Tips for creating a learning environment that cuts across organisational boundaries

Virtual learning environments facilitate the creation of courses and modules that cross organisational boundaries. Joint online courses save resources and developing them in collaboration with other teachers can be a very enriching experience.

What do I need?

The virtual learning environment must be easily accessible to staff and students from different universities and universities of applied sciences. If you do not want to make the materials and resources publicly available, you must start the planning process by deciding how to restrict access. The easiest option is to use a virtual learning environment that the participants can access with their institutional username and password (such as the HAKA login system for higher education institutions in Finland). If this is not possible (or if the participants do not yet have an institutional user account), you need to find out whether the participants will be able to create their own user account; otherwise you will need to set aside additional human resources for managing the user account creation process.

An institutional account issued by any higher education institution in Finland enables users to access the Moodle site of Tampere Universities through HAKA login. It is also possible for external persons to join Teams groups as visitors. The nationwide DigiCampus Moodle is also available and offers even more login options.

In addition, you need to set up a collaborative workspace (such as a group in Teams) for teachers from the different organisations, so they can participate in the development and management of the activities.

What do I need to do?

You must first put together a group of people interested in designing a joint course and agree on the principles and practices that apply to the collaboration and the results thereof. You can set up, for example, a collaborative workspace in Teams, so it is easy to co-edit documents using Word or OneNote.

Agree at least on the following points with the group:

Select the virtual learning platform.

  • Are you going to select a platform provided by one of the partner organisations or a shared/external platform?
  • The choice of platform depends on the participants: Are all the participants able to access the virtual platform?
  • How openly accessible will be platform be? Will you restrict access to registered participants only, make the platform publicly available or go with a combination of the two (for example, the materials are openly available, but the assignments can only be completed by registered participants)?
  • Comply with relevant data protection and information security requirements.

Agree on the roles and responsibilities concerning the establishment and maintenance of the virtual learning platform.

  • You must at least agree on the responsibilities and resources relating to planning, implementation, instruction and guidance as well as student performance assessment.
  • Share experiences and develop the virtual learning environment from a pedagogical perspective in response to jointly collected feedback.
  • What will happen to the materials available in the virtual learning platform and the user rights if group members leave and new ones join?

Agree on the working methods and practices.

  • The course completion methods depend on the size of the group, their level of expertise, the available teaching resources and the course goals.
  • How much can you influence the working methods and practices in the different organisations and when working with different groups? Can students choose the course completion method?
  • Will the group progress according to a predefined schedule, or will the students work independently at their own pace?
  • How will you assess performance and award credits? How will you determine that a student has successfully completed the course?

Agree on the course lifecycle.

  • How long will the virtual learning platform remain available? How long will you keep the materials up to date?
  • How long will the participants be able to access the platform?
  • How will you store and archive the assignments and course completion documents?

Agree on user rights.

  • When you set up a joint virtual learning environment, it is important to consider the intellectual property rights to the learning materials created by the partners. Especially if the platform is made openly accessible, it is important to agree on copyright in advance and clearly state the related requirements on the platform.
  • Will the materials only be used during the course in question, or can they also be utilised in other contexts?
  • Who is authorised to edit and update the materials? Who is authorised to view the materials?

Read more

Click on the link below to read more about the Virtual Chemistry Laboratory developed and maintained by Tampere University, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Turku University of Applied Sciences: