University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 30.9.2017 Conceptualizing the Role of Multidisciplinarity and Student Perceptions of University-Industry Collaboration in Project-Based Learning (Heikkinen)

Start date: Sep 30, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Sep 30, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora, Alfa

Elisa Nordgren / Mediconsult Oy
M.Sc. Juho Heikkinen defends his doctoral dissertation in Information Technology ”Conceptualizing the Role of Multidisciplinarity and Student Perceptions of University-Industry Collaboration in Project-Based Learning”. Opponent Professor Erkki Sutinen (University of Turku) and custos Postdoctoral Researcher Ville Isomöttönen (University of Jyväskylä). 


Project-based learning has a long history, especially in the disciplines of computer science and engineering. This approach is used to offer students a realistic view of their discipline, and this experience can be enhanced with industrial involvement as companies bring their real-world problems to projects. One recent trend in project-based learning is utilizing multidisciplinary teams, enabling students to contrast their skills and experience with students from other disciplines. This thesis focuses on a project course involving multidisciplinary teams and real customers that has been organized at the University of Jyväskylä since 2011 focused on developing students’ general working life skills. The research presented here originated from the need to understand what happens in such collaborative projects. The research approach was exploratory, with grounded theory and thematic analysis used to analyze students’ learning reports and data from a qualitative survey. This thesis comprises four articles that examine students’ perceptions of the role of multidisciplinarity in their learning and students’ perception of two features of university-industry collaboration: students’ valuation of work that benefits their customers and the relationship between students and customers. The emergent grounded theories demonstrate (1) how multidisciplinarity affects learning through team compositions and project topics, making learning experiences seemingly contingent, and (2) how students’ valuation of work emerges as a complex calculation starting from a reference point that shows how students equate project-based learning to work, internships, or coursework and related compensation. Analysis further reveals similarities with unpaid intern- ships. Finally, the relationship between students and their customers is summarized through two main themes: students’ perceived status with the customers, and the perceived value of their work. The results are presented as unified theoretical pictures and thematic networks, offering a comprehensive perspective views on the research.

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Juho Heikkinen
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