1 An innovation space is a suitable physical environment offering the necessary resources to stimulate the creativity of users in innovation projects working in a dynamic environment (Lewis, Moultrie, 2005; Moultrie et al., 2007). Companies and universities are two types of organizations that have opted for the development of this type of space in its various formats: Fab lab, maker space, co-work, living lab, etc. For companies these spaces present an opportunity for the development of innovation projects, integrating the user early on in the creation process and in new product design (Gey et al., 2013; Villani et al., 2017). For universities, this type of space is an opportunity to forge ties with the industrial world and is also a support space for teaching and research. As it is a meeting point between professors and students from different disciplines, an innovation space allows more complete and complex projects to be carried out.
2 On its side, collaborative learning is a new educational approach that focuses on collaboration between students and teachers so that as a group they find the solution to a problem, reinforcing the teaching-learning process. Collaborative learning is a method that responds to the new educational paradigm, whereby students manage their own learning through group work (Liu, Tsai, 2008; Ormrod, 2008). Members of a collaborative learning group must depend on and help each other, and they must take responsibility for success or failure. Griffin et al. (2011) postulate that the cognitive and social dimensions are key to increasing the probabilities of success in collaborative learning work (OECD, 2017). These two dimensions are also considered in the innovation space framework proposed by Peschl and Fundneider (2014): these common dimensions provide clues to a relationship between innovation spaces and collaborative learning.
3 Studies of innovation spaces focus mainly on results and on contributions to innovation projects. However, the characteristics of an innovation space and its location inside a university open up opportunities to study its potential integration into the teaching and learning process. Innovation spaces seek to promote collaborative work and multidiscipliniarity in order to strengthen the creative and innovative capability of work teams. Therefore, the first question that arises is: Are innovation spaces an opportunity to promote collaborative learning? The sharp increase in the number of innovation spaces within universities and education centers, along with their characteristics that strengthen relationships and collaboration between participants, allow us to answer this question in the affirmative. However, the design and configuration of an innovation space depend on its purpose, so further questions need to be answered: What factors are complementary between innovation spaces and collaborative learning? How should these factors be configured in the design of an innovation space to promote collaborative learning within a university? Which actors should participate in this type of innovation space? How should these actors interact?
4 To answer these questions, this article draws up a state of the art to understand the concepts associated with innovation spaces and collaborative learning. It identifies, on the one hand, the key factors to be considered in the design of an innovation space and, on the other hand, the success factors of collaborative learning. Subsequently, the complementarity of these factors is analyzed, forming the basis for a proposed design for an innovation space capable of successfully promoting collaborative learning.
5 A case study is conducted to illustrate the impact of the proposed design. The innovation space is studied as a real case and must meet certain characteristics. It must be located within a university, it must carry out multidisciplinary work and it must have the objective of promoting collaborative learning. The entrepreneurship and innovation laboratory of the Industrial Engineering Department of the University of Santiago (LEIND) meets these conditions. The University of Santiago is a unique campus, integrating different faculties and academic departments in the same physical place. This characteristic positions LEIND within an ecosystem with students with different backgrounds and disciplines. In addition, the Industrial Engineering Department is updating its curriculum for engineers by integrating training in skills related to innovation and entrepreneurship. In order to support this objective, it has been decided to strengthen LEIND and to position it in support of the development of competences and entrepreneurship projects.
6 Once LEIND has been selected as a case study, an action plan adapted to the context is defined to implement the proposed design for the innovation space. Subsequently, in order to evaluate the impact of the innovation space, students who have visited LEIND regularly for at least 6 months are interviewed. The interview is focused on two main topics: evaluating the factors resulting from the action plan implemented in LEIND, and determining the impact of this innovation space on student learning. Finally, the results of the interviews are analyzed in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed design for an innovation space, with the objective of promoting collaborative learning.
7 The article is structured as follows. Section two presents a state of the art defining innovation spaces and their characteristics, as well as contextualizing collaborative learning. Section 3 outlines the methodology used in this research. Section 4 proposes the design and action plan for the innovation space within a university. Section 5 describes the LEIND laboratory case study and analyzes the interviews conducted with students. Finally, the conclusions of the research are discussed.
State of the Art
8 The changing nature of innovation is transforming traditional workplaces into open and flexible places, where separate professions and disciplines more easily converge. In the last decade, the variety of innovation-focused spaces (co-working spaces, FabLabs, LivingLabs, creativity rooms and so on) has aroused increasing interest in both industry and academia, triggering the creation of such spaces around the world. An innovation space is defined as a place dedicated to stimulating the creativity of users, where innovation projects take advantage of the availability of adapted environments and resources allowing prototyping and creativity (Lewis, Moultrie, 2005; Moultrie et al., 2007). These spaces are used to boost the capability to generate new products (Gey et al., 2013; Villani et al., 2017).
9 Depending on the context, these physical spaces can be transformed into laboratories involving practices such as creativity and prototyping, in an environment of co-creation. Lewis and Moultrie (2005) propose the concept of an innovation laboratory, which can be considered as a means to generate creative behaviors and support innovative projects through the good management of its resources, taking advantage of the capability to restructure new projects (Lewis, Moultrie, 2005; Moultrie et al., 2007). The innovation laboratory can offer real benefits for organizations: reinforcing corporate engagement with innovation and creativity by providing a physical manifestation of dynamic capability and double-cycle learning concepts (Lewis, Moultrie, 2005).
