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Case Study: Master’s degree in Education Entrepreneurship (MEE) at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Blair Stevenson, Oulu University of Applied Sciences
  • Case Study

Professionals are looking for study programmes that give them a deeper view of the global Edtech industry and how they can enter this field. This case study outlines a unique Master’s degree programme from Finland that is filling this gap in Europe.

Background

As the use of technology in education expands globally, demand has grown for formal qualifications that focus on this phenomenon. As a result, increasing numbers of universities across Europe and around the world have established and expanded graduate degrees that focus on the impacts of education technology. Furthermore, these university programmes have produced research outputs to help us better understand how technology use in education has and will influence learning and teaching. However, few of these programmes have focused on the business development side of education technology (Edtech). As the Edtech industry has grown, demand has also grown for qualifications that more closely reflect industry needs and support learning relevant to effectively entering and expanding in this field as an entrepreneur. Since 2018, Europe’s first Master’s degree programme in Education Entrepreneurship hosted at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences in Finland has filled this gap.

The MEE Program

The Master’s in Education Entrepreneurship (MEE) at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences is a blended learning (online and face-to-face sessions), professional study programme (60 ECTS credits). The key study objective is to support participants to gain insight, explore opportunities, research, and build networks in the global education innovation community. Its curriculum is a unique blend that brings together content in pedagogy, business and service design. While the programme focuses on exploring the education system in Finland, it also exposes professionals to actors, sites and practices in education innovation from around the world.

The target cohort are professionals with relevant work experience who are interested in expanding their interdisciplinary knowledge of the global Edtech industry within a collaborative and working-life focused learning environment. Generally, students are either entrepreneurs (creating their own businesses) or intrapreneurs (developing innovations with and for the current public and private employers). In this way, MEE has supported students coming from the fields of education, business or engineering working with large multi-nationals such as Microsoft to those who may be a classroom teacher in a local school.

MEE1 participants visiting Juvanpuisto school in Espoo, Finland

Upon completing the programme, participants are able to:

  • identify and pursue opportunities for business and innovation through an interdisciplinary approach in the context of education and training;
  • design, test and implement an innovative product or service;
  • practice and share expertise in interdisciplinary and intercultural teams and networks; and
  • build professional networks within the global Edtech industry.

For over five years, the Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oamk) has taken a leadership role in Finland as a public institution supporting national and international efforts linked to the global Edtech industry. The MEE programme was established in 2018 as an expanded offering further drawing upon previous Edtech focused programming at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences. For example, in 2015 Oamk established the world’s first, full-time, Edtech-specific pre-incubator programme – Oulu EduLAB. This pre-incubator programme brought together interdisciplinary teams of university students and unemployed professionals to work in teams for prototyping new education digital products and services in collaboration with local and international partners such as schools, businesses and governments. This international four-month programme in Oulu involved students from teacher education, business, graphic design, computer engineering and other disciplines from countries from around the world gaining experience in intercultural teams and learning competencies necessary for creating new Edtech startups.

Content structure

The structure of the studies is based on a blended learning model: distance learning sessions using online and video conferencing tools, and four face-to-face sessions throughout the year: September, November, February and June of each year. The course structure consists of three main course modules: 1. education and pedagogy, 2. business and entrepreneurship; and 3. service design each 10 credits each. The remainder of the content focuses around the completion of a thesis (30 ECTS credits) which involves conducting research in connection to education innovation. In many cases, students complete research strongly linked to the development of their own education innovations or new products and services.

This structure has been built with the expectation that participants can continue to work professionally while at the same time completing the studies online with all assignments relevant to the development of a personal project. In this way, participants are encouraged to complete the degree and build an education innovation at the same time. Key topics addressed include: program structure, introductions to Finnish education and school visits, entrepreneurship, business finance, service design, research methodologies, clarification of product prototype challenges as well as innovation management.

MEE partnerships

When established, the MEE programme formed a formal partnership with the world’s first Master’s degree in Education Entrepreneurship hosted at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania in the USA. This partnership has allowed the MEE programme to benchmark itself and connect to extensive expertise from the North American Edtech scene. Increasingly efforts are being made to connect both the University of Pennsylvania Master’s cohort with the MEE cohort to support networking and content sharing and research development. As of 2019, MEE has also formed a formal partnership with the new Master’s degree in Education Entrepreneurship at the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico. In this way, MEE gains further links to Latin America and Edtech developments in the Spanish-speaking world. Overall, the MEE programme in Finland is offered in collaboration with a wide range of public and private partners both in Finland and internationally to afford participants with opportunities to learn from various international experts and to learn from various cases of entrepreneurship in education globally.

Tuition and scholarship

Applicants to the MEE programme must have completed a bachelor's degree or higher and must have also obtained two (2) years of subsequent work experience in a relevant field. For Finnish and EU/EEA citizens there are no tuition fees to participate in the MEE programme. International applicants with the Finnish residence permit A or P are also exempt from the tuition fee. For non-EU students, the tuition fee is 10,000€ for one academic year and 5000 € for each additional semester to complete the program. A supplemental scholarship is provided by Oamk to tuition-paying students who accomplish the studies within the set target.

Results so far

The MEE programme accepts roughly 30 students each year. As of March 2020, the third cohort is just being assessed. Based on the hundreds of applicants from across Europe and around the world, the MEE has seemingly found a strong level of interest. As each year progresses, a pattern is emerging, as frequently cited by participants, suggesting that not only is the combination of education, business and service design a great value, but the targeted mixture of professionals from various disciplines and backgrounds is a beneficial component to the programme. Students are not only supporting their own learning, but are gaining a close international community of practice that they can take with them for their respective journeys entering the global Edtech industry.

Next steps

MEE is still a relatively new programme and continues to refine its offering. New linkages with Edtech expertise from around the world are being made continually. Furthermore, deeper connections with partners at the University of Pennsylvania and Tecnologico de Monterrey are also priority areas for development. For example, this effort is expected to support increased online interaction between the various cohorts in Finland, USA and Mexico. A new research publication series from the Oulu University of Applied Sciences is also being finalized that will allow for MEE graduates to publish the research outputs from their thesis research. 

For more information, go to the programme’s link at: www.oamk.fi/mee