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Joint seed corn projects building digital internationalisation on education

Published on 19.11.2020
Tampere University
Brunel University, London
Photo: Brunel University London
Tampere University and Brunel University London boost their digital transformation in international education by joint seed corn projects on digital learning development.

As university campuses started to close last March, the Vice-Provost for International and Academic Partnerships Trevor Hoey at Brunel University London and Vice President for Education Marja Sutela at Tampere University faced a common challenge. All education had to go remote and almost all international exchange students had to return. “We were faced with an unpresented challenge of turning education virtual while we had to look for solutions to get students engaged internationally” says Vice President Sutela.

As Tampere University and Brunel had already been developing strategic collaboration for several years, the universities leadership had close connections. Thus, it was easy to put on the thinking hats and address the common challenge together. 

In March the universities decided to launch a joint call on educational seed projects to develop novel methods for teaching and learning. The call was specially directed as a respond to COVID-19 and was focused on the methods of digital learning and boosting international interdisciplinary co-learning.

“With the educational collaborative projects, we are not only providing joint teaching with Brunel but rather experimenting novel pedagogical methods to find best practises to be implemented across the university”, says Project Director Sanna Kivimäki who is heading the university’s development programme for education and learning. Vice President Sutela continues: “In our education strategy, we have set the goal that internationality and international competencies must be integrated to all of our degree programmes. In the post-COVID era, digital education will be the main tool for reaching this goal. Together with our collaboration with ECIU (European Consortium of Innovative Universities) to build ECIU Digital University and creating virtual exchange packages, collaboration with Brunel really sets important examples of building internationalisation at home”.


Tampere University and Brunel University London has five ongoing educational seed corn projects:

1. Innovations in teaching: Responding to COVID-19 and developing a sustainable, virtual, collaborative, and cross-institutional approach to deliver Team-Based Learning
Team Based Learning (TBL) is a learning and teaching strategy based on students preparation prior to class followed by classroom-based teamwork, which enables active and collaborative learning. This project aims to implement TBL to facilitate learning in Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences classes at Brunel University and Sustainable Urban Development classes at Tampere University. The research team will use a collaborative and reflexive approach to implement online TBL as part of their new Research Methods modules in 2020/21, with student surveys conducted at the end of the academic year used to gather feedback. Regular meetings between teaching teams will inform any developments and adjustments necessary throughout the year.

Project Leads: Ms Shafeena Anas (Brunel) and Dr Markus Laine (Tampere)

2. Developing and piloting an international remote design model to boost interdisciplinary co-learning, motivation and creativity

The project aims to develop and pilot a remote design model to boost interdisciplinary co-learning, motivation and creativity. It will explore online student collaborations focusing on design projects as part of the curriculum and student learning, and pilot test such collaborations by running remote participatory lectures and design workshops with student cohorts from Brunel University London and Tampere University. A set of teaching strategies will be developed for including remote interdisciplinary collaborations as part of student engagement and learning, with the goal to strengthen student motivation, sense of community and creativity.   
Project Leads: Dr Thaleia Deniozou (Brunel), Dr Aino Ahtinen (Tampere)

3. Building Support for Developing Employability Skills of International Students Affected by the Covid-19 Situation

Covid-19 is having a large impact on international students at both Brunel and Tampere; the majority of students will have to start their studies through distance learning. However, applying distance learning methods remotely is challenging in problem-based learning with industry collaboration. This joint project is looking for audio-visual solutions helping these learners get started with such applied learning processes and build the generic skills needed in student-industry collaboration, which are also very important for later employability. The key target groups in this project are Brunel Business School’s (BBS) final-year undergraduate students working on their final year projects (FYP) and those taking up work placements of various durations and the first-year international graduate students of Tampere University engaged in problem-based learning with local companies.

Project Leads: Prof Fiona Denney (Brunel), Dr Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen (Tampere)

4. Development of a joint online classroom interface to expand economic teaching and support the use of experiments in a cross-cultural setting

Students benefit from both instruction and interaction with fellow students. This project will create a shared online classroom platform bringing with students from Brunel and from the Master’s Pprogramme in Public Choice at Tampere. The students will enroll in an Experimental Economics course at Tampere and in a Labour Economics course at Brunel. Experimental methods can be a cost-effective way of testing policies to combat poverty and other socio-economic ills. Experiments can be used to elucidate how people make decisions, how they choose when to cooperate rather than compete, and how their behavior is affected by culture. 

Project Leads: Dr Jan Fidrmuc (Brunel), Prof Katri Sieberg (Tampere)

5. Collaboration with automatically assessed maths exercises using Maths E.G, Stack and Plus systems 

Mathematics is a widely taught subject which many students struggle with, so our collaboration potentially offers significant benefits across the board. To provide focus, we will initiate this collaboration by integrating Maths E.G, Stack exercises and the A+ learning management system into a first-level engineering mathematics courses but expect this technology to be useful throughout STEM and some social and health sciences, too. Specifically, we will complete the required content within maths eg by adding new topics, re-purposing this content within Stack and integrating the underlying web technologies in the learning material within A+. In 2021, we will embed our deliverables and disseminate them.

Project Leads: Dr Martin Greenhow (Brunel), Dr Simo Ali-Löytty (Tampere)