ONE OF THE QUESTIONS WHICH INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ALWAYS ASK IS:
“HOW WILL I BE GRADED? WHAT ASSIGNMENTS DO I HAVE TO DO TO PASS THE COURSE? ARE THERE ANY EXAMS?”
Coming from a different continent, you might find education in Finland very different from your previous learning experience in Canada and while it’s easy for some students to adjust to new situations, others may need more guidance during the process. No matter which category you fit into here is some information that you can take away.
Depending on what program you are in, your courses might be structured in various ways. The following are four common types of assignment/evaluations you might encounter when you study in Finland:
Fewer and fewer courses in Finnish universities are using exams as an assessment. Exams, if they exist, are usually at the end of the course. The exams cover the course content, and some teachers might let you know in advance what type of questions to expect. Often exams are ‘open book’ exams, which allows students to customize their own learning schedule. Courses often have a list of reading materials that you need to familiarize yourself with, and the exam consists of essay questions.
Essays give you an opportunity to show your ability to gather information, critique, and organize your thoughts. You are expected to read further about your topic and use references. Usually, you choose the topic, although we would recommend discussing your topic choice with your teacher. Your instructor will give you certain guidelines for the number of words/pages, but they seldom give you guidelines on the font, margins, and spacing. Don’t panic! You can always ask for more information or just use whatever style you consider the most appropriate for academic writing in your field (eg. APA).
Your university might have some study tools for writing essays. For example, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences will give you guidelines on different types of essays.
A learning diary is a tool of reflection. The aim of a learning diary is to analyze and comment on a specific course and lectures, and completing the diary gives the student an opportunity to assess what she/he has learned during the course. Some teachers might ask you to submit it weekly; others might ask you to submit at the end of the course. It’s often best to update the learning diary as you go along, while your memory is still fresh.
So what exactly should you write in the learning diary? Many international students get stressed out because the learning diary is a new concept to them, and they are sometimes not clear on the instructions. However, although the learning diary is your personal reflection on your learning process, it does need to have an academic focus. Include your notes from the class, theories mentioned, and connect them to your own perceptions. It is not just a summary of what happened in the classroom; you can raise questions, contemplate, or even admit that you are a little unclear about something.
In today’s academic environment, presentations are quite common and, in Finnish universities, some courses may be structured around students’ presentations, followed with a discussion. The presentation can be a group presentation or an individual one. If presenting makes you nervous, take your notes with you, but practice beforehand so you won’t be just reading from the script. If you are using Powerpoint, make sure your content is clear and concise. TED talk speakers usually have great presentation skills. Here is an article on tips for better slides. For more creative presentations, you might even use videos or one of my personal favorites, Prezi.
Interested in studying in Finland?