How can I modify an existing course or exam into distance teaching?

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The Finnish government has recommended that the facilities used by universities be closed down until 13 May 2020 and that contact teaching provided in such facilities be suspended. Teaching and supervision will be provided, to the greatest extent possible, by using alternative methods, such as distance learning, various digital learning environments and solutions and, where necessary, independent learning solutions.

Contact teaching and supervision at the University of Helsinki must therefore be replaced by alternative methods, such as online teaching, home exams or written learning assignments. You are responsible for deciding which pedagogical solutions work best for your purposes and the course you’re teaching. Since the situation changes unexpectedly and rapidly, the University may not be able to provide assistance in designing and executing the distance teaching choices you have made.

When you make changes in the teaching and studying arrangements in your course, please do the following:

  1. Inform the planning officer or specialist (koulutussuunnittelija) of your degree programme about the changes. You can find their contact details on Flamma, at your own unit's service team page. If your course is organized through the Open University, please contact the educational specialist (koulutusasiantuntija) of your discipline.
  2. Inform your students about the new teaching and learning arrangements through the course page. You will find the instructions on using the course page here. As with Moodle, you can distribute course assignments and instructions on how to complete the course through your page. If your course is offered through the Open University, agree on how to inform your students with the specialist in charge of your course.

When choosing the teaching and learning methods for your course, bear in mind the following basic pedagogical principles:

  1. The curriculum of the degree programme, particularly the learning objectives set for the course are taken into account.
  2. The course arrangements, content, teaching and assessment methods and course materials should promote the attainment of the learning goals set for the course and help make the study experience meaningful.
  3. The course arrangements will guide the student towards constructing and analysing information instead of repeating it.
  4. Successful distance teaching will enable interaction between students.
  5. The workload required of the student must correspond to the credits set for the course. Please note that distance learning is more demanding for students than contact teaching. Students are under considerable strain due to the exceptional situation. See here for instructions on student’s workload and study credits.

Please follow the updated instructions of the degree programme, your faculty and the University on the UH homepage and in the Instructions for teaching website.

Arrangements for online teaching

Moodle in distance teaching

You can use Moodle to organise your teaching online instead of in-class. When planning the change, you should use the original teaching and learning materials as the basis for the online version of your course. In order to provide a meaningful study experience for your students and to ensure that the students will maximise their learning, you should support the students through questions and assignments. For ideas on how to do this, see the pedagogical tips at the end of this page.

Instruction videos and streaming your lectures

Facilities for distance teaching

If you decide to provide distance teaching, it is recommended to arrange it at home.

At the moment, distance teaching can also be offered from the appropriate facilities of the University. If you use the university facilities, please have your ID or university staff ID with you. Please also take into account the provisions and recommendations of the exceptional situation and the following restrictions:

Teaching facilities
  • Teaching facilities can be used only if you already have a reservation at a Unitube lecture recording room or other facility suitable for distance teaching.
  • Unitube rooms and other teaching facilities suitable for distance teaching are available between 8 –16 on weekdays for courses for which the space is already reserved. If you do not need the space reserved for your course, you do not need to notify anyone.
  • If your course has a space reservation after 16 o'clock or a space reservation in a Unitube room that has to be reserved for public examinations of doctoral dissertations which take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, you will receive a personal e-mail.
  • In order to enter the room reserved for you, you must contact the janitor of the building.
  • A list of the Unitube lecture recording rooms and their equipment can be found on the Helpdesk webisite. In addition, the rooms Metsätalo room 12Biomedicum meeting room 2 ja Chemicum room A128 can also be used for distance teaching.
Other facilities 
  • Unitube studios are available at 8-16 on weekdays and can be booked in Outlook 365 Calendar. You can find more information on Unitube studios in the Unitube studio user instructions.
  • Think Corner provides the opportunity to record and store lectures for distance learning. You can find more information in Flamma.

Remote examinations in Moodle

Moodle is a digital learning environment used by the University of Helsinki where teachers can publish teaching materials and produce activities to support their distance teaching. In Moodle, it is also possible to monitor the progress made by students and assess their activities. If you are not familiar with Moodle yet, this piece of Moodle news will provide you with the information you need to get started in distance education. The Moodle Teacher's Guide provides comprehensive instructions on how to use Moodle. 

In Moodle, the remote examination can be carried out in many different ways, but the easiest and simplest way is to use Moodle's Assignment Tool. A comprehensive description of the Assignment Tool and its use in distance learning can be found in the Moodle Teacher's Guide: Assignment Activity.

It is worth noting that in a remote examination, students have access to all kinds of material. For this reason, examination questions and assignments must emphasize the application, combination and/or analysis of the contents taught during the study period, rather than memorizing and repeating them. In the Moodle Teacher's Guide, there are also pedagogical instructions on how to arrange a good remote exam: What makes a good remote examination?