10 For this reason, it is necessary to think about how an innovation laboratory stimulates creative behavior among people within the space, not only as customers and employees, but also as users. According to Lewis and Moultrie (2005), one of the main objectives in designing an innovation lab is to cater for the need for users to be in a space that reduces hierarchy and supports participation. The physical design of the space must promote dynamism, joy and debate, in order to foster optimal conditions to generate a creative climate (Ekvall, 1997).
11 Collaborative learning has attracted much attention due to the growing importance of working in teams and networks to solve the complex problems of contemporary life, work and society (National Research Council – U.S –, 2011). It is an effective teaching method that can facilitate teamwork in small groups to achieve a common goal, and it has been widely used in physical classrooms and online learning (Liu, Tsai, 2008; Ormrod, 2008).
12 One of the characteristics of collaborative learning is that it generates benefits in terms of achievement, motivation and social skills (Slavin, 1994). However, successful collaboration requires a complex mix of interrelated processes. According to various sources, two key dimensions of collaboration can be distinguished: social and cognitive (Griffin et al., 2011; OECD, 2017). The cognitive domain is related to problem solving and self-regulated learning (Winne, Hadwin, 1998; Griffin et al., 2011; Schunk, Zimmerman, 2011) and includes task regulation and knowledge creation. The social domain focuses on the processes necessary for productive collaboration (OECD, 2017). For example, Hesse et al. (2015) postulate that the social domain includes participation, perspective taking and social regulation.
13 Collaborative learning seems to offer great potential for improving innovation performance. However, not enough research has been conducted to fully understand this phenomenon. Some research has suggested that collaborative innovation can stimulate mutual creativity, reduce R&D costs and risks, and improve innovation performance (Faems et al., 2005; Mishra, Shah, 2009; Davis, Eisenhardt, 2011). Others argue that knowledge is often integrated into the innovation process, but that it is often “permeable” and difficult to disseminate (Dyer, Nobeoka, 2000; Hansen et al., 2005; Le Dain, Merminod, 2014). A similar approach was tested in a mechatronics course for first-year engineering students by Hassan et al. (2018), who use project-based learning. Their positive results show that an adapted learning strategy strengthens the innovation competences of students.
14 From the analysis of the state of the art in the previous section we can conclude that innovation spaces are a meeting point for different actors to work in collaboration. However, innovation spaces can take on different configurations in their equipment, design and activities depending on the objective they pursue. Studies on the management of innovation spaces are oriented towards the product or service resulting from projects, without referring to the related learning. In addition, studies on collaborative learning give some indications of its contribution to the development of innovation skills. For these reasons, this paper seeks to study the intersection between innovation spaces and collaborative learning, which has been explored little in previous studies.
15 In this work we will focus on an innovation space whose objective is to promote collaborative learning. How should this type of innovation space be designed? In order to answer this question, the following methodology is proposed.
Figure 1 – Proposed methodology
Figure 1 – Proposed methodology
16 The methodology consists of three main stages: design of the innovation space, implementation, and validation of the proposed design.
17 In the design stage, the factors and dimensions that characterize an innovation space fostering collaborative learning must be determined. A review of the literature is carried out on both the factors associated with innovation spaces and those that encourage collaborative learning. From the intersection between these two types of factors are defined the dimensions that characterize an innovation space and, at the same time, promote collaborative learning. A conceptual model is created with 5 dimensions to design an innovation space in order to reinforce collaborative learning. Then each dimension is explained by a set of criteria that describe the activities and configuration that an innovation space of this type must adopt, thereby generating the design of the innovation space.
18 The implementation of the proposed design is analyzed through a case study. For this research, an innovation and entrepreneurship laboratory within a university is chosen, since it fulfills the requirement of being an innovation space focused on student learning. Next, a specific action plan is defined for the context of this laboratory as regards the implementation stage, that is, an action plan allowing for the correct execution of the proposed design.
19 Finally, the last stage aims to validate the proposed design. For this purpose, interviews are conducted with the actors involved in this innovation space, mainly students and teachers. The interview is conducted in three short sessions lasting one hour each, with open-ended questions to guide the discussion, but without influencing the responses of the students interviewed. Finally, the responses are analyzed in order to determine a consensus on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed innovation space design, to validate certain factors and to give recommendations to improve others.
Design of an Innovation Space
Influential Factors in an Innovation Space
20 Innovation spaces are defined by multidimensionality, that is, the existence of a group of variables of a different nature in order to ensure proper functioning. Peschl and Fundneider (2014) postulate that multidimensionality is defined by 6 factors that must be integrated all together in order to obtain a better result and to transform the space into one that supports innovation. The challenge is to integrate infrastructural, social, cognitive, emotional, epistemological and technological factors. Some authors have attempted to characterize innovation spaces by better understanding these dimensions.
