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  • Seppo Sainio
    Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL


    More Quality with Digitalisation

    It was a pleasure to meet the students again at the beginning of the semester. Not just as a group, but also as individuals. These meetings bring into view many kinds of personalities, motivational factors and ways of organizing everyday schedules. Talking face-to-face brings up surprising questions and realisations, expectations and doubts. Such encounters at the university are true quality time.

    “The most important thing for man in the world is da-ga,”* M.A. Numminen once wrote. “The feeling of your hunger disappears when da-ga sounds.” What is daga? Da-ga is a made-up word. Daga is the rhythm and meaning of life. Da-ga is the solution to everything. Da-ga makes the world go round.

    Digi is the da-ga of today.

    One of our government’s key projects is developing digital learning environments in higher education institutions. This is good. The society is becoming ever more technological. Universities need to keep up with the times, even lead the way. When it comes to the digital, universities have expertise and open-mindedness, but also guarded and critical attitudes.

    What is the digital? The digital is about abandoning handouts, the digital is about open access to knowledge. The digital is about mobile learning and channels of interaction, the digital is about empowered participants.

    I have understood our country’s government’s directions to mean that everyone should decide to do their job a bit better. The digital helps us with this. It offers new possibilities for environments in which to operate.

    The digital has made knowledge available for everyone. Does that then mean that gatekeepers of knowledge, like universities, are no longer needed? No! Information is useless, even harmful, to its receiver, if the user does not have the capacity to evaluate it and process it to usable knowledge. The ability to evaluate information is the kind of basic competence for which people come to study at universities. It is learned in a structured study process which lasts throughout the entire studies. The competence will develop further in the working life, and this will be all the more straightforward the more one has learned lifelong learning skills throughout one’s educational path.

    The pedagogical principles of university studies are grounded in research knowledge. How do digital environments promote the implementation of these principles? How is the digital used to promote student-friendliness, interactivity, diversity and internationality? How to learn a research-oriented approach to things, how to support the development of skills for working life and of the learner’s personality, and what about being a learner after the studies are over? Using the digital in teaching calls for persistent and determined development in which the entire organisation participates. This type of work is being done all the time.

    After austerity measures and competition, universities have become organizations that aspire to knowledge of a high standard and efficiency. Systematically developing the competence of the staff increases profitability, and it is one way of implementing the government’s key project. The entire teaching faculty needs to have the possibility to educate themselves, as part of their own work, towards making use of digital environments. While drafting the annual work plans, the employer sends a message about the importance of developing the competence of the staff.

    The seminar room and regular studying schedules continue to have importance. Face-to-face encounters will often be the best forums for discussion, teambuilding and for encountering another person. Being present at a previously agreed time, prepared for the meeting, participating in the discussion, asking questions and making your own constructive suggestions are all a part of the skills for working life.

    The digital is here. Let’s take advantage of it, but also of other encounters to advance the implementation of the pedagogical principles of the university.

    *Translator’s note: An English version of musician-poet M.A. Numminen’s text “Dägä dägä”, titled “Da-ga Da-ga,” appeared on M.A. Numminen in English (Love Records 1974), from which the translations are quoted.

    Seppo Sainio
    Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL

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