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The background of the article lies in South Eastern Finland, in Lappeenranta, where an active University campus has attracted a group of ICT startups as well as SME’s in the field to collaboration. The novel education approach also has another remarkable role as a developer and source of innovation. An experimental development ecosystem (EDE), where learning of knowledge, skills and character are combined, is presented in the article. Also future paths of the EDE are discussed. Companies in the ICT field worldwide are in constant need of competent experts who are ready to adopt the new tools and, at the same time, have an entrepreneurial mindset. We argue that inspiring students to learn through appropriate learning methods and providing them with a modern learning environment comes first. ICT tools, applications and systems to support learning objectives come second. The model presented in the article has been studied for some years as action research. The learning methods that have been found beneficial in IT and marketing bachelor education have been spread to other bachelor and master study programs as well. Results from the data show that students who study as team entrepreneurs have learned content knowledge, meta-skills and reflection skills via the learner-centric methods used in EDE. They have also been inspired to employ new ICT tools and applications to support their learning and project work.
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www.astesj.com 82
A Perfect Ecosystem for Learning? Modern Thoughts for Organizing Higher Education
Pasi Juvonen*, Anu Kurvinen
Business and Culture, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, 53850, Lappeenranta, Finland
A R T I C L E I N F O
A B S T R A C T
Article history:
Received: 31 October, 2017
Accepted: 09 January, 2018
Online: 30 January, 2018
The background of the article lies in South Eastern Finland, in Lappeenranta, where an
active University campus has attracted a group of ICT startups as well as SME’s in the field
to collaboration. The novel education approach also has another remarkable role as a
developer and source of innovation. An experimental development ecosystem (EDE), where
learning of knowledge, skills and character are combined, is presented in the article. Also
future paths of the EDE are discussed. Companies in the ICT field worldwide are in
constant need of competent experts who are ready to adopt the new tools and, at the same
time, have an entrepreneurial mindset. We argue that inspiring students to learn through
appropriate learning methods and providing them with a modern learning environment
comes first. ICT tools, applications and systems to support learning objectives come second.
The model presented in the article has been studied for some years as action research. The
learning methods that have been found beneficial in IT and marketing bachelor education
have been spread to other bachelor and master study programs as well. Results from the
data show that students who study as team entrepreneurs have learned content knowledge,
meta-skills and reflection skills via the learner-centric methods used in EDE. They have
also been inspired to employ new ICT tools and applications to support their learning and
project work.
Keywords :
experimental development
ecosystem, team
entrepreneurship, team learning
1. Introduction
This article is an extension of the work originally presented in
Educon 2017 in Athens in April 2017 [1].
The change in digitalization has been rapid and the change
speed has been increasing during the recent decade. Since
Facebook, we have seen plenty of new platform business models.
Only some of them have succeeded and have been able to capture
value for themselves. However, those who have succeeded have
been able to capture themselves almost the whole market.
At the same time, many conventional businesses have run into
severe challenges caused by rapid digitalization. To give an
example, The Finnish Posti a post delivery company owned by
the government has in recent years laid off employees due the
diminishing amount of traditional mail deliveries. At the same
time, agile delivery companies have challenged the Finnish Posti
by offering customers faster delivery and several add-on services.
The Finnish Posti has tried to find new business elsewhere, e.g.
from lawn moving services to offering basic health care services.
Another example is the Finnish national railway company VR
Group, which has held a monopoly for a long time (over 150
years). During the recent years, discussion about free competition
in railway traffic has increased, and current plans may be deployed
in the 2020s. Already, these plans have caused major
reorganizations and layoffs within the VR Group.
There are more such examples found elsewhere in the world,
e.g. Eastman/Kodak. When we consider what will happen in
higher education, we can foresee what is going to happen in the
future. How will platforms such as Khan Academy, Coursera and
Udemy, and other more sophisticated platforms developed after
them, change the current education systems? How many teachers
will be needed in future to teach basic principles of programming,
for example, when high-quality content can be freely loaded via
learning platforms?
For us as educators and researchers an important question is:
Are we going to build a shelter and try to resist the change, or
would it be wiser to build a windmill and try to utilize the winds
of change as well as possible?
ASTESJ
ISSN: 2415-6698
*Corresponding Author: Pasi Juvonen, Email: pasi.juvonen@saimia.fi
Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering Systems Journal Vol. 3, No. 1, 82-93 (2018)
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Special issue on Advancement in Engineering Technology
P. Juvonen et al. / Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering Systems Journal Vol. 3, No. 1, 82-93 (2018)
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In the world of today, there is plenty of information available.
Thus, one has to be able to think critically, have skills to synthesize
and put the information into action in a wise way. According to
Fadel et al. [2], in order to deepen the learning process in the three
essential dimensions knowledge, skills and character qualities
an important dimension is needed meta-learning. This means that
there are some internal processes required for our learning, namely
reflection and adaptation of our learning. Figure 1 presents the
framework for the 21st century learner and for the curriculum
redesign that tries to answer to these needs.
Our practical experiences with the same philosophy started
several years ago. We a group of lecturers - decided to start
building a learning environment which would enable utilizing
knowledge gained from different sources, combine theory,
learning by doing and reflection, and make rapid changes possible
when learning needs a change, without rethinking and redesigning
the whole curriculum. This learning environment also provides
practical measures to show students’ progress.
The current curriculum (presented in section 2.1) is a result
from coaching altogether 11 student teams comprising altogether
more than 150 students from two areas of specialization -
information technology and marketing. The development of the
curriculum took place in 2009 - 2016. Since its early steps in
2009, this learning environment has expanded into a learning
ecosystem that we call Experimental Development Ecosystem
(EDE). This article describes the ecosystem and its pedagogical
background, how the learning is organized within it, and the
operational level practices that enable it. In this article, we
present and discuss our current state of the art with the EDE,
ongoing development activities as well as future development
paths.
