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HAMK Guidance Counsellor Online Education Programme in Finland

Guidance and guidance counselling are in the process of change due to the phenomenon of digitalism in education. The pedagogical approach and methods in guidance and guidance counselling need updating.


Guidance and guidance counselling are in the process of change due to the phenomenon of digitalism in education. The pedagogical approach and methods in guidance and guidance counselling need updating. This is due to the rapid change of customer expectations and needs in the field of guidance.

Digitalisation provides new tools for guidance and guidance counselling. The current trend of using individual study paths in education can also be supported by different digital solutions. The need and demand for creative thinking is ever present in guidance. Therefore, the guidance counsellor education must change in order to provide new knowledge and skills for future guidance counsellors. 

HAMK University of Applied Sciences started an online, competence-based Guidance Counsellor Education Programme in 2016. The programme, in its own right, is very unique; it is the only online guidance counselling programme in Finland. The programme has been very popular among student applicants. Launching this online programme created vivid discussions among the other actors of educational institutes and among people working in the field of guidance and guidance counselling. Concerns were expressed regarding the programme content and its pedagogical practices. In order to ensure the programme’s reliability, the programme was launched with a following assurance: a thorough research and investigation on the students’ learning processes, acquired skills and competencies will be conducted. 

The structure of the HAMK Guidance Counsellor Online Education Programme consists of four modules which reflect the core competence areas in guidance and guidance counselling. The modules are as follows: Self-development competences; Guidance and career counselling competences; Guidance counsellor’s operational and working field competences and Competences in organising and developing guidance counselling processes. The learning outcomes of the guidance counsellor education programme are based on the definitions by international guidance and counselling organisation IAEVG (IAEVG 2016). In addition, the definitions are based on the definitions of the European career guidance research network (Schiersmann, Ertelt, Katsarov, Mulvey, Reid & Weber 2012, 53 – 55). 


Figure 1. Curriculum modules

Main objective of the programme is to support the students to build a strong competence identity as a guidance counsellor. Furthermore, to provide the students with professional skills in guidance, career guidance and guidance counselling. In the centre of the learning are the individual learning paths and the principles of sharing one’s skills and knowledge with peer students and teachers. The use of a variety of digital tools is highly encouraged and recommended throughout the course of the programme. Each student is responsible for building up his/her own personal learning environment (PLE).   

Each year, 14 students are chosen for the Guidance Counsellor Online Education Programme. The programme starts with a two-day contact learning period in the facilities of the organising education provider. After the initial contact learning period, the programme is carried out with a total of 10 online meetings which take place about once a month within 13 months. Between the online meetings, the students complete various exercises and assignments such as work placement. As the programme progresses, the responsible teachers meet their guidance counsellor students twice in study circles to watch videotaped guidance sessions. In addition, the responsible teachers meet each student once in their respective places of work. 

In the beginning of the Guidance Counsellor Online Education Programme, students fill out a HOK form to map out personal competence for reflecting on their own competence related to the different modules of the guidance counsellor education programme. After filling out the form, each responsible teacher has a personal online guidance discussion with each student to map out the student’s competence and possible recognition of prior learning (RPL). Based on the guidance discussion, the student constructs an individual study path and a personal study plan. During the programme, the student makes a personal digital portfolio where they reflect on their learning. The aim is to use the individual study paths to build a strong competence identity in guidance counselling for each student.  The students always have the right to receive personal guidance if they so wish. 

The work in online meetings is based on building constructive knowledge, skill and competence. The responsible teachers send students an invitation to an online meeting and give instructions for necessary exercises and tools. Flipped classroom and learning enable an effective learning event. The sessions revolve around the students, each taking turns to speak. Lectures and other materials have been uploaded online to support students’ learning.

Both teachers of the Guidance Counsellor Online Education Programme have worked in multiform education for ten years. Starting the online programme was seen as a new and worthwhile challenge. When planning the programme, a central idea was that the online implementation and digital nature would support and enable guidance counsellor education. Students are guaranteed the same learning and increase of competence in both multiform and online professional guidance counsellor education. Both teachers felt that the online option is a practical way of learning the profession of guidance counsellor. As the process progresses, the teachers have observed and learned greatly. The online meetings need to be planned carefully to stay on schedule. Opportunities to speak must be divided equally, and students must be able to be succinct. Also, online guidance must be provided at regular intervals, and the significance of giving feedback is highlighted. 

Finally, the entire HAMK Guidance Counsellor On-line Education Programme has been critically analysed and recommendations for developing the programme further has been put into practice. Starting year 2019 the programme is conducted in a hybrid model as the students can choose whether they want to participate to the contact days by coming to a classroom or by on-line sessions.       


Authors: Vesa Parkkonen, Jaakko Helander, Päivi PukkilaImage: mentatdgt


This article is a part of a series of articles about guidance in Finland. The series of articles is published by Euroguidance and EPALE teams at the Finnish National Agency for Education. The articles are published throughout Finland’s EU Presidency, approximately one article per month.

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