Language Centre Course Assistant Programme for international students

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There are course assistants in most of the Language Centre courses. Course assistants are international exchange or degree students who act as native peers for the local students learning assistant's native language. They work together with Language Centre teachers and help language learners e.g. with pronunciation, group work and discussion skills both in and out of the classroom.

The idea of the Course Assistant Programme is to invite international students who are native speakers of certain languages to assist in Language Centre teaching. This gives international students the opportunity to meet Finnish students, and it brings new aspects to language learning and teaching. Finnish students in turn get to know international students and learn more about their languages and cultures.

You can find the application form here.

Who can apply?

The Course Assistant Programme is for international exchange and degree students from all faculties who are interested in language learning and are native speakers of one of the following languages:

Arabic, Chinese, English*, French, Danish**, German, Icelandic**, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian**, Russian, Spanish, Swedish.

* If you wish to become a course assistant in English, being a native speaker of English is not a must, but you have to be a confident user of English (C1 level). You should also attend the Course Assistant Programme info session held in the beginning of each semester. For more information about the info session, please contact programme coordinator Lasse Ehrnrooth.

At the moment there are course assistants only in the Autonomous Language Learning Modules (ALMS courses). For ALMS course assistant applicants the info session is a must. There you'll meet with one of the teachers and receive information about ALMS and about the additional motivational letter all English assistant applicants must write.

** Students with Norwegian, Icelandic or Danish as their native language are also welcome to act as course assistants in some of the Language Centre Swedish courses, not as native peers, but as representatives of their own culture.

Depending on your native language it might also be possible to act as a native peer for the local students in some of the other language courses. In case you’re interested in this you should attend the Course Assistant Programme info session. For more information, please contact programme coordinator Lasse Ehrnrooth

NOTE: During autumn term 2019 there will be no OOTU assistant (description below) application round.

You can also apply to become an assistant for the Support for Teaching and Learning unit (OOTU). OOTU is responsible e.g. for the Course Assistant Programme. OOTU offers different kind of support for the Language Centre teachers regarding language teaching e.g. by offering a variety of in-Service training. As an OOTU course assistant you could be involved in:

  • organizing Language Clubs and other Language Centre activities aimed at students
  • assisting in OOTU’s different pedagogical in-service trainings for Language Centre teachers.

What makes a good course assistant?

Participating in this programme does not require any previous linguistic or pedagogical studies. However, some of the previous applicants have studied to become teachers and many have had different kinds of tutoring duties. You are expected to

  • be interested in language learning and meeting Finnish students.
  • be eager to teach your native language to others and tell about your culture.
  • be flexible and have a positive way of thinking.
  • like social activities.
  • have an active and independent approach to participating in Language Centre teaching.

What does a course assistant do?

Course assistants can be involved in various classroom and out-of-classroom activities and engaged in both beginners’ level courses and in more advanced ones. Assistant activities can include e.g. the following:

  • Conducting pronunciation practice and oral interaction in general
  • Participating in group work situations
  • Playing different roles as a native person in oral exams
  • Being available for conversations with students enrolled in Language Centre courses
  • Acting as online tutors, e.g. in Moodle, by participating in online group discussions etc.
  • Giving presentations about one's home country, culture and other suitable topics

The same assistant can be involved in various courses simultaneously with different teachers in the same language. The teacher and the assistant agree together on each assistant’s course(s) and activities. The assistant’s own ideas and interests are very welcome and taken into account.

The assistants keep track of their own working hours by filling in a log book. International students receive the log book with instructions when they are selected as course assistants.

The log book

What information should I include? Is there a template I can use?

The log book is a diary where all assistant working hours are recorded. In the log book you should write down what you have done, when, in which courses and with which teachers. All preparations you do for assistant activities are included as assistant working hours and should be recorded in your log book. We kindly recommend that you add your working hours to the log book on a regular basis.

You will find the log book template with instructions on the course assistant Moodle platform (please note that logging into the course assistant Moodle requires a course key; all course assistants receive this key from the coordinator via email). At the end of the assistantship, the log book needs to be submitted to the course assistant Moodle. Teachers can then access your log book and verify the work that you have done as an assistant.

