References Environment, Forestry

Centre for Education and Research on Social and Health Services (Sote-academy) at the University of Turku together with the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) created a MOOC for nature-based wellbeing services. The course can be accomplished at one’s own pace and therefore suits both students and various professionals.

Sote-academy at the University of Turku currently organizes four different MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). In the beginning of November 2020 they launched a MOOC developed together with Luke. Its topic is nature-based wellbeing services. The course is multidisciplinary and fits many target groups.

“The course serves our degree students but is also available via the Open university. Furthermore, anyone can watch, listen to, and read all course contents free of charge. The only part requiring payments is participating in the exams”, tells Jussi Lehtonen, research manager at the Sote-academy.

Sote-academy’s MOOC implements Luke’s Green Care concept

“In addition to university students, the course works very well as continuing education for people already in working life”, tells Maija Lipponen from Luke, and continues: “Current or future entrepreneurs involved in Luke’s projects in this industry domain are a clear target group for the course. Also Luke’s own experts and partner companies can educate themselves on the subject by virtue of this open course.”

The course created together with the Sote-academy is a good example of Luke’s Green Care services. Luke has been heavily involved in bringing the Green Care concept to Finland and tailoring it to meet the local needs. Luke’s objective is to provide various ways to integrate nature-based and animal-assisted methods as part of people’s daily lives.

Nature-based methods are the future in education, as well as social and health domains. This MOOC enabled us to make the most of Luke’s Green Care expertise and offer it to a heterogeneous group of participants. — Jussi Lehtonen

MOOC serves the needs of a diverse group of participants

A MOOC fits well a situation where the participants are at different points in their lives, having their own needs and objectives. The course can be started at any time and studied at an individual pace. If there is no need for study credits, one can skip the exams and concentrate on consuming the course contents. The technological implementation of the MOOC is a Moodle-based platform called Digicampus.

The MOOCs hosted by the Sote-academy have already proven to be success stories. The feedback from the participants has been clearly positive. In addition, the analytics numbers speak for themselves: globally some five per cent of people who start in a MOOC actually end up finishing it. The two MOOCs provided by the Sote-academy, which have been open for a bit longer, have around fifty per cent of finishing rate. Also the nature-based wellbeing service course has started to generate graduates nicely. This reveals the suitable difficulty level of the courses: not too hard, but also not too easy.

In the future, I can investigate my chances of using nature-based methods in my work. I can also try to expand my knowledge about utilizing nature as a part of services. — A student’s feedback on the course

Multidisciplinarity and teacher’s feedback deepen the learning experience

Often the exercises in MOOCs are automatically corrected. However, the nature-based wellbeing course also has a teacher involved in assessing the answers, for example essays. This makes studying more comprehensive and the learning experience more profound. In addition to diverse exercise types, the course hosts various kinds of content: podcasts, videos, scientific articles, fact sheets, and guides.

“We had two Luke experts involved in planning the course. They had the needed know-how and expertise from the field of Green Care. In addition, we had a speech therapist and two futurists in the project. By virtue of this multidisciplinary team we managed to create interesting exercises demanding more in-depth thinking”, sums Lehtonen.

This course would surely be useful if I wanted to work animal-assisted. The course offered information about the importance of nature to well-being and confirmation of the fact that there is scientific proof to support the claim. — A student’s feedback on the course