“Meeting new people and sharing ideas” was the best thing in ITSEW

New projects were planned, new cooperation was initiated, and new friendships were formed, as ITSEW (International Teacher and Staff Exchange Week) was organized in Oulu University of Applied Sciences on April 2019. According to the feedback the week was a success among the guests, and also hosts and students gave positive feedback from the experience.

ITSEW was organized for the third time in this format on April 2019. We had over 130 international guests; 84 teachers visited our departments and 47 staff members got to know the service units. Guests represented 21 countries and 62 higher education institutions.

As a new element, this year in ITSEW there was also a specific rectors meeting. Seven rectors from the partner institutions met the management of Oamk to discuss the currents issues in internationalization of education. The two-day meeting was considered successful, and it will not be the last one.

Feedback from the guests

As usually, we collected feedback from the guests, hosts and students. All the participants received a short survey after the week, and we got nice amount of responses: 61 guests, 40 hosts and 81 students answered the survey.

The guests were generally very happy with the week; most of the answers were positive. The whole program was considered successful, and the organizers were thanked several times.

I have been several times and I think ITSEW is a great way to organize an international teaching week.

Thank you for organizing this array of programs with such enthusiasm and professionalism!

This was my first Staff Week ever and it was so perfect, from start to finish, that any other Staff Week that will follow will have a very hard time to live up to ITSEW standards. I had the most wonderful time – thank you so much for everything!

The guests had some well-grounded suggestions for the future. Most of them were practical in nature.

Registration could be shorter.

Would have been great to see some of the beautiful nature spots that Oulu and surrounding areas, have to offer – as part of the social program as well.

The opening ceremony was on Tuesday. This ceremony has to take place on Monday, the first day of the International Week.

The Finnish Course was interesting but a little dry. The fun aspect was missing.

When we asked the guest teachers opinions about the overall teaching experience, 97 % found it either very good or excellent. Interaction and collaboration with the students were rated as very good or excellent by 76 % of the teachers and exchanging views on pedagogical approaches and teaching was rated as very good or excellent by 88 % of the teachers.

We asked also the guest staff members’ opinions. 84 % found the overall experience either very good or excellent. Exchanging views on work practices with hosts and ITSEW participants was considered as very good or excellent by 80 % by the staff members. Applicability of the staff training to your professional development was rated as very good or excellent by 66 % of the staff member participants.

Feedback from the hosts

Feedback was collected from those teachers and staff members of Oamk who acted as hosts to the guests. We asked what they enjoyed the most when hosting guests. Almost all the respondents mentioned that they liked to discuss with the guests, benchmark practices and share ideas. ITSEW was seen very efficient way to build networks and start cooperation with international partners.

Meeting colleagues from different countries. Changing knowledge with persons who are doing similar job. This in the only change for me to develop international co-operation.

The possibility of talking to peers who deal with similar issues in their work. Getting to know them well enough to form new networks for future project collaboration and benchmarking activities. ITSEW is an important and rare opportunity to meet with European colleagues who have been hand-picked for the visit.                         

Meeting new and old colleagues from abroad. Seeing how motivated my colleagues at home and my students became of the ITSEW.

The teachers and staff members of Oamk were also asked what kind of challenges they had during hosting. The lack of time was obvious problem, as were scarce resources. Many hosts didn’t encounter any challenges.

The lack of time is an obvious problem. There is no space for this work in my schedule, no working hours. I have to steal the hours from other resources like projects.

Time frame was very brief. (I.e. there was not enough time for meaningful workshops). Now, even though the participant liked our workshops A LOT, what was achieved was only small glimmering of what might have been possible!

The hosts (figure 1) felt that the week was beneficial to Oamk as a whole and agreed that it is worth organizing 2020.

FIGURE 1. Hosts opinion about ITSEW 2019 (1=Totally disagree; 2=Disagree; 3=Do not agree nor disagree; 4=Agree; 5=Totally agree)

Feedback from the students

The students were simply asked what they thought about the classes held by the international teachers. Majority of the students found the lessons interesting and enjoyed the challenge the foreign teachers set. Some of the students saw ITSEW as an opportunity to build networks.  Some of the students mentioned that it was difficult to follow the speech in the classes because of the foreign language and strong accent.

The class was held very interesting. The teacher engaged her students. We received and learned a lot of information regarding the subject. Was definitely worth attending!

I loved it. It was diffrent and well planned. Best thing that was that it gave a diffrent perspective to our subject that was new even to our own teacher.

They were good and informative. There were some difficulties in understanding because of the foreign accent.

Amazing classes, decent information, valuable opportunity to take a look and get to know a professional valid background of other countries in cost-efficient way. Networking for the future career.

The students (figure 2) felt that ITSEW is beneficial for all the parties involved.

FIGURE 2. Students opinion about ITSEW 2019 (1=Totally disagree; 2=Disagree; 3=Do not agree nor disagree; 4=Agree; 5=Totally agree)

Benefits of ITSEW

ITSEW is one of the largest teacher and staff exchange weeks in Europe. It has now been organized three times as a joint international week for both teachers and staff members. Before 2017 there have been several different kinds of teacher weeks and staff weeks in Oamk.

Some of the guests have been in Oamk over ten times; friendships have been formed, cooperation has been planned and projects have been put into practice. Some of the guest were visiting Finland for the first time. They marveled everyday things, such as the relaxed teaching style and independent students. Also walking on ice was an experience to them.

The benefits of joint international weeks are obvious. In Oamk it would be difficult to achieve this volume of incoming mobility without organizing a joint program together. Furthermore, the individual visitors arriving around the year would require more resources with their individual programs.

In the situation of budget cuts and scarce resources, ITSEW is a possibility to bring the world (or at least Europe) to our campuses. It is an easy way to build networks, strengthen cooperation and plan common projects for both teachers, staff members and students.

With ITSEW, more and more Oamk students are encouraged to go abroad. It is easier to apply for an exchange to a partner institution, when you have already met one of your future teachers. It is also easy for the guests to urge their own students to come to Oamk to study, when they have seen the premises and met the persons in charge.

ITSEW 2020?

The future of ITSEW is now under consideration. The opinion of the guests is clear. The feedback was truly positive, and the friendly atmosphere could be sensed everywhere in the campuses during the week. The hosts and the students were mostly happy with the week, even though they had some suggestions for improvement. Both still argued strongly that ITSEW is worth organizing again.

It is also worth remembering that ITSEW is one of the biggest events we are organizing together in Oamk. It strengthens the sense of community and makes us all proud of our own University of Applied Sciences.


Isola Marianne
Planning Officer of International Mobility
International Services


All the pictures by Antti Tauriainen


Julkaisun pysyvä osoite: http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi-fe2019052116376

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