The VIBES project comprised three levels of education, high school, university, and graduate/professional education. Therefore, the problem space of the curriculum development was approached as a modular co-creation process of building the VIBES tool. Given the differences in educational practices, and the multi-level of the different educational organizations, a communal problem space that could support the issues of multi-cultural virtual teams was needed. The aim was to develop an approach that addresses development of virtual skills systematically, with different learning outcomes resulting from a similar learning path, while acknowledging distinct aspects of complexity in the process.
Authors: Brett Fifield, Miia Itänen & Nia Yli-Jaakkola
The systematic approach and the common learning path would enable cross level interaction, or iterative learning cycles, but still allow for autonomous differences of a specific educator’s preference to focus on a particular aspect for the learners. While dynamic flexibility at the level of individual course curriculum is required, a modular structure makes it possible to construct collaborative cross-level experiences where desired. In effect, the VIBES tool builds a multi-purpose space that can be modified or adapted to the specific needs of the educators and learners. It provides a flexible and comprehensive architecture of multi-purpose learning spaces for virtual teams.
VIBES tool in a nutshell
VIBES tool helps with breaking complex problem spaces into concrete action plans. To bring a holistic view to the problem at hand, it is looked at from various perspectives, from a list of selected topics relevant to the context. The tool is scalable, allowing to expand the view or narrow the focus by either number of selected perspectives, or with the number of topics and sub-topics. The tool is applied through a four-step process that allows deep focus on details while maintaining a comprehensive overview of the overall context. These steps are Problem Space Mapping, Topic Descriptions, Activities Tables and Action Plans (Figure 1.).
Figure 1. Structure of the Tool (Fifield et al. 2022)
Problem space mapping outlines the problem at hand. Focus is on defining and specifying:
- the problem definition, needs and focus in one descriptive sentence;
- a set of relevant perspectives to ensure holistic analysis of the problem space;
- the most important topics and sub-topics that help to break the problem into pieces that can be addressed with targeted actions.
Topic descriptions entails a more detailed analysis of the identified topics. Each sub-topic defined and explained clearly and concisely. The definitions ensure shared understanding of the concepts used and facilitate further analysis in the subsequent stages.
Activities tables build on the earlier steps by looking at the topics and sub-topics from each of the selected perspectives. The idea of the activities tables is to further explain the description and offer various perspectives, ideally, with each perspective bringing something new to the activities. Even though the step adds activities to the descriptions it should not offer the full solution at this point as that comes in the final step.
Action plans are the final step of the process. Tailored actions for each of the identified sub-topics are defined, taking into consideration the analysis through the selected perspectives. The actions are designed systematically by defining Goals, Gains, Actions, Data, tools, and resources, KPI’s and the final Action Plan.
Curricula creation with the VIBES tool
In the VIBES tool, problem space, perspectives, topics, and sub-topics were selected to support learning experiences at different academic levels. These were connected to the different perspectives, topics, and sub-topics. The topic descriptions were used to define activities and develop action plans that serves as a basis of curriculum design.
In the VIBES project, the problem space was defined to be Strengthening competences for working in multicultural virtual environments to support the evolving business world, and the main perspectives were company, individual and multi-cultural teamworking. For a holistic approach, the topics selected were categorized under organizational issues, management issues, team issues and individual issues. The complete mapping can be found in the table below (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Problem space mapping for VIBES (Fifield et al. 2022)
Each of the sub-topics were then described to align what is meant by each term in this context (Fifield et al. 2022). To narrow down the broad problem space, it was decided to concentrate on culture and ways of working, management, communication, dynamics, and work-life balance in the curricula development and application. For each of sub-topics, activities using the three selected perspectives (company, individual and multi-cultural teamworking) are created.
The activity definitions developed through the process creates a vast overview of actions and capacities needed from different perspectives. Based on these, the final step brought the different perspectives together in one coherent action plan that serves as a basis of the curricula or study modules. To illustrate how the VIBES framework and the action plan feeds into curricula development and can be used to design learning content for different contexts, a set of example curricula and examples of course outlines were developed (Fifield et al. 2022).
In essence, the VIBES tool provides an approach to focus and create the dialogue and moments of reflection in developing a learning journey towards enhanced virtual skills and competences. The journey can be tailored to different types of learners’ needs and starting points. The VIBES tool ensures a holistic and systematic approach to problem solving through analyzing the problem space from multiple perspectives and topics. Educational content developed with the VIBES tool delivers a rich and rigorous learning path that fosters the development of skills and competences for operating in multicultural virtual environments and teams (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Learning path of a course developed with the VIBES tool (Fifield et al. 2022)
Fifield, B., Yli-Jaakkola, N. & Itänen, M. 2022. VIBES Virtual Business Skills Empowerment Project, VIBES IO3: Educational Content Development. Erasmus Plus and Lab University of Applied Sciences, IO3 Full Report, June 1, 2022. The VIBES IO3 report will be available on the project webpages: https://www.virtualskills.eu/
Brett Fifield is a Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Business at Lab University of Applied Sciences.
Miia Itänen is a Master’s student in Faculty of Business at Lab University of Applied Sciences.
Nia Yli-Jaakkola is a Master’s student in the Faculty of Business at Lab University of Applied Sciences.
Illustration: https://pxhere.com/fi/photo/1109951 (CC0)
Reference to this article
Fifield, B, Itänen, M. & Yli-Jaakkola, N. 2022. VIBES: A Multi-Perspective Tool to Break Complex Problem Spaces into Concrete Action Plans. LAB Pro. Cited and date of citation. Available at https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/vibes-a-multi-perspective-tool-to-break-complex-problem-spaces-into-concrete-action-plans/