NIVA Education has started offering online courses in various topics to do with working environments and safety. “The best thing about these courses is that I can go back and listen to a lecture again and again. You always notice something new,” says Ásta Snorradóttir, is a lecturer in occupational rehabilitation at the at the University of Iceland.
The Nordic countries are among the richest in the world, with highly developed welfare systems. But they also have high levels of sick leave, which has created a need both for doing research and for educating people in order to address the problems.
It is often too expensive to organise a course, or else there are not enough people to make it worthwhile. This is where NIVA Education has carved out a role. The Nordic institution was founded in 1982 with the sole aim of providing training in working environment and safety issues.
Since its inception 30 years ago, the institution has coursed more than 10,500 people. The courses are usually held in some of the Nordic capitals over two to three days.
Ásta Snorradóttir has also taken other courses run by NIVA.
“It has always been very nice and the participants create their own fellowship.”
The online course she is currently taking is called Work Disability Prevention.
“I take this both to update my own knowledge and to see whether there is something I should recommend to my own students.”
A traditional WDP course allows participants to chose to follow the entire three year course or just parts of it. The online course supports and complements the first year’s course, which was held in Helsinki in June 2016, by providing a summary of it.
That allows those who attend that course to be prepared for course 2 in 2017 and course 3 in 2018. But the online course can also be a stand-alone introduction to WDP.
“There is a mix of Nordic and European lecturers. The longest lecture lasts for one and a half hours and is held by Patrick Loisel, one of the leading researchers in the field. The other lectures are shorter and more concentrated. There is also written material and you are given topics to work with, but there are no exams.”
It costs 165 euro and you get your own login for a course account.
“You can work at your own speed, and this is a good alternative to traditional courses. You also get all of the information gathered in one place, when you traditionally would have to look for it,” says Ásta Snorradóttir.
NIVA Education aims to have 300 people attending their courses each year.
How many do you think will take part online?
“We have not got a goal for the number of online participants, since this is a pilot project. NIVA’s traditional concept is built around detailed studies where those taking part can meet and create networks. We have not yet had time to map how much interest there is in the courses. We will evaluate the pilot project towards the end of 2017. After that we will decide whether to carry on,” says Katja Pekkarinen, who is the courses’ project leader.
Do online courses lead to any kind of diploma or course papers?
“There is no diploma or course papers if you take part in the online course, partly because this is part of a bigger whole, and partly because there is no exam. We will most likely develop the concept later on, and then we might introduce a diploma for an online course. This course is a summing up of and introduction to the traditional WDP (year 1) course, and therefore there is no diploma at the end of it.”
Is this mostly one-way communication, or is there space for discussions and a chance to ask lecturers questions?
“This particular online course is built around one-way communication. The online course is one part out of a total of three. If you participate in the traditional WDP 2 in June 2017,
you get the chance to meet the lecturers and initiate a dialogue. When we have evaluated the first pilot course, we might develop the online course in order to make it possible to interact with the lecturers,” says Katja Pekkarinen.