The Experimental Development Ecosystem – towards modern education model encouraging entrepreneurial mindset

Pasi Juvonen
Saimaa University of Applied Sciences

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Anu Kurvinen
Saimaa University of Applied Sciences

The Experimental Development Ecosystem – towards modern education model encouraging entrepreneurial mindset

Pasi Juvonen, Anu Kurvinen
Business and Culture, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, 53850, Lappeenranta, Finland

Institutions offering higher education need to serve the business life as well as society by training competent and skilled future entrepreneurs and employees. For university pedagogics there is a challenge – how to be able to be on the top of the current business life needs and at the same time ensure the sufficient level basic knowledge needed for the degree. An active University campus in South Eastern Finland, in Lappeenranta, has attracted a group of ICT startups as well as SME’s in the field to collaboration. The collaboration with university campus, researchers and students has formed the learning environment to an entirely novel education approach - an experimental development ecosystem (EDE). In the EDE learning knowledge, business skills and character are combined. It fosters a development of entrepreneurial mindset [1-2] among team entrepreneurs studying within it. The EDE has also a remarkable role as a developer and source of innovation.

Currently, Business Administration students who select to specialize in marketing, study their first year in a conventional way enrolling conventional study courses. After they have selected to specialize in marketing, they will continue their studies two and half years as team entrepreneurs. The studies consist of studying theory (reading books and articles), carrying out customer projects for real customers, and trainings. During the trainings, the students and the team enterprise are coached by a team coach for team development and performance.

Results from the earlier studies [3-5] have shown 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. The article introduces the pedagogical background of the EDE, how it is currently organized, and what will be the future steps of it.
The EDE model has been studied and developed for some years as action research [6,7]. New data for further research was collected during January – November 2018, and two new mini-cycles where new development ideas for supporting learning were carried out with the students studying within the EDE. The outcome of these development actions have already been investigated via participative observation. As the next research step, a set of theme-based interviews (8-12) will be carried out in the beginning of 2019. The aim is to study how the previous adjustments have been perceived and resulted. The interview data will be analyzed with grounded theory method [8] and a case description [9] will be written as a form of a scientific research article.
The results may show a need for a more disciplined coaching. It also seems that there are also needs to learn or in other way utilize certain knowledge and skills which is currently lacking. This will probably strengthen the ideas of involving students from new degree programs to study as team entrepreneurs in the future. Naturally, before performing the new set of interviews and analyzing the results, these are only experienced guesses of where we are with the EDE.