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Practice meets theory at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

“The most interesting part of my studies has been my work placement at Laurea’s International Office, where I get to do different kinds of projects ranging from cooperation with our international partner universities to helping new exchange students adapt to studying at Laurea.” – Ali Najafi, BBA Service Business Management, Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Studying in real, working-life projects is a common element of the Laurea student experience. In fact, Bachelor in Service Business Management students complete the majority of the programme in cooperation projects with reputed companies and partner organisations.

Each semester, approximately 200 students at the Hyvinkää Campus complete more than 120 assignments commissioned by partners. One project implemented in autumn 2017 was conducted in cooperation with Finnish Customs. The team consisted of native students, Joona and Miro, alongside Swiss exchange student, Chaltal, and Sangwon from South Korea.

“Our assignment was to develop a new kind of digital service for Customs, which would help leisure time with customs-related questions,” explains the project team. “At the same time, we determined which matters travellers wanted help with and possible problems they encounter.”

At the start of every project, the student team studies the theory surrounding the discipline, which in turn supports practical implementation. As a result, students working on the Customs project have used research methodology as the foundation for creating an interview survey, and service design theory as the basis for creating the actual service.

Students take responsibility for the project

In addition to weekly meetings, the student teams work in an online environment, keeping in contact via WhatsApp and e-mail. Communications, scheduling and work division are crucial project management skills, and their importance is emphasised when applying student projects.

“It’s been easy to work in this project because we have a good team, we work well together and the work is progressing as planned,” the students add. “We also have a very good project manager.”

When a project begins, the team selects a project manager who’s responsible for spreading the work evenly across the team.

“We always make a weekly plan outlining what each person has to do next,” says Chantal. “As the project manager, it’s important for me to know that everyone is doing their job so I don’t have to check up on team members.”

Once a week, the team meets with supervisors who help when necessary, and check to ensure the project progresses as agreed.

“One of the most important elements of project management studies is for students to learn to take responsibility,” explains Tero Uusitalo, senior lecturer at Laurea and one of the supervisors in the Customs project.

“The supervisor’s role is to be a sparring partner for the students,” he adds. “I coach athletes in my free time, and being a supervisor is very similar.”

Team spirit is decisive

Here, project teams are made up of students in different phases of their studies, which helps younger students understand the nature of project work.

“You simply can’t overemphasise the significance of a good attitude,” Uusitalo adds. “It’s important to build good team spirit from the very start of the project.”

The projects that business management students carry out for partners range from various surveys and studies to organising events, planning and implementing marketing. The partners include local companies and communities, on top of national organisations.

The Hyvinkää student team appreciates the benefits of project learning. Lessons learned in projects such as this are invaluable – especially for younger students who don’t have much experience yet in working life.

“The projects teach students a lot about how to communicate with customers and how to work in a group,” Chantal concludes.

“Project management is also a subject that can never be learned by reading books alone – you have to learn it in practice.”

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