The culture of experimentation is an art
Riitta Konkola, Managing Director and President, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
People at universities of applied sciences are enthusiastic about agile experimentation. A good example of this is the current theme issue on the culture of experimentation you are holding right now, not to mention the wide range of related articles from a variety of fields.
During the past 25 years, we have established ourselves as a provider of higher education and a partner in working life. In addition to this, we have also served as an example in improving our own organisational processes. We want to practice what we preach. This is one way to earn the trust of our students, our local community and our partners. Indeed, this magazine contains not only expert articles and reviews on various educational fields, but also–gratifyingly–on pieces related to such topics as security management at universities of applied sciences and the development of work organisation for people doing information work.
Due to complicated cause-effect relationships, the reform of society by means of political decision-making has become more difficult. This is why strengthening the culture of experimentation is one of the key projects of the current Government Programme: first testing solutions intended for national implementation on a smaller scale makes it possible to render decisions on their broader and more permanent implementation. In addition to this, universities of applied sciences that recognise the approaches used in working life have begun to openly apply the principles of a culture of experimentation, conducting the agile testing of new operating approaches for the benefit of society as a whole.
At the core of all agility, it is good to keep in mind that not all conventional development work or projects based on long-term planning should be lumped together within the inspiring concept of a culture of experimentation. Experiments should be openly defined in our organisation and differentiated from from other development methods. It is vital that we always take a moment to think about what the difference is between a project and experimentation. And, there is no reason to think that experimental designs, test cycles and sudden changes in course during a process would meet all development needs. The culture of experimentation is one strong link in a chain of many, but it is not suitable as the linchpin, not even for for universities of applied sciences.
Fortunately, we here in the educational field are very adept at expressing our thoughts on what we are striving for in individual experiments and how to advance from that point toward achieving greater influence in higher education. If we want to assess the real results of experimentation, such as by using a control group, we can obtain more information than by merely using an opinion survey aimed at those participating in a new function. We also need supervisory work related to the culture of experimentation in order to co-ordinate, harmonise and orient experiments toward achieving common goals. Without proper management and common organisational operating models, it will not be possible for even the most promising experiments to be brought to the next, more comprehensive level at universities of applied sciences.
The culture of experimentation is naturally suited to the people working at universities of applied sciences. When reading the articles in this theme issue, we might notice that we are at a very early stage in creating models that promote the development and co-ordination of experimentation methods. On the other hand, what if we looked at this collection of articles as being the first iteration cycle of many, publishing a similar theme issue in, for example, two years? What are all the things we could already do better? What kinds of things would we be proud to say that we had made progress from individual experiments to more comprehensive implementation to social influence?
Developing an experimentation ecosystem: innovation commissions as a bridge
Anu Kurvinen, Senior Lecturer, M.Sc. (Econ), Saimaa University of Applied Sciences
Pasi Juvonen, Senior Lecturer, Team Coach, D.Sc. (Tech), Saimaa University of Applied Sciences
Experimental development is currently a renowned topic but utilising the possibilities of it within organisations is still in its starting phase. At the same time companies are expected to create groundbreaking innovations in fast pace. One way of creating the first steps for an organisational culture that encourages experimental development is cooperation between education and business. Saimaa University of Applied Sciences is involved in several research and development projects using the tools of experimental development. This operating model is a proven way to reach the goals set for the projects. At the same time it also emphasizes the role of universities of applied sciences as business and working life driven regional trainers and influencers. Experimental development can be conducted as a practically oriented innovation work with relatively small resources that is positive news to participating organisations. The development work done may first appear as minor changes but exactly those minor changes can have a drastic effect in the big picture.
Culture of experimentation as a design process working method
Mirja Kälviäinen, Ph.D, Principal Lecturer, docent, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Design process and design thinking as functionally similar to the culture of experimentation are applied as a process solution to various challenges at the same time as the culture of experimentation has gained influence. Design thinking as a working method is better suited in wicked, multidimensional and uncertain situations than mere logic-systematic thinking styles. The search for multiple alternatives and quick experimentation, the critical observation of the problem space, the possibility for uncertainty and failure represent the explorative inner through process and concrete experimentation. By experimentation it is possible to research and put under doubt the originally set problems and challenges. The solutions are built as a synthesis from the best features that the experimenting research reveals. Especially in the currently typical multidisciplinary work the application of design thinking means that abstract, verbally expressed and multidimensional development ideas are transferred into visual and concrete synthesis. In this way the holes and the solutions in the borderlines of the different disciplines can be observed and it is possible to come to joint conclusions where to lead the development work. The experimentations and prototypes also force to redesign the holes left in the solutions when just discussing about them by words and to define the role and nature of the different parts in the solution. When the design process is producing experimentation and prototypes about different ideas and solutions it is possible to evaluate and test them much easily than verbal plans with the stakeholders and especially with the users of the solution.
