Liisa Wallenius

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences




Niina Moilanen, Annika Konttinen


Implementing Design Sprint in Higher Education


This paper discusses the experiences with Design Sprint at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Porvoo campus. The campus implements the approach of inquiry learning and students learn by doing in commissioner projects. Service and product development is implemented in projects within various branches of tourism industry in line with the development task universities of applied sciences have in Finland. Each academic semester starts with a learning camp and Design Sprint was chosen for the 3rd semester bringing together students of various disciplines. For the students, the objective is to offer an insight into design thinking and product development with focus on customer understanding. For the commissioners, the objective is to provide a swift experience of product/service development. The multi-disciplinary groups bring creativity and multiple insights into the service development of tourism services. Design Sprint was selected as a method for students to learn product development because it is a method used by businesses and the principles are similar to the pedagogical approach of Porvoo Campus, inquiry learning. The Porvoo campus curriculum is based on the principles of inquiry learning where learning takes place in a social setting and where problems are solved through study, discussion, testing and sharing. As such, inquiry learning has its basis in the theory of constructive learning, where the learner is an active creator of knowledge and social interaction is a vital part of learning. Knowledge creation takes place through creating solutions via social collaboration and collective problem solving. Design Sprint, developed at Google Ventures, is a five-day process where students use design and prototyping and test their ideas with customers in order to find answers for business questions (e.g. how to design a marketing plan, social media strategy or a website) The process utilises best practices from business strategy, innovation, behaviour science and design thinking. The objective is to collect feedback from customers by showing them a prototype (e.g. a fake social media account, application) without launching an actual product/service. The instructors modified the original Sprint to suit Porvoo campus curriculum and pedagogical needs. The commissioners have been satisfied with the service development suggestions as well as customer insights gathered in short time in the sprints. Design Sprint clearly offers an effective way of development and a new mode of industry-education cooperation. The Porvoo Sprint is a five-credit module offered to a multidisciplinary group with an intensive schedule. It comprises of a pre-assignment, four days on intensive work with the Design Spring method including prototyping and testing, team consultations and finishing with commissioner presentations. The instructors started with a five-day Sprint and developed it into four days, also implemented by Google Venture. The paper discusses student and instructor experiences of the first three Design Sprints during 2018 and 2019 with commissions to develop hotel services for business travellers. The data is based on student and instructor interviews and feedback. The results with suggestions for development are presented. The study indicated enhanced student motivation and engagement, and possibilities of providing advantages in employability.