Pioneering in the service innovation & design field

Exactly three years ago, in May 2009, we were living exciting times at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. After a lengthy development process of the unique Master’s degree programme in Service Innovation and Design, it was finally time to select the first group of students. The modern degree programme had gathered over 200 applicants, and we were to select 20 out of them to start their SID studies in September 2009. Now, three years after the first entrance exams, we are arranging the exams for the third time. Since the aim of the SID programme has been to be a proactive pioneer and stay updated, the exams and the whole programme have developed a lot during these years. Let’s now have a look back. This is a short story on how the SID programme was developed.

The Master’s degree programmes in Finnish universities of applied sciences are regulated by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The entry requirement for the Master’s studies is that a student already holds a Bachelor’s or a Master’s level degree and has acquired at least three years of relevant work experience after graduation. The Master’s programme in Service Innovation and Design is a 90 ects credits professional programme training students from diverse backgrounds to become practicing service developers. This Master of Business Administration programme is provided in English and can be completed alongside a full-time job. The process of applying is described here.

Laurea submitted the SID application to the Ministry of Education and Culture at the beginning of 2008. A broad report on the significance of SID competence in international operating environments was drawn up as a basis for preparing the application. The report was established on international and domestic forecast reports, studies and statistics on the development of competence needs (over 40 written sources). Most importantly, the application (and subsequent curriculum development) was carried out together with the stakeholders and networks of practical and academic actors in the field.

Laurea’s SID team had a crucial role in the planning from the start. Four Laurea faculty members established a service design team in the beginning of 2007, which kick-started the design process. This service design team began to actively develop competence in the field through, for example, taking part in international service competence conferences. In autumn 2008, a few more staff members became involved in the team with the purpose of curriculum development, and seven faculty members took part in the Service Design Network seminar in Amsterdam in November 2008. As the SID programme was launched in September 2009, there were ten members in the team of lecturers, and the figure grew to 12 by autumn 2010. Currently, the SID team consist of 16 lecturers. The SID instructors include 8 doctors (Ph.D.), 3 licentiates and 5 masters from Laurea. Each of the instructors has a clear SID competence area.

After receiving approval from the Ministry of Education and Culture to launch the new Master’s degree programme, the SID curriculum underwent further development based e.g. on various reports and methods. At the end of the design process, the SID curriculum was processed at the Service Design Network conference in Amsterdam in November 2008, where Laurea’s lecturers held a workshop focusing on the SID curriculum. The curriculum was developed further with international experts in January 2009, when Laurea arranged its second annual Service Innovation & Design seminar. Moreover, the SID Advisory Board commented on the SID curriculum. After the launch of the degree programme in 2009, updating the competences needs has continued intensively until the present day.

At the Master’s level, the professional expertise of students has to be taken into account and a mechanisms that allows the tacit knowledge sharing has to be applied (i.e. learning from each other and creating new knowledge together). In line with innovation theories, the aim has been to reach a heterogenic group of SID students (i.e. different educational backgrounds, different employment histories and jobs, many nationalities). With students from different countries, internationality and cross-cultural differences are part of everyday life of the SID programme (altogether 10 nationalities presented in the two SID student groups). Furthermore, 1-2 international exchange students have taken part in the degree programme each semester from the start. The students have a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree in business, design, engineering or IT, and they are working for different kind of organisations, varying from star-ups to multinational corporations and public organisations. Heterogeneity of the students is a fruitful ground for creative thinking. That is why team bonding among the SID students has been one of the main targets when the students begin their studies. In the first day (the orientation day) they immediately start working in small groups to get to know each other and to familiarise themselves with the active role of a student (active dialog instead of passive listening). Click here to see what the second SID Master’s group has done during their studies (among other things).

The studies include an average of three days of intensive contact sessions (face-to-face instruction) once a month (one Thursday-Friday-Saturday, at 9 am – 5 pm each day). One of the five-credit study units involves three full days of face-to-face contact sessions usually arranged one month apart. The students complete various assignments between the contact sessions typically at their own organisations. During the contact sessions, students take part into workshops, group discussions, assignment presentations, or any other interactive events, which allow personal knowledge sharing. Also more traditional teaching methods such as lectures are in use, though these events are tried to keep in minimum, and if held, external speakers from companies are often invited to lecture (business case stories). Laurea’s Learning by Developing (LbD) approach stressing the importance of developmental assignments has been taken into account in the design of learning activities. The assignments are chiefly related to students’ own organisations in order to involve them, and transfer and disseminate new knowledge in the organisations. Evaluation has mainly focused on assignment results, learning diaries, active participation or similar. Exams have not been arranged; theory has been studied through application within practical assignments. Here is the curriculum of the SID programme.

“IDEO’s lecture and workshop in 2011”

The SID degree programme has an active and committed steering group, the SID Advisory Board, which diversely represents companies of Helsinki metropolitan area and high-end service research. SID Advisory Board was assembled six months before the first SID students began their studies. SID Advisory Board has convened four times in each year. In its meetings of several hours, the Board has applied diverse methods for processing the needs arising from the SID competence base. In addition, the members have commented on the curriculum, participated as evaluators in the entrance examinations, taken part in the launch of the SID programme at the Design Museum, in the planning and implementation of the annual SID seminars, and in the SID teaching as visiting lecturers.

To conclude this short story, I add here some direct quotes from the students’ feedback forms. In the near future, you will be able to read more students’ stories in this blog that show what the students actually do and what they learn in the SID programme.

  • “It’s really nice to see that the courses are so related to the work I am doing. The courses prepare me for the different tasks within my job. I have been especially enjoying meeting a diversity of people with different backgrounds. I think we have a good group of students. Especially the group works and visiting lecturers’ sessions have been interesting.”
  • “Doing course tasks in groups seems to be working out well. It makes you push a bit harder and it is nice that people with different background can share their views. You get more committed when you have to give something to others as well, not just for you or for the grade”.
  • “Tutoring is good at Laurea, all teachers are keen in helping and guiding, some of them may have very busy agendas but they are always willing to schedule an appointment”
  • “Course Schedule was made clear. -Assignments were prepared and published in advance. -Assessment criteria were made clear from the early beginning. -Literatures and related documents were made available on Optima”.
  • “I am really thankful that deadlines and guidelines for the thesis developing process have been set. Thesis workshop was an excellent way to understand the following actions to be taken.”
  • “I find that workshops, team work and activities in class really encourage better understanding of the topics!”
  • “The course tasks as well as the course contents so far have been relatively interesting and well-planned. The selection of students for the program has been successful. Good personas combined with different backgrounds make it a group that seems to enjoy studying together.”

One thought on “Pioneering in the service innovation & design field

  1. Hey there, just became alerted to your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Many people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s