Changes in educational and economic environment require continuing academic curriculum development

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1 Changes in educational and economic environment require continuing academic curriculum development Annika Mauno 1 Department of Forest Products Technology, Helsinki University of Technology, P.O. Box 6400, FI Espoo, Finland, tel , fax , Leena Hauhio Department of Forest Products Technology, Helsinki University of Technology, P.O. Box 6400, FI Espoo, Finland, tel , fax , 1 Corresponding author

2 Changes in educational and economic environment require continuing academic curriculum development Annika Mauno, Leena Hauhio Department of Forest Products Technology, Helsinki University of Technology, FI Espoo, Finland Abstract In higher education, universities all over the world are facing a new challenge of how to provide the increasingly international industries with competent employees for a multicultural working environment. In the turn of the millennium, significant structural transformation was taking place in the Finnish forest products industry and the new three-cycle degree structure based on the Bologna Agreement was introduced to the Finnish Higher Education system. The Department of Forest Products Technology at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) was thus facing twofold pressure to renew its educational offering at the time. This case study presents how the Department tackled the challenge of developing a new academic curriculum with an international aspect to meet the changing requirements set by both the educational and economic environment. The development work was based on a thorough evaluation and restructuring of the overall curriculum and the first results appear promising: the students' learning results have improved, students perceive a more encouraging learning atmosphere than before and a general interest in the quality of teaching has risen among the teaching personnel. Keywords: Higher engineering education; curriculum development; forest products technology 1. INTRODUCTION In higher education, universities all over the world are facing a new challenge of how to provide the increasingly international industries with competent employees for a multicultural working environment. The Department of Forest Products Technology at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) confronted this question in the turn of the millennium, when it was facing twofold pressure to renew its educational offering. In the beginning of the 2000s, significant structural transformation was taking place in the Finnish forest products industry, business operations shifting abroad at an increasing pace. At the same time, the new three-cycle degree structure based on the Bologna Agreement was introduced to the Finnish Higher Education system. This paper examines how a university department can shape its educational offering to better meet the demands set by changing economic environment. It also addresses the question of how restructuring the university level education affects curriculum development on departmental level. To illustrate the effects of concurrent changes in the educational and economic operating environments of the university on practical level, the curriculum development carried out in one laboratory during the is described as a case example. The case demonstrates a systematic procedure for curriculum evaluation and improvement and the possibilities it provides for a fundamental renewal of the curriculum.

3 2. ENGINEERING STUDENTS FACE A GLOBAL STUDYING AND WORKING ENVIRONMENT The question of preparing engineering students to the continuously changing and globalizing working environment has raised a concern in industrial representatives already a long time ago. The global economy places engineering students into a challenging position: the solid technical knowledge base is not enough anymore, because the international employers require them to master a variety of so-called soft skills, such as leadership capabilities, communication skills, good command of business English, to name a few. The graduates are expected to be able to communicate effectively with other professional disciplines and with colleagues from all over the world. Recently the question whether engineering higher education is really providing students with these skills to an adequate level has raised also academic interest. Currently there is wide-spread, acknowledged preoccupation about engineering students not being prepared well enough to confront the globalizing working environment. [1, 2, 3] 2.1. Educational context In Europe, the ongoing globalization and the integration of Europe have been the two driving forces in reshaping the higher educational policy during the last decade. The structural renewal and harmonization of the European university education is commonly known as "the Bologna process". The process started initially in 1998 and its goal is to create a common European Higher Education Area by The ultimate aims of the structural reform of European university education are to enhance the mobility of students in Europe, enhance the flexibility in combining studies from different fields and integrate students into professional life throughout their studies. To achieve this, a system of comparable, three-phase university degrees is to be developed in Europe. [3, 4] TKK changed to the three-phase degree structure on the 1 st of August, Now degree students first complete a Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc. (Tech.)) and can then continue the Master of Science in Technology (M.Sc. (Tech.)). The doctorate studies are regarded as the third cycle in the new structure. As for the workload, the ECTS-based (European Credit Transfer System) method is applied to measure progress in studies in order to improve international comparability. The annual student workload is approximately hours, which translates into 60 credits. The B.Sc. (Tech.) is 180 credits and completing the degree takes three years. For the M.Sc. (Tech.) degree, another 1edits and two years are required (Figure 1). However, in Finland, and in many other European countries, the B.Sc. degree is still not considered as the appropriate exit level from university studies to the working life, but rather as an entrance level for international students and a position to reconsider and profile their graduate studies. [4, 5] B.Sc. Degree (180 cr) M.Sc. Degree (1 ) General studies 80 cr Basic module subject A Intermediate module subject A major Special module Advanced module subject A Electives M.Sc. Thesis 30 cr Programme studies B.Sc. thesis + seminar 10 cr Electives 10 cr Basic module subject B minor Intermediate module subject B Methodological principles 10 cr FIGURE 1. The first two cycles of the new degree structure at TKK.

