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Different approaches to online education in Scandinavia

In Norway, the government has a more defined approach to digital education than in Sweden and Denmark.

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Image of a student on a computer
VARIATIONS IN SCANDINAVIA: The approach to digital teaching varies in Norway, Sweden and Denmark (Photo: Colourbox.com)

This emerges from a special issue of the Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, the largest Nordic journal on ICT pedagogy, guest edited by researchers from the University of Agder.

The special issue is the result of a workshop on digital transformation in Nordic higher education (how digitalisation changes higher education) which was organised by  CeDiT – Centre for Digital Transformation at UiA last year, and will be launched through a webinar on 25 January 2021. The focus will be on digital learning in Nordic higher education before and after Covid-19.

Participate in the webinar here!

Government involvement key in Norway

Professor Cathrine Edelhard Tømte

Professor Cathrine Edelhard Tømte

“In Norway, the government plays a central role in the digitalisation of the higher education sector. Therefore we cannot talk about a separate Scandinavian model for digital teaching and learning”, says Professor Cathrine Edelhard Tømte at UiA’s Department of Information Systems. She co-edited the special issue together with Associate Professor Vito Laterza at the Department of Global Development and Planning and Professor Romulo Miguel Pinheiro at the Department of Political Science and Management

English in Sweden and Denmark

The professor explains that the Norwegian approach is characterised by grand national schemes, often aimed at large groups – such as further and continuing education of teachers. In such large-scale schemes, it is possible to emphasise a national perspective, which for example means that digital teaching material can be facilitated for a Norwegian audience and be made available in Norwegian. 

That is not the case in Sweden and Denmark to the same extent. The universities and higher education institutions there are left to develop their own digital education offers.

“That means that they more often rely on international, American and British, education platforms such as Coursera and FutureLearn. And although large parts of the material are developed in Sweden and Denmark, and by Swedish or Danish universities, the target group of these platforms is international. A consequence of that is that the language of instruction is almost without exception English”, says Cathrine Edelhard Tømte.

Increased interest in massive open online courses

The UiA professor also says that Covid-19 has led to a noticeably increased interest in online courses and digital teaching. No wonder, perhaps, since students everywhere have had to rely very much on online teaching over the last year. At UiA, for example, all teaching currently takes place online, at least until 25 January

“Yes, it seems so. Online courses, both distance education and massive open online courses, what in English is called MOOC, are not in themselves new. There was a lot of work developing different MOOCs ten years ago, but interest waned somewhat. But since many campuses around the world had to close down in March last year due to the pandemic, online teaching and learning has become a necessity for all students and teachers. Thus, the awareness of various forms of online teaching and also MOOCs has increased again”, says Cathrine Edelhard Tømte.