My vision – World class logistics education

A silver thread running through my almost 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 the last 15 years, educational quality in our courses has been my main responsibility. In recent years, I’ve also started research within the area of logistics education.

Teaching in logistics

Since I started working at LiU in 1993 I’ve been involved in the graduate education. I’ve 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 85 Master’s Thesis’ projects and 60 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 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 give 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’ve 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 was released in 2013, and is now the best-selling logistics textbook on the Swedish market.
  • For our purchasing course I’ve 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 is 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?” aims to shed light over this. (The project is sponsored by the Program committee of Industrial Engineering and Logistics at LiU/Faculty of Science and Engineering)


Administration and educational leadership

Since 2000 - 2017 I have been 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 within logistics education

Over the years I’ve noticed that most university teachers (including me) have a rather limited knowledge about research within teaching, assessment and learning. I became interested in finding out how logistics ‘really’ should be taught. Based on a rather extensive literature review I realized that not much research have been done in this area. A more thorough investigation of this led to a licentiate thesis, which I defended in 2014.

I have started my PhD project, where I will focus on total cost analysis, a central concept within logistics. I’ve got two aims with this project. First: to describe the complexity in practical application of total cost analysis; and second: to reveal thresholds for students to learn total cost analysis.

Within the EU/Erasmus programme “Capacity Building in the field of Higher Education” I am involved in a project that aims to support the development of logistics master programmes in Russia and Kazakhstan. This includes development of programme content, inspiring teachers to try new pedagogical tools, and to act as guest teacher in their courses.

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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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