The article is organized as follows. Chapter 2 presents the
results from a literature study about the requirements in bachelor
education in Finland and in the OECD context. It also presents the
current state of the art with the Experimental Development
Ecosystem. Chapter 3 discusses data collection and data analysis.
Chapter 4 lists some observations based on the data, and finally,
Chapter 5 summarizes the findings and discusses our probable
future paths on the subject.
2. Rapid changes will require rearrangements in
organizing learning environments
Discussion on a right balance between studying explicit
content that will, depending on the subject, easily become out-of-
date, and meta-skills that are useful but, at the same time, may
leave learners with an experience of not learning anything specific
has been going on for a long time. Skills that are easy to teach and
learning that is easily measured involve skills that are easily
automated [3]. We are, to a certain extent, educating young people
for future professions that do not exist when decisions about
students’ curricula are made. These new professions emerge (and
some others disappear) while students are studying for their
diploma.
Learning is less about reproducing content knowledge. It is
more about extrapolating what we know in novel situations [3]. In
future, more employees with versatile skills are needed and, at the
same time, fewer specialists with deep expertise in one subject are
needed. Communal learning skills and team working in
multidisciplinary working groups or teams are important [3].
The demands presented for undergraduate education are
versatile. Based on a study of literature [3-10], an undergraduate
student needs at least the following skills:
team working
communal learning
problem solving
creativity and innovativeness
critical thinking
decision making
leadership and self-leadership
shared expertise
reflection on one’s values, and social and emotional skills.
At the same time, learning environments built for supporting
learning should
offer versatile methods for learning
diminish teacher-led methods
provide coaching for the constantly changing world
foster entrepreneurship
enable running pilots (e.g. establishing cooperatives).
[3-10].
To get an overall picture of what should be considered when
organizing higher education in 2017, we looked for a framework
for identifying knowledge, skills, meta-level skills and methods.
We also wanted to make a cross-section of the EDE compared to
other frameworks. The framework we chose is presented in Figure
1.
Figure 1. The framework for 21st century education by Centre for Curriculum
Redesign [2].
According to [8], there are four forces that lead the learners
towards new ways of learning for life in the 21st century. These
forces are:
1. Knowledge work employees who use brain power as well as
digital tools for creating new solutions collaboratively in
teams
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2. Thinking tools knowledge workers use a set of digital tools,
devices and services
3. Digital lifestyles todays student generations are born into the
digital society, and grow up with the digital devices
4. Learning research the latest research on learning during the
last three decades has deepened the understanding of learning
processes (See [34 37], [39-40], and [51-60] for more)
2.1. State of the art at our UAS Experimental Development
Ecosystem (EDE)
Since 2009 we have been developing a new learning
environment, combining studying content knowledge (theory),
learning by doing (practice), and employing dialogue [11, 12] in
knowledge sharing, knowledge creation and reflection. Together
with several local companies and municipalities, we have been
able to build the Experimental Development Ecosystem. The
current ecosystem offers our undergraduate students an excellent
platform for both studying content knowledge, applying this
knowledge in real customer projects, and reflecting what has been
learned by doing with other team members and the team coach.
Since 2013 we have been developing the EDE in parallel with
several RDI projects supported by the Finnish Funding Agency for
Innovation (TEKES), Saimaa UAS and LUT University. An
“easy-to-start” cooperation between stakeholder groups with little
or no thresholds has been a cornerstone for the further development
of the EDE.
The EDE was originally created and developed as a social
innovation; it is a novel way to organize bachelor education for IT
and Business Administration students specializing in marketing at
Saimaa UAS. Tiimiakatemia [13] in Jyväskylä and Proakatemia
[14] in Tampere were studied as models of how the core structures
of team learning can be established. Both of the above academies
are specialized in entrepreneurship. An extensive study of how
team learning and team entrepreneurship has been organized at
Saimaa UAS with IT students to support entrepreneurship
education was carried out by Juvonen in 2014 [15].
In 2014 there was no other learning environment designed to
support entrepreneurship education in IT Bachelor education [15].
The current employment of the EDE seems to be the only
implementation of team entrepreneurship where a student can
specialize in marketing (other deployments focus on
entrepreneurship overall) and study as a team entrepreneur
combining theory, practice and reflections within the EDE.
Studies on learning environments designed for supporting
entrepreneurship education in higher education [16- 31], focus on
promoting entrepreneurship by fostering either the mindset or
skills needed in entrepreneurship, or focus on increasing the status
of entrepreneurship as a career choice. Most of the studies we
found from Scopus and Science Direct databases (from year 2010
until now) had a narrow focus either on a single course or group of
students or a certain technique to foster entrepreneurial skills or
thinking. We summarized these studies as follows:
- Applications, tools and methods for fostering
entrepreneurial mindset, skills or intentions [19 25]
- Evaluation of entrepreneurship education programs
overall [26, 27], perceived of value of entrepreneurship
education program [27], evaluation of methods used in
entrepreneurship education [28]
- How demand and supply meet on entrepreneurship
education [30 - 32]
- Student entrepreneurship [33]
Applications with quite a similar approach than the EDE
described in this study were found only at Lund University in
Sweden and at University of Southern Denmark [18]. At Lund
University, practice-based courses and projects are offered, and
best practices are spread within an entrepreneurial ecosystem. At
the University of Southern Denmark, there are many
entrepreneurship education related courses, where different
learning methods are used. Most of them are extra-curricular
courses, which complicates student participation. Furthermore,
basic concepts are taught in a conservative way and practical issues
are learned via intensive courses, or via “real entrepreneurs” as
visiting lecturers. An active reflection process has been found
effective to unleash creative and innovative thinking potential [18].