4 2.2. Higher engineering education and the Finnish forest products industry In the Finnish forest industry sector, a significant structural transformation began in the late 1980s. During the 1990s, acquisitions and the establishment of new production facilities abroad were taking place at an increasing pace. If the acquisitions are taken into account, the companies have invested more abroad than in Finland already since 1996, mostly into Western Europe and North America. In 2004, only about 10% of the companies total turnover was generated in Finland. [6] At the same time, the Department of Forest Products Technology at TKK had achieved a leading position in the education of forest products technology on a global scale. In Europe, Finland produces the majority of the M.Sc. degree graduates in paper engineering (Figure 2). Worldwide, approximately 600 M.Sc. degrees in paper engineering are completed annually. Thus approximately one third of all the M.Sc. degrees in paper engineering are completed in Finland. Furthermore, out of these 190 annually graduating paper engineers in Finland about 35% graduate from TKK. [6, 7] Graduated Paper Engineers (M.Sc.) in Europe Slovakia 5 % Italy 3 % Others 7 % Poland 8 % Sweden 8 % Finland 48 % France 10 % Germany 11 % FIGURE 2. The graduated Paper Engineers in Europe in During this time, on average 400 Paper Engineers on M.Sc. level graduated in Europe each year. [7] By the end of the 1990s, it was obvious that the ongoing changes in the operating environment of the forest products industry required changes also in the academic world and in the education. A new international degree program in forest products technology was seen as a possibility to further strengthen the position of TKK and to develop the education together with top universities abroad. The Department had already extensive experience of teaching in English ("Linkage Program", a one-year certificate program of Master's level courses for international students since 1987 and "PaPSaT", a doctorate school since 1995), but this type of education was mainly intended for foreign students and covered only chemical forest products technology. [8]

5 3. HIGHER EDUCATION TO SECURE STUDENTS' INTERNATIONAL COMPETENCE The major driving forces, why curriculum development became the focus of attention in the Department in the beginning of the 2000s, were the drastically changing Finnish forest products industry and the major structural reform in the European university education. In the Department, three professors were the initiators of the fundamental and long-lasting process of thoroughly renewing the curriculum. They were among the first ones to anticipate that in the future, Finnish forest products companies and manufacturers providing machinery and chemicals for the industry would need employees with a versatile education and skills to operate in an international context. On the other hand, they did not consider the established curriculum to reflect the needs and requirements emerging from the turbulent situation in the industry. In the Department, the development of an internationally competent curriculum was based on its long-term objectives to provide the forest products industry with skilled engineers and to contribute to the future challenges of the forest cluster industries. For university graduates, working in an international environment requires more than mastering one's technical specialization area. From the employer s perspective, using English language (both natural use and professional vocabulary) and acting in a multicultural environment are self-evident skills. The objective for the curriculum development was formulated as follows: The Department of Forest Products Technology at TKK is able to produce competent employees for the international and multicultural working environment of the forest cluster industries. 4. ELEMENTS OF CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT For the purpose of developing an internationally competent curriculum of forest products technology, a five-year extensive collaboration teaching development project with the industry was established. The overall objective was to develop an internationally recognized, high-quality Master's programme that would cover all aspects of forest products manufacture, from fundamental studies of wood fibres to final products, such as printed paper, wooden window frames or even nano-scale fibres. To enhance the quality of the education and to ensure its proper substance, the course contents and teaching methods were examined critically and thoroughly. In addition, all teaching on Master level courses was transferred into English. In evaluating and restructuring the curriculum, the basic subject content of the established curriculum was perceived appropriate, but the emphases, flexibility and teaching methods required improvements. The overall curriculum development included three main elements: 1. Updating and restructuring the course contents. 2. Transferring the language of teaching into English on the advanced level courses. 3. Developing and coordinating appropriate teaching methods for each course Implementation and supervision The four different laboratories of the Department were given freedom to arrange the details and implementation of the renewal as they saw most appropriate. There was continuous communication between the teaching researchers, professors and the forest products industry to ensure that everyone was heading towards the same objectives. The actions and results were discussed in the Planning group of the project regularly, and reported to the Management Board twice a year. Since there were representatives from each laboratory in the Planning group of the project, information was transferred to both directions and the mutual viewpoints and objectives could be easily transferred to the practical implementation of the curriculum development. The most fundamental renewal of the curriculum was accomplished in the Laboratory of Wood Technology, which built a systematic procedure to go through the change process. This approach is presented as a case example in the following.

