“Espoo developed a concept together with Aalto University where education delivery is embedded within Aalto University’s communities of learning and becomes a service.”

The Learning city

School as a service

Learning is the most powerful weapon to change the world and the only sustainable one. But how do you enable this in a world that changes so fast that the only certainty is uncertainty? This is how Espoo rises to the challenge.

In Espoo learning is a part of the city’s culture—and always has been, as the city has been growing so fast and the world around it has kept on changing so rapidly. In Espoo learning is embedded in the local communities rather than in isolated learning hubs. World-class learning has been a part of the Espoo DNA since 1954 when the Helsinki University of Technology moved to Espoo. Aalto University was born in 2010 through a merger of the Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and the University of Art and Design Helsinki.

Renovation, innovation, and transformation

Because many of Espoo’s schools were built in the 1960s and 1970s, a number of them need to be renovated around the same time. This presents Espoo with a major spatial and financial challenge—where will education take place during these renovations? The solution was found through innovative use of new technologies that enable education everywhere, so individual learning can happen anywhere, but for the social learning, space and place matter even more than before.

Espoo develops learning environments that support engagement and inspiration in learning. They enable transformation of the physical learning spaces by the users and help them claim “ownership” of the learning environment.

“Building for the future, Espoo developed a concept together with Aalto University where education delivery is embedded within Aalto University’s communities of learning and becomes a service that can be delivered to a wide network of various physical learning spaces”, says Jarmo Suominen, Professor of Service Architecture at Aalto University.

This concept will be first implemented on the Aalto University Otaniemi Campus, and coordinated with Aalto University and University of Helsinki. The first practical deployments will take place in 2016. With this concept Espoo intends to simultaneously realize both the flipped learning and flexible learning spaces concepts. If successful, the concept will be shared with the city’s partners, like the global network of UNESCO learning cities, the UN’s Regional Centres of Expertise network, and the ongoing EU Twinning projects. 



A rewarded learning city

United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO rewarded Espoo in September 2015 for its exemplary progress as a learning city. Espoo recognizes the significance of learning as a foundation of wellbeing and growth of the city and all its residents.

The learning cities have visionary aspirations for both themselves and their residents. They strive to be creative in the changing world and understand that lifelong learning is a key factor in building a sustainable society.

A learning city is built on innovations that are created and implemented in cooperation with different partners: residents, educational organisations, enterprises, associations and communities.

The City of Espoo offers them a possibility to participate in developing new solutions and locally, nationally, and internationally make effective use of their expertise. The role of the city is to build networks and the best possible foundation for learning.

Jarmo Suominen is working at Aalto University and with Tongji University and MIT to develop service oriented solutions and logic in the production driven world of Architecture. 

Further reading: Flex your Ed