21 Moultrie et al. (2007) propose a framework for innovation spaces in companies. They identify 5 constitutive pillars that characterize the innovation space: strategic intention, process of creation, physical space, process of use and realized intention. Each of these pillars is in turn explained by a series of sub-criteria. Recently, Osorio et al. (2019) carried out an update of this framework, integrating concepts associated with an innovation laboratory that is more open to the whole community. Here the structure of 5 pillars has been maintained, but the sub-criteria that describe them have evolved. Strategic intention is the pillar that is most impacted, as it now integrates concepts associated with the ecosystem, real-world context, user importance, project duration, culture and community.
22 Kallio et al. (2015) propose a triangle between physical space, organizational culture and creativity. Other authors study innovation spaces from the perspectives of living labs, integrating factors associated with user integration and the community (Schuurman et al., 2013; Veeckman et al., 2013). The design of an innovation space depends on the expected results, so the factors to be considered when designing an innovation space must be planned in parallel to the context and its objectives.
Success Factors of Collaborative Learning
23 Collaborative learning is part of the paradigm shift in education centered on active and participatory learning and not only on the transfer of information. Many studies have sought to identify the criteria or factors that determine the success of this mode of learning.
Table 1 – Success factors of collaborative learning
• Stakeholder Integration|
• Different perspectives
• Balance patience/performance
• Active and social learning
• Human centered
• Use of technological devices
• Physical space
|Zhang et al. (2019)||
• Teamwork engagement|
• Social engagement
|Chan et al. (2019)||• Interactivity|
|Haataja et al. (2018)||
• Cognitive monitoring|
• Social monitoring
|Van den Bossche et al. (2006)||
• Cohesion tasks
• Psychological Security
|Miyake and Kirschner (2014)||
• Social dimension|
|Al-Rahmi and Zeki (2017)||
• Social networks|
• Ease of use
• Perceived enjoyment
|Chen and Kuo (2019)||
• Cognitive heterogeneity in groups|
• Social homogeneity in groups
Table 1 – Success factors of collaborative learning
24 Successful collaboration requires a complex mix of processes. Some studies define two dimensions: social and cognitive. However, based on the factors identified in Table 1, physical, technological and emotional dimensions can also be identified.
25 The physical dimension is mainly defined by comfort, flexibility and sensory stimulation. According to the theory of learning and the needs of the student, Oblinger (2006) highlights the flexibility to configure the physical space in different ways allowing the realization of different learning activities. Comfort and sensory stimulation aim to maintain the attention and motivation of students through ergonomic furnishings and colorful, bright and luminous places.
26 The technological dimension is mainly associated with two factors. Oblinger (2006) discusses the importance of technological devices as tools to support learning. These tools must be seen as a complement to the daily relationship that students have with technology, that is, devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers as tools to support collaborative learning. The second factor is the use of social networks. Al-Rahmi and Zeki (2017) validated the positive impact of this factor on collaborative learning. A social network must be functional, easy to use and deliver enjoyment to students in order to have the expected impact.
27 The emotional dimension is one of the most complexes to manage. Interactivity between different actors is a factor cited by various authors (Van den Bossche et al., 2006; Miyake, Kirschner, 2014; Chan et al., 2019). Oblinger (2006) postulates that different actors should be integrated by respecting and understanding all points of view. Chen and Kuo (2019) emphasize the conformation of the work team, showing that at the level of interpersonal relations the team must be homogeneous. In the same vein, Lei et al. (2010) propose familiarity among members as one of 6 key factors in the conformation of teams for collaborative learning. Another emotional aspect is trust between team members (Zhang et al., 2019).
28 The social dimension is closely related to the emotional one, but it also integrates other criteria. Oblinger (2006) states that active learning is positively influenced by its social role, allowing the student to engage and participate in the activities of the learning process. Success in learning outcomes is positively influenced by the commitment of the work team, which in turn is enhanced when there is a social commitment and an associated reward (Zhang et al., 2019). Integrating the user is another mechanism for enhancing learning outcomes (Oblinger, 2006).
29 The cognitive dimension is most commonly related to learning. The strategies and activities carried out must be adapted to the needs and types of learning of the students (Oblinger, 2006). According to Chen and Kuo (2019) there are four learning roles that should be considered when forming the team; their study shows that the groups where all four roles were found had a higher learning performance than those where at least one role was missing. A cognitive heterogeneity in the conformation of the group improves learning outcomes, while at an emotional level it is better for the team members to be homogenous.
30 A transversal factor is the monitoring of the work team. Haataja et al. (2018) propose cognitive, social and emotional monitoring. Cognitive monitoring commonly allows the adaptation of learning strategies. However, a lack of social and emotional monitoring can cause failure because it negatively impacts the collaborative functioning of the team (Haataja et al., 2018).
An Innovation Space for Collaborative Learning
31 A model for the design of an innovation space to promote collaborative learning is proposed. Five common dimensions between innovation spaces and collaborative learning are defined. These are described based on the identification of criteria that allow the design of the space. The criteria are defined taking into consideration both the factors associated with the innovation space and those associated with collaborative learning.
Figure 2 – Dimensions for designing a space to promote collaborative learning
Figure 2 – Dimensions for designing a space to promote collaborative learning
32 The first criterion to consider is flexibility, which is a point of consensus between innovation spaces and collaborative learning. As Moultrie et al. (2007) and Osorio et al. (2019) show, the space must allow an agile reconfiguration and the performance of different activities. Oriented toward collaborative learning, these activities must include work in groups, master classes, and user experience, among others.