6 4.2. Case: Laboratory of Wood Technology The expertise areas of the education and research of the Laboratory of Wood Technology include the relationship between wood material and product properties, process development, quality and profitability analysis of wood products and their production processes, gluing of wood and development of engineered wood products. For a university laboratory ensuring competent, up-to-date teaching and offering a curriculum with a unique profile are necessary means to attract prospective students. To achieve this, the curriculum development in the Laboratory was based on the following principles: The current research topics and projects need to be linked more closely to teaching. The consistency of the overall curriculum needs to be ensured. Continuous communication between the teaching researchers about the contents, methods and quality of teaching needs to be initiated. The basis for further development work was the restructuring and spreading the teaching responsibility. Before the renewal, the teaching personnel consisted of a group of 6-7 people: two professors, one teaching-oriented researcher and two full-time assistants and one or two part-time course assistants. After the renewal, the teaching responsibility is divided among people. Currently two professors, one docent, one or two part-time course assistants and ten researchers participate in teaching so that each researcher is responsible for typically one or two courses. First, a group of four researchers took the initiative to start planning the process of reorganizing the curriculum. Second, all the teaching researchers were organized into groups of 4 6 people according to their expertise. The groups brainstormed how the curriculum should be emphasized and how the substance to be taught should be organized into separate courses in a logical manner. For each course, the learning objectives, the teaching methods and the learning outcomes were analysed carefully. Finally, a series of half-day development seminars for all the teaching researchers was organized. During one year, all the persons involved in teaching gathered five times together to track and discuss the development of each course and the overall curriculum. In the seminars, the new curriculum was discussed and the course contents, materials, schedules, teaching methods and grading policies for each course were developed in cooperation. The steps in the process and their relation to the wider educational changes are elaborated in more detail in Figure 3. FIGURE 3. The activities in the laboratory level included: 1) Teaching responsibility divided among researchers 2) New teaching methods applied for the first time 3) Planning of the focus areas in teaching began 4) Intensive group work to develop new course contents began 5) Focus areas of the curriculum defined 6) First drafts of the new courses ready, 1 st Development seminar 7) 2 nd Development seminar 8) Second drafts of the new courses ready, 3 rd Development seminar 9) 4 th Development seminar 10) 5 th Development seminar 11) New courses ready and taught for the first time.

