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Tomi Kauppinen builds a new teaching development community at Aalto

"We are building a genuine community where we develop online teaching together", says the head of A!OLE.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Project Manager Tomi Kauppinen and I head the strategic Aalto Online Learning A!OLE project, where I am building a community of teachers and teaching developers within Aalto. The goal is to build a genuine community where we develop online teaching together. When building a community, it is important that people have things they want to learn and, on the other hand, things they want to teach to others. This generates meaningful encounters. Another important aspect of building a community is that we understand the role of time and place. For example, every Thursday at 10–12 am we have workshops with changing content at the Learning Centre, which ties A!OLE to a specific time and place. I believe in multidisciplinarity and the fact that we can generate genuinely good pilot projects by supporting the ideas people have. In addition to Aalto, I also teach in Germany where I have been granted the habilitation and Privatdozent titles.

What does good teaching entail in your opinion?

In my opinion, good teaching is such that students learn something in a genuine and verifiable way. In good teaching, online learning and face-to-face teaching are in good balance. The motivation of students can be increased by minimising the number of traditional lectures or even by leaving lectures out altogether, and having instead intensive workshop-style sessions and online course materials. This creates a feeling that students are able to concentrate on topics that truly support their learning. The teacher’s role is to facilitate sessions to support meeting the learning objectives. It is important to develop tasks where students are given an opportunity to solve real problems related to the subject at hand. Learning results also improve, when students are given a chance to teach others in groups. Within each group, the students discuss how something is done, and after this they explain the same matter to others, learning more in the process.

How have you developed the teaching at Aalto?

During last year, I developed teaching in the A!OLE project in particular, within which we are currently running more than 50 pilot projects. Previously, the development was more the responsibility of individual teachers, but now we have created an internal Aalto community of online learning developers. It will help us minimise ad hoc activities and maximise the development based on research and best practices. I joined the Aalto staff in autumn 2012 and held my first workshop on MOOC courses in spring 2013. Acting as a substitute in the academic year 2014–2015, I also lead planning of media track of the master’s programme in information networks. In addition, I give speeches in different events related to information visualization, open science and pedagogy.

According to our vision, we are building a sustainable society driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. How is this visible in your development work of teaching?

I include sustainability subjects in different exercises that I lead both at Aalto and in Germany, where I also teach. For example, when teaching about information visualization, I have used the triangle of sustainability which emphasises that all three aspects – economic, environmental and social matters – must be taken into account in planning. Sustainability also requires that students grow into transdisciplinary people from the very beginning.

Where do you get strength and inspiration for your work as a teaching developer?

Meeting people, and seeing and supporting their enthusiasm inspires me. Ball games, running and versatile stretching also play an important role in my life. For example, on a business trip to, say, California, I begin my day by running on a beach at sunrise, and I attend yoga classes also when I’m abroad.

The next A!OLE Forum will be held on 30 March, with Vice Dean Teemu Leinonen as speaker. We look forward to seeing you there! Read more >>

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