Finnish project management taught in ShanghaiAssistant Professor Tuomas Ahola from TUT’s Department of Industrial Management was invited to Shanghai University in China to teach a short-term course. The Chinese students jumped at the chance of giving feedback during teaching and assessing their own learning on a daily basis.
Shanghai University invited Tuomas Ahola to teach project business contents in its 2016 International Short Term of Shanghai University programme 13–17 June. For a week, 23 young university students studied project management, project marketing, value creation in projects and project portfolio management under Ahola’s lead.
“In addition to those interested in the topic itself, several of my students participated on the course to improve their English skills and to get an idea of foreign educational offerings and teaching methods,” Tuomas Ahola says.
First experiences of group work and essays
Many everyday learning methods for Finnish students, such as group work as a part of a course, were all new for the Chinese students. Essay writing was also something new for them and required some practice. The Chinese youth are typically more familiar with computational and tick-box exercises. On Ahola’s course, the Kahoot online tool was utilised, enabling the students to give feedback.
“The students were excited about Kahoot and saw a lot of potential in it for their other courses as well. For example, they enjoyed being able to give feedback on how useful they found the lectures and how well a brief exam taken on the course measured their learning. In addition to feedback provision, they used Kahoot for assessing their own learning,” Ahola says.
The feedback given by the students on the course was highly positive and encouraging. It allowed Ahola to further adjust the course to better suit the group.
“Based on the feedback I received on the first day, I slowed down the pace quite a bit – largely due to the fact that some of the students struggled with their English comprehension. I also started providing the study materials to the students in advance, to allow them a better chance of familiarising themselves with the contents before class. One of the students actually wrote me that he had stayed up until midnight translating my materials into Chinese as he found them so useful. Dr. Ma Liang, who works at Shanghai University and is a long-time cooperation partner of mine, also gave me really good advice.”
Tough market for students
Tuomas Ahola was in good company in China, as there are several researchers and professors in his field who work at Shanghai University and Tongji University and who have published results in distinguished academic journals of the field.
“China is a country that has great potential in the area of project research, although for some reason, few Chinese researchers attend the scientific conferences in the field – especially those taking place in Europe,” Ahola notes.
His discussions with students made it clear that the competition over study opportunities in China is extremely tough and the students spend a lot of time studying to keep up with the competition.
“Sometimes you could see in the morning that some of the students had clearly compromised on their sleeping.”
The Shanghai University main campus impressed Ahola with its proportions.
“The campus is huge! Walking around it took almost an hour.” There are approximately 40,000 students at the university, most of whom study and also live on campus – their home can be thousands of miles away. The campus basically contains all services required, including restaurants, grocery stores and sports fields.
“I have truly enjoyed my time here. I recommend similar arrangements to others, too! After my week teaching, I will also participate in the Education Forum event at Shanghai University and visit both Tongji University and Fudan University. Tongji is a very familiar collaboration partner to me – our cooperation goes years back.”