33 The second criterion is comfort. In innovation spaces this criterion is related to the following terms: infrastructure (Schuurman et al., 2013), architectural space (Peschl, Fundneider, 2014), spatial organization and architectonic details (Kallio et al., 2015). The ergonomics of the space must motivate the student to be active, make them feel like going to visit this space, integrate it as a common place in their daily life, and frame it in the notion of a living space.
34 Finally, the third factor of this dimension is sensory stimulation, just as comfort is related to terms such as infrastructure and architecture, but from a more visual point of view. Osorio et al. (2019) define it as a design value. Thus, the space must be designed with luminous colors, and must have both a technological and a familiar visual aspect at the same time.
35 Within this dimension, two criteria are important: the use of technological devices to support learning, and the use of social networks.
36 To be successful, technological devices must be easily linked to the devices students normally use. In other words, the technological equipment in the space must be compatible with smartphones, tablets and computers. The tendency to integrate the user within innovation spaces has made the technological equipment in these spaces more accessible and easier to understand. In addition, technological advances in 3D printing, virtual reality and Arduino, among others, has brought this type of technology closer to the citizenry, especially students aged 18 to 25 years, because they are very keen on technologies. For other, more complex technologies, many innovation spaces have a technology facilitator (fabmanager, maker, etc.). Thus, the equipment in the space must aim at functionality and interaction with users or work teams belonging to this space, and the space must have a technological leader who facilitates its use.
37 The use of social networks from a learning point of view is the simile of virtual space in innovation spaces. Connectivity supports collaboration and the space should not be limited only to its physical perimeter. The integration of social networks, as well as other digital tools to generate a virtual space in the laboratory, is of utmost importance.
38 The main criterion of this dimension is interactivity. Collaborative learning is nourished by the convergence of different points of view. In this sense, the term “community” used in innovation spaces presents an opportunity for the development of this interconnectivity. Schuurman et al. (2013) talk of multi stakeholders, Kallio et al. (2015) of openness, and Veeckman et al. (2013) of community and co-creation, all of which are criteria to support the interrelation of stakeholders in a climate of respect and shared values through different opinions.
39 Peschl and Fundneider (2014) directly include the emotional dimension in innovation spaces, focusing on aspects such as safety, trust and commitment. These aspects must be the basis for team encouragement, defined as a success factor of collaborative learning. In an innovation space within a university, the main actors are the students. Given this, the role of monitor is defined in order to focus on the three aspects proposed by Peschl and Fundneider (2014) to guarantee the proper functioning of the work teams.
40 Osorio et al. (2019) integrate factors associated with communication with the outside world and the integration of the user as relevant variables for the design of an innovation space. This integration of context and ecosystem allows actors to work constantly with the community around the laboratory, thus generating the social commitment that collaborative learning needs. The integration of the user is a common point between innovation spaces and collaborative learning, so it is a factor that should be developed and maintained in both cases.
41 Thus, a workspace that constantly addresses the issues faced by social actors and that constantly integrates the user in its activities will allow the social dimension of collaborative learning to develop.
42 At the cognitive level, innovation spaces have as their central axis the development of competencies associated with the innovation process. This methodological framework provides work teams with a cognitive reference point allowing them to monitor and adapt their learning strategy by identifying the roles played by each member of the team.
43 The innovation space must have leaders in the innovation process who guide each stage of the process and advise the work teams. These leaders will help with the cognitive monitoring, suggesting adaptations to the learning strategies adopted by the team.
Case Study: LEIND
44 The case study is the Laboratory of Entrepreneurship and Innovation of the Industrial Engineering Department of the University of Santiago of Chile (LEIND). LEIND was born as a space to support the development of innovation or entrepreneurship projects of students. It was inaugurated in December 2015. It is located within a public university with a single campus, that is, students of all disciplines are in the same geographical area.
45 LEIND has two people in charge. An Academic Director is responsible for maintaining the link with the university’s research areas. An administrative director is in charge of the daily management of the laboratory, tasked with planning activities, distribution of resources, etc. Both have followed postgraduate studies in innovation, and work as mentors and advisors to the work teams within the laboratory.
46 The choice of LEIND as a case study is due to the need to study an innovation space inside a university whose objective is to contribute to the academic development of its students and not just to work on innovation projects. LEIND is an important actor in the recasting of the curriculum currently being done in the Industrial Engineering Department of the University of Santiago. The new curriculum formally integrates the learning of innovation and entrepreneurship skills into the training of new industrial engineers. In order to achieve this objective, the use of student-centered learning strategies is encouraged. Therefore, methods such as collaborative learning are of great interest to LEIND.
47 The design presented in the previous section is proposed as a manual of general recommendations. The following section presents the detailed action plan for each of the 5 dimensions of the innovation space.
Action Plan with a Physical Dimension
- As LEIND is part of a university, academic activities have to be taken into consideration, such as group work, master classes and workshops. In addition, activities are proposed to promote the students’ innovation projects such as creativity sessions, meetings with third parties, prototyping and user-centric activities. Individual workspaces are positioned around the group workspaces to maximize visibility, and a welcome space has been created for visitors with views of the space and the work process. The laboratory is equipped with modular furniture that allows these activities to be carried out.
