing high-value-adding teaching.
The selection of the right tools is crucial for running a successful online program. With colleagues, we have had substantial discussions about suitable online tools and platforms which will build an essential part of the whole program. The tools and platforms must serve ITP’s particular purposes with challenge-based learning and also smooth business project teamwork between the students, coordinators and business partners. Other essential questions in terms of program management need to be taken into account, e.g. questions regarding student engagement, international lecturers, different time-zones, business project facilitation, provision of special design tools, team building, and delivering the well-known ITP spirit.
I am currently studying how to facilitate change and also how to facilitate online. I already have some experience from online facilitation as I have previously coached clients online. In addition to books and courses, learning from others who already have some experience from similar changes, is an excellent and considerably easy way to build a better understanding of what can be done and how. Thus, I have listened to my colleagues’ and our lecturers’ experiences with online teaching. Benchmarking plays a vital role here too when trying to figure out the best ways to create a cohesive online learning experience: learn how others have made it and apply the best and most suitable practices. Despite being relatively new to ITP, I could also find fresh ways to turn a well-functioning on-site program into a smooth online set. I am ready to accept the challenge!