The student union’s Smiles and Complaints Week was held on 22.-28.3.2021. 85 pieces of feedback were collected with the feedback form, which were then delivered to the respective organisations to which the feedback was directed. The Finnish Student Healthcare Service (FSHS) was the recipient of the largest number of feedback submissions.
We have compiled the feedback and the answers given to them below in alphabetical order.
Please note, that this page will be updated as new answers are received from different organisations. Keep following ISYY’s website and social media channels for updates!
The decision to move teaching into the online format for the whole of autumn and spring was considered to be a good and informed decision. As the decision was clear and communicated well, students did not need to be concerned about whether or not it was safe to visit the campus or if attending contact teaching was mandatory. Many faculties and departments have also improved their online teaching methods and capabilities during the pandemic. This has been very well received among students, as it has allowed them to continue studying even from outside the campus cities. Online teaching has also enabled students to complete their studies in a convenient way in regards to their day-to-day lives and schedules.
Are the departments aware of the large amount of work involved in distance learning? Has this been reacted/will it be reacted to?
“The teaching at the STJ department has been multimodal teaching in the past, and distance learning itself has not changed much in the way it is done. The workload of students has remained roughly at the same level.” - Department of Health and Social Management
“Is this probably referring to the workload of students? This has come to the fore in several discussions, e.g. in feedback sessions with subject organizations, in direct course feedback and in the student greetings section of the departmental meeting. The planning, implementation and timing of the courses aim to rectify the situation when it has gone worse. The workload and workload of teachers in the covid situation and the rapid transition to distance learning have also been identified. We estimate that teachers have done their best to provide quality instruction in exceptional circumstances. We are also collecting feedback from teachers in the early autumn and evaluating how distance learning and contact teaching can be implemented in the beginning of the academic year 2021-22, utilizing the experiences of the previous year. In departmental and subject meetings, coping is dealt with in a process-based, ie continuous way.” - Department of Social Sciences
“Our departments renewed their curricula more extensively this spring. The workload and workload of the courses were also in the discussions. The workload of some courses has been found to be too high, while that of some has been found to be too low. The workload of the courses has been balanced, and more attention will be paid to this issue in the future. We do not recognize that distance time would have substantially increased the workload and workload of individual courses.” – Minna Tanskanen, Vice Dean (responsible of higher education)
Has the teaching staff been offered support with information technology?
“Peer support, pedagogical support and technical support have been provided. More competent people have shared their expertise at the department as needed.” - Department of Health and Social Management
“The department has had a teaching assistant and there will be three of them next autumn. HIMA and YTH have a joint half-day facilitator, as well as a common support resource in the faculty. University support has worked pretty well and training is available. Thanks to Riikka Malin and other people who supported the teachers. The IT service center has also been operational and has provided answers and support.” - Department of Social Sciences
“The Digital Skills Coach network began operations at the facilities in the spring of 2020. They have been of great help on many practical issues. In January 2021, Helena Kantanen started as an facilitator of online and multimodal pedagogy (with a 50% contract) and Riikka Malin (50%), Noora Rämö (50%) and Tuula Kontio (100%) as coordinators of e-learning. They all have a current employment contract by the end of 2022. I myself act as the forerunner of the network co-coordinators. Many institutions have also hired teaching assistants to assist teachers in online and hybrid teaching situations. So there is support and it has been offered in YHKA. The help was well received by the teachers.” – Minna Tanskanen, Vice Dean (responsible of higher education)
Have there been any problems reaching out to teachers? Has this been reacted/will it be reacted to?
“There has been variation in response times from time to time, with occasional peaks for teachers as well. Sometimes students’ expectations of response time are unreasonable, and teachers are rarely able to respond right away. The situation is identified.” - Department of Health and Social Management
“We always strive, regardless of the circumstances, to ensure that both amanuensis and course teachers are easily approachable when questions and/or problems arise. The Kuopio campus has become aware of the sub-resource of amanuensis, and solutions have been sought for this. There was feedback in the student feedback that came to the department that teachers had not been reached. If there is such feedback, we will try to find out immediately.” - Department of Social Sciences
“If it has proved difficult to reach the teachers of an individual, the matter has been brought to the attention of the head of that department as soon as possible. In these cases, we hope feedback from students as soon as possible, for example through amanuensis.” - Minna Tanskanen, Vice Dean (responsible of higher education)
Is the staff aware of the lack of resources related to teaching? How it is going to be ensured that each student has the opportunity to receive personal feedback and help with their studies?
