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Coronavirus situation at the University of Eastern Finland

Adesina Dorcas and Tran Giang

Available fully online from next autumn: a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences and a Master’s in Tourism Marketing and Management

Autumn 2022 will witness the launch of two fully online degrees at the University of Eastern Finland. A Bachelor’s in Social Sciences and a Master’s in Tourism Marketing and Management will become available also to students outside Finland.

In terms of content and quality, the new online degrees are similar to those offered on campus. The online Bachelor of Social Sciences degree differs from the one offered on campus in that the language of instruction is English, and the programme is taught fully online. The Master’s degree in Tourism Marketing and Management is unique in Finland and rare even internationally. Compared to the programme offered on campus, the online programme has greater flexibility.

An online degree can open the door to a Master’s degree programme

“The programme is aimed at anyone interested in societal issues and wishing to complete their degree in Finland, but in English. For many, the programme can serve as a gateway to a Master's degree programme. There are quite many Master’s degree programmes taught in English in Finland, but we have fewer Bachelor’s degree programmes,” says University Lecturer Teppo Eskelinen from the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Eastern, and the person in charge of the Bachelor of Social Sciences degree.

The programme consists of studies introducing students to the foundations of social sciences, as well as of various thematic courses deepening students’ understanding of, e.g., economic research in social sciences, sociology of education, and sustainable development. Students’ choice of their minor subjects also shapes the orientation of the degree. Minor subjects can also be completed online; however, more alternatives are available on campus.

“The courses will be implemented online or by using alternative methods, such as book exams, essays, or virtual reading circles. An online mode of teaching can involve ordinary lectures delivered via the internet, watching recorded lectures, seminar work, and various writing assignments.”

Master’s degree programme in sustainable tourism business

The Master’s degree in Tourism Marketing and Management, on the other hand, is intended for graduates holding a Bachelor’s degree in business studies or tourism, and it is an opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree in business studies while focusing on the tourism sector. 

“We train experts in tourism that is sustainable and profitable. The programme discusses the key aspects of sustainable tourism from the perspectives of nature tourism, wellness tourism, and digitalisation. When completing their degree, students will learn to understand the complex interactions of a tourism ecosystem, factors influencing tourist behaviour, and key issues related to the profitability of tourism business,” says Professor of Tourism Business Juho Pesonen, who is in charge of the degree at the Business School of the University of Eastern Finland.

“The programme makes a lot of use of the flipped learning method, where students familiarise themselves with materials in advance, and topics are then discussed in joint meetings. For teaching purposes, classrooms for attending Teams meetings have been reserved on the Joensuu Campus of the University of Eastern Finland. All meetings will be recorded for later viewing at students’ convenience.”

In addition to teaching, the programme includes excursions to companies, among other things.

Students’ group dynamics are important

The development of distance and online education, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, enables smooth learning on various technical platforms.

“In distance learning, there is no similar social control as in studying on campus, so the role of self-determination gets emphasised,” Eskelinen says.

The studies can also be completed from abroad, and they do not require any technical or other skills that wouldn’t also otherwise be required in university studies.

“Self-leadership skills, digital skills and remote working skills in general promote success in studies,” Pesonen says.

“We are constantly collecting feedback from our students in the Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management, and their feedback is the main reason why we are now offering the programme online.”

Despite the idea of an online degree, students can also attend lectures on campus. Regardless of the method of participation, students’ group dynamics play an important role.

“We seek to facilitate meetings and we are also thinking about various virtual spaces for casual interaction. We support reading circles and other social modes of study, and we try to make our online sessions as interactive as possible,” Eskelinen says.

“Nearly all courses include group work, and students are randomly assigned to different groups on different courses. This way, students get to know each other. In addition, students attending courses in Joensuu usually group together nicely. Students shouldn’t feel like they are completing their degree alone at any point,” Pesonen says.

Distance learning gave me confidence and I participated in discussions on lectures more than I would have in a physical setting.

Nozhat Saravi