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Tatyana Bogdanova, Davit Bidzhoyan.
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Summer is a great time to think about education and find time for the new spheres you have been interested in for a long time, but for which you haven't been able to find the time during the studies or work. However, these are not always planned actions. So, this year I was lucky participate at the London School of Economics and Political Science Summer School thanks to the partnership between HSE and University of London related to double diploma programme “Management and digital innovations” with academic supervision by LSE.
I heard about the trip in mid-June, and there were only two options left to choose from: the second session from the beginning of July and the third – from the end of July. Each session lasts 19 days and involves a set of courses in various spheres which are taught at the university: from international law to mathematical sciences. You have to choose only one course since the training is quite intensive and takes 6-7 hours a day, but more on that later.
Initially, I wanted to select the second session because I had had other plans for August, and the course "Management and Economics of Electronic Business" was available, and it seemed interesting to me because it was the field of my major "Business Informatics", and the topic itself was interesting to me, but, unfortunately, due to the relatively long visa process (14-20 work days) I was late, but I do not regret about it.
From the courses available in the third session "Open Innovation" was the one I liked the most. I will tell about it a little bit later, but in general, all the programmes, from the point of view of students from other courses, were at a high level, and only those who chose the course that they had already studied before, were slightly disappointed. Also in the first two days, it was possible to change the course to any other that still had vacant places.
I'll stop here with the introduction and move to a more detailed talk about the university, my course, and my life in London.
As I have mentioned earlier, the summer school was held at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The University was founded in 1875, it is located in the center of London, ten thousand students are studying here, more than half of them are from abroad. Also, LSE is included in the top 40 universities of the world, according to the QS. This year LSE Summer School celebrated its 30th anniversary.
All university campuses are located in one block. Bookstores, stationery and grocery stores, cafes are conveniently situated on the territory of the university.
I would like to mention the library which is designed in the format of "open space" where you can both sit comfortably with your own computer and book a meeting room for teamwork. And of course, there are PCs that can be used by any student of the university, and moreover, laptop rent is available.
In such spaces it is very convenient to prepare for classes, since everyone is working around and it motivates you. Here you can choose between a "quiet zone", where silence is observed, as well as ordinary places where you can discuss something, work as a team.
By the way, here there is a service of individual assistance to students with writing course papers and so on: you sign up for a consultation and discuss current problems and questions with a broad specialist. Of course, this will not replace communication with your academic adviser, but there are quite a lot of cases when, for example, you need to get a review from the outside or discuss current problems, and here such service comes in excellently.
And a few words about an experience of communication with the university administration. Even according to the feedback from students from other universities in the UK and Europe, the work of the staff was estimated at the highest level. University representatives would always listen about your problem and try to help to solve it, even if it is not in their area of responsibility.
As for the teachers, they try to maintain the closest possible contact with the students. And it concerns both seminarians and lecturers. They are ready to discuss any issues related directly to the course or life at the university. Also everyone is trying to bring interactivity into the process of studying. At the same time, it cannot be said that this is caused only by the applied nature of my course. Since, for example, each lecture is revised in a question-answer format, where questions are asked for understanding and not just for reproduction of terms and definitions.
One of the teachers said that LSE does not teach in the standard sense, it teaches to be successful, and therefore it is so highly appreciated. From my experience, it is manifested in the fact that the process of studying does not try to fence the student from the outside world, and to create laboratory conditions; on the contrary, if something is studied or being tried to develop, it must be performed on what surrounds you at this moment. This approach is preached by other best universities of the world, for example, MIT, and it really works.
And of course, the most important thing in the university are the students. I can tell only about those who studied at the summer school. However, I consider that a substantial indicator.
Depending on the course, there were some differences. Students from Asia mainly studied in the mathematical sciences, whereas the majority of the students in social studies were the students from European countries. At my course representatives of all regions were equally present, which made it more exciting and unique.
Students can be divided into two types: those who took courses for credits and those who were there just for self-development. The age varied from 18 to 40 years, though mostly there were senior students.
The last but not least part about the university is its social programme. In the first week there was a welcoming meeting which was aimed to help the students to make friends and to set up networking. During the summer school, practically every day, there was a variety of lectures and workshops.
I attended a meeting with a representative of the local accelerator Zinc and the start-ups on social issues that went through it. It was quite interesting to hear about on what and how companies work in this not mainstream sphere and, in general, to learn about entrepreneurship in the UK. Also I was at the workshop connected with website development. I was interested at talking to the local community of developers and students of computer science departments, and I wanted to see how they run such classes. It was quite an interesting experience, and the primary approach to learning here is that everyone can become a good developer if they make efforts, and the whole process is practice-oriented – the workshop was in the format of the copy of the site for which the hall had voted.
The summer school ended with a farewell party where you could meet students and teachers from other programmes and exchange feedback and emotions.
It was my first experience in an educational trip. Before that I often went abroad to participate in the hackathons: it was also networking and education, but hackathon is primarily a competition, so this time for me it was a new format.
My course is called "Open Innovation". It contains the most popular types of open innovation and their implementation, the innovation process in a company, and business models built on open innovation.
“Open innovation is really about companies making much greater use of external ideas and technologies in their own business and letting their unused ideas/ technologies be used by other companies.”
If you are interested in how to use open source, crowdsourcing, lead users, innovation intermediaries, what problems a company may face on the way to innovations, why a series of successful inventions is also dangerous, as well as permanent failures, how to combine work on improving the current product and developing fundamentally new ones, this course is for you. I recommend starting with the book "Open Innovation. The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology" by Henry W. Chesbrough.
