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IDBM Lab: An Experiment in Education

That’s perhaps the best way to describe the vision behind the IDBM Lab concept that we kicked off a little under 2 months ago with the Academic Research pilot. The goal behind the lab was simple – creating a low threshold learning environment where both, the subject of learning, as well as the methods of learning itself could be experimented upon.

In other industries and sectors, you can find an “innovation center,” an experimental lab, or test center where ideas, thoughts, and people can meet to explore and manifest thoughts and visions into concepts, especially prior to bringing the riskiest ones into the market. The focus within these spaces is to envision what can the future of your product, service, industry, or even the world looks like – and give an opportunity to both, the creators, and consumers to test and experience novelty and unfinished glimpses of the future. Such a space, while not entirely lacking, is underutilized within the teaching and educational realms. As certain aspects such as the curricula, course structures, degree programmes cannot (and perhaps should not) be changed or altered regularly, a space to explore different and innovative educational methods and topics should be created. Those were the visions upon which the concept of the “IDBM Lab” was created.

The decision to focus upon the fields of “Academic Research” as the first topic to be explored within the IDBM Lab was primarily driven by two factors 1) we noticed a growing sentiment of fear and nervousness felt by students towards their master’s theses, and 2) this would be a topic that both Claire and I, as doctoral students, would be familiar with. While there were various thesis seminar courses and other tools available, we felt that by bringing this topic closer to the participants, especially through the AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with other doctoral students, we could aim to reduce the stress and sense of foreignness felt towards the fields of academia – by literally connecting faces to the topics.

"The session with PhD students made me feel that writing a research paper can be exciting." - Steven Doan, a participant

We structured the rest of the series focusing upon the three key areas of any academic research project or master’s theses: the literature review, the methods, and the discussions. Here, thanks to the help of Claire and Antti (Surma-Aho), we created simple one-pagers – similar to a SparkNotes summary, with useful links and resources for the students to prepare with for the aforementioned topics. Then, rather than utilizing the common lecture format, we tried out the Socratic seminar method whereby the participants themselves question, answer, and run the discussions with Claire and I serving as the facilitators. However, perhaps the most useful tool (now, in hindsight) across these seminars was the shared Miro board that enabled students to share valuable insights, notes, and thoughts with each other – pushing the peer learning aspect further than I had envisioned at the start.

"I have taken a course in design research but my topic is cross-disciplinary just like IDBM, so it was nice to have a context where we could discuss the IDBM process specifically." - Kirsti Kaila, a participant

On a personal note, this series and the IDBM Lab concept as a whole is also a challenge both, for me, and for any other aspiring or existing educator to test out new ideas, concepts, and methods. This series was a challenge I set for myself to see whether I could, with the help of some wonderful colleagues such as Claire, create new educational offerings, as well as being confident within my own abilities as an educator to lead this initiative. While this was only the first attempt within the IDBM Lab concept, I have taken several key learnings from this series – none bigger than the fact with the right vision and attitude, you will get the help and support of many talented colleagues and friends. With that, I’d like to extend my gratitude to Antti Surma-Aho, Markus Kirjonen, Adithya Varadarajan, Ira Ottmann, Laura Klinkhammer, Klaus Castren for all their help, and most of all to Claire Shaw for supporting this initiative every step along the way.

As we encourage our students to consistently and constantly think of new ideas, to innovate, and to test – it is only fair that we push this challenge onto ourselves; to let ourselves be creative, to experiment, to take risks, and to explore, without the traditional constraints, the future of education as a whole.

Author: Apurva Ganoo

Photo: George Atanassov


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