Tag Archives: paper

Students Envisioning the Future of University Studies – Paper presented at the Frontiers in Education Conference 2016

This paper that was presented last week at Frontiers in Education reports on a study addressing how students can be included as critical stakeholders in the systems and services provided by a university. We view this as an element of institutional democracy, and investigate how insights from the computing disciplines can inform this discussion.

The paper can be found here. 

I still remember how I had planned quite a wild didactic  idea about making the students act their future scenarios in a role play for each other. I was in charge of the student group, and worked together with my PhD student Thomas Lind on this. I was not sure about how the students would like this approach to presenting their visions, and I had had little time to prepare it. On my way to the vision seminar sessions the very morning of the role play my car broke down completely. I needed to call Thomas Lind,t  and say that unfortunately I would not show up. So I left him with the quite role play idea , and he was completely unprepared. Good thing he is excellent at improvising, and he made the best out of the situation. 🙂

When the paper was presented by Thomas Lind it was especially appreciated that the students were involved in the work, and that they were collaborative partners when the visions of the future were developed. There were other groups of users too, such as study administrators and study administrators.

The paper is written collaboratively by a whole group of people:

  • Thomas Lind, Åsa Cajander, Bengt Sandblad & Mats Daniels from Uppsala University
  • Marta Lárusdóttir from Reykjavik University
  • Roger McDermott from The Robert Gordon University
  • Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology

In order to address the whole student experience we engaged students and employees at a large Swedish university in a vision seminar process to elicit how these groups envisioned an ideal future version of the university, and the necessary changes to technology and organisational structures required to achieve this ideal version.

The vision seminar process entailed six four-hour workshops with four groups consisting of six participants each. A survey instrument was used to follow up on the participants’ experiences of participating in the vision seminar process and their thoughts on the future of the university.

The results from the survey show that the participating students had a more positive view of the future in comparison to the university employees. The students envisioned systems to be harmonized at an interdepartmental level, as well as a seamless integration of a variety of services into one technical solution provided by the university.

For university employees the future work was viewed as being very flexible, made possible by information systems capable of providing excellent support whilst not hindering pedagogical and organisational development.

Finally we discuss the broader implications of these differing visions on the future of university education, and how such a visioning process may be successfully adopted in other institutions.

A Framework for Writing Learning Agreements – Paper Presented at Frontiers in Education 2016

I work together with colleagues and students on learning agreements in the IT in Society class, and we have developed a framework for writing these agreements that we use. The framework developed to support the students in writing learning agreements in the IT in Society course has been built on past cycles of experience in OEGP courses, theoretical insights from the HCI field and based on discussions with students.

Students often find it very difficult to write learning agreements as they are very unused to setting up goals for their own development, instead of being given these goals by a teacher.

We wrote a paper based on the development of the learning agreements that was presented at the Frontiers in Education conference in Erie last week. The paper is written collaboratively by Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology, Roger McDermott from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen and the group of facutly and students from Uppsala University: Elin Parsjö, Mats Daniels, Nanna Lagerqvist and me. The paper has the title: “A Framework for Writing Learning Agreements”.

You find the paper here

The idea is to build an IT based system for this framework as an element of a research based development.  We have implemented this as a course Wiki set of pages. These pages contain:

  1. General information about the assignment of writing a learning agreement.
  2. Descriptions of the different professional competencies involved in the learning agreement (the nine graduate attributes from Curtin University).
  3. A template for writing learning agreements.
  4. Resources for developing different aspects of professional competencies.
  5. A reflection section with specific questions related to what has been developed for each of the professional competencies.
  6. A set of personas and scenarios.

We are still working on the implementation of the framework, and one step had been to try the personas in two course instances. So there is more to come in this area of didactic research 🙂


Working with Usability in Scrum Projects – what Usability Activities are Used in Practice?

A few years ago Yuan Jia worked with Marta Larusdottir and me as a master student doing her master thesis study in our research project on Agile development and UCD.

There was lack of studies describing to what extent different user centred methods were used in Scrum projects, so this became the topic of Yuan Jia’s master thesis, and which resulted in a conference paper. I remember that we had a very good collaboration with Yuan Jia, who now is a PhD student in the US.

