On March 16, 2020, the entire Finnish education sector was closed by the government to slow the spread of the corona virus.
More specifically, the premises were temporarily closed, but instructions were given that instruction and guidance “should be organized in alternative ways as far as possible, including distance learning, various digital learning environments and solutions and, where necessary, self-study”.
In Finland, non-formal or so-called liberal adult education (ie adult education centers, adult education centers, learning centers, sports training centers and summer universities) has traditionally been organized as contact learning in classrooms or workshops.
The closure has forced these institutions to quickly renew their thinking about organizing education. In fact, I would like to believe that March 16 will be remembered in the future as the day when a new era in Finnish adult education began.
Shortly after the pandemic started the Finnish Association of Adult Education Centers (KoL) conducted a member survey on the effects and 122 centers across Finland responded. In March, these centers estimated that approximately 68 percent of current and upcoming courses would have to be canceled.
However, the questionnaire also showed that 72 percent of the centers were already redesigning some of their courses so that they could be offered through distance learning.
In 2019, only 0.3 percent of all training hours in Finnish adult education centers were offered in the form of distance learning.
In addition, these facilities expected that 27 percent of all training hours would be organized, in whole or in part, using remote methods.
It is interesting to measure these numbers by the fact that, according to KoL, in 2019 only 0.3 percent of all training hours in Finnish adult education centers were offered in the form of distance learning.
The speed of the transformation was impressive, especially given the fact that the sector was facing a financial crisis at the same time.
THE FINNISH GOVERNMENT HAS ALSO BEEN ready to act quickly to ensure that legislation does not hinder the use of distance methods.
The law on liberal adult education stipulates that at adult education centers and sports centers at least 10 hours of contact learning should be offered to students if the course is otherwise conducted using distance learning methods. Of course, all courses had to be canceled during the pandemic. According to the Finnish government, the institutions do not currently have to comply with this regulation.
At the institutional level, the crisis has taken a tremendous amount of work from board members, school leaders and teachers. Both school principals and teachers have shown that they can overcome major challenges and create new solutions.
At the institutional level, the crisis has taken a tremendous amount of work from board members, school leaders and teachers.
Although teachers in Finnish liberal adult education mainly work part-time, they must have a university degree and a pedagogical degree. There is also a strong national goal to promote teachers’ digital skills in all areas of education.
I would argue that without this, the transformation would not have been as fast as it was.
I was able to follow this transformation closely in our organization that runs the Southern Helsinki Adult Education Center. I also got the perspective of the students when I attended a Spanish course in the center.
The teachers’ self-confidence in virtual education grew visibly from day to day.
Here almost all courses were switched from contact learning to distance learning. A digital learning platform was quickly opened to teachers, and educational and technical instructions and support were provided by office staff.
As a result, the self-confidence of the teachers in virtual education grew visibly from day to day, and I was able to experience many “big leaps” into the digital age. Even piano lessons were organized online just a few days after the dramatic completion of the contact lessons.
During my Spanish course, the teacher first offered the students written instructions for self-study. The following week, diverse materials such as recordings were shared, and then live classes were started, giving students the opportunity to meet and discuss virtually.
Finally, the entire lesson was organized pedagogically on a learning platform. All participants shared, laughed and enjoyed the opportunity to learn together. In fact, our last digital Spanish lesson was 30 minutes because we were all too focused to remember to check the time!
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