A delightful class

It was until last year when I got to understand totally the meaning of the English word “delight” (delighted, delightful). It was the first time I learned the way to describe a feeling, other than “satisfied”. The delighted moment, which is a higher level of satisfaction that every business aims to create for their customers, of course, is not so often to be experienced by a person. That time I read a marketing course article of how companies would perform to get their customers feel delighted, I was, however, more curious about how actually that feeling is, or whether I have ever felt delighted about something. A few days ago I was happened to be in a class that urged me to write this post – the first ever post promoting for my Aalto University. This post is all about what factors have created a delightful class after which students start telling about it, what on earth a service would expect if not people who ever use it will promote it? I first wrote this in Vietnamese but then struggled to translate the title into Vietnamese, now not only my English is poor.

The perk of being a student in Aalto is that you can join almost of the courses freely no matter from which school/major you are, as long as you know that they exist. And because of that, looking for some awesome courses to attend is a kind of skill in this offering-thousands-of-courses-every-year university. Some of my friends started asking me to let them know if there is any interesting course that I spot.

Simple like that, the class I am going to write about belongs to a summer course in entrepreneurship provided by Aalto Venture Program. When a professor asked me why did I choose the course, I did answer him that because I trusted AVP, all AVP courses I have taken are so good that I did not hesitate to email the course’s contact person asking about it even though this is the first time the course is organized. So my friends, keep your eyes on the AVP’s web page (and also the other programme’s).

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Don’t leave Aalto without taking an AVP course!

Proper Communication Skills was the official name of this delightful class – the name itself got my first impression. Why? I have attended or heard about a bunch of classes teaching soft skills and most of them use the word “effective”. For me, communicating properly which means you know how to communicate in the right way (thus effectively) is much more real. You have got to know the structure behind before mastering anything. Perhaps I was just tired of the promise to be a more effective after only one day course in the skills that probably someone has been practicing for life.

The Austrian instructor said that this class (he called it a workshop, and in fact, it will be in one and a half day) has been organized for many times (in 15 years if I remember correctly) and every time it was different, otherwise he would get bored himself. He kindly requested us to give feedbacks so that he could make the workshop better and better. In such a smart way, the guy promised that we were taking the best version ever of the Proper Communication Skills workshop (Should I come back for another better version?)

This class discusses the Process Communication Model developed by Doctor Taibi Kahler, which is used by NASA to select and train the astronauts who supposed to improvise in the causing stress environment. The model recognizes 6 types of personalities following which corresponding appropriate ways to communicate with. Of course, PCM (and so are the other models) is fully applied in some other contexts than NASA. However, I would not go into the detailed content of this workshop, since I believe that besides the PCM, there are quite a few simple yet powerful aspects that make the course delightful.

1. Drawing attention from students prior to the classroom sessions

You probably have received an email or message before class reminding about time schedule, place, even pre-readings, pre-assignments etc. This is not something new but hasn’t been applied widely (and wisely) in Vietnam.

Before this workshop, we were asked to do a 45-question questionnaire about personality, something like MBTI questionnaire. As suggested, I did it in roughly 1 hour with my all honesty and dedicated consideration. It was hard, it was easy, and it was about me thinking of myself. Interestingly enough, the course assistant sent us the link to the test and said that it could only work one time for each of us. You can imagine how careful (and grateful) we were when doing this test. And after finishing it, which the result will be released the next day, I was totally grateful for that. Without any clue about the result it will show, this is for sure not the test that you could get free from the Internet. It definitely brought the higher expectation about the class for students.

2. Classroom

I personally admire the clever style in the spatial design of Finnish in particular and European in general. Westerner acquires international reputation by their concept of minimalism yet super inspiring. You will agree with me that it is not only about creative decoration or fancy furniture, rather than that it transforms the traditional mindset which is, in this case, the traditional classroom where students are supposed to sit nicely during the lectures. Guess where am I taking this class?

You know what is Finland famous for, yes, it was a sauna room – a still working sauna room in which people put a big table, chairs, screen, and a board. I mean, it was fully equipped as a sauna room and as a class room. Combination of sauna and classroom, just too epic to be an innovative style. FYI Aalto students, it is in the Design Factory, which is already a cool place for you guy right?

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Our Sauna Classroom with a pool in the back, the sauna, and bathroom behind the black board 🙂

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“View” of the classroom

3. “Would you guys do me a favor?”

We started class at 9 am, but for the next day, our teacher wanted to start 1 hour earlier so that we get enough time to accommodate the whole content. He was like, what could I do for you guys so that you will be here tomorrow at 8 am? Cause I think we need 1 more hour to go over this and that… Breakfast! – someone responded. Well, that’s cheap solution – The teacher laughed.

The next day we were all at the school on time, happily waiting for the rest part of that workshop. It was raining heavily outside, this time we moved to another charming classroom in Otaniemi campus.

Just a little story but I really want to make it a point. We were not there at 8 am because of the breakfast, but the respect that our teacher naturally gave us when he discussed the issue. This makes a huge sense for me when comparing Westerner educational approach with what I have experienced back in Vietnam. To any teacher/lecturer/instructor who is reading this post, I hope that you will never misread your students’ perception about what is the education actually meant to them. Knowledge may need exams, tests to be measured (in our Vietnamese style), but respect can be felt, no matter how good a student is, and no matter how strict as a teacher you are.

4. The Pomodoro technique

During this class, we got a break every 30 or 60 minutes. Sometimes a break can be an exercise that we did in pairs, at anywhere we could reach outside the classroom. No matter how exciting students feel about the class, having a break serves their physical and psychological need. We also use break time to ask the teacher some more questions, reflect and share our thoughts with each other in a less formal way. For some others, they just need to free their mind in a few minutes before getting back.

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A pomodoro kitchen timer, after which the method is named

I have attended many classes in which the lecturers was running out of time, tried to talk faster, cut out some parts. Most of the time, I have seen those teachers being frustrated about that but the students (include me) seem to be relieved, cause the teacher was the only one who knows how important it was. Using Pomodoro technique to separate the lesson by short breaks do wonders for the learning outcome in many ways. If we use it flexibly, time management for a lecture might not be that big problem.

5. 101 playful ways of learning

The gamified classroom is another not-so-new concept. However, from my best observing, class organizers often devote so much to invent the games, but forget about the only rule of the real games: participating is voluntary. One could not deny the fact that the game has been designed for studying purpose, yet it does not mean that the one who observes others playing cannot learn anything. The perfect learning outcome from gamification is the combined reflection of both players and audiences.

What I have learned from the games in this class was that do not ever make a game be serious. Our teacher did invent the game right in the class (it was a series of plays in which he himself be an actor). Do it freely, flexibly and in a fun way. Do not name it a game then ask students one by one to take it. In fact, when we in this class was being told that not everyone has to do this (a game), some of us were relieved. But everyone ended up doing it without any hesitation – no one refused to have fun, meanwhile, to learn.

And because from this workshop, I have learned that there will be always 6 personality types in any group of people, I know one thing for sure: we don’t need to worry if no one volunteer to participate in the game, whatever game!

These are 5 important aspects of this delightful class that I wanted to share, not only for the sake of whoever desires course organizing practices but also as a reflection exercise I do for myself. I also warmly recommend you guys this summer course (follow AVP’s page please), or at least this particular class/workshop. I am not sure about sharing the instructor’s contact, but you can reach him via his new youtube channel which is NEGOTIATE – NEGOTI8   

Wake me up when September ends

HT

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