Students in these two applications are not studying as team
entrepreneurs, so they are not running and developing their own
enterprise while they are studying. Rather they are participating in
a series of teacher-led courses. Based on these differences, the
current deployment of the EDE described in this study is
considered as a novel approach to entrepreneurship education.
Also concepts of transformational learning [34] have been
applied to service-learning while performing service work in [35].
The EDE is more than a team learning environment (Figure 2).
Figure 2. The Experimental Development Ecosystem. Adapted from [36].
The novelty of our approach (the EDE) is in combination of
several factors. At the same time this combinations derives the
EDE from the approaches found in literature. These factors are as
follows:
- Students learn as team entrepreneurs by running a
company (a cooperative) they own by themselves
- Focus for students is on specializing in learning marketing
in versatile ways
- Experimental learning is emphasized - theory, practice and
reflection is involved all the time
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- A team coaching process where team development, team
performance, and team leadership body of knowledge is
applied to support learning
- Several stakeholder groups are involved in the
implementation of the EDE
- Continuous cooperation between team entrepreneurs,
team coaches, and researchers
- The curriculum has been rebuild to support the team
learning and team entrepreneurship and it is further
developed based on the experiences gained
Currently, Business Administration students who choose to
specialize in marketing study their first year in a conventional way,
enrolling on conventional study courses. After choosing the
specialization in marketing, they continue their studies for two and
half years as team entrepreneurs (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Overview of the curriculum for marketing students studying as team
entrepreneurs.
The students who choose to specialize in marketing establish a
team enterprise (in the form of a cooperative) and run its operations
together during their studies. Their studies consist of studying
theory (reading books and articles), carrying out customer projects
for real customers for real money, and trainings, where a team
coach (personnel of Saimaa UAS) coaches the team members and
the team enterprise for team development and performance.
Progress of the team entrepreneurs’ studies is measured by five
practical measures. Four of these measures show the balance
between theory, learning by doing, and sharing knowledge, and
reflection. These measures are:
- amount of book points (3 book points equal to 1 ECTS
point)
- amount of trainings (in hours, 133 hours equal to 5 ECTS
points)
- amount of projects (in hours, 80 hours equal to 3 ECTS
points)
- amount of innovation assignments (in hours, 80 hours
equal to 3 ECTS points).
To give an example, when a team entrepreneur participates in
every training session, which take place twice a week, she will get
5 ECTS points for trainings in a half year. Furthermore, when a
team entrepreneur works for 16 hours per week in projects, she
gets about 6 ECTS points for projects in a half year. Innovation
sessions are held at least twice a year, and participating in them
increased the ECTS points. The amount of book points is the only
individual measure for the team entrepreneurs. Every team
entrepreneur has to complete at least 102 book points, which
equals 34 ECTS points. This means that every team entrepreneur
has to read at least two business books per month. Book trainings
are held twice a month, and those who have read a book and
returned a book essay before a book training session are allowed
to participate.
The measures described above produce the overall results that
are monitored at Saimaa UAS, i.e. the numbers of students who
complete at least 55 ECTS points per academic year (1.8 31.7).
This measure is used by the Finnish Ministry of Education and
Culture to monitor study progress in every university of applied
sciences in Finland.
The team entrepreneurs are an important element of the
ecosystem as collaboration partners and as a scalable source of
creativity and innovativeness. Several team entrepreneurs have
been recruited already during their studies by local companies.
When a company and a team entrepreneur start cooperation on a
customer project and continue cooperating on an internship
scheme and/or Bachelor’s thesis project, it is common, based on
our experiences, to continue cooperation after the student has
graduated.
The curriculum has been adjusted to make close cooperation
with local companies and other organizations possible and fluent.
When local companies and other organizations are not able to
produce the knowledge they need on their own, they can ask team
enterprises for help. A usual method of helping the local
organizations is an innovation assignment (IA in Figure 2), where
new knowledge is produced within a 12- or 24-hour time limit.
Methods of experimental development are used in these
assignments in order to create fast, concrete and applicable
development ideas based on companies’ current needs.
Innovation assignments serve several purposes. For local
organizations, they function as a method of rapidly testing their
assumptions on a certain topic. For team entrepreneurs, they
provide an environment to develop problem-solving skills.
Moreover, the assignments function as a measure of team
development and substance skills. For all parties, the innovation
assignments make it possible to find further cooperation
opportunities. In most cases, the organizations participating in an
IA will become cooperation partners in the EDE. Sometimes they
also take part in RDI projects. Prototypes and/or concepts are usual
outcomes of IA’s, and prototyping is an important step in an
experimental development process. This is the phase that can make
a difference in comparison to the traditional workshops where the
ideas are easily forgotten after the workshop. It is also easier for
the client company to understand the idea and its possibilities for
the company after seeing the prototype.
Also research, development, and innovation (RDI) projects
support the current EDE model by offering team entrepreneurs
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opportunities to work as research assistants. As research assistants,
they learn about research methods, gain an understanding of
organizing research processes and ways of producing value for
local companies [15]. Acting as research assistants in an RDI
project has led to employment via internships and/or Bachelors’
thesis projects.
2.2. Pedagogics used in the Experimental Development
Ecosystem (EDE)
The pedagogics used in the EDE follow ideally the cycle of
learning as described by Kolb [37], where learning is described as
a process: Firstly, concrete experience is gained, and as the next
step in the process, the experience is reflected on. After that comes
learning from the experience through abstract conceptualization,
and finally testing the newly adopted knowledge and skills
through active experimentation.
Figure 4. Cycle of learning, adapted from [35].
