Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 8812-8821
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0923
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Europe is currently experiencing a heavy influx of refugees especially from Syria, some of them with little or no literacy in their native language. Their skills in foreign languages is lower, which calls for an increasing demand for professional community interpreters in the receiving countries. Finland, due to its long geographical distances, must have a nation-wide network of community interpreters in order to offer the legally guaranteed interpretation services for refugees and immigrants. In Finland, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak) is the only provider for community interpreting study programmes within the higher education. Diak operates nation-wide with five campuses around Finland and has a pedagogical focus as well as solid experience on blended learning practices.

The need for high quality community interpreter training combined with the reality of potential students being geographically scattered in our country forced us to rethink and develop our curricula’s implementation plans and teaching methods. The Diak blended learning model with alternating face-to-face teaching and distance learning periods and a supporting online learning management system had to be adjusted to have a stronger online focus. Teachers of the study programme are positioned mainly in Helsinki whilst students may be on any of the Diak campuses in Turku, Pori, Pieksämäki or Oulu.

Previously students had travelled to the main campus (Helsinki) about once a month for a five-day study week. A new multi-campus model was developed, enabling students to stay at their home campus on face-to-face teaching periods. The teacher became a virtual teacher with only online presence; teaching was designed to be carried out completely via video conferencing system and using a variety of tools for enabling student participation.

This required massive changes in the implementation plans of individual study units. Since one of Diak’s pedagogical principles is dynamic collaborative learning, it was important to renew teaching methods and learning assignments to suit online group collaboration without physical contact. Keeping in mind the communicative aspect of the profession of community interpreters, online teaching and learning methods need to support continuous and varied, oral and written communication. Interpreting drills or exercises previously carried out face-to-face in a classroom were redesigned to be completed online. Therefore, teachers had to have a deeper understanding of the learning process in which a variety of new learning applications were integrated and used simultaneously to enable achieving a learning aim for professional skills.

In this article, the development process of the blended learning model into a multi-campus model is described, along with examples of learning technology tools used and pedagogical considerations made when constructing adjustments on an individual task level, as well as on a general pedagogical level. One of the outcomes of the development process seems to be that teachers are expected to have an advanced ability to cope with multi-tasking and technological problem-solving. Being confronted with a reasonable amount of uncertainty in respect to their classroom management process positions teachers into a skill zone previously unfamiliar to them. However, the process simultaneously broadens the teachers' pedagogical skills and shapes them into technologically competent 21st century teachers.
Community interpreting, online learning, technological competence, curriculum design, multi-campus model, blended learning.