Studying in Tampere while living in Colombia

MEL student in Colombia

The Master’s Degree Programme in Educational Leadership is designed for remote learning with three compulsory intensive weeks. However, the students starting the degree in August 2020 were unable to meet for the first two intensive weeks due to travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, an intensive week takes place on campus at the beginning of each semester. It is a great opportunity for all students to meet in person, explore Tampere and learn more about Finland and the education system there. However, due to the pandemic, we were unable to travel, resulting in the intensive weeks being held online. 

The first virtual meet-up

It was a dark and cold night in August 2020.The alarm clock started to beep right after midnight. A quick shower did little to wake up the senses. Creeping downstairs, I logged onto zoom for the commencement of the Master’s in Educational Leadership (MEL) 2020 intensive week, which was occurring for the first time online. 

Sipping coffee in a dark room, I wondered if starting this degree had been a mistake. Happily, all fears and hesitations were quickly put aside as Mark Curcher and Päivi Mayor energetically introduced the programme. 

During the day (early morning for some or evening for others) there was the chance to communicate and collaborate with fellow students from countries including Finland, the UAE, Lithuania, Slovakia, Ireland, Brazil and many more. The intensive week included seminars, practical workshops and presentations being presented at a conference. 

The added value of remote studies

This Master’s Degree is designed for remote, online learning using digital tools. There are some online meetings and seminars, whilst the rest is through participation via forums and working groups. 

The working teams are an integral part of the course and we are in regularly electronic and online communication. It has been enriching working with teachers, business leaders, embassy workers, university lecturers and many other varied roles who all provide such a wealth of knowledge and experience. Regular Whatsapp messages and weekly meetings become a wonderful part of the studies. 

There are weekly readings and tasks to complete and each course has one or two main assignments. The majority of the main tasks can be completed individually, in pairs or in small groups. A key part of the course is being able to learn from and to support each other and to focus on transferable and relatable practices as it is a university of applied sciences. 

The online experience

As a British teacher working in an international school in Bogota, Colombia, this has been one of the most rewarding and enriching courses I have embarked on. The studies require a stable internet connection, motivation and being able to complete the weekly tasks. The environment is supportive, friendly and allows us to challenge preconceptions previously held. 

January 2021. It was time for our second intensive week. It was again held online, but this time I was able to sleep in until 1:40 am. Seeing the MEL 2020 group together again was similar to a family reunion. The intensive week was a mix of research, workshops, online games and activities and the memorable sauna bingo. The dream is to one day be able to meet up with my classmates, the MEL 2020 group, in Tampere. 

Read more about the degree programme here.

Text and image: Emma Avila Collazos, TAMK Master’s Student in Educational Leadership