“There is no significant shortage of teaching resources. Every student has the opportunity to receive personal feedback during their studies (not of course in every course). Both HOPS teachers and the amanuensis help during their studies. In the graduate phase, supervision is personal.” - Department of Health and Social Management
“We don’t actually recognize the lack of resources in teaching. However, we are aware of the transition difficulties associated with additional places and continuous learning as more students come at a rapid pace. Because of this, courses may grow, but we cannot know in advance how much and for how long, when it is difficult to anticipate a teaching resource. The department has made new recruitments for social work and social psychology, as well as for the needs of the English-language bachelor's program.” - Department of Social Sciences
“At the faculty level, we do not recognize a direct shortage of human resources. The personnel development of the departments is reviewed every year in connection with strategic personnel planning. Additional funding for additional starting places has been directed at the institutions specifically for the recruitment of teaching staff. New recruitments that serve individual and all students include e.g. the recruitment of a university lecturer in philosophy (Tuomas Pernu) and a university lecturer in qualitative method teaching (not yet selected).” - Minna Tanskanen, Vice Dean (responsible of higher education)
In what ways have efforts been made to engage students as part of the learning community? How have students been offered support in distance learning?
”Information about distance learning tips has been distributed to students. What's up?-sessions for students. Distance learning is mainly familiar to students at the department. Engaging in the learning community has been difficult, of course there has been attempts to group students online." - Department of Health and Social Management
“Remote cafes with subject organizations, feedback sessions. Targeted counseling, a message that the staff can be contacted at a low threshold if there are problems. Subject-specific events (Joensuu campus, Kuopio campus general social sciences and social work) and joint events. Course-specific arrangements, seminars and small groups. ” – Department of Social Sciences
Students consider the workload related to online teaching as comparatively high and taxing. In the worst cases, this has led to students dropping out of courses in order to cope.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, university teaching had to be taken online so quickly, that it created challenges for both students and teachers. Even though teachers coordinated and cooperated with each other in order to design, share and implement innovative learning spaces and teaching methods, teaching has still been in parts rushed with increased expectations from students’ independent learning skills. At the same time, some students have been given a large amount of assignments to complete, thus increasing their workload momentarily - which is reflected in the feedback received. Student organisations have been active in collecting feedback which has been forwarded to department management. Student concerns have been discussed in staff meetings and one reaction has been to decrease the amount of assignments during the continuing pandemic situation. Discussions were had with the online and multimodal teaching facilitators group of the university to design good pedagogical implements. Some courses were readily postponed to a following semester which also helped control students’ workload.”
Students’ stress was also occasionally affected by lacking instructions for completing courses.
“We have received a larger than normal amount of feedback but we will try to take all feedback, whether from ISYY, student organisations or directly from students regarding courses or curricula, into account. Different channels have been tested and utilised for communicating completion criteria and instructions to students better, such as through amendments to curricula in WebOodi and more detailed descriptions in Moodle. Discussions on course and assignment instructions have been organised with teaching staff. Due to a shift to remote working conditions, exploring new channels to communicate instructions and information has been in parts challenging. Both the channels and ways in which communication between teachers and students is organised have been varied; ranging from Yammer to Moodle and other channels utilised by teachers, including emails. It is however understandable that during the pandemic some last minute instructions have had to be given with short notice which not all students were able to get familiar with or notice in time. We emphasise students’ own role and responsibilities of being self-oriented in their studies and encourage them to always contact the teacher, if some instructions are unclear or missing. In so-called normal circumstances informal communication and student networks have been able to partly amend these issues, but of course the main responsibility for guidance and providing clear instructions early lies with the teacher and the department.
With remote teaching, students have not been able to access the campus and thus become connected to the wider student community. How would the faculty do its part in helping students connect to university life and other students?
“To increase connectedness and committedness, different approaches ranging from formal to less formal ones have been employed, such as less formal coffee breaks. PSP tutor teachers and student tutors have their own role in this as well. Increasing committedness to studies and connectedness to the student community was also the main motivation behind employing as much campus-based teaching as possible during the 1st and partly 2nd year. It has been somewhat challenging, since attempts have been made to minimise all contacts due to safety regulations. Our departments have utilised grouping functions of Teams- and Zoom-based teaching in order to facilitate group discussion between students.