In constructivism, the learning of a human being is
understood as a constant process where individuals are learning
or creating their own understanding based on interaction between
what they already know and believe, and ideas and knowledge
with which they come into contact [38]. Constructivist learning
involves at least the following five areas: 1) the educator’s
attention to the learners, the students and their backgrounds, 2)
dialogue facilitation with the group with the purpose of creating a
shared understanding of the topic, 3) planned or unplanned
introduction of formal theory into the discussion, 4) creating
opportunities for the students to challenge or change the existing
beliefs and conceptions by using tasks that are structured in a way
that makes this possible, and 5) developing students awareness
of their level of understanding and the learning process [39]. In
addition to constructivism, team learning, as well as open and
honest dialogue, are proven to support the learning objectives.
In the EDE pedagogics, the complexity of companies’
operating environments can be learned via concrete experience.
At the same time, the theories learned are linked to the reality.
Here the principles of building an innovative learning
organization are utilized [40]. When considering the current needs
of the ICT field, ICT students require more insight into business
operations, and practicing business. One way of supporting this is
working together in shared projects with team entrepreneur
students. Working in multi-disciplinary and heterogeneous
project groups is analogous to working life experience, as project
teams consist of experts from different fields. Reflection is an
elemental part of the learning process and reflective dialogue is
used as a pedagogical tool for deepening the learning experience.
The researchers working in the ecosystem support the learning
process, as they help the students in abstract conceptualization of
the phenomena learned. The persons working in the ecosystem
need coaching skills that can be applied to the EDE’s needs as is
required.
These modern thoughts about higher education will also
require new skills from those who are employing the system with
students. Instead of transferring information to the team
entrepreneurs, the emphasis in the team coach’s work is rather on
helping the process of team development and facilitation of the
learning of the information and skills that the team members need
for their collaboration and learning (see [41] for more). These
teamwork skills and competencies include adaptability, shared
situational awareness, performance monitoring and feedback,
leadership and team management, interpersonal relations,
coordination, communication, and decision making. When these
are managed with success, high commitment to learning can be
achieved. High commitment usually leads to high performance
[42].
A team coach should also make oneself familiar with
different styles of consultation. These styles include acceptant,
catalytic, confrontational, and prescriptive styles [43]. In the
acceptant style, feelings are involved, and this style can be
described as emphatic listening. The catalytic style helps the
coachee to make decisions. In the confrontational style, the team
coach points out what will follow if the coachee continues with
her current behavior. The prescriptive style is common in
conventional pedagogics. It gives direct advice; however, it does
not offer the coachee any opportunity for growth. All these styles
are needed in team coaching.
3. Data collection and analysis
The research framework for investigating all the development
activities concerning the Experimental Development Ecosystem
has been action research [44, 45]. During September 2015
September 2017 there were several mini-cycles where designed
development activities were carried out in different parts of the
EDE, and the team entrepreneurs were active participants in many
of these development activities.
The outcome of these development activities was monitored
through participative observation. The team coaches are active
agents for change when they act with student team entrepreneurs.
By choosing to use qualitative methods of inquiry, the authors
have, at the same time, committed themselves to continuous
reflection of their own values and how they affect the research.
The field notes have provided valuable qualitative data, which
has been analyzed with other researchers. Two other team coaches
have been involved in the sense-making process of how to utilize
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the current EDE in ICT education and how to foster cooperation
between team entrepreneurs specialized in marketing and ICT
bachelor students.
Survey and theme-based interviews during a one-year period
between 10/2016 - 9/2017, followed by participative observation,
have served as the main data collection methods for the study. An
overview of the collected data for the study is presented in Table
1.
Table 1: Overview of the data.
Data
collection
method
Amount
Timeline
More information
Theme-
based
interviews
12
10/2016
13 specialists in 12
interviews, from
different stakeholder
groups involved with
the EDE, were
interviewed to find
out development
targets for the EDE.
Participative
observation
sessions
Over 50
Training
sessions, four
hours twice a
week between
9/2016
9/2017
Team coach acts as
an active agent for
development and
provides examples of
digital tools for team
entrepreneurs.
Theme-
based
interviews
34
3/2016
9/2017, lasted
15 40 minutes
Evaluation of the role
of the ICT / Digital
tools and reflections
on why and how
team entrepreneurs
have been deploying
them.
Survey
14
replies
8/2017
9/2017
E-mail survey
followed by
interviews as a part
of development
discussions.
Methodologically, this article is a partly descriptive and partly
explorative case study [46, 47]. It presents the current
implementation of the EDE, explores its possible development
paths, and finally describes how the ICT Bachelor curriculum
could benefit from it.
The basic assumption of the authors is that every research is
value-laden and biased. By choosing to use qualitative methods for
the inquiry, the authors have, at the same time, committed
themselves to continuous reflection on their own values and how
they affect the research. In this study, the objective has been the
further development of the current EDE and integration of the ICT
Bachelor education into it at some level. Therefore, there is an
inbuilt bias in the observations and interventions made. However,
the authors present the interpretation based on the analysis and the
process of conducting research transparently and leave judgement
of the validity of study to the reader.
The results of the study have been discussed with three team
coaches and two researchers. Luckily, the team coaches share an
office at the campus. This has helped to test inner validation of the
observations made based on the interviews. The data for the article
consists of qualitative interview material (12 specialist interviews
with open-ended questions, notes on direct and participative
observations, 10+ steering group meetings, researcher workshops,
other workshops and meetings), and several unofficial discussions
with colleagues and administrative staff at the Saimaa UAS
campus and elsewhere where the authors have been actively
involved in development activities.
