JYU is designing curricula for the period from 2020 to 2023 and reforms are considered on the university level as well as in different units. General policies define eight themes that will serve as a basis for the curriculum work. One of these themes is learning and professional skills, which are listed as innovation and creativity, self-guidance and self-initiative, emotional and interaction skills, the connection between professional praxis and theory, entrepreunrial conduct, and problem-solving abilities. The list, however, lacks one key competence that is essential in modern society, even though this competence has been emphasised in various studies and policy documents published by the OECD, the European Commission and others. This key competence is ICT skills. These have already been strongly accounted for in the revised curricula for lower education levels, but they are still missing at the university.
JYU educates multidisciplinary experts for different professional domains. However, according to current curricular policies, they are not required to have ICT user skills, despite the rapid digitalisation in society and working life. Every graduate of our university should possess the ICT skills necessary in the world of work.
Therefore, I would like to ask from you, my colleagues, how are these skills being taught in your subjects? Have you ensured that your students will possess the ICT skills their field requires when they graduate?
Many people think that ICT skills are learned in conjunction with field-specific knowledge, so there is no need to teach them separately. I dare to disagree, as students face challenges with quite basic things already, such as attaching files to an email message, preparing a PowerPoint presentation, and using the University’s information networks and learning environments, or joining a distance learning facility. Several studies (e.g. RUSEn ReadIT) support this view. It is hoped that the situation will improve in the future, as the new university students will have better basic skills owing to the curricular reforms made in comprehensive school and at the secondary level. However, this will become a reality for us at the university level only after several years.
The policies of the European Commission and the Finnish Government Plan also highlight the significance of continuous learning, and for many this calls for studying alongside work. This, in turn, is often possibly only through distance, online and multiform teaching, which requires sufficient ICT skills. It is not enough, however, that students in the future learn basic ICT skills during lower school phases. The skills must be maintained and developed further during university studies as well. Moreover, the ICT skills required at the lower school levels are not yet sufficient in academic contexts.
A potential problem for ensuring ICT skills seems to be that in most subjects there is no room for anything “extra” in the degree requirements. On the one hand, this is a matter of basic competences comparable to communication and language studies – these are skills we should ensure in one way or another for each graduating student. In the Faculty of Information Technology we are developing in collaboration with other units (e.g. Department of Teacher Education and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) a basic common study module as well as a thematic module for teacher students (early childhood education, special education, class teachers and subject teachers), by which the learning and professional skills for ICT competences could be brought to a satisfactory level. Of course, a single study module cannot yield broad-based expertise, but enthusiasm is likely to grow along with the first study module and as students’ skills grow, they can take other courses and study modules provided by the Faculty of Information Technology and related to educational technology.
The curriculum work is still underway, so requests for study modules can still be presented. Our wish for other units is that you do your best and draw on the already existing and further developing instructional provision in order to enhance students’ competences.
University Teacher, Educational Technology
Faculty of Information Technology
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