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School as a service – building a new learning environment


This autumn, Aalto University’s Otaniemi campus will become home to new activities as 350 students from Haukilahti Upper Secondary School start their studies on the campus. The school will interact closely with university students and staff. The idea for the whole new school solution came from an R&D project concerning teaching service architecture, which was led by Jarmo Suominen, professor at the Department of Architecture at Aalto University, and it was refined during multi-disciplinary courses in Espoo, London and Shanghai. The City of Espoo was excited about the concept to develop temporary school facilities and decided to experiment this idea starting from this autumn.

Vice president Antti Ahlava has been responsible for the partnership project at Aalto University. “School as a service is a new revolutionary idea, in which the school is seen as a platform that supports learning. In this concept, the activities and physical structure of the school are kept separate. Branching operations to our city district supports pedagogic objectives of social and theme-based learning, and the upper secondary school becomes a natural part of the university campus and its culture,” Ahlava says. “We planned this concept following a participating method: the process involved future users of the facilities as well as students and experts from Aalto University. Furthermore, the London Royal College of Arts and its service designers took part in the project,” says Ahlava.

The university campus will change in many ways. According to Antti Ahlava, Haukilahti Upper Secondary School is a perfect match for the campus vision. “We are building Otaniemi into a campus of the future and a lively environment for research, innovation, learning and art. We are making life more compact, bringing our partners into our university and experimenting imaginative functional solutions and the shared use of facilities,” Ahlava says.

The entire school community can have an impact

Students of the upper secondary school will share a number of different facilities with the university. Having raised attention even on an international scale, the experiment will be centred in the easily recognisable central building Laine on Tekniikantie. The building has previously been used by the Department of Forest Products Technology, after which it has been converted for the upper secondary school through innovation and in line with the principles of sustainable development. Its facilities are modifiable and users are able to modify them according to their needs. In addition, students will utilise the facility and other resources of a number of other university buildings in interaction with university students and staff. For example, the upper secondary school students have access to facilities of the physics, chemistry and art departments, as well as sports facilities at Otahalli.  Companies have also been invited to develop solutions that improve innovative learning.

Flexible solutions

One purpose of this experiment is to test flexible and cost-efficient operating models that can later be expanded and scaled to apply to other educational institutes and services.  The experiences and ideas resulting from this project can be utilised, for example, in situations where a school needs to temporarily move from its regular facilities.

At first, Otaniemi will be home to 350 students from Haukilahti Upper Secondary School. The school will operate in Otaniemi until the renovation and expansion of the Haukilahti school building are completed. In the city’s investment programme, these have been scheduled for 2018–2020.  Later, the number of students in the Otaniemi facilities may increase to 700.

This experiment will be carried out in close cooperation with Aalto University and other different parties. The plan is to set up a separate development community for the partners.

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A new kind of learning environment – Haukilahti Upper Secondary School moves to the Aalto University Campus (bulletin of the City of Espoo, 12 August 2016, in Finnish)
Upper secondary school and university learn together (bulletin of Aalto University, 12 August 2016, in Finnish)
Functions of Haukilahti Upper Secondary School will be situated in several locations on Aalto University campus in Otaniemi (map: City of Espoo, in Finnis)

In the photo:
Haukilahti students Roope Maaranta (on the left), Petra Poimaa and Alarik Rantala are taking a look at their new facilities in Otaniemi. The Laine building was previously used by the Department of Forest Products Technology. Photo: Taru Turpeinen/City of Espoo