Teaching methods

There are significant differences in education systems between countries. That is why today we will look into what teaching methods are used in the Information Systems (IS) programme at the University of Jyväskylä (JYU), so you can get a better idea of how the university studies look like here. We will have a closer look at lectures, reading, essays, group assignments, and exams.

It is probably nothing surprising that the core method used in teaching IS at JYU are lectures. There are usually 1-2 contact lectures of every course per week, where the instructor introduces the topic. Compared to elsewhere there might be more interactions during the lectures here because professors often ask questions and want to initiate a discussion over a certain topic. Modern technologies are used in lectures as all of them are recorded, which is great while studying for an exam and remembering what the lecturer said. Sometimes video lectures (recorded in a special lab) are provided.

During my bachelor’s studies in information technology, I didn’t read much except lecture slides. This has radically changed with my studies at JYU. Reading of academic articles is a significant part of every course. The usual case is that students have to read a few articles before a lecture because the lecture is based on them. When students read the articles beforehand, it is much easier to understand the topics in the lecture and it allows the possibility of very nice discussions. One important thing to mention – in the beginning, I thought that academic articles mean just boring practically useless theory. However, I soon figured out that they are almost always based on practical issues and they try to find and give practical recommendations. Now I think the academic articles are in some aspects much better than books, so give them a chance as well ;-) 

During the studies in Finland, teachers often want you to collect information, integrate them, think, and provide some sort of conclusion or summary. The most commonly used method is some sort of essay. Some of them might be more focusing on your own reflection and opinions and they aim at making you think about a topic. Another type is more academic in nature as it requires you to search different sources, identify the most important information, integrate it together, and turn all of this into some result that is supported by academic references. Both are a great way to learn and think deeply about certain topics.  

Group assignments
Many (but not all) courses have group assignments. The aim is to make you work in teams and practice cooperation and distribution of work. This is sometimes not easy, and you might have to solve some internal team issues, but it is great preparation for future working life. In group assignments that I did, we were composing an IT project plan, designing a company IT strategy, doing academic research, solving a real company’s issue (presented as a video), designing a new digital service, etc.  

IS courses usually end with essay exams. It means that you have to answer with longer text, where you should demonstrate your understanding of the topic. On some exams, you might be required to present what you know and also illustrate a possible application in a practical context (to solve an issue or improve something).