The studying consisted of three components: lectures, seminars with case studies, working on the project. During the day there were two lectures and one seminar, the duration of each lesson was standard – one hour and twenty minutes. In my course lectures were held in the afternoon: from 2 to 5 p.m., and seminars, at different times, – between 9 and 12 a.m. In other courses it was made in another way: lectures were in the morning, seminars were in the evening.
The lectures contained theoretical material, including some interactive learning. For example, when the lecturer gave an open question and first recorded the answers from the audience and then compared them with what was in the slides. This allowed keeping the tone and interest for all the three hours. Also, the material was accompanied by inserts of examples of real cases and practices, including the video format.
Seminars dedicated to case studies were held in a familiar format: discussion of key points, similar examples from other companies, hypothesis advancement of how it could have gone differently, what could be done better.
And finally, the most exciting part of the course was the group work on the project. It was necessary to apply one of the types of open innovation - crowdsourcing - and create a prototype of a product that solves one of the defined problems: popularizing blood donation, growing food at home, etc. We were working in teams of six.
My team consisted of a Greek, a Taiwanese, two Chinese, one of which lives and works in London, and a girl from California. We worked on the topic of the lack of motivation for sports. The project consisted of four parts: problem definition, collecting ideas for solving it (crowdsourcing), processing answers and making better decisions, creating a prototype and business models.
We had been working on the project during the whole course. To help with this part special seminars were organized, where the teacher told the details of each stage, reviewed them and gave feedback on the current state of the project. After the school hours, we met with a team to discuss the plans, distribute the tasks, merge the results.
The most interesting stage was the collection of ideas of how to solve the current problem as to achieve the best result, we had to receive independent and decentralized answers from as many different people as possible (by age, position, interests, etc.), and after that aggregate the responses in one solution.
We managed to collect 150 responses from 12 countries. The final product was a service that united people from the same city with the same goal: to prepare for the beach season, go camping or climb Mount Everest. Next, an individual plan is developed for them to help in achieving the goal: a group sports exercise programme, travel options, necessary equipment, and so on.
Final project presentation was 30 percent of the final mark for the course and took place in the format of project defence: we described the work on the project, demonstrated the final decision and answered questions.
You can get more information about the project by watching the presentation:
As I have mentioned earlier, project defence weighed only 30% of the final mark for the course. The exam weighed 70%. It took place in writing: we were to answer 5 open questions for 2 hours, each of the questions consisted of 3-5 sub-items that were to be developed. The questions checked knowledge of theoretical material, for example, you were to compare several techniques, describe differences and similarities; cases, for example, what steps the company management took and what could have been done differently; and applying all the knowledge gained in practice: to explain possible scenarios of behavior in a described situation.
To prepare for the exam, all presentations from lectures and seminars were available in LMS. Also, there were two lectures for the last year exam review, revision of all material and answers to students’ questions. The list of questions for the exam was not provided to students, and I believe it was right, as it allowed to check how students had learned the topic entirely, and not its individual aspects.
From my own experience, I can say that the lecture notes and seminars were very helpful, as there were quite important things that the teacher emphasized on and which could not be understood or recollected just by viewing the lectures. For me the final preparation took about 12 hours as for 3 weeks we had time to pass a lot of material, plus we have learned 5 cases.
Since the final exam was optional, only 60% of the course attended it because they needed credits. My opinion: there were not too complicated questions, but all of them demanded quite a detailed answer, and there was not too much time for their implementation. Also, though the scale of the transfer of primary points was loyal, no one received A+ (> 80%). I think it was caused by the necessity to go into details to get a full score.
I got the final mark A-, which, I think, is pretty good. Of course, I would like to have a maximum score, but the main thing is not the assessment, but knowledge, and during this school I learned quite a lot of new things that will help me in further studies and career.
And in conclusion, I want to tell a little about the everyday life in one of the most beautiful and expensive capitals of the world.
During the studies, especially in the first days, and also on weekends, there was enough free time to get acquainted with London. Also, almost always, if the way was not exceeding 4-5 km, I walked. I visited 7-9 museums (a huge advantage for the tourists is that almost all museums are free). However, most of all I liked just walking around the city: different architecture styles, well-groomed and beautiful parks, sightseeing attractions. And London is truly huge. During the entire stay, I have not got bored with it, I did not even have time to see the whole city. And just an hour away from it many exciting places are situated: Oxford, Cambridge, etc. I see no point in describing my impressions in details, because as we say: it is better to see once than hear a hundred times.
Throughout the trip, I lived in a University dormitory near the London Bridge, that is a forty-minute walk from the campus. The building itself consisted of 6 blocks/entrances. On the ground floor, there were places where you could sit, do your homework, relax with a game of table tennis or billiards. There was also a room for working on computers, where you could print something if necessary or use a university computer.
The rooms in that dormitory were in the format of single hotel rooms with private bathrooms. On a block of 6 rooms, there was one large kitchen with all the necessary appliances for storing and cooking, but there were no dishes.
In general, the accommodation left a very positive impression: clean, comfortable, with a thoughtful layout for life, study and relax.
As for meals, during the study, the best option was a dining room in the building of the university, as the prices were the same as in the nearest cafes, and you didn’t have to go far and there was always a good range of meals. Also, for those who lived in dormitories, there were free breakfasts. On average, lunch cost 7-9 pounds, I cooked dinner myself, so weekdays were quite cost-effective. In the city, there were also good places where you could eat, and a good meal cost 10-15 pounds.
For me, it was one of the most interesting and valuable trips. The Summer School made it convenient to combine education in one of the best universities in the world with tourism in a beautiful city with a great history. Definitely recommend to think about this format of summer vacation for everyone who wants to spend their summer in an interesting and useful way.
Students of bachelor programme “Management and digital innovation” have opportunity to be awarded with similar grant as I got this year!