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The link between working life and education was strengthened in a three-year project

The Work-integrated Pedagogy in Higher Education project (WORKPEDA), founded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, has now finished. Sixteen higher education institutes across Finland, including Aalto University, collaborated during 2018-2020 to integrate work-life competencies and connections more broadly to education.
Students working together on laptops.

‘According to research, graduates feel that they aren’t prepared enough for work-life during their studies. Academia-industry collaboration, joint projects, internships and other periods in working life may improve graduates’ work-life capabilities and transition to working life,’ says WORKPEDA Project coordinator Jouni Helin.

In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Culture founded the Work-integrated Pedagogy in Higher Education project to respond to the challenges mentioned above. Professor Päivi Tynjälä from the University of Jyväskylä managed the project which covered ten universities and six universities of applied sciences.

Work-integrated pedagogy in this context stands for practices, approaches and pedagogical methods or models with either work-life collaboration or which aims to improve work-life capacities within substance teaching or through separate studies.

The objectives of the WORKPEDA project have been to

  1. Renew the operational culture of higher education institutions so that work-integrated pedagogy and academia-industry collaboration are a natural part of higher education
  2. Strengthen the linkage between research, development and innovation (RDI) activities and education
  3. Create lasting operating models for work-integrated pedagogical support and guidance
  4. Strengthen students’ work readiness and accelerate the transition to working life
  5. Develop university personnel capacities in work-life collaboration and pedagogy and
  6. Deepen the cooperation between universities and other higher education institutes

According to research, graduates feel that they aren’t prepared enough for work-life during their studies.

Jouni Helin, Project coordinator

Collaboration projects prepare students for working life

Laura Sivula, Niina Pitkänen and Silva Saulio from Aalto University developed a Master’s thesis collaboration model called Aalto Thesis during the WORKPEDA project. In Aalto Thesis, a partner organisation presents a challenge to a multidisciplinary student team to tackle through their Master’s theses. Aalto University coordinates the collaboration project, and the students receive a grant. So far, Aalto Thesis partner organisations have been the Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (Hoas), Digital and Population Data Services Agency, the city of Espoo, Valio and the municipality of Sipoo.

Based on the student response and participant feedback, Aalto Thesis seems to be an exciting possibility to enhance and integrate future work-life skills and connections to their degrees. Nearly 500 students have signed up for the Aalto Thesis mailing list to hear about the upcoming projects. In the 2020 feedback surveys, the students replied to the statement “I would recommend participation in Aalto Thesis” with an average of 4,82, and the statement “I will benefit from the things I learned during Aalto Thesis” received an average of 4,73. The survey was in a five-point Likert scale format (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree).

In the WORKPEDA final seminar’s panel discussion, student Riina Ruus-Prato from the Creative Sustainability in Design programme shared her experiences in the Aalto Thesis project. Riina Ruus-Prato participated in a collaboration project with the municipality of Sipoo.

‘During my studies, I have been stressed about what to do after graduation. The Aalto Thesis project has been a good addition to the collaboration between working life and education. I feel that the project prepared me well for the transition to working life, and it was nice to do a thesis with real value.’

The Aalto Thesis project has been a good addition to the collaboration between working life and education.

Riina Ruus-Prato, student

Concrete outputs to support education

The WORKPEDA project included five work packages. Aalto University was part of the package Working-life perspective in curricula’s section Work-integrated, enhanced process for graduation theses. The other work packages focused on strengthening the working-life competences of students, support and guidance in work-integrated pedagogy, and RDI activities as part of education.

The final project output was a book Työelämäpedagogiikka korkeakoulutuksessa (edited by Anne Virtanen, Jouni Helin and Päivi Tynjälä). You can download the pdf version at the end of the article. The book is available only in Finnish, but some chapters are in English. The book is about the project’s pilots and the results of integrating working life perspectives in education. Aalto Thesis is presented in the chapter 4.3.2 Monitieteinen ja projektipohjainen opinnäytetyöohjelma – Lisäarvoa opiskelijoille ja partneriorganisaatioille.

The University of Oulu and Aalto University collaborated as part of the WORKPEDA project to create a digital student guide to project-based Master’s thesis process and multidisciplinary teamwork. Aalto Thesis Student Guide is a practical guide where both students and other education practitioners can find tips and academic sources.

Download the book Työelämäpedagogiikka korkeakoulutuksessa (pdf)Explore the Aalto Thesis projects

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