When designing the study we quickly ran into problems with the number of respondents to our web based questionnaire. We did not have the mail contact information to people in organisation working with Scrum and user centred design. First we distributed the survey through the Uppsala Tax Office and LokaIdelen which is a website offering information to companies in Sweden. I also remember Yuan Jia’s long lists of company names and phone numbers as she systematically contacted company after company. Tedious work, but to be honest research work can be very much administration from time to time. In the end we had around 50 people who answered the survey 🙂

The survey has some interesting results, se Figure below. The most commonly used usability technique in Scrum projects is workshops, followed by lo-fi prototyping, interviews and meetings with users, all used by more than half of the participants.

One can note that all these usability techniques are informal, meaning that these techniques can be used quickly without much preparation. Formal usability evaluation with users is a highly ranked technique by the participants but not commonly used by them.




We presented the paper at the Human Centred Software Engineering Conference (HCSE) in 2012.

You find the paper here.


Interviews with Cancer Patients Reading their Medical Records Online

When medical records online was launched in Uppsala County Council a few years back many health care professionals were concerned, to say the least. There were for example some very upset discussions especially regarding cancer patients and medical records online, and the possibility to get bad news through a web page.

There were also critical incidents regarding patients reading their test results and getting a cancer diagnosis online, as in the screen shot that is the featured image in this blog post. The article is a Google translation from Swedish, and the original article can be found here.  The news article describes the story of a woman who got to know about her the return (?) of her breast cancer through logging in at a web service. This specific critical incident occurred in 2015.

So the question is:

Is reading your medical records online really a good idea for patients with diseases such as cancer? What do cancer patients in general think about the system? Is it useful for them?

As a result of this turbulence around medical records online and cancer patients DOME did an  interesting study with interviews with 30 cancer patients. I did this study together with my PhD student Hanife Rexhepi (I’m co-supervisor), Associate Professor Rose-Mharie Åhlfeldt and Professor Isto Huvila. We presented this study at Vitalis, and you can see the presentation here (in Swedish), we wrote a Swedish white paper on the study found here and also a journal paper in the Health Informatics Journal.

In the study we found that some cancer patients use the system on a daily or weekly basis for several reasons:

  • They are curious about what it says in the text, and in the test results.
  • To prepare for the next appointment with a physician.
  • To get a feeling of being in control when it comes to their decease.
  • As a memory aid when looking at what has happened so far with their decease.
  • To be able to understand what the physician said in the meeting.
  • To read up on the latest test results, and to compare to previous results.
  • To get the exact information, and not an interpreted oral version.
  • To decrease the waiting times in health care

One of the worries that health care professionals have is that patients would become worried, and some patients said that of course it is worrying to read about the decease sometimes.

“If we can handle to live with all these deceases- we can handle to read about them too”

In our study almost all patients choose the option to see everything at once in the system and not to wait until the information is signed by a doctor. This is also confirmed by statistics that say that 98% of all patients want to read as soon as possible, and do not want to wait for the information to be signed by a doctor. Many patients in our study describe the waiting for results as the most difficult part of being ill, as one patient said:

“For me it is good to read. It is much worse to go around and wait. No one wants to tell you anything.”

One of the more controversial results from the study was that some patients preferred to read about negative development in their cancer, or the occurence of cancer online, as in this quote:

I personally want to know. Even though it is tough. It is not less tough to get to know it a few days later, or by someone who wraps the bad message inside mumbo jumbo words to soften it and says that it is not too bad and so forth. No, I want straight answers.

One should note that all 30 patients in the study thought that being able to read the medical records online is a good reform, and that the system should exist as a possibility for those patients who want it.

I have had a meeting the Oncology department at the hospital to discuss the possibility of doing a follow-up study on patients reading their medical records online. Some of the things we want to understand is the use and non-use of the system, and how it affects patient empowerment. We also need to do a follow up study because there is a risk that the people that we interviewed were early adopters of the system, and we want to find out what the mature users think.

So there are more studies to come in this interesting area!

