Work, rest and learn – delivering flexible higher education in Estonia

“Universities across the world have an opportunity to look at how they can use technology to help students balance work and study commitments”

More and more students today are juggling work and family responsibilities alongside their university studies, writes learning development specialist at the Estonian Business School, Marko Puusaar.

Add to this the growing number of students who are looking globally to find the right course or university and you can quickly see why the traits of a typical higher education student are becoming increasingly difficult to define. Expectations are changing too, with demand growing for institutions to provide greater flexibility so that students can study how, when and where they want to.

Higher education is evolving. Universities that make good use of technology can adapt teaching methods much more effectively to attract students from across the world, support them through their studies and respond quickly in the event that their circumstances change.

Shaping education around students

Technological advances have made it possible for universities to move beyond strictly on-site or online learning to deliver a more hybrid option. This is the approach we’ve taken at the Estonian Business School (EBS).

EBS opened its doors in 1988 when Estonia was still part of the Soviet Union. It was the only institution in the region offering business courses at the time, so there was no previous teaching tradition, no faculty and no textbooks for students to work from.

Starting from scratch had its advantages. Our founder’s mantra – ‘modesty is a virtue, but you will manage better in life without it’ – helped us to focus on shaping the type of institution we wanted to be.

Our students come from across the world to study in a learning community that inspires them to succeed, and they have the flexibility they need to fit their education around their often busy lives.

Flexible learning

The majority of post-graduate students at EBS combine their studies with either full or part-time employment.

Students are encouraged to participate fully in lessons, which may include group tasks and discussions. We invite experts in to share their knowledge and experiences in areas such as leadership, business management and marketing too.

“Our students come from across the world to study in a learning community that inspires them to succeed”

There are occasions when students are unable to attend in person due to other commitments and so we use lecture capture technology to record the lesson. This means that students can access the video recording at any time and view the lesson in its entirety to catch up on anything they have missed.

From a single screen, they can see a clear picture of the teacher giving the lesson, any resources that have been shared during the session, along with the group discussions that took place.

The videos are used by all students to reinforce what they have learned following a class or revisit topics they’ve missed if they were unable to attend. They can communicate with their tutors or classmates and ask questions about specific aspects of the lesson that they may have found confusing and get additional support to reduce the risk of them falling behind.

The key aim is to give students the same learning experience as much as possible, whether they are in class or watching a recorded version of the session afterwards. Students also have the option to live stream the class and participate in real time if they are unable to travel in, for whatever reason.

Reaching further

Students today want to be able to attend lectures in person when they can, with the added reassurance that they have the support they need to manage their work or family responsibilities while keeping their learning on track.

It’s about using technology to help students remain connected with their teachers and classmates, linking them with the experts in their industries and helping them to manage their learning in the way that suits them best.

About the author: Marko Puusaar is learning development specialist at the Estonian Business School, which uses the Echo360 lecture capture technology to provide students with flexible learning options.