A. Eskelinen, L. Pekkonen, C. Saarikivi

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
The purpose of this paper is to describe learning outcomes in the VIRTU project.

The VIRTU project – Virtual Elderly Care Services on the Baltic Islands - was a three-year EU project and it was carried out during 2010–2013. The VIRTU project aimed to create a new service model based on virtual technologies which would benefit the elderly people, their relatives and social and health care professionals of municipalities on the Baltic archipelago. The intention was to test, develop, research and disseminate new virtual elderly care services based on diverse technological applications. Current and future professionals from different sectors were encouraged to take advantage of the technological innovations as a part of their daily work.

The action model of Laurea University of Applied Sciences is Learning by Developing (LbD). This innovative action model is based on authenticity, partnership, experiential learning, creativity and research. Learning is related to development projects that are genuinely rooted in the world of work. Goal for this model is to produce new knowledge for all partners of the collaborative learning process i.e. students, teachers, working life partners and customers.

In the spring of 2012, 60 students of the Bachelor of Social Services programme participated in the VIRTU Project. Student's feedback showed that project work developed students' customer work competence generally in the form of guiding skills, i.e. distance guidance, and as developed methodological competence. Through the project, students learnt about elderly care and were able to take more responsibility of virtual services in community. They gained also a lot of specific knowledge about virtual solutions of elderly care. They described working in the VIRTU Project as a pleasant experience and the student's attitude toward elderly developed into more positive direction. Based on student feedback, the VIRTU Project proved to be a good learning environment when project work was examined through the dimensions of Learning by Developing.

Learning by Developing action model increased participants` skills, knowledge and confidence and instill in them a belief that they can make a difference. Good relations are needed between groups to challenge inequality and exclusion. Besides creating new virtual service model, results can be seen in developed professional cross-border cooperation.