Henrik Hansson, Jan Moberg, Ranil Peiris
The matching of a large number of students who will commence their thesis writing at the Bachelor’s or Master’s levels with appropriate and available supervisors based on creative ideas. Another challenge is to connect the students’ thesis topics with current research activities at the university and with development relevant for businesses. In order to facilitate a good start for students based on suitable thesis topics, the Idea Bank has been developed. This pool of ideas is generated by business, research funding bodies, supervisors and students who have completed their theses. This management problem is of general interest for all universities and of importance for quality thesis output as well as for skills and learning in demand by the public and private sector. The Idea Bank is the point of departure for the thesis process, supported by the IT-system, SciPro. Aim: To describe and analyse the matching problem of ideas, students and supervisors in order to facilitate quality thesis production. Methods: The research approach is based on action research and design research principles; including needs assessments and user evaluations from students, supervisors and administrators perspectives. Data collection methods: interviews, observations, focus group discussions and log data during a period of 1,5 year. Approximately 80 supervisors, 20 administrators and 870 students have been involved. Results and Discussion: Students appreciate as much information and inspiration as possible when creating their thesis topics. Our model consists of one semester of “thinking” and developing the topic, before the thesis course starts. During that period ideas are available from supervisors, > 220 ideas are currently available. Business enterprises also provide ideas for the Idea Bank as well as public sector organisations. Students can develop their own ideas and label them according to research area. The project ideas are transformed by students into a short overview consisting of: 1) What? 2) Why? 3) How – conceptually? 4) How – practically? This paper presents three IT-models that have been developed to manage these thesis ideas and the matching with supervisors; version 2010-11, 2011-12 and the modified design for 2013. Each year about 350 students have been managed and each year the strategy and system processes have evolved based on lessons learned and stakeholder negotiations. Conclusions: The Idea Bank and matching system definitely add value, saves time and increase the quality of theses. Due to conflicting interests about the process between the stakeholders, the system has been rebuilt each year in order to create the best compromise. The process implemented rewards active supervisors and active students by providing freedom, control and selection of relevant topics to a high degree.