Multiple sources of data and close cooperation between the two
authors made it possible to utilize both investigator triangulation
and data triangulation [48]. The triangulation of data and
researchers has helped to test inner validation of the observations
made based on the interviews and participative observation
sessions. The data was analyzed applying the principles of
grounded theory [49, 50]. The grounded theory analysis includes
three main phases: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding
[49], and the method requires the researcher theoretical sensitivity
[51]. The researcher cannot force the data, but instead she has to
let the data “speak”. Naturally, this phase is extremely hard in
cases where interviewers have a lot of pre-existing knowledge
about the subject studied. The process can be made easier by
asking the same open-ended questions about the subject studied
from all the interviewees and carefully listening to and reporting
their expressions.
In the open coding phase, interesting phenomena in the data
were highlighted. In this study, the interview notes were first
gathered into one text file and then analyzed by the two
researchers. In the axial coding phase, the interesting phenomena
marked in the open coding phase were grouped and their relations
(causal and other) were analyzed. In the selective coding phase, a
lot of data was abandoned, the core of the results - “What is going
on here?” - was taken, and the research reports were written. An
example of axial coding phase where i.e. associations and causal
relations were searched by visualizing interesting phenomena with
Atlas.ti software is presented in figure 5.
Figure 5. Axial coding with Atlas.ti code network view.
As mentioned above, the grounded theory analysis lets the data
speak, and therefore no pre-existing theory is needed. In an ideal
case, the grounded theory analysis is purely inductive. In practice,
there always exists little or more pre-existing knowledge and bias
related to the research subject. To be exact, a target to develop
something is already a strong bias. Who defines development?
Development for one stakeholder group may be stagnation for
another group. When discussing values and biases, the best we can
do as researchers is to be as open as possible about the motives we
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recognize in ourselves. In this study, the researchers had a strong
vision of how ICT Bachelor education should be organized in
future. However, the interviewees were asked open-ended
questions about the subject, and the results are presented as they
are with no value-laden interpretations added.
Open coding and axial coding phases went on in parallel.
During the open coding and axial coding phases, a constant
comparative method and theoretical sampling [51, 52] were used.
The use of the constant comparative method meant that when an
interesting phenomenon was found later during data collection, all
the earlier data was screened again to see if the phenomenon was
found there, too. Theoretical sampling was used to collect more
data on phenomena where more explanation was needed. The data
was collected until a theoretical saturation was achieved. The use
of the constant comparative method and theoretical sampling
increased the researchers’ interaction with the data. The selective
coding phase also started early and parallel with the axial coding
phase. The saturation of the new data [51] took place early, which
meant that there was no need for extra interviews on that subject.
A new tool for making word clouds was used to visualize part of
the data (see Figure 4 for more details).
During the first round of interviews made with stakeholder
groups, two seed categories [52] emerged during the open coding
phase: 1) creating interdisciplinary interaction during ICT
education, and 2) entrepreneurial mindset and its value. Based on
an analysis of these seed categories and combined with the analysis
of the new field notes (including memos, emails, book essays, and
observation data) between January 2016 and mid November 2016,
a pattern of “Where should we be heading?” was written. The
results were published in a conference article in the Educon 2017
conference in Athens, Greece on 27th April 2017.
At the same time when employing designed actions to the
Experimental Development Ecosystem learned from the previous
study, two new research questions were chosen for this study:
1. What are the learning experiences when dialogue is used
as learning method?
2. How new ICT tools and applications have been utilized by
team entrepreneurs during the first year?
Between mid of November 2016 and mid November 2017,
plentiful new data was gathered and analyzed. This data collection
comprised two interview rounds as part of the team entrepreneurs’
development discussions, over 50 training sessions (where team
entrepreneurs and the team coach were present), and a survey. The
survey was presented to the team entrepreneurs face to face and
they were able to ask further questions about the purpose of
reflecting on these issues. The team entrepreneurs were asked to
evaluate their dialogue skills, make observations on dialogue in
other groups they had visited, and describe how they had employed
ICT tools in their project work. The expressions made by 14
interviewees were later observed in training sessions, project
reflection sessions, and finally by end products made with the ICT
tools that had been utilized.
4. Observations based on the data
In general, the majority of the interviewees within our
stakeholder groups shared the opinion that the ecosystem model
(EDE) in modern education is a response to many challenges in the
employment of the newly graduated, and at the same time it is a
way to pave the way to embarking the working career smoothly
after studies. The students early adoption of an open view of the
real business life was generally seen as a positive and novel way
of educating experts for the business world, where the described
individual capabilities are appreciated by employees.
Entrepreneurial mindset and thinking as a driving force for
students was seen as a positive feature to be maintained in
education. The necessity of establishing a cooperative and working
as team entrepreneurs was seen differently among the
interviewees. Some of the interviewees from Saimaa UAS did not
see that learning to run an enterprise would bring much value to
ICT students. The interviewees from industry, however, saw that
learning to think and operate as entrepreneurs would be one of the
most important topics to learn overall.
As the most promising pathways, the interviewees saw the
possibilities of interdisciplinary interaction between marketing and
ICT students, who all are familiarized with the ICT business and
the ICT customers’ businesses. During the studies, the two student
groups could make use of each other’s specialty areas by
participating in shared projects either in RDI or in business
collaboration projects. As the study aims at understanding the
future requirements for a competent ICT education, several ICT
company representatives were interviewed. As a way to prepare
competent future employees for the ICT field, the interviewed ICT
companies mentioned a possibility to participate directly in the
education of ICT students via both direct education activities and
placement opportunities or shared customer projects in RDI, for
example. This would create a firm an efficient recruitment process
with less need for training the newly recruited personnel.
The interviewees that have graduated from the team
entrepreneurship ecosystem or are currently studying marketing in
that environment had positive experiences of this type of an
education system. The most important and positive feature
mentioned was learning through real business cases. The most
valuable part in the model was the early networking with
businesses. After graduation, it has been easy to find a job relating
to the field of studies. At least, this different form of studies in a
cooperative has proven a positively differentiating factor in job
applications.