If more than 100 students are participating in the remote examination at a time, notify the Exam Services so that too many simultaneous test events do not result in server overload. For this reason, it is also advisable to prepare for adjusting the start time of the exam in order to avoid server congestion on the busiest exam days. It is also possible to obtain support from the Exam Services for the testing of the settings for a remote examination set up by a teacher.

Contact your own campus's Exam Services:

For pedagogical and technical support, contact

Written assignments

Contact teaching or in class examination may also be replaced by a written learning task. The assignment can be to write, for example, an essay, a reference, an analysis or a learning journal. The assignment task must take into account the pedagogical principles of teaching (see below) and the correct size of the workload required for the task.

The assignment should therefore emphasize the use of the studied information, such as application, combination or analysis, rather than repeating what has been studied. Take into account the student's level of study: the tasks for students studying for a Bachelor’s degree cannot be as demanding as those for Master's degree students.

Special arrangements in distance teaching

Remote studying and the exceptional situation in itself is demanding for students. Assuming new ways of studying can take a lot of time and resources. It is important to take this into consideration when planning your course. Estimating the work load of distance teaching can be challenging even for teachers. As a rule, studying remotely is more demanding for students than attending contact teaching. 

Special arrangements can also be different in this exceptional situation. The students that previously needed additional time in examinations will most likely need it in online exams as well. In some courses, examinations have been replaced with written assignments. In that case, additional time to complete the assignment may be necessary.

The schedule of a single course can seem loose, but students usually have several courses at the same time. If every course requires weekly assignments, the need for additional time rises from that combination of courses.

See more information and tips for teachers in the special arrangements instructions.

The basic pedagogical principles for distance teaching

1. Clarify to yourself the most important intended learning outcomes that students need to achieve during the course. 

  • Read the course description from the curriculum if necessary  
  • What are the key knowledge and skills students need to manage after the course? 

2. Choose contents and materials which enable students to achieve the intended learning outcomes of your course, and to which students have online access. 

The Moodle content can constitute for example of: 

  • Your power point slides – consider recording your audio on slides (the power point program allows this
  • Already existing teaching videos (search for videos available in YouTube, material banks, etc.) 
  • E-books, e-articles  
  • Other online material (that students can e.g. analyze) 
  • Live streaming of your teaching (especially if the reserved lecture hall contains streaming facilities)* 
  • Zoom or other rather simple tools that, in addition to distributing audio and slides, enable interaction with students*  

    *the technical capacity of the University may not survive all teaching being delivered via live streaming, Zoom etc. More information will be provided. 

3. Create a clear Moodle structure and provide a schedule for completing the assignments and the entire course. 

  • Structure a logical Moodle site that, for example, proceeds along the timeline and themes of the course. Relate your own power point slides and materials (e.g. videos, articles, etc.) to the timeline and themes of the course. 
  • Relate all instructions to the corresponding materials. Finding instructions and material should be easy for students.  
  • Provide instructions for each assignment. 
  • Provide a schedule for each assignment, including deadlines. 

4. Support students’ learning through questions and other assignments that help them to focus on the most relevant matters and to construct their understanding. 

  • Define questions and assignments that support students to address the most relevant content – again in relation to the intended learning outcomes. 
  • Encourage students to work through the studied topics through their own experiences, observations and thoughts. You can ask students to write down their own experiences and then ask them to focus on the key aspects to be learnt during the course.  
  • Students should work with the topics by producing and elaborating something, e.g. writing and commenting short written texts which they post to the Moodle discussion area (please see the following instruction). 

5. Consider requesting students to collaborate online through small group assignments 

  • Divide students into small groups. Make assigned groups visible on Moodle and reserve a discussion area for each group. 
  • Request students to work online about their experiences, observations, and thoughts in small groups. The Moodle discussion areas can be used for this. The small groups should start their own discussion threads and discuss in their own thread. 
  • Provide explicit advice: how many posts each student must read, how many comments write etc – including the schedule and deadline for activities. 
  • Request students to raise issues that remain unclear to them. Join their online discussions and address unclear issues. 

5. Be present on Moodle

  • Inform students on dates and times during which you will be present on Moodle. Follow and join their online discussions. You can e.g. be present on Moodle during the original course times and during the times when students return their assignments. 
  • Do you have other options for online interaction with students? 

6. Check your initial plans for the final assignments/the final exam 

  • Check that the assessment plan and assessment criteria of your course match the modified teaching and learning on your course. Is your assessment logically aligned to the key objectives that students were supposed to achieve in your teaching (ie. the key intended learning outcomes)? 
  • Think about what kind of final assignments or final exam questions will enable students to demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways. 

7. Collegial support 

  • Ask a colleague to check through and comment briefly on your changed course plans to make sure that they are clear enough to be presented for students. 
  • You can also contact staff members at the Centre for University Teaching and Learning (Senior Lecturers and Professors) and ask for help. 

Instructions by: Leena Ripatti-Torniainen, Minna Lakkala, Auli Toom (Centre for University Teaching and Learning, 14.3.2020).