OAMK LAB model emphasises boldness, trust and learning
Ulla-Maija Seppänen, M.Sc. (Health Sciences), Senior Lecturer, Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Kari-Pekka Heikkinen, M.Sc. (Eng), Senior Lecturer, Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Jussi Haukkamaa, M.A., Senior Lecturer, Oulu University of Applied Sciences
A new way of teaching does not necessarily start automatically or through force. In this article, key factors of success in a culture of experimentation are described from a teachers’ point of view and defined through the concepts of trust, care, courage and learning. These factors represent the main elements of the LAB Studio Model (hereafter LAB Model) – a new learning model developed at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oamk LABs). These elements can be observed in LAB studies on a daily basis. Currently, Oamk LABs include three separate LAB learning environments each targeting their own industries: Oulu Game LAB, Oulu DevLAB and Oulu EduLAB. It is suggested that the LAB students and staff are enabling a culture of experimentation, which challenges them in a new positive way. By being inspired, we inspire others.
Mission Possible: Student Integration through Involvement
Tarja (Terry) Ahonen, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Sami Heikkinen, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
The article introduces the student integration through involvement model implemented at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. The case described is a project for new incoming students. The students started it already on the third day of their studies. They were expected to create a new product or service within one week. At the end of the week, they were selling their products at a trade fair held for businesses and business people. The aim was to familiarize the students to their studies and to their classmates. According to the feedback received from the students, the project was seen as a great way to learn new things about business practices. In addition, the students considered this a great way to start their studies at a university of applied sciences.
A culture of experimentation refines media learning environments
Milla Järvipetäjä, M.Soc., Project Manager, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Samuel Raunio, M.A., Lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Arja Tulonen, M.A., Head of Education and Research, Turku University of Applied Sciences
In the Degree Programme of Film and Media at Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) learning is based on learning environments and our culture of experimentation. There is a growing demand for learning environment experiments, as the field of media is in transition and versatile know-how is needed. Recent studies show that there is a need for more courage and tools at workplaces to adopt new working methods. At TUAS, the framework of guidance enables the students to assign their independent projects and spontaneous work. Students are encouraged to find their limits and courageously try something new. Roles, limits and procedures by the Degree Programme form a structure within which students have the courage to go beyond their limits. An essential part of learning is the evaluation of the action, including the analysis of possible failures. An important part is also the supportive ambience for the culture of experimentation – the adasptive and spontaneous attitude of teachers.
Culture of experimentation brings new expertise to the security management of educational organisations
Soili Martikainen, M.Sc. (Health Sciences), Senior Lecturer, Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Tiina Ranta, KM, Head of Safety and Security, Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Experimental culture was used to produce new information and build new capabilities on safety and security management for the management of the municipal education department located in Southern Finland. Experiment showed that safety and security of municipal educational institutions can be developed by auditing their municipal education department. We strongly recommend that this audit process would be used as a national model to support safety and security management of educational institutions and universities in a more comprehensive and systematic direction.
SERPA: ”Here, everything should really start with youth”
Janne Laitinen, M.A., R&D Specialist, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Katja Raitio, M.Sc. (Health Sciences), Senior Lecturer, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
How to involve youth? How to support them to find their own pathways? How to make it possible for young people to try different things and learn by experience? “SERPA – experimentation for young people to resolve problems of unemployment by inclusive culture of experimentation” – project is an experiment which aims to involve youth to solve their problems of education and employment by themselves with the support of the group in Central Finland. According to interviews of young project managers, who piloted SERPA-groups, genuine young-oriented action is rewarding but also challenging. Group offers possibilities for peer support, ideas and learning, but at the same time voluntary based participation, lack of courage and youths’ activity and contradiction of own role brought up challenges. Group pilots need to have orientation and support, but at the same time opportunities to work truly by the principles of the culture of experimentation.
Joint simulation – interplay of several actors
Emilia Laapio, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, M.Sc. (Health Sciences), SH (AMK), Saimaa University of Applied Sciences
Päivi Rimpioja, Head of Degree Programme in Nursing, M.Ed., Nursing Education, Nurse, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
This article describes the experiment of joint simulation education between two universities of applied sciences in Finland. The joint simulation was conducted online. The experiment revealed that timing and the cooperation with the IT-services is crucial in developing web-based education. Time and effort in planning are key points also in quick experiments.
Experimentation as part of experimental research at the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
Tero Luukkonen, Ph.D, Project Researcher, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
Kimmo Kemppainen, Eng. (M.Sc, (Eng), Project Manager, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
Antti Rimpiläinen, M.A., Project worker, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
A culture of experimentation is a characteristic part of experimental research. At Kajaani University of Applied Sciences, experimentation is implemented for instance in the geopolymer technology research which is related to several fields including building and environmental engineering. Geopolymers are novel materials which can be used for example as water treatment filter media. In practice, the culture of experimentation has been realized as a rapid and low-threshold testing of ideas at laboratory-scale. Furthermore, to maximize the utilization of research results, the working hours of project researchers have been flexibly divided between participating companies, university of applied science and/or science university.
Capacity to absorb and take responsibility – observations on the educational method experiment
Anu Nuutinen, M.Soc., ABM, Senior Lecturer, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences
Is it easier to take one exam that contains all the topics of study module worth 4 credits or would it be easier to divide topics into several small units? Many students thought that the former is an easier option even though results show that the latter gives much better results. What is the level of realism if students claim that it’s unfair that no points are given from the examination for them – and the fact is that those students didn’t even attend the examination.