- Ergonomics was one of the main factors in the choice of furniture. Additionally, it was decided to create a rest area with armchairs where casual collaboration is fostered during conversations between colleagues at break time.
- The visual design of the laboratory was created by a graphic designer who mixed light and striking colors on the walls and pillars due to the need to both stimulate and relax to participants. The furniture was also chosen with these colors. Luminosity was another aspect considered, in addition to the positioning of the furniture and machines, with the aim of creating a space where information can be displayed vertically with slates and on surfaces where it can be projected.
Action Plan with a Technological Dimension
- The technological equipment was purchased progressively, always taking into account its functionality for participants. To begin with the laboratory was equipped with additive manufacturing devices (3D printers and 3D scanners) because they are compatible with certain courses taught at the University. Since then, the purchase of new equipment has been dependent on two factors: technological trends in innovation spaces, and the profile of LEIND students. Currently the laboratory has drones, Arduino and the internet of things, all of them connected and controlled from students’ smartphones. To facilitate the use of these technologies, there is a laboratory assistant who guides people in the use of technologies; this person is supported by students with experience in the use of the corresponding technologies.
- The virtual space of the laboratory is oriented towards communication between actors. For this reason, it is mainly based on the use of social networks. The content of the social networks aims to showcase the different activities and projects at LEIND. Innovation events, training workshops and the results of the students’ innovation projects are the main contents shown. In addition, students can communicate with those in charge of the laboratory, who are specialists in innovation and can respond quickly to their requirements in the development of their projects.
Action Plan with an Emotional Dimension
- LEIND has a policy of total openness for students, teachers and the community in general. In addition, it has been decided to carry out activities and hold competitions to bring the laboratory closer to the whole community. It is established as good practice that the same students who work at LEIND invite their peers to participate in the activities and work carried out in the laboratory.
- The people in charge of the laboratory carry out monitoring and maintain contact with actors that may support the projects at LEIND. When a working group needs a particular item of information on a topic, LEIND’s leaders act as a bridge between the group and an actor who can respond to the group’s need. Thus, LEIND has a group of external experts who act as advisors to the work teams; this group is composed mainly of professors and university graduates who have experience in innovation or entrepreneurship.
- There are periodic meetings between the working groups to present the current status of projects and to provide feedback among the entire LEIND community.
- The people in charge of LEIND monitor the work teams, analyzing the security, trust and commitment of the team members. They act as mediators in case of conflict.
Action Plan with a Social Dimension
- Holding innovation competitions or workshops for the resolution of problems with a social focus.
- Inviting users to visit LEIND, taking advantage of university contact networks to regularly attend the laboratory. These stakeholders are schools, public organizations, citizens’ representatives, companies, teachers, etc. They are invited to interact with the teams according to the relevance of their profile to the project.
- Showcasing products and collective achievements of work teams, in order to promote brand pride, a sense of belonging and the ability to take risks (photos of ventures, newspaper news).
Action Plan with a Cognitive Dimension
- Monitoring meetings between each work team and laboratory mentors to evaluate project progress and to validate or adapt the team’s learning strategy.
- Planning of workshops and activities to reinforce the stages in the innovation process (creativity sessions, design, prototyping, business models, among others).
- Recruitment of new talents to complement existing work teams. Because the work teams that arrive at LEIND are already conformed, one way to assure the heterogeneity of cognitive terms is to integrate missing profiles.
53 The flexibility of being able to do different activities arouses interest in the laboratory. Professors use the space for practical workshops linked to their classes. Students come to the laboratory to work with their teams and meet with their clients. Companies visit LEIND looking for a partner to carry out projects or to set up training plans for their employees.
54 In the last two years, on average 7 academics have participated in LEIND, mainly to carry out activities in the framework of their classes or to develop projects. There are two types of students: entrepreneurial students and activity students. 11 student entrepreneurs participate per semester. They work individually or in groups of up to 4 members, averaging 6 entrepreneurial projects per semester. Finally, students who participate in specific activities visit LEIND for two main reasons: a pedagogical activity accompanied by a teacher (within classes), or participation in a workshop or competition related to innovation (extra-curricular activity). On average, each semester 20 students participate in two classes and 3 workshops are held, for between 10 and 15 participants.
Table 2 – Average per semester of participants in the LEIND
|Professors||Entrepreneurial students||Activity students|
|7||Projects||N° students||Class activities||Workshops|
Table 2 – Average per semester of participants in the LEIND
55 The participants who work the longest at LEIND are student entrepreneurs, so this type of participant was chosen for more detailed feedback through interviews. Interviews were conducted in three short sessions (about an hour). The first and second sessions were conducted separately for each work team, while the third session was conducted in focus group mode with all work teams. The first session was oriented in such a way as to evaluate the factors that characterize LEIND, the second session sought to evaluate the contribution of the innovation space to the results of projects, and the third session was an open discussion between the teams about the relationships and work dynamics within LEIND. All sessions were based on open-ended questions, with the objective of not influencing the answers of the students interviewed.
