Research with an open mind

JYUOpen's director Jukka Lerkkanen believes that project and research activities will improve the already high quality of open university education.

After Jukka Lerkkanen (EdD) became the director of the Open University of the University of Jyväskylä (also known as JYUOpen) in autumn 2014, he immediately began to develop the unit’s project and research activities. Staff are offered an opportunity to present at research conferences and encouraged to participate in research projects. The work has already started to bear fruit: the unit is participating in the international @TeSLA project (H2020), and two development projects of the European Social Fund are in progress.

"In my opinion, open university education needs to be based on research just as regular university education is. This is the only way to keep pace with international development. We need project-related research so that we can improve the quality of our teaching even further," Lerkkanen says.

The @TeSLA project focuses on stronger electronic identification of students. If open university education is increasingly offered outside Finland in the future, it is important to authenticate the person who is completing the studies. Keyboard handwriting is an interesting technology: similar to writing with a pen, each person has a personal style to use the keyboard. The project leader is Tarja Ladonlahti, the former pedagogical head of the Open University, who ensures that students’ special support needs are considered in the course of development. The Open University participates in technology testing with IT Services.

In the national AVOT project, the Open University developed education models which can be used to design open university education oriented to working life. In addition, the project Individual Learning Path to Higher Education offers upper secondary students an opportunity to complete higher education. The Open University arranged the first courses for the students of general upper secondary schools in autumn 2016. There will be around 15 university-level courses for the upper secondary school students in autumn 2019.

Research is close to Lerkkanen’s heart. Though he has worked in managerial duties for years, he has continued to conduct research alongside his main job.

"I see the value of research and want to promote it in my work."