Learning Services – enabling success
In line with the Aalto University strategy, we will take greater societal responsibility in degree education and continuous learning with elevated student experience. Learning Services (LES) has a key role in making these goals possible. We develop our service offering in a future-led and user-oriented manner.
The Learning Services’ operations are divided into process areas, each of which have an owner responsible for its development. Read more on the process owner model at the bottom of this page (link to further down on the page) A large part of the processes and services are digitised and made available through the service platform, Sisu or on another platform.
Even though the introduction phase of the Sisu student information system has ended, its active development continues. Aalto cooperates closely with the other higher education institutions using Sisu to develop the system to meet both the needs of the user institutions and the authorities’ requirements. The institutions using Sisu discuss their shared development needs on a regular basis and communicate them to Funidata, the company responsible for Sisu’s development. At Aalto University, the needs for development are identified in collaboration with the whole university community.
Lately, focus has been on improving the basic functionalities of Sisu. The key development milestones reached after Sisu’s deployment include the addition of the functionalities needed by the Open University and some functionalities related to cross-institutional studies. Moreover, the accessibility of student registration functionalities has been improved and the functions related to evaluations performed by teachers in Sisu have been streamlined.
The Salesforce-based service platform has become a key element in Aalto’s digital roadmap. With the help of the service platform solutions, we are able to offer applicants, students and academic staff various digital services, related to e.g. student admissions, planning studies and academic advising. The goal is to continue digitalising processes and replacing outdated systems with Salesforce-based solutions. You can find the Learning Services’ Salesforce projects on the roadmap. You can also read more on the current situation of each project in our monthly newsletters. [V1] For additional information about the service platform, see: https://www.aalto.fi/en/digital-aalto/aalto-service-platform
Learning Services activities structured into process areas
The activities of Learning Services are structured into different process areas, each of which has an assigned process owner. The process owners are members of the Learning Services Advisory Board (LESjory).
In the process owner model, each Learning Services process has a clearly defined process owner. Below/attached you will find LES' current process area descriptions and process owners. The owners are responsible for managing and developing the processes of their own process area in line with the strategy in cooperation with key stakeholders, such as students, teachers and other university service units. Process owners evaluate development processes and their progress and schedule future development projects in quarterly reviews.
The process owner model has been developed to support the organisation and development of the Learning Services operations. The model is based on the OPI reference architecture (2015), which is a common reference framework for higher education institutions, used to structure the shared activities of higher education institutions.
The roadmap summarises Learning Services’ development work
The Learning Services development projects are compiled annually on a roadmap spanning four years at a time. The roadmap is created in cooperation between process owners in a review held at the beginning of each year, and it is evaluated throughout the year with checkpoints around May and September. The roadmap work includes the development needs arising from the process areas of each process owner, which fall into three categories: process development for services to be digitised; actual digitalisation development on the Service Platform, Sisu or elsewhere; and other development work. In addition, attention is paid on small-scale development in process areas. The development needs are prioritised with the help of development and digitalisation criteria.
When working on the roadmap, it is also ensured that there are sufficient resources and the organisation is able to manage the changes needed. Aalto IT Services (ITS) participates in the roadmap work, highlighting the perspective of platforms and IT resources in particular.
LeSG (Learning Steering Group) approves the roadmap presented by LESjory.
You will find the LES roadmap 2024-27 here.
The Leap for Learning project has ended
The Leap for Learning project (2018–2023) focussed on three major Learning Services (LES) projects: the deployment and development of Sisu, the learning and study information system; LES process harmonisation and development; and the introduction of the Salesforce service platform to support the improved processes and digitalisation. As the name suggests, the project period was a leap for learning for both Aalto and Learning Services, and the lessons learned during the project period will continue to be applied to build a sustainable, user-friendly and future-oriented Aalto University in the future.
The project sought to build digital solutions for enriching the user and service experiences of students and staff. It also aimed to satisfy the needs of new user groups (such as life-wide learners) and to make more efficient use of data and analytics in our work.
The project had a joint steering group and a designated change organisation to support its work. Now that the project has come to a close, the activities of the steering group, as well as those of the sponsors and project leads, has ended. The tasks of the Leap for Learning steering group were mainly transferred to LeSG (Learning Steering Group).
What have we achieved so far?
Sisu came online in August 2021 and its development roadmap currently extends to the year 2024.
