Dear LC colleagues around Finland,

Warm end-of-summer greetings to everyone from the Aalto University Language Centre!

Hopefully you all had a proper chance to relax and recharge your batteries during the summer break. We all certainly deserved a holiday, as the past academic year has brought more than its fair share of challenges to LC teachers everywhere.

Looking back on the past 18 months, we LC teams have had to think fast on our feet and adjust quickly to a very challenging new reality in the middle of a global pandemic. Although we LC teams have always embraced and promoted the use of online teaching technology, during the pandemic we have had to further sharpen our digital skills and adapt to a wholly new style of interaction.

Luckily, we already had extensive experience under our belt through various digital teaching projects such as KIVAKO, which gave us an excellent head start in making the digital leap. If you happened to read the HS editorial dated 23.8.21 (Monimuoto-opetus kunniaan korkeakouluissa), you probably took note of the author’s reminder that digital teaching is a field in which Finland cannot afford to fall behind in the post-COVID era.

We LC teams had already come a long way in our online teaching before COVID, but the pandemic forced us to fast-forward and go “next level” in our digital evolution, and we can thank our previous digitization efforts for our success in doing so. And, after speaking with many of our colleagues across Europe, I am convinced that we experienced fewer setbacks and rose to the digital challenge better than many others. For that I think we deserve a pat on the back! As an interesting footnote, I would like to add that our Aalto LC students completed more study credits during the last academic year than they had in many years prior to the pandemic. How’s that!

As we kick off the autumn term, online tuition looks set to continue, at least for the time being. This is partly because of official physical distancing requirements – we simply lack the required classroom space. Hopefully, as vaccinations continue and contagion rates decline, we will soon have a chance to meet face-to-face and start chatting in coffee rooms again. Hopefully things will return to “normal” soon.

But what is the new normal? I suspect that COVID-19 might have changed many things permanently. Remote work and online study look like they are here to stay. Although in-person communication is naturally an important part of language learning, online teaching also offers advantages that many of us – both teachers and students – have begun to appreciate in a whole new light over the past 18 months.

In the future, we will be transitioning to a model that combines face-to-face lectures with an increased amount of online teaching. But how much tuition should be face-to-face and how much should be online? What is the ideal balance? How can we make the best of both worlds? These are questions I hope that we LC personnel can contemplate together, sharing best practices and ideas.

As for other current topics at Aalto, at the beginning of August, we officially launched SISU, which replaced Oodi as the core information system for teaching and studies at our university. Some of you already have experience with the SISU system, and I suspect that some of you might have run into similar technical challenges as we have in the initial rollout phase. The term hasn’t even begun, and technology is already messing with us! 😉

Another interesting piece of news I would like to share with you is that Helsinki University and Aalto are together coordinating the “Language Boost” (Kielibuusti) programme, which forms part of the new government-funded Talent Boost programme designed to help Finnish companies find and recruit international talent. Helsinki’s Universities of Applied Sciences, Laurea, Metropol and Haaga-Helia are also on board, and the programme is set to run until the end of 2024. Going forward, I hope this programme will offer new opportunities for collaboration between LC teams throughout the whole country. We are keen to hear your ideas!

Last spring our LC Day in Vaasa was postponed due to COVID, but hopefully we will soon be able to meet up again to exchange ideas, experiences and hopefully also a few laughs. I for one have missed seeing you all!

Here’s to a brighter, more sociable year ahead! I hope the new term gets off to a great start for all of you!

My best to you all,