How has the faculty made attempts to support its students during remote studying?
“We have used a number of ways to support our students. We have used online office hours, some seminar courses have included the possibility of one-on-one guidance remotely, Teams-channels have been opened for students to enter before “actual teaching” begins, instructions have been uploaded in Moodle also in the video format, discussion breaks have been held, one department organised online office hours for each major subject. There have been university-wide solutions such as the well-being coordinators, teaching assistants, as well as a project to improve student wellbeing which the university received funding for from the Ministry of Education and Culture and in which the Philosophical Faculty is also involved. We acknowledge and do want to receive feedback in a constructive manner also regarding the instances where support given does not reflect the needs of the student or when it has been inefficient.
The Philosophical Faculty and its teaching staff also received praise for its commitment and positive attitude towards students, which has also helped support students in difficult circumstances. Special thanks were also directed towards the subject of Japanese language and culture, the School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Training, as well as the Department of Theology.
Remote studying conditions have especially steered students towards utilising digital learning materials for their studies. Feedback related to digital learning materials was given to the library both on a more general as well as related to specific electronic sources. UEF-Primo and the availability of digital study materials received positive feedback from students.
“The library continuously works with different subjects taught at the university to improve the availability of coursebooks. A common issue often is that the coursebook is not always available in an electronic version, or the eBook has limitations which make it unavailable for access to a large online userbase.”
(Note! If a book you are looking for is not available in UEF-Primo, you can make an acquisition request for it through the library’s website!)
Similar to previous years, overdue fees and their rates received feedback.
“There are two perspectives when looking at overdue fees: one is that these fees are considered to be too high when forgetting to renew or return a book, the other is that the fees are too low, since books are not returned on time and the time it takes for that to happen is too long. In this situation, the library has made an attempt to find a middle path and with years of experience we would estimate that our rates are currently quite appropriate – from both perspectives.
Students were also wondering about the library etiquette and following common rules during the pandemic.
“The library’s rules and our silent spaces policy will once again be introduced in autumn, as students once again receive instructions on how to use the library services and spaces. Both the library and the university have given clear instructions on the usage of masks. There is sensitivity to these instructions however, since not wearing a mask may be related to personal health conditions for some.
The feedback also included a question regarding the library’s 24/7 self-study and silent reading facilities.
“If the situation allows, we will once again open our 24/7 self-study facilities on both Joensuu and Kuopio campuses and once the renovation of our campus libraries is complete, we will at least be able to open those silent reading facilities which were in use earlier.”
Feedback included the library facilities in general, as well as a question regarding air quality.
“The facility management services of the university as well as the library constantly follow the facilities’ condition. There are no reports of any limitations regarding the safe use of the library facilities. If reports arise of poor indoor air quality in the facilities, it will be responded to as designated in the solutions manual for indoor environmental issues. A student is always encouraged to first contact the Finnish Student Healthcare Service (FSHS).
The library also received positive feedback for keeping its doors open during the pandemic. This has helped many students in their daily life.
During last autumn new students couldn’t be present on campuses or get to know student life similarly as previously, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students felt astranged from their fellow students and that they had been left alone with their studies and other challenges, because all of the learning events and meetings were online. How is the Student and Learning Services going to make sure that new students would have equal opportunities to participate in the group activities and meet their fellow students?
“We are very hopeful that next autumn peer tutoring will also take place as small group meetings on campus. When tutoring is carried out in small group meetings, where all participants in the group are better noticed, it is easier to pass on information and to get to know each other. In smaller group meetings peer tutors can also use online or hybrid executions which they have been learning during tutor training. During the training we have discussed how potential onlineparticipants can be taken into account when tutors are arranging close meetings. Particularly this year, an emphasis will be placed on peer tutor-led small groups so new students get to know each other better during orientation.
The Bridges project (2021-2022) financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture supports e.g. students’ communality and this is an important aspect in the different sub-projects (ISYY, Sykettä, international mobility, OPI and Skope)."