This experiment of educational method was developed in order to help students with higher risk of failing. Results were different than pursued or expected. Students with good studying skills were able to utilize the given opportunity while others didn’t. Therefore, distribution of grades included mostly excellent or failed ones.
Incremental thesis work: the bogeyman in smaller bits?
Tuula Hopeavuori, Senior Lecturer in Finnish language and Communications, M.A., Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Eero Nousiainen, Team Manager, Senior Lecturer in Software development, M.A., Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Since spring 2015 the ICT Department of Oulu University of Applied Sciences has carried out an experiment where writing a bachelor’s thesis of 15 ECTS credits was divided into three parts, each consisting of 5 ECTS credits. The aim was to find out in practice how dividing a bachelor’s thesis into parts would work with the other courses of the curriculum. For a part of the students, writing the first document of 5 ECTS credits during the second study year was too much and they decided to do a 15-credit thesis later. The first three theses finalized during the experiment showed each in a different way how students’ professional knowledge deepened part by part. Different models will be tested in future, too. The combination of 5 + 10 ECTS credits would give more emphasis on the development task of the final stage of the thesis as well as on the final grade of the thesis. On the other hand, the model of 3 + 3 + 9 ECTS credits, based on well planned objectives, would support other studies of the curriculum in a new way.
It’s always good to experiment! – Language instruction experiments at the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences
Jaana Oinonen, M.A., Senior Lecturer in Finnish language and Communications, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Suvi Uotila, M.A., Senior Lecturer in English and Swedish, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Paula Vuorinen, M.A., Senior Lecturer in English and Swedish, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
JAMK University of Applied Sciences has encouraged pedagogical experiments through its internal development projects to find new teaching and learning methods. JAMK Language Centre has started several experiments following learner-centered approach and the principles of lifelong learning. All the projects focus on working life based communication. The article describes four different experiments in teaching English as a Foreign Language, Communication Skills and Finnish. All four projects have contributed to new working methods used in the courses to date.
Save the world one serving at a time – local food experiment
Hilkka Heikkilä, Lic.Ph, Project Coordinator, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Leena Pölkki, B.HM, Project Manager, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences pilot project was successful in promoting the use of local food in Jyväskylä city food services. At the same time the business conditions for local fisheries, fish processing, and local food online shopping were improved. Project was able to show the decision makers that the use of local fish in public services is not only possible but also economically significant for the area. This was done with the calculations of pilot product roach production costs and effects on regional economy as well as environment. Project served also as an example in piloting the use of local food and it yielded new recipes and experimental model how to proceed when you want to increase the use of local food in other public food services.
MOOC content using the AgileAMK model
Merja Drake, Principal Lecturer, Ph.D, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
Working life skill requirements are changing rapidly, and therefore the education organization should provide education to full fill the competence gap. Ten Universities of Applied Sciences co-ordinated by Online University of Applied Sciences Network / TAMK the ESR-funded three-year joint project The New Open Energy will design and test AgileAMK model. The model is based on flexible customization of existing degree education modules to serve the needs of continuing education. The model is intended to ensure the rapid, yet high quality content co-production and get the content as soon as possible for students to use. The core of the model is a powerful multi-professional content production team. The model helps to combine professional expertise from Finnish UASs and industries, as well as to discover any regional and local needs for enhancing skills.
The project partners will produce common content in the two pilot-MOOC: Sustainable energy, the Hållbara energilösningar and Almost zero construction, Närä-nolenergibyggande. MOOC Massive Open Online Course refers to a course that is freely open to anyone and online courses can be studied at the same time up to thousands of students.
The project will test a variety of tools and platforms for content production and distribution. The project will collect feedback from content producers, students and is inclusive of the target groups of the ideas and content development.
Agile work methods experiment in HR work
Sanna Tiihonen, M.Soc., Personnel Coordinator, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
We need capabilities to react quickly and gracefully when our operational environment changes. Wellbeing at work is greatly influenced by how work is being organised. Splitting large tasks into smaller chunks and making prioritised choices has an impact on how we perceive our workload. Continuous priorisation and alignment of goals requires an ongoing dialogue.
In our Human Resources team, we experimented using a kanban board for managing a few larger tasks and projects. Kanban enables us to react to changes, as the project phases and schedule have not been fixed already in the very beginning. Kanban facilitates a dialogue within the team and gives practical tools for everyone to manage their workload. Agile methods, of which kanban is one example, bring about the ergonomics of the mind: Everyone agrees on a common goal, the responsibilities have been agreed on, workload is sustainable and the ongoing dialogue helps to avoid any feelings of insecurity that might affect the wellbeing at work.
Experiments toward making a cycling capital region – Case: The Design for Everyday Mobility
Aleksandra Meyer, Project Coordinator, M.A., Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
The Design for Everyday Mobility project has been addressing the challenge of sustainable urban transportation through the means of design. The objective has been to create novel service concepts and quick prototypes to spark the public discussion as well as to see the corresponding student handiwork realised in the cityscape. This article presents three cases in which the quick and agile testing of ideas led to successful implementation.