The University of Helsinki to co-ordinate a major research project funded by the EU Commission

May 23, 2006

The Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building at the Department of Psychology of the University of Helsinki is to co-ordinate an extensive international research and development project called Knowledge Practices Laboratory (KP-Lab). The EU Commission has granted the project substantial funding of 11.2 million euros over five years. The project is one of the largest research projects coordinated by Finnish behavioural scientists. At the University of Helsinki, the project is co-ordinated by Liisa Ilomäki, Researcher, the Scientific Co-ordinator is Kai Hakkarainen, Docent and Academy Research Fellow, and technological development is co-ordinated by Hannu Markkanen, M.Sc. (Tech.) from EVTEK Institute of Technology.

The aim of the KP-Lab project is to create tools to support participants' engagement in innovative practices of collaboratively creating and sharing of knowledge in higher education institutions and professional environments. We call these knowledge practices. In education, a challenge for the emerging knowledge society is that students, teachers, professionals, designers, and researchers participate not only in knowledge acquisition, but also knowledge creation focusing on developing shared ideas, plans, designs, structured databases, and theoretical models. We call these knowledge objects. The tools based on semantic web technology will be used to assist participants in longstanding working to advance ideas and products through collaboration with others. Rather than a monolithic and fixed learning environment, the project will create learning systems that will consist of tools selected, modified and customized according to the users' needs. The technological tools will be developed along with the participants' knowledge practices.

The aim is to create polytechnic and university study practices by which the participants of a study module or course solve a complex problem for a real professional community. These communities include companies, research institutes and public organisations. The teacher acts like a director of a knowledge-intensive organisation instead of an information conveyer who mostly lectures. The project develops a networked environment supporting such a process. In some of the experiments, the students use mobile technology to build knowledge for the semantic content management system. The purpose of the KP-Lab project is to help students to gain experience of the professional knowledge practices in their own field early on. It is also intended to bring to the professional communities new ideas and practices from the students.

Practice alone is not a good teacher, particularly at the university level. That is why we need methods that support both individual participants and their communities in making knowledge practices visible. What are 'knowledge practices'? They are the methods and procedures used by those in both science and industry to answer their questions: How does this work? How might this process be improved? What do we need to learn to effect such improvements? Such practices are not static, set in stone; scientists and innovators in industry reflect on them and modify them. Just as science aims to create a 'collective memory,' an expanding, agreed upon and refinable set of interconnected facts, we work for a similar outcome. We aim to create a kind of a collective memory for the participant community that would make it possible for participants to access the community's knowledge activities afterwards, evaluate them, and facilitate their transformation. The project includes longitudinal studies regarding the development of higher education (polytechnics and universities) students' knowledge practices from the beginning of their studies to the end. Professional knowledge practices will also be studied, and we aim to help further their development. The longitudinal studies will work on the development of various technical tools for supporting communal work to consciously promote and create knowledge.

KP-Lab is one of the five Integrated Projects that are now received funding. Applications were issued in the same group by 24 international, research networks. The key strengths of KP-Lab have been its progressiveness in theoretical research and technological development and its novel approach to knowledge practices. The scope and versatility of the network (22 partners in 14 countries) was also commended by the Commission. The countries included in the network are from all corners of Europe, and the work of the project is supported by an expert panel which includes top researchers in the field from outside Europe as well.

Project partners include universities, polytechnics and companies. In addition to the University of Helsinki, the Finnish partners are the EVTEK Institute of Technology and Pöyry Plc.
Further information:

Co-ordinator Liisa Ilomäki, tel. +358 50 511 4376,
Scientific Co-ordinator Kai Hakkarainen, tel. +358 50 412 9572,
Technological Development Co-ordinator Hannu Markkanen, tel. +358 20 755 3802,

Best regards,
Niina Haasola
PR & Press Officer

University Communications
P.O. Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 20 R),
FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
Telephone +358 9 191 29262, +358 50 406 2047

University of Helsinki

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