ICT business is mostly a project-based business where
experience and an entrepreneurial mindset are a benefit as such.
The current marketing team entrepreneurs have started to build
also cooperation with students from different sectors of education
within Saimaa UAS to be able to expand their domain knowledge.
Making oneself familiar with different contexts where marketing
activities (and ICT) are carried out is another example of a
positively differentiating factor for the job applicant.
The ICT education ecosystem and ICT education in general
need to respond to the changing skill requirements in the industry.
In the EDE this can be promoted by involving the ICT sector in the
constant development of the study programme and in the education
activities in special projects. This would ideally result in long-term
interaction between the ICT industry and the Saimaa University of
Applied Sciences (SUAS) and the students. In some cases, even
weekly co-operation between the ICT companies and the coach
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and students would form a mutually beneficial cooperation model
supporting a high level of motivation among both the students and
the ICT companies. When mutual benefits exist and the captured
value will be fairly shared between the parties, the cooperation will
sustain itself.
There were some concerns towards the coached team learning
and team entrepreneurship model raised in the interviews. In
general, the team coaches have a key role and they are responsible
for ensuring that the students are provided with the basic
capabilities required in the education programme at a University
of Applied Sciences. It was also stated that this type of a learning
method is not ideal for students who still have to grow in order to
mature for the responsibility and self-leadership skills that are
required by the learning style. The entrance examination for the
students was seen as one important step in this process. Also, the
new ICT education should be marketed as a more interdisciplinary
education program that is not too much technically oriented in
order to lure the business oriented people with a high motivation
for fast career building.
As the student teams operate in groups or as working teams, it
would be beneficial if the different team roles could be consciously
tested by each student. This would help the young students safely
test their own personal strengths, which would be a supporting
factor in building the students professional self-esteem. As all
companies, also the student teams have to set goals for their actions
and all the steps during the studies should be taking the team
towards the goals. It is not enough to act as active since that does
not suffice to develop the situation. Supporting the building of
students’ versatile knowledge base requires a broad scale of
practical learning projects, which has to be ensured during the
studies. Here, the role of the team coach is emphasized again. A
frequent presentation discussion of the learning goals and how they
have (or have not) been achieved is crucial.
In the Business Administration degree program, the number of
students who complete 55 ECTS points per year has been
monitored since 2014 when criteria for funding University of
Applied Sciences was changed. However, the measuring criteria
were changed again in 2016, so we do not yet have enough new
data to be able to make valid arguments about overall results. In
the academic year 2015 2016, the overall result in achieving 55
ECTS points in the Business Administration and International
Business degree programs (measured together) was 57.1 % (68.1
% with team entrepreneurs). In the academic year 2016-2017, the
figures were 61.3 % (58.7%) respectively. The measuring system
is now being updated to be able to provide more accurate data in
future.
Even though we do not have enough performance data yet from
team entrepreneurs’ studying within the EDE, we are able to argue
something. One of the biggest worries at the beginning of team
learning and team entrepreneurship was how the increased
freedom of students in choosing what they study and when will
affect the performance measured in ECTS points. With this small
amount of data we are able to argue that the pedagogics used with
the EDE is working and no one has to worry about the performance
metrics.
Two of the interviewees strongly emphasized that in future the
EDE should emphasize the role of internationalization of students
and companies cooperating in the EDE. This kind of organization
of learning, development, and research activities is not familiar
elsewhere and therefore the EDE ideas should be exported to other
countries as well. The main strengths that this kind of ICT
education would offer include the digital thinking ofDigi-native”
generations together with marketing capabilities. These make a
combination that a successful and competitive international
business requires. The students would also, right from the
beginning, start to understand that their future work will be part of
someone’s business – if not their own.
4.1. Towards a perfect ecosystem of learning
The key findings, as also described in pedagogic research
literature that have proved to be successful in the researched EDE
model are the following: authentic learning, mental model
building, internal motivation, multiple intelligences as well as
social learning. The curriculum applied in Saimaa UAS, as well as
the piloted methodology applied on certain study courses, aims at
developing skills needed when coping with the complexities of the
21st century: team working skills, communal learning skills,
problem solving skills, leadership and self-leadership skills as well
as innovativeness, shared expertise, and ability to reflect on one’s
own values and attitude.
These suggestions follow the advice from studies on how to
build great teams. They suggest that energy (how team members
contribute to a team as a whole), engagement (how team members
communicate with one another), and exploration (how teams
communicate with one another) are crucial factors for teams’
success [53]. Furthermore, when quality of communication
includes balance of advocacy and inquiry, a lot of positive
feedback and true interest in others’ opinions [54], there are many
of the required elements available to develop great teams.
Applications selected should support the objectives listed here, and
this means they cannot be selected from a teacher-centric
viewpoint.
Students experiences from learning dialogue skills are proving
that practicing dialogue in a safe environment gives them valuable
communication exercise. It also supports the readiness for dialogue
of the future company developers. Within one year’s time every
respondent said that there is development gained in one’s own
dialogue skills. Several respondents stated that they already are
good at listening to other students. Several stated that they have
learned to express their own opinions in the group. Based on
external working life experiences, some students also had noticed
that in many companies the leadership culture does not encourage
dialogue at all. These future employees will be motivated as well
as committed when they are part of a team where dialogue exists.
4.2. Where there’s a will there’s a way – A practical view of
communication technologies and platforms.
A framework for making interpretations based on the
qualitative data analysis for research question 2 had four phases:
1. Notes from interview data (What tools were said to be
employed?)
2. Direct and participative observation in training sessions
(What tools were actually employed in practice and by
who?)
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3. Reflection of what was learned (Who actually participated
to implementation of new tools? How tools were selected?
Why tools were abandoned?)
