Is this utopian thinking or not? At the University of Jyväskylä all of the above can be done. Except that after next autumn the first action will no longer be possible.

What is typically the single biggest factor leading to the failure of information system projects? That the customer is not continuously involved in the project.

How did the Estonians manage to make their information system for health services at a price that would hardly be enough for initial project plans in Finland? They had a doctor who knew what he wanted and was also skilled in programming. The customer and the designer were certainly close to each other.

The same model has earlier been followed at the University of Jyväskylä. Jore, Sali and Korppi – in all of these the actual needs and the right people matched, and were not driven by administrative goals.

Web-based learning materials are challenging to produce. PDFs do not work for material that is read and edited on a smart phone, tablet or work station, whenever and wherever. By combining expertise with needs, the Faculty of Information Technology came up with The Interactive Material (TIM) system. The aims of TIM were modest at first. When documents were connected with interaction, it was noticed that TIM forms a learning platform. There is no other digital environment available that would enable doing everything within a given course.

The Faculty of Information Technology entered TIM in the national eEemeli competition, earning a share of first place in the educational institute category. Citations from the jury:

A working solution which has received a lot of positive feedback from users, and supports both students and teachers in monitoring the progress of university studies.

An innovative and impressive set with multiple functions and contents. Scalable to several educational levels and different subject areas.

All of the above has been possible only because all these projects have had their own clear needs, and the customers have been involved in making the product even at the level of coding and contributing to the project alongside the coders on a daily basis. Korppi and TIM are examples of projects that have originated independently from the objectives set by administration.

Interestingly, while we are expected to produce publications of a top international level, people can’t believe that we could also make top-class software! To teach programming in an organisation, people need to have programming skills themselves. For instance, more than 50 teachers and students have been involved in the development of TIM, and previously for Korppi the number was even greater.

Vesa Lappalainen
Faculty of Information Technology

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