56 Entrepreneurial students who have worked at least 6 months in the laboratory were interviewed. This decision was made because the University of Santiago has a semester regime, so this period was considered sufficient for students to value learning. Eight teams met this minimum time requirement. Members representing the teams were interviewed: four teams were represented by one student, three teams were represented by 2 students and one team was represented by 4 students. A total of 14 students were interviewed.
57 The sample corresponds to 42% of the total number of entrepreneurial students who have worked at LEIND in the three semesters of operation (14 out of 33). The topic of entrepreneurship at the University of Santiago began to gather pace only about three years ago, so the number of students working constantly on their entrepreneurial projects is still very small. The answers from the students were classified according to key concepts that were repeated in each interview. In this way more conclusive results could be obtained. These key concepts are detailed in Table 3, Table 4 and Table 5.
Interview Session 1
58 The questions asked in this session are as follows:
59 What is your opinion of the LEIND laboratory? Can you describe your relationship and your interaction with the other actors visiting LEIND? How do you coordinate your time to visit LEIND? What is your opinion about the technical equipment at LEIND? Why did you decide to come and work at LEIND?
60 During the conversation, the interviewees were asked more in-depth questions such, as why? Or can you explain your answer?
61 The following table shows the key concepts for each question
Table 3 – Questions and key concepts of interview session 1
|What is your opinion of the LEIND laboratory?||
• The space breaks up the monotony of classrooms.|
• Motivation to come to work.
• The atmosphere is very cordial.
• LEIND gives us freedom and support to empower ourselves with our projects.
• A space where you can work comfortably.
• A laboratory that helps me to develop my projects.
• Sense of belonging.
|Can you describe is your relationship and your interaction with the other actors visiting LEIND?||
• Very good and harmonious relationship.|
• Cooperation between the teams.
• Happiness for the achievements of the other teams.
• Friendship with other teams and mentors.
• Professors and mentors work as one more member of the team.
• Learning chain in which you can learn but also transmit knowledge or experiences.
|How do you coordinate your time to visit LEIND?||
• I come in all my spare time at the University.|
• Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile time with other courses.
• There are periods when I stop attending; this happens in exam weeks.
|What is your opinion about the technical equipment at LEIND?||
• It’s good, like a fablab.|
• It’s not necessary for my project, so I don’t know.
• I could add laser cutters, or digital tools.
Why did you decide to come and work at LEIND?||
• Recommendation from peers.|
• Because LEIND helps me to continue with my project.
• Because I am interested in innovation.
• Curiosity, I’m interested in its activities.
• Through social networks.
Table 3 – Questions and key concepts of interview session 1
62 An analysis was conducted of the key concepts outlined by the interviewees. This analysis first addressed the key concepts associated with each of the 5 dimensions at the origin of the design of the innovation space aimed at promoting collaborative learning. An analysis of other factors was then conducted.
63 Physical dimension: In general, the criteria associated with this dimension are very well evaluated by all participants. Mainly, the ergonomics and flexibility of the space are appreciated by the students: autonomous work, comfort and a change from their normal routine within the classrooms. Sensory stimulation is highlighted in the motivation of all interviewees to go to work at LEIND. Thus the postulate of Schuurman et al. (2013) and Kallio et al. (2015) is confirmed: the physical space keeps the students more active and therefore more creative, positively impacting the dynamics of the innovation space.
64 Technological dimension: From this interview session this dimension presents differences in the opinions of the interviewees. Some assert that the technological equipment at LEIND is good, while others say they do not know or would improve it with other devices. Therefore, in order to clarify these discrepancies in session 3 of the interviews with all the groups, the factors associated with the supporting devices criterion were discussed. Regarding social networks, there is consensus on its use to communicate the activities and work carried out at LEIND, but there is no information on its use as a media to clear up doubts.
65 Emotional dimension: In this dimension, interactivity is deemed to be very good by all interviewees. In general there is harmony and fluid communication between all work teams. They interviewees also mention their good relationship with mentors and professors of the university and have also seen a greater commitment by the teams working on their projects. This finding relates to the homogeneity in relationships that must exist within a team (Chen, Kuo, 2019). In this interview session there was not enough information to evaluate the team’s commitment criterion.
66 Social Dimension: This interview session did not provide information on the criteria associated with this dimension. Only the sense of belonging felt by all interviewees at LEIND can be evidenced, supporting the social commitment criterion. In order to better evaluate this dimension, it was analyzed in the results of the two subsequent interview sessions.
67 Cognitive dimension: The types of training criterion are evaluated as being good by the interviewees. They can learn at their own pace and there is a transfer of knowledge between the teams based on their experience in projects. The team formation criterion is not mentioned (Schuurman et al., 2013).
68 Another interesting factor to consider in the analysis is the difficulty of making working times at LEIND compatible with the times of other classes. The interviewees emphasize that their participation in LEIND can decrease considerably, especially during exam weeks.
Interview Session 2
69 Session 2 included open-ended questions about LEIND’s contribution to project development, progress and results, and an assessment of personal evolution in terms of both behavior and knowledge.
Table 4 – Questions and key concepts of interview session 2
|How did your project progress at LEIND?||
• We have improved the business model.|
• We have formalized the manufacturing process.
• We have developed new product models.
• We have incorporated new members into the work team.
