The first part of the design sprint aimed to share and understand both bottlenecks and opportunities about virtual learning. Via brainstorming the groups generated as many ideas as possible, and came up with solutions what would be suitable for implementation in each partner university.
“Virtual learning is the new normal. During the past year, we have had to adapt to new pedagogies and new technologies, but now it’s time to think what comes after the pandemic, what will be the new normal in a post-Covid world”, stated Laura Sivula, Head of Summer Schools at Aalto University, who facilitated the first sprint with her colleagues Laura Kitinoja and Regina Castelejn-Osorno.
Laura Sivula introduced factors to take into account when designing good teaching practices:
- Mobile learning: When planning for virtual learning platforms we need to consider how to engage students on the devices and platforms they already use? Generation Z has a mobile-first mindset, they socialize, connect and consume media in vastly different ways then previous generations. Mobile learning happens across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices.
- Microlearning: How can we engage students in continuous learning? Microlearning is a holistic approach for skill-based learning and education, which deals with relatively small learning units. It involves short-term-focused strategies especially designed for skill based understanding/learning/education.
- Personalized learning experiences: How can we best personalize learning experiences for students? Personalized learning experiences can be provided with a mixture of technologies and pedagogies. There is a shift from teacher-centered to creating a student-centered and optimally, a student-driven class room, where students have choices in the pace, tools, learning objectives and their interests.
- Peer learning: How can we build student communities of online learners? Sivula thinks this is a real opportunity for Unite!. Peer learning is an effective way to make learning interesting and teach students to develop an array of useful skills such as communications, teamwork, leadership, delegation and the ability to give and receive feedback.
Virtual reality in teaching
The second part of the design sprint on using virtual reality in teaching was run by Julia Sand, a master student from Aalto University School of Arts. According to Sand people learn better when learning happens in an authentic environment and when the learner has an active role. Learning in more authentic contexts has been found to improve motivation and understanding. Providing the context helps the learner to make conceptual connections between the individual learned facts. Authentic environment helps memorization. For this kind of situated learning simulations in virtual environments can be used. Students tend to find active participation in simulations to be more interesting and intrinsically motivating. Simulations also enable the learning contexts that would normally be impossible, expensive or dangerous.
What can VR offer specifically that other mediums can’t? Virtual reality is a highly immersive media offering the feeling of being part of the digital experience. For the learner it helps with concentration and engagement – it closes off the surroundings and only shows what’s relevant. VR also allows for bodily interactions. When you move, more neural pathways are activated resulting in a stronger memory trace. In VR learning environments the natural interaction with 3D digital objects seems to be connected to a better memorization, engagement and concentration. VR can be used in situated learning approaches and to give context to the subject matter to be learned or to take the learner to an environment that would be impossible to experience in real life. The freedom to explore the digital environment may contribute to the feeling of control that is connected to intrinsic motivation.
Davide Calandra, Gabriele Prattico and Federico De Lorenzis from Politecnico di Torino, introduced three practical examples on how virtual reality can be used in teaching of physics, in the training of firefighters and on conducting energy audits.