The LES process development began in 2018 with the identification of processes and the adoption of the digital ‘OPI reference architecture’ as a basis for the work. LES has identified process owners for the different process areas as well as a model and ways to support the progress monitoring of the development work.
Salesforce has several LES projects up and running. It will eventually replace many of the older systems at LES and elsewhere at Aalto. The service platform is an important part of Aalto’s digital roadmap.
In 2021, Salesforce was onboarded in the main admissions process for master’s level students and in the processing of advance assignments for bachelor’s admissions in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. In 2022, Aalto used the platform to launch MyStudies, with features for academic advising and the reinstatement of study rights, as well as an ‘annual clock’ planning timeline for programme directors. As of autumn 2022, the platform is being equipped with features for the digitalisation of thesis processes and for admissions at the doctoral programme level. Aalto’s course catalogue (courses.aalto.fi) has also been built into the platform.
Results and achievements of the Leap for Learning project
The LES process development began in 2018 with the identification of processes and the adoption of the digital ‘OPI reference architecture’ as a basis for the work. LES has defined owners for the process areas, whose expertise in monitoring development work has been actively developed through diverse support measures and ready-made models. Since 2018, a total of 43 processes have undergone process development. Process development was fully completed for 12 main processes.
Highlights of process streamlining:
- The new process for collecting and reporting course feedback can be viewed on the course feedback pages. As a result of process development, the old system was replaced with a new, streamlined system, i.e. one that better supports the needs of teachers and students.
- The thesis process has been developed and described, and after the process streamlining phase, the process is being digitalised and added onto the service platform.
The student information system Sisu’s deployment in August 2021 was a major effort. The deployment of Sisu changed the user experience of the student information system, especially for students, because Sisu supports the entire life cycle of studies:
• With Sisu, students can register for courses and plan and schedule their studies for the entire duration of their degree.
• For teachers, Sisu offers tools for processing course registrations and assessing the students’ work.
• For service staff, on the other hand, Sisu offers tools for maintaining and processing personal data, study attainments, training sessions, degree programmes, study modules, rights to study and course implementations.
After the active deployment phase, Sisu is moving more clearly into the maintenance phase, and will continue to play a key role in service development.
During the Leap for Learning project period, the Salesforce service platform has become an important part of Aalto University's digital roadmap.
This has led to several Salesforce-based solutions:
• In 2021, Salesforce was onboarded in the main admissions process for master’s level students and in the processing of advance assignments for bachelor’s admissions in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture.
• In 2022, Aalto used the platform to launch MyStudies, with features for academic advising and the reinstatement of study rights, as well as an ‘annual clock’ planning timeline for programme directors.
• The digitalisation of the thesis process, which began in autumn 2022, will be implemented during 2024.
• Doctoral programme admissions are now processed on the service platform.
• An Aalto course catalogue (courses.aalto.fi) has been built on the platform.
The Student Success Hub has been deployed and its development continues.
Salesforce-based solutions will continue to play a key role for Learning Services as a whole.
In addition to technological and organisational changes, many good practices were instilled during the Leap for Learning project period and Learning Services competencies developed on the whole.
Visible changes made during the Leap for Learning project period included the process owner model and quarterly reviews, which were introduced to clarify the division of responsibilities and support the prioritisation of development. The introduction of the Gate model helped streamline the decision-making process.
The working methods, competence level and work culture have developed positively as follows:
• The understanding of processes, process development and digitalisation has increased significantly. • Mutual trust has been strengthened through a clear division of responsibilities and working together. • Cooperation has intensified, and both community spirit and well-being at work have been perceived to have increased.
• As a result of the project, project-based working methods have been widely adopted as a natural part of everyday work in Learning Services.
Benefits for students and lifelong learners
- Personal Aalto services in one place for full engagement in Aalto community
- Services available anywhere, anytime
- Visibility to Aalto course offering to ensure relevant skills for future work life
- Graduation according to the learner’s personal schedules and goals
- Support for lifelong learning, multidisciplinary studies and mobility
Benefits for faculty
- Scalable services to support increasing number of students and lifelong learners
- Essential and real-time student information available for analysis and decision making
- Information systems support the planning and organising of teaching
- Better service support from Aalto personnel through more efficient, unified processes
Benefits for service personnel
- Enable scalable support services for increasing numbers of students and lifelong learners
- Information systems support daily work, which also means less manual work
- Opportunities to provide more personalized support to students and faculty
Many teaching and learning services and workflows will be renewed over the coming year. Related projects have been brought together under the heading of Leap for Learning.