• We have discovered new technologies and software to make prototypes and do tests.
|What results have you obtained during your stay at LEIND?||
• The project has been formalized as a company.|
• We have opened new product lines.
• Applying for financing funds.
• We have begun to plan for the future.
|How has LEIND contributed to your project?||
• It gives us peace of mind to focus only on the project.|
• It has helped us to organize our project.
• It motivates us to continue when we have problems.
• It gives us methodological tools for problem solving.
• It has helped us to expand our network of contacts.
• It gives us visibility of the university ecosystem.
|Can you describe the learning process?||
• We have shared experiences with other teams.|
• The learning is based in my project.
• I learn at my own pace.
• There is empirical knowledge that other people have transmitted to us.
• Laboratory activities always keep us active.
|On a personal level, what changes have you noticed?||
• I work more autonomously.|
• I have learned about subjects associated with other disciplines.
• I have learned about design thinking and business models.
• I am more open to modifying my project.
• I am more concrete in my opinions.
• I have developed my communication skills, now I express my ideas and my opinions with more confidence.
Table 4 – Questions and key concepts of interview session 2
70 For this session, an analysis associated with each of the 5 dimensions was also carried out.
71 Physical dimension: In this case the good opinion of the sensory stimulation criterion is reinforced, since the interviewees state that LEIND activities keep them active and motivated. They also highlight the calm that this innovation space gives them to focus only on their project.
72 Technological dimension: Again, in this dimension there are differences. Some interviewees say that at LEIND they have discovered new technological devices. In addition, the use of social networks to provide visibility of projects in the university ecosystem is highlighted.
73 Emotional Dimension: This session provides information on the team commitment criterion, highlighting the role of mentors as mediators and promoters to resolve conflicts and keep the team moving forward in the project. This maintains the balance in the commitment of the team, allowing the project to develop (Peschl, Fundneider, 2014; Zhang et al., 2019).
74 Social Dimension: This session did not provide information on the criteria associated with this dimension, so it was discussed in the following group interview.
75 Cognitive dimension: This is the dimension most valued by students in this interview. Related to the type of training, autonomy and learning based on their projects are highlighted. In addition, they say they have learned about innovation methodologies, such as design thinking and business models, among others. Team formation is also reinforced, since most of the teams have integrated new members, mainly to cover areas of knowledge missing in the original team. In doing so the teams achieve the heterogeneity proposed by Chen and Kuo (2019) in terms of knowledge and skills. This result stems from the network of contacts they have built from their participation in LEIND.
76 Another factor is the progress made in projects. All the interviewees state that they have progressed in the formalization of their entrepreneurship, mainly in the formation of the company and in the evolution of the business model. The projects associated with product development also display greater speed in launching new models. An example can be seen in Figure 3, which shows the evolution of the arm prostheses made by the company Promedical 3D. They designed and manufactured 3 new models with new aesthetics and functionalities in the period of one year at LEIND (previously the rate of progress was one new model per year).
Figure 3 – Example of evolution of prostheses
Figure 3 – Example of evolution of prostheses
Interview Session 3
77 This session was oriented in such a way as to share opinions on the topics of the two previous sessions and to discuss unnamed criteria in order to incorporate them into the analysis. In addition, free conversation was allowed with the objective of opening up the possibility of suggesting other factors not considered by the authors of the interview.
78 First, the social dimension: the opinion of interviewees was sought on the social commitment and user integration criteria. Social responsibility towards the environment is only valued by students who participated in LEIND activities aimed at developing this factor and by students who work on a project with a degree of social responsibility. Half of the students did not participate in these activities and do not have a marked social focus in their project, so they do not identify with this factor. Regarding user integration, all interviewees have integrated this factor in their creativity and design of products or services, because they have seen the importance of user integration when learning about design thinking methodology. User integration has been achieved thanks to user visits to the laboratory or through contacts via social networks.
79 Next, the discrepancy about the supporting devices criterion of the technological dimension was clarified: it depends on the project focus. Three groups state that the technological tools are fully adapted and support the development of their project, because they mainly work on products from additive manufacturing. Three other groups say they have learned about and integrated the technological tools at LEIND into their project, mainly by making prototypes. Finally, two groups say they do not have any relation with the technological tools as they do not think them necessary for their projects.
80 Finally, certain topics emerged from the free conversation: the reliability of information sources for learning, the organization of workspaces inside the laboratory, and the restriction of schedules. The reliability of information mainly stems from the transfer of experiences, since there is not always an explanation of why a certain methodology is used in the project, so for some teams it is adapted, but for others it is not. The interviewees suggest that when these doubts exist, they should be supported by mentors to understand why a methodology is useful for some projects, but not for others. With respect to the organization, the students focus on the order and cleanliness of the work place. For example, if a team uses an implement in the morning, such as scissors or slate pens, they do not always return it to the place where these implements should be stored. It should be noted that these small conflicts do not generate major problems thanks to the harmony and friendship among team members. Finally, the restriction of laboratory schedules is mentioned. The lab opens and closes its doors according to the university schedules and it is not possible to work on Saturday afternoons, for example, which is when students have more time to dedicate to their projects.
81 In addition, feedback was complemented by generic surveys among the other two types of participants: professors and activity students. In the following section, both types of feedback are detailed.
