You encounter a friend from university or a colleague in a get-together or restaurant. They ask you what it is that you are doing at Aalto? How would you reply to them?
“If I must reply briefly, I tell them that I’m in charge of developing the continuous learning business area at Aalto University and Aalto EE. In this context, the continuous learning business area includes everything except Aalto EE’s traditional business activities, which consists of degree programs, open programs, and customized programs for companies.”
How did you end up in your current role?
“I have worked at Aalto for almost 10 years now. In the past, I have held various positions related to university development, all of which have involved aspects of strategy execution.
Lifewide learning is about how Aalto conceptualizes continuous learning."
For example, during the strategic plan from 2016 to 2020, I oversaw a project related to work capabilities, future skills, challenge-based learning, and academic collaboration. After that, I took the first steps to develop the lifelong learning business area at Aalto University.
When Aalto EE and Aalto University established a more solid collaboration, and the time came to choose a Business Area Director, I naturally emerged as the ideal candidate for the role, having worked in lifewide learning development first at Aalto University.”
How is lifewide learning different from what we have been doing at Aalto EE and in its predecessors for more than 50 years?
“Lifewide learning is about how Aalto conceptualizes continuous learning. This can include several learning methods: courses and study modules at the open university, pathway studies, further education…
Further education is at the core of the Aalto EE’s program portfolio. The difference is related to the word ‘lifewide’.
In an increasingly complex world that demands multidisciplinary skills, various roles now require diverse knowledge and competence."
Traditionally, the program portfolio of Aalto EE has targeted top and middle management. However, in an increasingly complex world that demands multidisciplinary skills, various roles now require diverse knowledge and competence.
For example, a Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration may have to implement different kinds of technological solutions, a Master of Arts may run their own company, and a Master of Science in Technology may lead employees in diverse organizations.
The purpose of Aalto EE – to create a better world through better leadership – remains unchanged. We are only expanding the idea of the individuals responsible for building a better world. Responsibility does not solely rest on managers; it extends to all employees and those who aspire to work.
To foster new growth, it is essential to reflect on how we can better address our customers’ needs.
Lately, we have been engaging in discussions with several companies on making degree-related courses more accessible by offering alternative arrangements that do not involve traditional daytime lectures in Otaniemi.
I firmly believe that our scalable online portfolio plays a crucial role in driving our growth. It is not competing with onsite teaching but supports it and makes our solutions available to wider audiences. This is not a discussion about limiting options, but, instead, about providing choices that enhance and complement each other.”
Our target group comprises all working people. How should we address differences between learners?
“In my experience, the most crucial aspect is to possess a sense of self-efficacy. This involves recognizing the factors that boost our self-efficacy while also being mindful of those that may challenge it.
If everything we do remains easy and pleasant, we might not be fully leveraging our cognitive capacity. Expertise is grounded in the feeling of capability and the willingness to acquire new skills.
I have witnessed individuals holding fears that their skills and capabilities might not be relevant. In the best-case scenario, Aalto EE can serve as the platform to reinforce the sense of ‘I’m capable of learning’.
On the other hand, the biggest challenge in modern society is that people are cognitively overloaded and thus are not able to learn.
I am deeply passionate about fostering companies’ growth, recognizing that it relies on the growth and development of its people."
Finland is an information society with highly educated people and a long history of a school system that fosters high-quality learning. Our next challenge is to maintain our position as a global pioneer in lifelong learning. I firmly believe that Aalto EE has a vital role to play in this mission, being at the forefront of achieving this goal.”
What keeps you motivated in your work?
“I do this out of passion. Throughout my career, my focus has been on creating improved learning environments and opportunities for people.
I am deeply passionate about fostering companies’ growth, recognizing that it relies on the growth and development of its people. I am also driven by the motivation to contribute to creating a better society and an improved living environment in Finland, while also propelling the country’s economic growth. All these aspirations can only be achieved through the continuous development and diversification of our skillsets.
On the other hand, the moments of revelation that individuals experience after an insightful learning journey are incredibly valuable. I have personally been involved in several F.E.C. (Further Educated with Companies) trainings, and even after several years, I continue to encounter people who have discovered new career paths, launched their own companies, or made other groundbreaking changes.
The internet is full of information. Our goal is to help people to strengthen their thinking, analytical, data processing, and teamwork skills – abilities that cannot be acquired from books alone. Therefore, it is essential to create learning and skill-sharing environments where individuals are free to realize their full potential.
I may not have a pedagogical background, but I have taken on the role of an educator on several occasions, and I am passionate about it. In my younger days, I had a couple of career aspirations: to become either a priest or an art historian and archeologist – essentially wanting to be Indiana Jones. Now, I find solace in knowing that Indiana Jones was a university professor who unexpectedly found himself amid thrilling adventures. Although I began my career path in economics, I have now discovered my own path, akin to Indiana Jones’ journey.”
Laura Sivula is Business Area Director responsible for Lifewide Learning at Aalto EE and Aalto University. She holds a master’s degree in economics and management studies from the University of Aberdeen. Are you interested in developing your skills and competencies? Take a look at Aalto’s lifewide learning portfolio here.