INTERVIEW BY ALEKSANDRA GZYLO We met up with Solja Sulkunen, the creator of Hacking Higher Education -competition, to hear more about the background of HHE and what we can expect from this year's digital standalone event.
What is Hacking Higher Education (HHE) and how did it all start?
HHE is an initiative to bring out best solutions and practices to develop higher education services regarding each of its stakeholders; students, alumni, personnel, society, companies etc.
It started from a single hackathon in 2017, organised by LINKO, where teams created solutions to give feedback more effectively on courses and educators. The saying "hacking higher education" felt like it had some potential to be further leveraged and I created the event concept that it is today.
The purpose is also to bring together higher education institutions (HEIs) and companies. The original aim was to especially help Finnish HEIs to develop their services to increase their attractiveness and competitiveness nationally as well as internationally.
What can the audience and participants expect this year?
A great updated digital event experience, a gala-like session, with amazing pitches about how to help HEIs develop themselves and their operations further.
How did the pandemic change HHE? What challenges could HHE solve?
Obviously a mass event became a no-go after the breakout started, but thanks to our coordinator, Dare to Learn, HEIP-network, volunteers and especially our main partner Akava, we were able to come up with a super cool alternative - a digital gala.
Also, HHE is now maybe more relevant than ever now that basically all education is taking a big leap towards digital solutions, but also opportunities in all sectors of their operations.
Can you tell us about the previous editions’ projects that really stand out?
A Map of Learning by a student from the University of Helsinki, a solution concept to help higher education students guide their own learning and development process, has stuck to my mind. Also of course last year's winner solution Bazaar that also acknowledged the alumni was a refreshing initiative. Interactive, gamified ways of giving (and receiving) feedback were fun! But beyond individual solutions I've been extremely happy to see that collaboration IS happening and people really want to help HEIs be the best they can be and foster a culture of togetherness and co-creation.
What makes a good project? What is HHE looking for?
Something novel, something that brings added value to HEIs and one or more stakeholder groups, something that is deployable and scalable.
Why should you take part in the competition?
If you have a novel and innovative concept or a solution that is directed at higher education institutions or could be applied to their purposes with small changes, and you want to raise awareness and become part of the growing higher education innovation partners society, you should not miss this international, interactive digital gala!
Would you have any tips for anyone who considers participating in HHE?
Just do it, and have fun! It's really everyone's benefit that we get to hear about your concept/solution.
How would you encourage a person not sure whether they can try themselves in HHE?
You can always contact the organizers or then just go ahead and send your application. It's a fun event and you never know what kind of connections you end up making if you just participate in the raise.