Aalto University: Finns to become the best people with regard to the economy – a new open online course on economic fundamentals supports the achievement of this goal

Citizens’ financial competence requires updating. Young people would like to learn more financial skills at school, says a recent study. Understanding the basic concepts of the economy is missing. Headings of this kind in the media constantly caught our notice. At the same time, major upheavals are taking place around us, either with significant financial consequences or as a result of changes in the economic system. The climate crisis cannot be regarded as the least of them. In order to influence our environment and promote social change, we need to understand how its central element, the economy, works.

Economic skills are taught at different levels in Finnish schools in many ways and at many levels. However, in upper secondary level studies in particular, there should be a space for a course in economics which is now missing. In fact, Helsinki GSE, a joint centre for economics for Aalto University, Hanken and the University of Helsinki, wanted to respond to the challenge of improving young people’s economic competence by creating a course on the basics of economics. It is a MOOC course (‘Massive Open Online Course’) that examines the impact of the economy on our lives. The course has been built in such a way that while it is useful for everyone interested in the economy, its contents have been built especially for upper secondary school students.

Versatile content
This practical and highly topical online course in Finnish has been divided into seven parts. The chapters cover economic systems and their history, the functioning of markets, investment and banking activities as well as the emergence of economic growth and economic cycles. The ‘thematic Globaalit haasteet(‘Global Challenges’) chapter discusses specific questions related to climate change, population ageing and digital waste from the economic perspective. After completing the course, the student has a good general idea of the basics of the economy and new tools for perceiving different societal phenomena.

The academic group of the course included Professors Marko Terviö and Juuso Välimäki from Aalto University, Professor Emeritus Matti Pohjola, and Professors Niku Määttänen and Jukka Pirttilä from the University of Helsinki.

‘It quickly became clear that we want to work together with the Finnish Association for Teachers of History and Social Studies HYOL to make the course as effective as possible for upper secondary school students. We compiled a group of upper secondary school teachers with whom we discussed themes and spared on the content. Last summer, we started a test period for general upper secondary school students, from which we received a great deal of developmental feedback on the course,’ says Juuso Välimäki, the group leader.

Independent studies
The course, independently studied, discusses the story of the impact of the economy on our lives. In addition to the text, the contents consist of graphs, images, interviews and videos. Videos produced by economist Sixten Korkman open up the financial causes and consequences of cyclical changes in the economy and the climate crisis for the student.

‘The lessons learned in the chapters are tested along the way with various tasks, difficult nuts to crack. After cracking all the nuts, the student is considered to have successfully passed through the course content. Course completion can be recorded for the value of two credits. either through Aalto University or the University of Helsinki Open University. We hope that as many general upper secondary school students as possible would also have the opportunity to credit this course as an optional course in general upper secondary school,’ says Jari Järvenpää, Project Manager at Helsinki GSE.

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