7 5. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS The five-year development project has resulted in more functional and logical study entities, where unintentional overlapping has been eliminated. In the Laboratory of Wood Technology, which was presented as the case example, currently researchers are able to concentrate in their teaching into their own specialization area and the students can work in the ongoing research projects as part of their studies. The overall curriculum has been arranged around continuous themes, which support each other and continue throughout the studies from the basic level to advanced level studies (Figure 4). FIGURE 4. The four basic themes and course contents in wood products technology after the renewal of the curriculum. The pedagogical quality of teaching has improved, as the courses are now carefully planned to meet the needs of students with different learning styles. There is continuous communication between the teaching researchers about the contents, methods and quality of teaching. The pedagogical training and the general increased interest among the researchers towards teaching quality has resulted in students' more positive perception about the teaching and learning atmosphere. From the students' viewpoint, the visible outcomes include better learning results and a more encouraging study environment, which have both been verified in students' feedback. The new curriculum offers the students meaningful study entities, which support them in building a strong professional identity. The significance of adequate resources for the successful development cannot be overemphasised. The thorough development work has required active participation of a large group of people from the forest products industry, the staff of the Department and the staff of the Teaching and Learning Support Centre of TKK. After the project had been completed, it was estimated that 60 members of the teaching staff of the Department had worked for the development project either part-time or full-time. This paper has concentrated on one important aspect in the curriculum development: developing individual course contents and combining them into a meaningful study entity from the viewpoint of better preparing the engineering students for the requirements set by globalizing working environment. However, developing the curriculum to immerse the Finnish and international students is only one part of preparing the students for the global working environment. In the future, studying in multi-cultural environment and constantly working with fellow students from all over the world will be everyday life in many universities, rather than some special occasion that needs special preparation. Adapting to multicultural environment can be viewed as an emerging academic skill, the teaching of which will become more and more embedded in the curriculum. However, only

8 studying in the international classes is not enough, the students need practical working experience or study exchange from abroad to support them in developing global competence. This way they will understand the challenges and opportunities of internationalization from two perspectives. 6. FUTURE IMPLICATIONS The Science and Technology Policy Council of the Ministry of Education in Finland has stated that the forest cluster is one of the strategic foci in developing national top expertise [9]. In its own strategy for the period of , TKK has established the following objectives for the development of education: in-depth learning, the active role of the students and the close connection of teaching and research. TKK has also stated that it will intensify its research particularly in the theme areas of the strategic national clusters of excellence [10]. It can be concluded that the forest cluster will maintain its position as an important part of the Finnish economy, which implies that the active development of university education of forest products engineers must continue. On the other hand, university education is changing into an internationally competitive product, which places universities into a new position. The challenge of international education in forest products technology at this point is to reach the prospective students in Finland and around the world to acquire enough qualified applicants. Despite the acknowledged challenges, the Department s renewed Master s programme gives an example of how university education can respond to the changing recruitment needs of the industry and provide the graduates with a versatile engineering background for continuous professional development. However, it is extremely important that the higher engineering education monitors carefully the changes in the industry and in the educational environment and response to them wisely. The universities should try to foresee how the economic environment develops in several years time, because that is when the students starting their studies now will graduate. Curriculum development is continuous and iterative work, which needs to track both the economic and educational environment closely and be able to reflect to the changes appropriately. References [1] Parnaby, J., The requirements for engineering degree courses and graduate engineers: an industrial viewpoint. Engineering Science and Education Journal, 7(4), [2] Lucena, J.C., Globalization and organizational change: engineers' experiences and their implications for engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education, 31(3), [3] Becker, F. S., Globalization, curricula reform and the consequences for engineers working in an international company. European Journal of Engineering Education, 31(3), [4] Ministry of Education in Finland, The information pages of the Bologna process [online]. Available from [Accessed April 27, 2006] [5] Heitmann, G., Challenges of engineering education and curriculum development in the context of the Bologna process. European Journal of Engineering Education, 30(4), [6] Finnish Forest Industries Federation, Key to the Finnish Forest Industries. Finnish Forest Industries Federation, Helsinki. [7] Finnish Paper Engineers Association, Statistics about European education of paper engineers. Unpublished presentation, available from the Finnish Paper Engineers' Association by request. [8] Mauno, A., Hakala, K., Hauhio, L. & Vahtikari, K., Development of the International Master's Programme in Forest Products Technology: Final report. Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Forest Products Technology, Report 2, Espoo. [9] The Science and Technology Policy Council of Finland, Science, Technology, Innovation [online]. The Science and Technology Policy Council. Available from [Accessed 5 May 2007]. [10] Helsinki University of Technology Development Unit, The implementation plan of the strategy of Helsinki University of Technology ("Teknillisen korkeakoulun strategian toimeenpanosuunnitelma ", in Finnish). Publication of the administration department 2007/3, Espoo.

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