By Alfa M. Shakya
Photos by Bipin Banjara, Saurav Sharma and Anish Bastola
Building University Capacity to Support Business Incubation in Nepal, abbreviated as BUCSBIN, is a three-year project developed in consortium of Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oamk LABs), Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM), King’s College, Idea Studio, and YoungInnovations. BUCSBIN began in 2017 as an innovative and experiential way of solving problems and developing business ideas, and the goal of the project is to develop a better education system and support business incubation. For this, the project aims to use the LAB Learning Model from Oamk LABs as a credited course in the partner academic institutions by 2020.
“The LAB learning model involves project-based learning implemented through multidisciplinary project teams. The cornerstones of the model are its orientation towards practical work, creative problem solving, concept development, learning by doing, internationality, entrepreneurial thinking as well as the participants’ multidisciplinary background and wide range of experience,” according to LAB Learning Model Introduction by Kari-Pekka Heikkinen. It is about bridging the gap between academics and the real world. Since its start in 2012, the model has helped generate 15 companies in Finland alone. This learning model has been implemented worldwide, and Nepal is the first South Asian country to host.
Representatives, teachers, coaches from Nepal and Finland have been on exposure visits in both the countries to learn and implement the program as they gear up for their 2020 target. LAB Masters and Coaches from Nepal have been delving into the process of understanding the philosophy and values of the program as they prepare to execute it as a part of the educational curriculum.
The entire experience has been baffling. After visiting Finland and observing the program, Roshee Lamichhane Bhusal, LAB Master and Lecturer at KUSOM, realised something very interesting. She says, “I had no clue that I was actually pushing my students to boredom in my class.” If the program aims to develop students to face the uncertain future, it has already begun changing the teachers’ notion about teaching. “BUCSBIN has made me a better teacher,” says Umes Shrestha, Assistant Professor at King’s College and Coach at Do Lab.
A unique blend of elements is what gives BUCSBIN the edge needed in today’s world. The followings are some of the key features of LAB Learning Model which forms the basis for BUCSBIN.
“A Unique Blend of elements is what gives BUCSBIN the edge needed in today’s world.”
Assumptions on Test
LAB learning model gives the participants an experience of working in a small organisation as they are divided into teams and choose a theme they will be working on. They then get to witness how all the components of an organisation work together. Even if one element is missed, the entire solution is at a risk of not working. Also, there are the ever-present assumptions that creep into the working of the teams right from the start. More importantly, the teams get to meet the customers as they head out to learn the problems of the people in the vicinity that helps them put their assumptions to test. The teams become more aware as they see their assumptions being refuted or validated.
Make Your Solution
Prototype building is another feature of the program. Participants put their ideas into a concrete form by building their prototype through paper, legos, storyboard, etc that helps them become more user-centric. It also helps the teams visualise which aspects need refining, which aspects to remove and which aspects help them stand out.
The Vitality of Feedback and Reflections
One of the most essential aspects of LAB Learning Model is its focus on feedback and reflection. After every presentation session, the teams sit together and evaluate themselves as a person and as a team. Each team is also assigned a specific peer team that they have to evaluate. The power of reflection lets the team to loosen up and discover ideas and aspects about themselves that they might have never realised before.
A Mindset that Lasts
After the downfall of Nokia, a new ideology of creating and developing began in Oulu, a city where the mobile phone giant was the core employer. A new mindset evolved and made its way into the education system to prepare the future generations to face the ever-changing future. The same ideology and philosophy is embedded in the program.
The process and the team are more important than the outcome itself. Senior Lecturer and Development Manager at Oulu University of Applied Sciences Kari-Pekka Heikkinen says, “We are never ready, but we can see the progress of development.” It is the same progress the teams measure and learn from. The participants learn how to develop new things, and through feedback and reflection, they get to develop themselves as individuals. The idea they build is theirs to use. If the teams want, they can turn it into a real business.
At the heart of BUCSBIN is a mindset of preparedness that it aims to teach the students so that they are ready to face the future and to enable and empower teachers to become better educators, more reflective and efficient team players. As long as both the teachers and students are developing and learning, something good is bound to happen.
The future looks strong and promising as the institutions prepare themselves to take the project to its next level. In the words of Ulla-Maija Seppänen, LAB Master and Senior Lecturer at Oulu University of Applied Sciences, “What amazes me is how people here are interested in developing the education system.”
A better education program awaits us all.