My name is Charlotta Hilli and I teach general and higher education at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland. My research field is distance education. I majored in history and worked for several years in upper secondary schools teaching history and social studies. I wrote my doctoral thesis (2016) about distance education in upper secondary schools and designed a distance course in social studies in virtual learning environments (Second Life, Google+ and Wikibooks).
The main arguments for distance education are flexibility and accessibility; students can study wherever they live and whenever they want to. For these reasons, it can be inclusive and equal providing education to people who might not want to move from their hometown or for other reasons cannot live close to the campus. Tony Bates provides examples from Canada where distance and online education is not very common in the northern regions since the digital infrastructure is more or less lacking. Important steps towards distance education would be to improve accessibility and offer low cost solutions to make it possible for aborigines to take part in distance education.
In northern Finland, there are distance courses in Sami at for example the upper secondary school in Ivalo and at the University of Lapland. The publicly funded project Arctic pedagogy II, coordinated by the Sami education center in Inari, aims to support digital competence and develop teaching practices for vocational education in the Arctic region to offer education regardless of where students live. Finland is a vast country and distance education can provide teenagers and adults opportunities to keep living and learning in the Arctic regions.
I have been involved in several R&D projects to improve flexibility and accessibility through digital technology in schools in Finland. This spring a new project (2019–2021) has started where we develop distance and remote education in Sweden and Finland in primary, secondary and adult education. The challenges are the same, the schools want to provide flexible solutions and good education no matter where the students live. Distance education is not a cheap choice as it requires funding for digital infrastructure and support for teachers and students. New digital learning environments require pedagogy that makes use of the technology to support student learning. It is important to gain support from the local communities and respect their interests. Support from local, regional and national governments are important to make long-term and sustainable investments. These kind of initiatives have proven to be exciting, complex and long processes.
If you would like to learn more about my work, or would like to contact me, you can find me on twitter (@chilliconnect) or contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). For additional information on my research, please visit https://charlottahilli.wordpress.com/
Hilli, C. (2018). Rethinking communication in virtual learning environments through the concept of Bildung. Seminar.net – International journal of media, technology and lifelong learning, 109–119. Link here.
Hilli, C. (2018). Distance teaching in small rural primary schools: a participatory action research project. Educational Action Research. Link here.
Hilli, C., Eklund, C. & Törnroos, K. (2017). Mot en flexibel grundskola i skärgårdsmiljö – lärares erfarenheter av undervisning i virtuella lärmiljöer. Forskningsrapport. Ålands Landskapsregering. Link here.