Action Research on Blending and Flipping the Classrom, a study by Ville Isomöttönen

In a seminar with the UpCERG research group Ville Isomöttönen  presented a paper on the use of Action Research in changing a classroom setting from a more classical seminar (passive) based course to a course based on blended learning and flipped classroom ideas. This is basically when you use e-learning in teaching and aim at using the seminars for discussing matieral that the students have studied outside of the seminar room. The pedagogic aim was to practice active learning with many practice sessions, online learning and review sessions.

Ville Isomöttönen described that they had a very optimistic start of the project with many pedagogic ideas for improvement.

Some of the things they found in the study was:

  • Students prefer informal communication. It is difficult to drive a self study course through asking students to pose driving questions.
  • Student pass rates went down after this change, but the number of students increased. Many students logg into the system and tried it out and experimented.
  • Students constantly say that they really enjoyed the freedom and self-paced and flexible sized studying, but that it is nothing for them and they don’t want it in the future.
  • Students need to practice “freedom in learning”, and they often have a mindset where they believe that there is a best way of doing something. “Which is the best way to do this?”

During the presentation we also discussed the many choices that we need to do as action researchers. What kind of participation are we aiming at in our projects? Who do we include when designing the change we want to do, and in what way? In how many action research projects are the students invited to participate in the changes made, and what would happen when they are? What are the different roles that we take as researchers in our projects? I take on different roles such as coach, seminar leader, meeting participant, interviewer, notes taker, meeting leader. All these roles include different levels of listening, talking and discussing.

We also had a very interesting discussion about Action Research in areas, or in projects where interia is so strong that you almost know from the start that this goal will not be reached. My opinion is that we cannot stop doing action research on the big and challenging problems such as “cancer care”, or ” gender in the a Swedish school system” or “usable ICT in organisations” because it is difficult. We need to work to change things in small steps. Grit and perseverance in research are crucial! 🙂

The full paper is published soon and is called: Isomöttönen & Tirronen (2016, ToAppear). Flipping and Blending: An Action Research Project on Improving Functional Programming Course. ACM Transactions on Computing Education.


Responsibilities and Challenges of Product Owners at Spotify – Conference Paper

Today we presented our paper Responsibilities and Challenges of Product Owners at Spotify at the Human Centred Software Engineering Conference at KTH in Stockholm. The paper is written together with Sigurhanna Kristinsdotti and Marta Larusdottir

The Product Owner is responsible for the list of requirements and the work in the team together with the Scrum Master in the context of agile development. 

What did we do? 

In 2014 we did a study at Spotify. They have used agile development since 2006, and they focus much on usability as their slogan is “It’s easy”. Spotify reached 39 million subscribers in 2016!

The main research questions in the paper were:

  1. What are the main responsibilities of the Product Owners
  2. What are the challenges of a Product Owner, and how does he or she cope with them?

What did we find? 

  • Most of them found it hard to mesure the value when developing new features
  • Some Product Owners use the number of users as their main parameter of success
  • To lead the vision was a difficult responsibility that Product Owners struggled with
  •   “I think it‘s important that the POs see to it that the team has a vision – that they know what it is – but i don‘t thing it is solely the PO who creates that vision, I think that the team does that together, but the PO is responsible for having it.“


The visions needs to be understood and appreciated by the teams, and the product owners do not want to use their authority to make decisions:

 “You can ususally see when the team has set the goals as a whole rather than the goals being delivered from someone else.“

The main results 

The Product Owner role is very diverse. The challenges are many, and the job is very multifaceted.

The Product Owners need to have one foot in the daily work of the Scrum teams, and one foot in the future.


Paper in Special Issue on PhD Student Supervision

PhD supervision is a complex phenomenon that is addressed in a special issue on PhD supervision in Tidskriften Utbildning och lärande. I have read the special issue, and it is well worth the time. 🙂

Ulrike Schaas and I have collaborated around one of the papers in the journal. The title of the paper is “Peer reflection on inclusive supervision – a study circle as a space for collegial learning”

The paper presents a new form of learning opportunities for PhD supervisors where peer learning is a central concept. Ulrike Schaas has written about the pedagogic underpinnings of the study circle, and presents the facilitator’s perspective whereas I participated in the study circle and present the learner’s perspective.

For further details, read the paper!