First of all, a huge thanks for every answer that we got for the SCI Study Questionnaire Spring 2023 - there were in total 182 of them! The summary of the results can be found here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1AYV2BEM1WBlbnY9i5kcnfUla3Z2uJNVa/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=104796668915334322420&rtpof=true&sd=true. Among a couple of other issues, the results of the survey were discussed in the SCI education management team meeting on the 11th of May.
Results of the SCI Study Questionnaire Spring 2023
One of themes covered in the Study Questionnaire was the language of studies; an issue that has been widely discussed across the university during the spring. From the students’ point of view, we brought up a question: why are certain courses taught in English instead of Finnish, when there seems to be no reason for such a choice? Particularly, if the course is lectured by a Finnish professor, and the audience is presumably entirely Finnish-speaking, these kinds of choices raise amazement. On the other hand, from the professors’ point of view, it might be hard to find out if there are yet one or two persons within the presumably Finnish-speaking audience that actually do not speak or fully understand Finnish. It would be tempting simply to ask about this from the audience, but as a single non-Finnish-speaking person the threshold to express the lack of capabilities of the Finnish language can possibly be surprisingly high. To tackle this issue, some sort of an anonymous poll that could be implemented in MyCourses for example, was considered, but nothing was really decided. All in all, there is clearly room for improvement regarding these kinds of situations.
Second topic covered in the Questionnaire was generative AI as a tool of study. The professors expressed their will to discuss this topic with the students, and hence were interested in the results that we represented to them. The main conclusion that can be drawn from the results is that the students find generative AI primarily as a tool, not as a complete solution to any problem. That is, the answers provided by generative AI have to be verified and the existence of generative AI does not mean that teaching of fundamentals in any field of study is unnecessary, rather the opposite. Students also find that the university should see generative AI as an opportunity, not as something that should be totally banned. These results were taken to a meeting in the following week, where university-wide policies and guidelines regarding generative AI were discussed, and we will see what kind of the official policy will eventually be like.
Reflection of studies was the third and last bigger topic in the Questionnaire. One aspect clearly stood up among the answers, namely course feedback. Many of the respondents would like to know how the professors and other teaching staff have reacted to feedback, i.e., what changes have been or will be made, or has anyone even read the feedback. As this issue was brought up in the meeting, the professors seemed to be very willing to make an improvement to this situation. For example, counter feedback from the professors that could be shown to the students either in the beginning of the course or towards the end of the course, was proposed. The latter option was considered to be even better, as there is already so much information in the beginning of each course, and this could also motivate students to respond to the current course feedback form due to the possibility to refer to last year’s feedback. At this point the professors also noted that while they value feedback from students, they may not always be able to implement desired changes due to potential contradictions within the feedback or as the desired changes would be against the purposes of the course. Apparently there is a new course feedback platform coming as well, but no further discussion about its capabilities and limitations was held.
Life science technologies and health technology area - BSc and MSc education re-organizing?
Bad news for everyone, who has been eagerly looking for the “Teknilliset elämäntieteet” Bachelor’s Programme: The programme is starting in fall 2025 at the earliest, not in fall 2024 as stated earlier. The reason for this is that while SCI has been developing this new Bachelor’s Programme, ELEC has been simultaneously developing their own Master’s Programme within this same field. And as there is so much going on right now due to these processes, the university would like a little pause on the matter. That is, the overall picture and future actions will be discussed coordinately together. There will also be a specific task force for this.
For this item we went through a few specifications to timetables and further guidelines of the curriculum design. The main discussion was on the use of the generic EV- and CV- course codes. As a rule of thumb, those course codes should be used for courses that are implemented only once. For example, such a course may contain new content for piloting purposes or is ad hoc teaching carried out by visiting researchers. Once the course is being implemented multiple times, it should be approved via the normal administrative process. This process makes the department responsible for the teaching as well as the quality of course, and the course will also get a more permanent course code.
That being said, let us take the course MS-EV0002 Introduction to R Programming as an example. The prefix EV- in the course implies that this would be a course implemented only once. Yet we are aware that this course has been held multiple times, lectured by students. However, if the course was given a more permanent course, it would mean that the department would technically be obligated to organize the course regularly. But what if there are no students willing to lecture the course? As it turned out, the department would not have resources to lecture this course by its own staff and hence there would be no further implementations for this course.
Of course there have been exceptions to these rules regarding the correct codes. The reason why this matters now more than before lies in SISU and its limitations. For example, one really can not establish “events” in SISU, rather everything has to be organized in terms of courses. Furthermore, as courses can not be completed more than once in SISU, the importance of the correct course code becomes more evident. The message sent forward was that hopefully we can first consider what kind of courses would be meaningful for the students and organize those, and after that think about the technical detail of how we transfer those courses into the transcript of records of the students, not the other way around.
For short items, an update on the language guidelines situation was given. As one might have noticed, Aalto received a note from the Chancellor of Justice in early May: Aalto is not acting by the law as English has replaced Finnish and Swedish as the main teaching language. Hence, an answer to the Chancellor containing the list actions Aalto will do in order to fix the situation is required by the end of the year. It was brought up that the list of actions should be realistically achievable, not just an answer that pleases the Chancellor. But as this is an Aalto level issue after all, there was not a possibility to make any kinds of decisions, and accordingly the tone of the discussion was more or less speculative.
The next meeting for this group is on 13th of June with a bit lighter agenda, as there is only one item to discuss, namely a briefing on how departments get their funding. See you then!