Virtual Cultural Management Seminars at Karelia UAS

Arja-Irene Tiainen & Henri Romppanen

In this article we describe the process of arranging two virtual international seminars during the pandemic.

Karelia University of Applied Sciences has offered master level education in social services and health care since 2006. In 2011, we started the course International Activities in Social Services and Health Care. It was the only course in master’s level implemented in English in the curriculum. We changed the name of this course Managerial International Competence starting in the 2018 curriculum.

One aspect with this course is that we could offer students a deeper understanding of international management. The implementation of the course has changed during the years, but it has always strived to an international viewpoint to leadership and management. Times have changed over the years, and various seminars, conferences and congresses have become more and important to the social services and health care sector. The idea of the course was that every student should have a short exchange aboard and share the experiences with the other students in a seminar. Another alternative was to take part in an international conference in Finland or in another country.

The implementation of the seminars

After the exchange or the conference, there is a seminar as part of the course. The purpose of the seminar is to encourage the students to hold a seminar presentation in a foreign language. The first Cultural Management seminar was held at the Tikkarinne Campus at Karelia University of Applied Sciences in May 2019.

We were planning same kind of a seminar also in April 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic moved our seminar plans. The planned one-week student exchanges had to be cancelled on a very short notice. Likewise, we had to cancel the trips of our international cooperation partners to Joensuu. The student exchanges were replaced by presentations of scientific research articles, and the seminar was made virtual, using Teams. We were all excited how we can accomplish a virtual seminar with so little experience, but it succeeded as planned. Our international partners were, unfortunately, not able to give their presentations in Teams. In addition to the students’ presentations, there were presentations by project managers of internationals affairs at Karelia University of Applied Sciences. The outcome of the seminar day was very positive, and a new seminar was scheduled for the following year.

International cooperation and teaching have been more or less in the background for the past year. On the other hand, the pandemic has made teachers’ skills and attitudes to digitalization and e-learning methods more positive. The writers of this article, too, were more relaxed when they started to organize the third seminar with e-learning methods in April 2021.

In 2020, we were very near to implement a short exchange visit to Petrozavodsk University with 11 master level students. The exchange was cancelled two days before travelling because of the pandemic. Both universities were very disappointed, and since then we have maintained good international relationship to each other and began to plan new methods to our cooperation. Two professors from Petrozavodsk University suggested that they send video presentations to our students to be shown on the seminar day, which we naturally accepted.

Experiences from the third Cultural Management Seminar

The seminar was held on 14 April 2021 in Teams.

The seminar was opened with a welcoming speech by Arja-Irene Tiainen and Henri Romppanen. It was followed by the keynote presenter, Kirsi-Marja Toivanen, Principal Lecturer at Karelia, who had an interesting presentation about cultural differences from various viewpoints. She also shared her personal experiences of teaching in China.

Yuliya Petrovskaya, associate professor of the Department of Sociology and Social work at Petrozavodsk University, held a video presentation on organization of social services in Russia with concrete examples from the Republic of Karelia.

Marina Shubina, associate professor of the Department of Propaedeutics and Internal Diseases and Hygiene at Petrozavodsk University, held a video presentation on safe hospital environment the Republic of Karelia. She described the principles and implementation rules in the healthcare system and illustrated it by showing different working methods in patient care in hospital environment.

Mari Mynttinen told about her group interview study of adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of their responsibilities for their alcohol use. The study concluded that identifying and focusing on their responsibilities could help adolescents to develop into healthy individuals and increase their awareness of the need to avoid alcohol.

The master level students’ presentations dealt with different aspects of management and leadership in social and health care. The students had chosen important and topical themes, for example digitalization and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in health care.


Huge changes are taking place in leadership right now. We have noticed that leadership and management have changed, getting more and more characteristics of distant management. Therefore, it was a positive thing that the seminars were held using remote connections. They were also a useful experience especially for the students who will probably need these skills in the future. Next time we will, if possible, make a hybrid version of the seminar and use more time for planning it. We will also invite more national and international partners to share their research results. We have also received positive feedback from Petrozavodsk University, and both parties are willing to continue the cooperation. There has been discussion that there will be short exchange visits of both teachers and students in the near future.


Arja-Irene Tiainen, Principal Lecturer, Doctor
Henri Romppanen, Senior Lecturer, MA
Karelia University of Applied Sciences


Cover photo:Vanessa Garcia / Pexels

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