The feedback also raised concerns about students who come to the University of Eastern Finland to complete their master's degree and are thus not covered by peer tutoring like bachelor's students. Concerns were raised about how the master's students manage the beginning of their studies and the amount of support they receive, as not all master's students are familiar with the campus city and the university world with its practices.
“The social attachment of master's students to the university and support for the beginning of the studies is currently being developed by e.g., renewing the master's tutor system. Also this year master's tutors have been selected for some of the master's programs and the appropriate training will be provided to them. Master tutors act as peer tutors for master students. There is also material for Master’s students on the new students’ website and the material compiled for the new undergraduate students can also be utilized as applicable. The reform of the online material is currently underway and the reform aims, in our understanding, to take better account of the students who come to the university to study from different starting points. Based on the feedback, the master's programs' own practices in welcoming, orienting and supervising students also play an important role. The sharing and development of these practices between master's programs is certainly an area for further development.”
The received feedback considered the selection criteria for tutors and the procedures related to the selection. The feedback raised concerns, for example, that student organizations would only choose their own friends as tutors.
“Peer tutoring is an important part of the smooth start of studies for new students. The search for peer tutors starts every year at the beginning of the year. Subjects are responsible for the choices of their peer tutors and most often they make the choices in collaboration with student organizations. Before the start of the selections, information/discussion sessions are held for both the tutor teacher of the subject and the student organizations. In addition, at the beginning of the selections both subjects and student organizations will be instructed separately on good selection practices. The instructions contain advice e.g. fair and transparent selection and examples of opportunities for co-operation with student organizations.
The selection practices and criteria themselves vary from subject to subject and can be obtained from the tutor teacher of the subject of one's own subject if desired. The subject has its own number of tutors to choose from in the subject, as well as the characteristics that are particularly desirable from them. If you want more information about the choices, you can ask about it directly from the subject's tutor (often, for example, an amanuensis) or, if you wish, from the income services at firstname.lastname@example.org. Especially if it seems that peer relationships have been influencing peer tutoring, the tutor selection process should be conducted in a subject where the responsibility for peer tutoring lies. In such situations, the contact person for income services can also act as a mediator of the message in the subject.”
In addition to the selection criteria of peer tutors, the amount of tutors raised questions.
“The number of peer tutors in a subject is determined by the subject’s student admission. Peer tutors are selected in such a way that about 10 new students will be referred to one peer tutor. For example, if the subject has 56 new students, the subject has the option to choose up to 6 peer tutors. On the other hand, if the admission is, for example, 34 students, it is possible to choose a maximum of 3 peer tutors. The number of tutors is adjusted annually. This year, 155 peer tutors have been selected for Joensuu and 98 peer tutors for Kuopio.
The number of peer tutors is guided by the decision of the Academic Rector, as well as the personnel and other resources available for tutoring. As the number of tutors increases and also now based on the experiences of the pandemic, we will have to consider ways of implementing future peer tutor training. For example, a tutoring camp has so far been both a well-liked and a cost-effective way to organize training. Feedback over a period of 12 years has supported the importance of the camp in terms of educational goals. However, as the number of tutors increases, different implementation possibilities must also be considered, when, for example, facilities impose restrictions. On the other hand, distance learning experience has shown that students also need interactive education. In distance learning, technology also sets limits on the number of trainees.
The workload of peer tutors has also been discussed in tutor training. We made a small comparison with the sizing of peer tutors at other universities and found the current sizing of UEF to be in line with the practices of several other universities. It is true that, for example, 8 students per tutor would better enable small group supervision. However, the statistics show that not all new students participate in tutoring, which means that the group size may be smaller than expected. If a peer tutor finds their workload burdensome, it can also be approached from a working life perspective: review work processes before considering increasing resources. Here, the subject as well as the student organizations are important partners. For example, if tutors repeatedly experience fatigue in their subject, they can work together to find out where the tutors' “working time” goes and how to support their ability to concentrate on the basic role of a peer tutor.”
The execution of tutor training was also pondered upon. The expediency of the organising and contents of tutor training as well as the tutor camp was also brought up in the feedbacks. How are the tutor training planned? Have the experiences and opinions of tutor been taken into account?