What if I want to continue working as an assistant for another term?

If you have started as an assistant in the autumn term and you decide to continue as an assistant also during the next spring term, you will hand in your log book at the end of the spring term. You will simply continue filling in the same log book you have started in the autumn.

Where do I submit the log book?

The log books are submitted to Moodle where there are specific folders for each assistant language (assistants will be instructed on this in more detail). Keeping your log book up-to-date and posting it back to Moodle is necessary in order for you to receive your ECTS credits and certificate for the programme.

How much work is required?

It depends entirely on how many hours a week you can invest in this programme. Your own study schedule at the University of Helsinki is the most important one. The teacher and the assistant will always plan together which course(s) the assistant participates in and how often, as well as decide the assistant's role. It is important that the assistant is well aware of the target audiences' skill levels and what is expected of him/her. 

Normally Language Centre language courses run twice a week (2 x double lesson) for the whole semester and some assistants participate in both sessions every week, some only the other. You can estimate the number of ECTS credits (1 = ca 27 hours) that you will receive from this programme when you plan the assisting activities with a teacher.

As an assistant, you should be independent and active; contact the teacher face-to-face or by email should you have any questions or comments or if anything is unclear.

What does a course assistant gain from completing the programme?

Students can receive 1 - 4 ECTS credit(s) for their work as an assistant. 1 credit is equal to about 27 hours of assistant work.

The number of credits depends on the time you can invest in this programme, but it also varies greatly between languages. For some languages there are more courses available and also more assistance needed, but for some languages there are only a few courses available per semester and therefore also less assistance needed.

One lesson (45 min) is calculated as one assistant working hour. This means that the basic Language Centre double teaching session (2 x 45 min) is equal to two assistant working hours. Assistant working hours also include all preparation work or assistant activities outside the classes, e.g. hosting pronunciation clinics.

Keep your log book up-to-date and contact the coordinator and the teacher who you are working with as soon as you notice that you might not be able to gain enough hours needed for the number of credits you are aiming for. If the ECTS credits are important to you, ask your home university whether you can get these credits added to your degree.

Being a course assistant also presents international students with a great opportunity to meet Finnish students and work with Language Centre teachers. It’s also a good opportunity for the assistants to practice their presentation, group work and cooperation skills in varying situations in language learning and teaching contexts.

Info session

An info session about the Course Assistant Programme is organized in the beginning of each semester. All international students who are interested in this programme and are native speakers of one of the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Danish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish or Russian are welcome to attend!

The info session for the upcoming autumn semester 2019

Friday 6 September 2019 from 15:15 to 16:45 at the Language Centre, Fabianinkatu 26, room 115, 1st. floor.

IMPORTANT: Register here for the info session before Friday 30 August 2019 (coffee and tea will be served).


How to apply?

The application period for the Course Assistant Programme runs in the beginning of each semester.

The application period for the following autumn term 2019 starts on Friday 6 September 2019 and ends three days later, 9 September 2019.

You can find the application form here.

Please note that this programme is for University of Helsinki's international exchange and degree students who are interested in language learning and are native speakers of one of the following languages: ArabicChinese, English*FrenchDanishGermanIcelandicItalianJapaneseKorean, NorwegianRussianSpanishSwedish.

** If you wish to become a course assistant in English, being a native speaker of English is not a must, but you have to be a confident user of English (C1 level). You must also attend the Course Assistant Programme info session held in the beginning of the semester. For more information about the info session, please contact programme coordinator Lasse Ehrnrooth.

In some languages potential candidates are interviewed by a teacher of the language in question. The number of assistants that can be taken into different language groups and courses varies greatly. For some languages, the Language Centre offers many courses on many different levels, and for others only a few courses per year. The need for having an assistant also depends on the course level and the group size, e.g., for some courses a teacher can have more than one assistant simultaneously.

For more information about applying, please contact the programme coordinator Lasse Ehrnrooth.