Nordic Outdoor Network Group: Where do we go from here?
Why go Nordic? A key issue for Nordic outdoor education and activities is what is the Nordic way? The encompassing view of the group is based on the key words joint and difference. The Nordic way is, on the one hand, what the Nordic countries have in common in terms of a sociocultural value of outdoor life and its distinction from competitive sports. On the other hand, the Nordic way is also characterized by differentiation due to various geographical locations, different landscapes and particular regions’ sociocultural approaches. All locations offer unique possibilities of activities, experiences and values tied to the particular conditions – urban, lowland, highland, coast and inland. Hence, similarities and differences in Nordic outdoor exist between countries as well as within a country. This understanding of the Nordic outdoor life underpinned our discussions regarding: 1) accessibility and promotion of NordPlus; 2) sustainability of the network in general and the network group in particular; and 3) the question of why the Nordic way is significant for student from the Nordic countries.
Platform for sharing among staff. A platform exists on dropbox. The purpose is to enable exchange of information on available courses, but also to make syllabuses and other documents on outdoor life accessible for staff to be informed of and inspired by. We are confident that sharing knowledge and perspectives is a vital strategy to enhance what Nordic outdoor is. The ambition is to lay a foundation for a future joint understanding of Nordic Outdoor. To be successful, we need to facilitate an active discussion on different perspectives in order to further develop and problematize traditional and/or regional definitions of outdoor education and activities.
Accessibility. NordPlus universities offer outdoor education and activities in several ways – either as separate courses or as an element integrated in a more comprehensive course. These various structures indicate both limitations and possibilities for student exchange within NordPlus. Universities must provide information and possibilities for students to choose equivalent courses and/or to help them approve a course as equivalent. When outdoor life only is offered as an element within a more comprehensive course this element is not accessible for exchange students. One solution is to modify the outdoor element to offer a “NordPlus course”, with ECTs based only on the specific learning outcomes relating to outdoor. Exchange students will then meet and study with ‘native’ students in the existing course. This integrated form emphasizes a natural exchange of sociocultural knowledge, understanding and experience. Consequently, Nordic students studying together in a ‘native’ course reinforces the Nordic way of outdoor life. However, courses that don’t give students ECTs fitting into their program but provides experience and merits for external reasons, should also be promoted. Hence, universities must be flexible in enabling students’ recapturing of possibly missed studies during an exchange. In addition to existing courses, and of great significance, is if students also are offered intensive NordPlus courses adjacent to a semester. An advantage is that an intensive course is specific, shorter and easier to attend due to less/no time away from the semester. Another way of making exchange more accessible, is to introduce a joint teacher/student visit at a fellow university, taking part of an existing program for a week or two. This form of informal exchange will bring students, staff and universities closer.
To emphasize: It should be easy to realize an exchange and acquire/provide ECTs within NordPlus. This requires genuine interest and commitment from involved universities. Responsibility should primarily be shared by universities who send and host each other’s students, with administrative support from NordPlus.
Attending NordPlus seminar march 2014:
Stephan Svenning, Örebro University (network group coordinator)
Marie Larneby, Malmö University
Simon Jeppesen, Telemark University College
Åsa Wiberg, Linné University
Viljo Telinius, Gothenburg University
Jesper Franch, Aalborg University.