Floworks living lab is a 21st century development hub at Tampere University of Applied Sciences, which contributes to education by making internal operations function better. Sometimes described as co-creation of the education or students bringing innovation to education, Floworks works closely with students and engages them in a variety of learning projects.
It started in 2010 with a realization that there was a specific need of development opportunities to pursue. Resources were available for staff, however, there wasn’t enough time to dedicate to every single one of them. Since these projects seemed to be great learning experiences and students possessed the required skills and could get credits for them, why not combine the two elements and turn it into an excellent learning opportunity? As an answer to that question, Floworks was developed.
A small team of people, consisting of a Development Manager, Ilkka Haukijärvi and three Coaches, Jussi Hannunen, Timo Nevalainen and Kseniya Tarasova are actively engaged in working with students. From 1st of August, a new team member, Clémentine Arpiainen, will start working in Floworks as an Analyst. She will be closely involved within the living lab, including such areas as coaching, research, and development of the operations in general.
Projects vary from Engineering and ICT to Healthcare and Coaches are open to all degree programme students. It should be directly connected to their personalized curriculum so they are building their capabilities and competences expected to use in their future careers. The competences brought to each project include use of social media, use of ICT in delivering services along with a designer orientation for service modelling approach to development work.
However, Coaches understand there is no such thing as one fits all so, for particular projects, they’re looking for students with skills to match the requirements. In order to find them, they contact staff members and ask them to promote the projects, use social media tools and TAMK’s own communications system, Intra. In some occasions, they approach students personally by visiting them during classes and introduce them to the projects.
Projects are requested by TAMK’s organizational and teaching staff and their number varies a lot. Earlier this year, Floworks had about ten projects running at the same time. Coach Jussi Hannunen believes that’s quite a lot, but there are no limits. “Five to seven projects are more comfortable to work with. We value quality to quantity and we won’t take up any projects which don’t fit TAMK’s strategy and criteria.”
Deadlines for the projects are set with Floworks’s customers after deciding when they need the product and what is practical for the team. Students are guided by Coaches about their responsibilities so they know exactly what they have to do from the start until the end.
So far, Floworks’s customers have been really impressed by the work students put in. They realized that the more they engage with the project, the more useful the product will be and the deliverables. And that they can learn a lot about the functions of their own operations. Most of the projects have been successful and delivered what was expected from them and sometimes more.
This summer, Floworks has three exciting projects going on: “Orientation Goes Online”, “Building Connection with International Degree Programme Applicants” and “Video Production Team for Mindtrek 2016”.
Coach Timo Nevalainen reveals the purpose of the first two projects and how new students will benefit from them: “We’re trying to find ways to do online orientation for new international students before they arrive at TAMK and also during the orientation week at their arrival in Tampere. To come up with a service where TAMK will be as open and helpful as possible from the first minute a student is interested in studying with us. We’re targeting students from outside the European Union for our degree programmes in English. If they can learn more things before coming here, then they could dedicate more time to socializing at their arrival in Finland and take in the new information in a more relaxed way.
The second project aims to connect potential students considering applying to the International Business programme with existing students and staff here. This way, they will already have some contacts here and their parents will receive more information about TAMK.”
“There are two co-creative projects developing for new students by TAMK’s IB students. In these two projects, we have students from Arts and Media, Environmental Engineering and Piano Pedagogy. Third project comes from our partner, MINTREK. Mindtrek is an international conference on open community development and newest digital technologies in business, taking place in Tampere on the 17th of October. Altogether, the projects are covering the months of June, July and August.” adds Coach Kseniya Tarasova.
“Everybody needs new tools in delivering the services they provide, whether they’re provided to students, or in general. There’s always a chance to do your work better. And students can help with that by giving information, ideas, or even taking a concept that you have and turn it into a service you can use. These kind of opportunities exist in all big organizations, such as TAMK. There’s no fear that we will run out of projects.” concludes Jussi Hannunen.
Text & photos: Andruta Ilie