K. Clements1, P. Holtkamp1, H. Pirkkalainen1, J. Pawlowski2, P. Lounaskorpi3

1Univeristy of Jyväskylä (FINLAND)
2Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences (GERMANY)
3DidacTec Oy, Ltd (FINLAND)
Far shore large markets provide interesting business opportunities for companies that come from countries where labor is expensive and production costs high. Countries like China also have the customer size potential for companies coming from smaller countries like Finland. The key challenge of exporting products and services to a far shore market is cultural distance between countries. In this study we explored the cultural challenges and opportunities of exporting education. Objective of this research was to find out what Finnish education has got to give for the Chinese and how the e-textbook and related services should be adopted to fit the Chinese higher education cultural context.

Cultural distance according to the popular model of Hofstede (1980) between Finland and China is quite wide. For example Finnish culture is greatly focused on individualism and indulgence, where as China has a very high power distance and higher capacity for uncertainty avoidance. In our research, we used Henderson’s (1994) pedagogical learning model on culture as a guide to understand the adaptation process of the Finnish e-Textbook and related services to the Chinese context. Henderson’s model was selected due to its relevance to pedagogical settings and learning.

In our pilot approach we investigated a full service e-Textbook solution containing: 1. Educational Content, 2. Tools to adapt and deliver contents, and 3) Services for pedagogical advice for teachers using this content and tools in China. The pilot ran in Autumn 2014 in Xi’an, China. This research used qualitative case study methodology of three weeks intensive course, using a Finnish e-textbook, online platform and pedagogical approaches (Brainstorming, competition, group work, peer review). Data was collected from 18 students and two teachers (one Finnish, one Chinese) through interviews. In addition, we interviewed three additional Chinese higher education teachers for their perspectives on the eTextbook market and culture of China.

Our findings show that the finnish eTextbook & pedagogical approach increased the students motivation to study during the course. Language barrier of using English for learning is significant even in higher education. Translation into Chinese is vital, but students are also eager to get chances to practise their English skills. One of the key challenges is the internet speed. Campuses do not have working WLANs, however, instead all students were able to access the eTextbook using their mobile phones. An offline version should always be provided. Many students were asking for a printed copy of the textbook. Our findings indicate that Finnish educational companies can provide interesting products and services to the Chinese market; however offering educational content is not enough. Chinese value 1)Finnish interactive pedagogical approaches, 2) Foreign universities certificates, 3) Easy to use technology. Foreign educational companies should use the foreign universities brands and certificates to get attention of the Chinese Universities. Even though Chinese students might enjoy open pedagogical approaches, the competitive, exam centric educational system forces them to be sceptical towards their own learning process: The nature of exams makes them focus on learning by heart style, which is not an easy change for them to adapt into. This research helps foreign educational companies exporting their products and services to the Chinese market.