My vision – World class logistics education

A silver thread running through my over 25 years at LiU has been the ambition to perform and develop our logistics education in a good a manner as possible. Being Director of Studies for many years, educational quality in our courses was my main responsibility. In recent years, I have also been engaged with research related to logistics education.

Teaching in logistics

Since I started working at LiU in 1993 I have been involved in the graduate education. I have spent roughly 50 % of my time teaching and examining, as examiner for approximately 10 different courses at 55 occasions; as participating teacher in numerous other courses; and as supervisor for some 90 Master’s Thesis’ projects and 65 major projects at master level.

Teaching sometimes involves a tension that is exhausting, since you have to be concentrated and alert during long periods of time. On the other hand, teaching can be very inspiring and energy-providing. Over the years there has been a shift from traditional lectures, going through standard exercise in the classroom to a greater proportion of case-based education, discussion seminars and project work. These latter forms of teaching and learning activities promote a more active learning, and a greater interaction between teacher and student, which is inspiring for both parties. A challenge connected to this kind of education is that as a teacher, you can’t control what happens in detail. You must be prepared to handle things as they come to direct student learning in the desired direction. With growing experience, these kind of educational settings is what I like the most.

Most logistics courses we provide are directed to students following programmes in Industrial Engineering or Mechanical Engineering, but we also teach Business Administration students. A majority of the courses are at master level, which means that the students bring a lot of knowledge with them when entering these courses. Many students choose logistics as their master profile (a final specialization of their studies), meaning that they are highly motivated. This is inspiring for us teaching them, but it also puts pressure in us, since the students expect a top-level education. Teaching at university means a lot of responsibility. The students invest some years of their lives to get a good education. As teachers, we have a responsibility to give as good a journey as possible. To do this you got to be well-prepared, concerning subject knowledge as well as didactic/pedagogic knowledge. Over time, you establish a good foundation, an arsenal of educational tools that gives you a good teaching confidence. This allows you to be well prepared with less effort, and thereby opening up for activities of a more developing kind.

At present, I participate in approximately five courses every year, giving lectures and leading different kinds of seminars. I am also examiner for a course in Purchasing, and supervise master’s theses and smaller projects.

Educational development

Over the years, I have put down much work developing teaching forms, education forms etc. in smaller and larger scale.

Examples of finished projects

  • During 1994-95, I developed a major teaching case AB Cyklett, which we have used in our basic courses to create a reality-like setting and promote integration between teaching and examination.
  • Together with two colleagues, I have written a textbook in Logistics. The 4th edition released in 2013, has for some years been the best-selling logistics textbook on the Swedish market.
  • For our purchasing course I have developed a case focusing total cost analysis, where the students’ planning of their solution affects what input data they receive. As an effect the students will reach different conclusions, something that opens up for many fruitful discussions.
  • Supported by the Faculty of Science and Engineering at LiU, I studied to what extent the students really perceive and absorb the message the teacher intend to communicate.
  • The project “Increased learning of investigation method” has the purpose of improving the education in investigation method (the structured and methodical way in which an investigation is planned and performed) in order to make the students better prepared for working with development projects and investigations in their future careers. (The project was sponsored by LiU’s pedagogical development funding)
  • CDIO is a framework with the aim to improve engineering education, preparing the students better for their future careers. A silver thread in CDIO is that the students should be exposed to the different phases included in product and process development (Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate). The Faculty of Science and Engineering at LiU is one of the 120+ higher education institutions having adopted their education to CDIO. As CDIO is developed from a technical standpoint, there are some concerns on how CDIO should be applied on engineering programmes with a management profile (e.g. Industrial Management and Engineering). The project “How can CDIO be applied on management disciplines?” (sponsored by LiU) shed some light over this.
  • During 2015-2018 I was involved in the EU/Erasmus programme “Capacity Building in the field of Higher Education” which aimed to support the development of logistics master programmes in Russia and Kazakhstan. This included development of programme content, and inspiring teachers to try new pedagogical tools.

 

Administration and educational leadership

During 2000 - 2017 I was appointed Director of Studies for the Logistics education, and thereby responsible for administration and development of our courses.

Administratively this means, among other things, to control the course budgets, to staff the courses wisely, and to communicate with different steering committees. An important part within this is to within given budget open up possibilities for development activities in order to improve the way we teach and examine.

An important part of the educational leadership is to stimulate and manage development activities in a desired direction. Equally important (or more) is to create a team spirit and a positive climate, encouraging cooperation and making everyone feel they develop. We arrange meetings to discuss different educational issues, including course content and pedagogical aspects. We have tried to create good interfaces between the courses, thereby establishing a good progression between the students following these courses. This requires a common view of what knowledge and skills we want the students to learn, as well as what pedagogical forms to use. This has lead us to use educational activities requiring the students to think, reflect and question things to a greater extent than we consider them to have done so far during their studies.

Research related to logistics education

Over the years I have noticed that most university teachers (including me) have a limited knowledge about research within teaching, assessment and learning. I became interested in finding out how logistics ‘really’ should be taught. Based on a extensive literature review I realized that research within this area was scarce. A more thorough investigation of this led to a licentiate thesis, which I defended in 2014.

The doctoral thesis I defended in November 2019 focuses total cost analysis, a central theme in logistics, and important also in many other disciplines. Many decisions are made based on comparisons of costs for alternative actions. Such cost analyses are difficult, why the basis for decisions is insufficient, and poor decisions might be made. In the thesis I describe the complexity and challenges associated to conducting total cost analysis, the thresholds for learning total cost analysis, and how a good choice of educational methods can support students overcoming these thresholds.

At present, I am involved in a small-scale study on students’ and teachers’ experiences of the online teaching that we had to apply due to the Corona pandemic.

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Logistics is a multi-faceted field, and there is no objective way to compare quality in logistics education programs. However, I don’t hesitate to say that we deliver a good education, and for me it’s an obvious goal to be world class, even if this is something that can’t be measured.
Björn Oscarsson, lecturer, Logistics and Quality Management

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