“Tutor trainings are organized by the Student and Learning Services. About 5-6 persons and also the pastor of the Kuopio campus are actively involved in the planning, organization and evaluation of peer tutor training. In addition, the trainings are planned and evaluated in a larger team, which includes actors e.g. study services, ISYY, the Language Center, FSHS and the Center for Continuous Learning. Also other actors from campus, such as the Library and Information Technology Services, are also involved in the trainings and their planning. The contents of the trainings and the methods of implementation are therefore being considered and planned by a wide range of experts in various fields.
The organising of peer tutor trainings is determined by the planned learning outcomes of the trainings, according to which the contents of the trainings and the implementation methods are executed. We consider how and with what content and methods it is possible to execute teaching for a large number of peer tutors so that the planned learning outcomes would be achieved and teaching and learning would be meaningful. The training feedback received is analyzed with the training planners both during the training and after the end of the training. In addition to the feedback received, the need for change is also assessed and implemented from the trainer's point of view. Immediate feedback on the training process is also obtained from senior tutors who are involved in training planning. So also through this students are very closely involved in the process. A large number of trainers have been building the content and implementation of the training throughout the UEF in close cooperation with the students, so hundreds of working hours have been spent on developing the training. During the pandemic these practices which have been refined over the years, had to be transformed into new ones with a very fast schedule, on the basis of which new and up to date training is now being built.
The motives for the contents and implementation methods have also been opened in the trainings by telling the backgrounds and justifications for the working methods, the tools used and the processes. The study courses and curricula of peer tutoring are discussed in The Council for Teaching and Guidance, after which the Academic Rector approves the plans.”
Study psychologists’ calendars filled up quickly this spring and during the Smiles and Complaints week they were already fully booked for this semester. In the feedback students wondered about the resourcing of study psychology services, as the service has been perceived as really important in maintaining the well-being of students.
“Thank you for your feedback. The study psychology resources at UEF have been 2 people per 15,000 students. For this reason, even before Corona, it has been the case that times are filled during the school year.
We are, of course, sorry that the resources have not yet been increased this spring, not least because of the corona situation. Appointment requests in the spring of 2021 were received until mid-March. Now, to help with the Corona situation, there are weekly study psychologist on-call hours in May and June. The appointment situation will be better in the autumn, as we have had our psychology trainee start in their position, and another trainee will also start in the autumn. Of course, in order to support students' ability to work, it is important to provide support services other than the services of a study psychologist. Many projects have now been launched to promote the well-being of students.”
Feedback submitted by students did not designate which campus city’s SYKETTÄ -services their feedback was directed to, so the feedback was shared with staff from both Joensuu and Kuopio.
Some feedback submissions asked for more sports classes during the daytime.
“During the pandemic our virtual classes were limited by the inavailability of our facilities from which we stream the classes during daytime as they were used for teaching. The classes have been recorded, however, which will always be available for a week’s time from the SYKETTÄ website – thus enabling you to attend a virtual class originally streamed in the evening at a more convenient time.” –SYKETTÄ Joensuu
“In Kuopio, we will offer sports services during weekdays from 7am onwards as soon as we are able to open our gym facilities. When designing sports classes, we do consider all users of our services and the gyms usually have an availability during daytime, which a user can reserve for themselves or for a group of users to host ball games, for instance.” –SYKETTÄ Kuopio
Virtual classes and the trainers received thanks, but on the other hand the pricing of virtual classes was considered to be on the higher side.
“Virtual classes were available for anyone with an active SYKETTÄ -sticker or alternatively for a weekly fee of 6 euros. At the cheapest, the virtual classes of the whole spring semester were accessible for 17 euros, which is quite a cheap price for the user of our services.
During the month of May, recorded classes from the spring will be republished every day for one week at a time, and these can be accessed even without a fee. Classes will be accessible in the future and after May as well.” –SYKETTÄ Joensuu
“We consider our SYKETTÄ service fees to be very affordable at their current level and hope that this autumn we will be able to continue with our live classes in our sports facilities.” –SYKETTÄ Kuopio
In addition, students asked about the decision to close the gyms.
“The sports services have been closed by the decision of the higher education institutions of Eastern Finland (The University of Eastern Finland, Karelia UAS and Savonia UAS) because they considered it not possible to organise the services safely with respect to health and hygiene. The higher education institutions will also decide on the possible reopening of the services.” –SYKETTÄ Joensuu & Kuopio.