4. What outputs were done for customers (Videos, web-sites,
etc.) with the ICT tools employed?
These phases helped to validate our findings. When a team
entrepreneur expressed in an interview (1) that she was interested
to learn a new tool for making videos, later discussed in training
session (2) about utilizing the tool in a customer project, reflected
the use of same tool when a project was completed (3), and finally
the a video was publicly available (4) in social media platform
we were able to validate integrity of our chain of making
interpretations. An example of how these 14 cases were analyzed
is presented in figure 6.
Figure 6. An example of qualitative data analysis, case #9
Based on our current experience, better utilization of tools and
applications is not limited by availability of ICT tools and
applications. Rather, it is limited by individual differences in the
will to share information about one’s working. Sharing work-
related information is a much more sensitive issue than it is usually
expected to be. This very same phenomenon limits the use of many
other ICT systems as well. Every time when there is competition
of projects within teams or departments of the same organization,
openness in sharing information is limited. Only part of the
employees are willing to share their business contacts via the
company-wide CRM system, for example. A better understanding
of the benefits of balance between individual work and team work
(see [55] for more details) is needed to better utilize ICT systems.
Cui bono (Who benefits?) question has to be answered clearly
when new systems are employed.
Adopting the use of some practical IT tools while learning in
projects is important. To facilitate communications between
learners and to support project management, a broad selection of
“free to use” tools have been applied within the EDE. The student
respondents in the study in August 2017 stated that they had
learned to use 4 - 5 new IT tools, applications or platforms on
average during one year’s time. Some of these tools had been
presented by the team coach or a visiting company representative.
Currently, also learners find and introduce new tools to the
community on a regular basis. The list of the tools, applications
and platforms used is long, including the following ones that were
mentioned the most frequently: Trello, Slack, Skype, Doodle,
WhatsApp, Moodle, Dropbox, Google Drive, Canva, Mention,
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Naturally, email, SMS
messages and other conventional communications tools are used
as well.
The most frequently used tools in project management were
Google Drive, Google Sheets and Trello. In a brief unofficial
discussion with the team entrepreneurs from other teams, the same
tools were mentioned as the most popular ones in other teams as
well.
According to our experiences, it is rather simple for the students
to start using new digital tools when working on projects. This also
helps students to quickly gain valuable experiences with different
tools and platforms and their usability in different tasks.
Sometimes students want to challenge themselves by learning to
use a new tool, and harness it into the use of their cooperative.
There is no need to teach the system itself, but rather act as an
example and invite students to use the system. That way they will
learn how the real work processes can make use of different
technologies.
Though learners are using several tools and applications to
support their learning in projects and to facilitate their
communication, we are still in the early stages of truly benefitting
from digitalization. Technology is not a limitation anymore. The
real limitations are found in normal human behavior. To pick an
example, a project manager and team members would benefit from
knowing what tasks other team members currently have, who
might need more tasks do to or who would need help. This data
could easily be entered in a Trello table and shared to every team
member.
4.3. Objectives first, systems to support productivity second
Making experiments and building prototypes [56, 57],
associating different types of knowledge [58 - 60], and sharing
knowledge of learning experiences [60 - 62] are part of the
innovation management concept of the EDE. The team
entrepreneurs experiment with different types of tools,
applications, systems and platforms to find the ones that are
appropriate and useful for their purposes.
Our target with the EDE is to help a new culture of agile
methods, applications, and practices to emerge. The easiest way so
far has been to start with the team entrepreneurs by introducing
new applications to them and just starting using them in project
management and communications, when students can directly see
the benefit of the systems. So far, the results have been promising.
Experimental development is inbuilt in the EDE, in the form of
innovation assignments mentioned before. Also the learning by
doing approach, supported by reflection on what was learned,
creates confidence in the cooperatives and students’ own skills.
Dedicating time for reflections is an important learning outcome
on the way of becoming a professional in one’s own area [63].
5. Discussion and summary
Combining and analyzing all data from the stakeholder groups
of the EDE and from the team entrepreneurs studying within the
ecosystem, we can clearly identify three steps we have to take next:
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1) to leverage lessons learned so far in the ICT bachelor
curriculum and master study curricula 2) to re-evaluate how
extensively the use of new ICT tools has to be taught, and 3) to set
objectives for further studies on the topic.
The current Experimental Development Ecosystem offers a
pedagogically solid, tested, experimentally developed, and
continuously evolving basis for supporting bachelor education in
higher education. Also, the use of digital tools and applications to
support learning by doing in projects and to facilitate
communications within and between teams has been increasing
rapidly.
5.1. Probable future for the EDE
Professional development should not focus on educating
students about how current professions are executed [64]. As
suggested, professional education should rather be focused on
developing professions in cooperation between educational
institutes and companies. Underneath these suggestions lies the
activity theory [65, 66]. The ultimate goal is to help school and
work life to collaborate in a better way. In times of rapid changes,
educational arrangements including theory, practice and reflection
repeat themselves in a continuing manner.
International partners are needed to serve both education
and business requirements. Companies who are interested
in internationalizing their operations will benefit from
opportunities for rapid experimentation in two or more
locations.
ICT students need a balanced amount of core ICT skills and
business skills. This could be achieved by working with
team entrepreneurs studying marketing with the EDE.
ICT and marketing students should be put in mixed teams
for sharing knowledge, and especially for creating new
knowledge together. More cross-fertilization is needed for
more learning and more versatile ideas.
There is also a lot of work to be done to better integrate the
competencies of Saimaa UAS staff into the coaching process of
marketing team entrepreneurs and/or ICT students, whether they
study as team entrepreneurs or conventional students. This will
require a more adaptive attitude towards how learning is organized
from all the parties involved: teachers, administration, and team
entrepreneurs.
