The first day of the seminar concentrated on the “bridging generations” –theme, with plenaries and workshops on the different methods of learning. The seminar was opened by Mr Anders Koppel, the Deputy Secretary General for Higher Education and Research of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. He talked about the current trends in the Estonian higher education policy, explaining how the current system where only approximately 50% of the students get free higher education is unsatisfactory. The plans are to change all the programmes (taught in Estonian) to be free of charge, providing the student meets certain criteria.
The first day programme was enriched by two speakers, Director Berth Sundströmfrom the Nordic Council of Ministers office in Estonia, and Professor Ülo Niinemetsfrom EMU. Their speeches were followed by three plenary sessions. The first one was presented by an invited guest, Professor Peter van Beukelen for Utrecht University. He is a veterinarian with a strong interest in educational matters, and his plenary topic was “Active learning: The key to development of lifelong skills”. As a take home message, he summarized the actions for implementation of active learning: a) Communication…communication…communication, b) Support from all levels of management c) (Permanent) Faculty / Staff training d)Specific attention to assessment e) (Permanent) Motivation of students.
Meeli Voore, an e-learning coordinator from EMU, gave a plenary themed “E-learning – what we learn with pleasure we never forget”. She described the process of changing the learning and teaching from teacher being a deliver of the content and skills and the students being just reflectors, to more active process where teachers become learners and learners become teachers, in a constant change of ideas, processing, and sharing. The next phase of the learning / teaching would be reached by using interactive methods –flipping classroom – , keeping in mind the requirements of the future professionals.
Timo Pentikäinen had titled his plenary “Social Business for education and beyond”. He was an invited speaker from IBM Software. The participants of the seminar learned basic facts of social learning, social networking, social media and social business. Sharing ideas, finding connections and realizing that content is only one part of a successful business (and teaching / learning), among conversation and community. It is very important that the social needs are integrated in the context of daily work.
In the afternoon of the first day, 5 workhop alternatives were organized. The goal was to find answers to the question “How to design better NOVA or BOVA courses?”. The feedback questionnaire revealed that 62% of the respondents thought the workshops were good, very good or excellent.
At the end of the first day, the renewal of the NOVA-BOVA cooperation agreement was signed by BOVA rector Mait Klaassen and NOVA chair Antti Sukura. The agreement is in effect until the next mutual meeting of NOVA Board and BOVA Rectors’ Board in 2015.The gala dinner took place in Alatskivi Castle, an hour drive from Tartu. Alatskivi is a manor built in late 19th century, modelled after the Balmoral castle in Scotland. Before the dinner, there was a tour in the castle.
The second day of the seminar was about “bridging countries”, concentrating on the cooperation and common trends in the field of life sciences within the Nordic-Baltic region. Harry Zilliacus, senior adviser from the NordForsk program, spoke about NordForsk’s role in the Nordic-Baltic research cooperation. Three plenaries took place, the first one presented by Jukka Kola, vice rector at the University of Helsinki. He was talking about Agricultural Challenges and University Teaching. With the changes in agriculture both in Nordic-Baltic region and globally, more investments in education and research are needed, with special focus in developing countries. There is a need for broader Bachelor programmes and specialization should take place at the Master level. International co-operation and multidisiplinarity in teaching is needed.
The second plenary of the day was held by Dr Vilis Brukas from the European Forest Institute. He explored the future of forestry in the Nordic-Baltic region, analyzing the different kinds of “forest regions” in the EU and especially in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The focus in the plenary was in the future, evaluating possible trends in the forestry. Vilis Brukas prognosed that the intensity of forest utilisation will increase and forest science will continue to grow in complexity, which means there will be growing need for intensified research and research training in the field.
The final plenary of the seminar was held by Laima Taparauskiene, vice rector of research in ASU. She talked about Urbanization, Water resources and Climate change. The major challenges in urbanization are caused by the need of more production on less land, with less water and less energy. There will be a lot of issues concerning water resources and consumption in the future, as well as climate change. The challenge is to adapt to the changes, but also dimish the effects by active measures in agriculture.
The second day of the seminar included a “minisymposia”, during which different areas of interest gathered people to explore for example different possibilities for research funding. Jens Streibig, University of Copenhagen, told about his experience of running a PhD course in collaboration with BOVA. NOVA Vet symposium gathered the veterinarians to discuss about day one skills of veterinarians and a new NOVA network “Adult Education” had its own symposium.