In the beginning, this will require a lot of encouragement
because even though higher education teachers may have
extensive experience in teaching, they might lack competencies in
learner-centric pedagogy and its methods, the mindset required for
experimental development, or even both. Changing methods will
also require teachers to accept that employing these methods
means that they will frequently face situations that are novel to
everyone. If someone has a strong routine of teaching, there might
not be much interest or will to change it.
When the courage to experiment new methods to support
learning is found (usually with support of colleagues or appropriate
further education), at the beginning the change of habits will raise
anxiety among teachers and learners. Teachers are used to acting
as specialists providing answers and at the same time learners have
been passive listeners. When tables are turned, both parties feel
uncomfortable and the temptation to go back to old habits is strong.
If this happens, it will return the potential of learners taking
responsibility and teachers role of not giving easy answers to
learners directly to zero. During the process of change we have
gone through we have seen this phenomenon take place several
times.
Very soon teachers, however, usually find out that with longer
experience in life in general and operating in different types of
situations helps to coach others to find means of how to solve them.
Teachers are usually very good at abstracting and conceptualizing
what has been learned. By reflecting on the learned skills and
discussing how they can be applied in other contexts will help
transfer the learning outcomes.
5.2. How teachers, lecturers and team coaches are able to
benefit from the changes
At the beginning, creating a learning environment required in
the 21st century will take more time than is usually used when
organizing courses in higher education. After a two or three years’
time, a new culture of students responsibility for their own
learning process will start to emerge and strengthen. At this tipping
point, a team coach will recognize that there will be time for
tactical and strategic thinking again.
5.3. Summary
By combining and analyzing the versatile data we collected,
we were able to answer the research questions:
1. What are the learning experiences when dialogue is
used as learning method?
2. How new ICT tools and applications have been utilized
by team entrepreneurs during the first year?
This data shows that dialogue as a learning method was
appropriate to support the professional development of the team
entrepreneurs. Various new tools for project management,
communication, and marketing and sales were employed in
practice. It is noteworthy that these ICT tools, applications or
systems were not taught. The dialogue and presentation of the tools
was enough to inspire action.
The higher education institutes should foster creation of such
ecosystems where knowledge, skills and character are combined.
The learning environments should provide learner-centric
methods, and acknowledge the importance of metacognition.
Focusing mainly on content is not enough.
The systems (tools, applications, platforms) needed to support
the ecosystem are nowadays mostly free to use and easy to use,
meaning that most of them can be applied to practice at a fast pace.
These are used in several visionary companies and they should be
applied also in higher education institutes if they are not in use yet.
The authors warmly welcome new partners to write and discuss the
topics covered in this article.
Acknowledgments
This article has been written as a part of the Digikaappaus project,
which is funded by Saimaa University of Applied Sciences,
P. Juvonen et al. / Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering Systems Journal Vol. 3, No. 1, 82-93 (2018)
www.astesj.com 92
Lappeenranta University of Technology, Tekes the Finnish
Funding Agency for Innovation, and by 11 Finnish organizations.
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... hschulen, wie z.B. die Business School Tiimiakatemia in Finnland (LINK2) denken ihren Lehrplan bereits zum Großteil von diesem didaktischen Ziel her, das in der Literatur als "Überlebensfähigkeiten" für das 21.Jahrhundert (Wagner, 2008) oder als "Ökosystem" des Lernens für innovative, unternehmerische oder soziale Lehr-Lernsysteme beschrieben wird (Juvonen et. al, 2018, Saafedra et al. 2012. Dieses "Ökosystem" der 21st century skills wird in Zukunft die bewusste Ausgestaltung einer Lehrlern-Beziehungskompetenz brauchen. Aus diesen Überlegungen heraus kann am Beispiel der Formula Student folgendes Bild zu den korrespondierenden Kompetenzstufen mit Blick auf die 21st century skills beispielhaft und nich ...
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What does redesigning schools and schooling through innovation mean in practice? How might it be brought about? These questions have inspired an influential international reflection on "Innovative Learning Environments" (ILE) led by the OECD. This reflection has already resulted in publications on core design principles and frameworks and on learning leadership. Now the focus extends from exceptional examples towards wider initiatives and system transformation. The report draws as core material on analyses of initiatives specially submitted by some 25 countries, regions and networks. It describes common strengths around a series of Cs: Culture change, Clarifying focus, Capacity creation, Collaboration & Co-operation, Communication technologies & platforms, and Change agents. It suggests that growing innovative learning at scale needs approaches rooted in the complexity of 21st century society and "learning eco-systems". It argues that a flourishing middle level of change around networks and learning communities provides the platform on which broader transformation can be built. This report is not a compendium of "best practices" but a succinct analysis presenting original concepts and approaches, illustrated by concrete cases from around the world. It will be especially useful for those designing, researching or engaging in educational change, whether in schools, policy, communities or wider networks. "The OECD’s ILE work has mobilised and generated profoundly important knowledge about the nature of learning and opened understandings of learning environments within and beyond school. The ILE Framework has already proved to be an invaluable tool for the emerging future of learning leadership and systems development." Professor Michael Schratz, Dean, School of Education, University of Innsbruck, Austria; President of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) "Innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of learning. Schooling Redesigned summarises beautifully one of the OECD's most fascinating projects - an attempt to look at the DNA of innovation in schools. Using a global range of actual examples it describes the conditions that education systems have to create if children and their parents, teachers and communities are to feel confident and optimistic about the future. For teachers, the messages are inspiring. Education systems have to focus on enhancing teachers' capacity and motivation. Standardisation cannot do that. Its messages to the profession and its organisations are profound. Teacher unions are, can and should be at the centre of creating the conditions for innovation." John Bangs, Special consultant at Education International; Chair of TUAC’s international group on Education, Training and Employment Policy