82 Four professors who have participated in LEIND for more than one semester were surveyed; three have carried out activities related to their classes and one has held workshops. Two open questions were asked, related to the positive aspects of working at LEIND and to the negative aspects or limitations of working in the laboratory. As with the previous interviews, the answers were classified according to key concepts that were repeated.
Table 5 – Professors’ opinion on LEIND
|Benefits of Working at LEIND||Limitations of working at LEIND|
|Allows work in groups of students.||It is oriented only toward the topics associated with innovation and entrepreneurship.|
|Allows the integration of technological tools in the teaching-learning process (3D printing, Arduino, etc.).||It is not possible to hold many courses (30 students).|
|It allows you to put into practice what you have learned theoretically.||Classes have to be prepared differently from usual.|
|It keeps students more motivated.|
|The space is very comfortable.|
Table 5 – Professors’ opinion on LEIND
83 Similarly, we asked the "activity students" the same two questions. Here, 20 students who participated in the classes and 15 who participated in a workshop were surveyed. The following is a summary of the overall evaluation of each dimension and associated criteria.
Table 6 – Activity students’ opinion on LEIND
|Benefits of working at LEIND||Limitations of working at LEIND||Benefits of working at LEIND||Limitations of working at LEIND|
|Allows autonomous work.||Class Schedule.||It allows me to discover new technologies.||Difficult to reconcile the workshop with classes.|
|The space is comfortable.||Very few classes go to the laboratory.||The space is comfortable.||Little information about the activity.|
|I learn best through practical activities and group work.||Learn about innovation and entrepre-neurship.|
|Know about technological projects.|
Table 6 – Activity students’ opinion on LEIND
84 In general, these two types of participants emphasize factors associated with physical space, technological equipment and learning results, that is, they identify the physical, technological and cognitive dimensions. In the three dimensions they agree with the opinion of the student entrepreneurs, highlighting the comfort of the space, the technological devices and the learning achieved. The negative aspects also coincide with the student entrepreneurs, focusing on the complexity of managing time and the limitations of traditional pedagogical activities (size and duration of classes, teaching methods).
85 A summary of the overall evaluation of each dimension and associated criteria is presented below.
86 Physical dimension: This dimension is positively evaluated in general, so it is recommended to maintain the same physical configuration of LEIND, maintaining flexibility and comfort as the main priorities. Additionally, activities to motivate students to continue in the development of their projects should also be maintained.
87 Technological Dimension: This dimension must reinforce the usefulness to each project of the technological devices at LEIND, since for some groups it was not clear how they could incorporate these technological tools into their project. The use of social networks should be diversified, because as a media of dissemination they work well, but as a media to clear up doubts and to contact mentors they are not used.
88 Emotional dimension: This dimension is also positively evaluated, so it is proposed to maintain the good relationship between teams and mentors and strengthen the relationship with external experts in order to expand networks. In relation to team commitment, the role of mentors as mediators has yielded good results for teams.
89 Social dimension: Social commitment should be strengthened, integrating all teams in social responsibility activities, because currently only half participate. However, it is important to highlight that the students who have participated in this type of activity show a greater commitment than those who have not, so all students should be motivated to take part in these activities. User integration must be maintained both through social networks and through visits to LEIND.
90 Cognitive dimension: Focused learning in their projects is very positively evaluated by students. However, caution should be taken with the transfer of experiences in order to improve the reliability of information sources. The conformation of teams is well complemented with new members to balance the areas of knowledge necessary for the development of projects; this is why it is necessary to continue improving the multidisciplinary aspect.
91 This research demonstrates the existence of complementarity between innovation spaces and collaborative learning. The literature review identifies common factors in the operation of an innovation space and enhanced collaborative learning. Based on these factors, a conceptual model to design a space that fosters both innovation and collaborative learning is proposed. This approach is the first contribution of this research, identifying 5 basic dimensions of complementarity between innovation spaces and collaborative learning. In order to make decisions about how to exploit this complementarity, success criteria associated with each dimension are defined. The analysis of these criteria provides a definition of the best configuration of the space and establishes a clear action plan for how to strengthen these factors.
92 In order to adapt the design of the innovation space to a particular case, the context must be considered. In this case, we work with an innovation laboratory located within a university, so the design had to be adapted to both the actors and the typical academic activities of this type of educational establishment. Regarding the types of classes, the existing relationship between professors and students, and the teaching and learning methods of the university community, among other characteristics, measures can be integrated into the action plan to increase the chances of success of the space.
93 Finally, LEIND shows good results and its contribution to the criteria that determine the success of collaborative learning can be appreciated. Interviews with students allowed us to identify the criteria that have worked well in the design and provide clues for improvement for the other criteria. In general, we can be sure that the design of LEIND has contributed to students’ collaborative learning, but there are still opportunities for improvement. Furthermore, in order to generalize these results, the same process should be implemented with another innovation space within another university in order to see the impact of the context on the design. In addition, students who have visited the innovation space only sporadically should be included in the interviews in order to find out why they did not continue to visit LEIND. In this perspective, qualitative indicators should be used to evaluate LEIND in detail, both in its function as an innovation space and in its contribution to collaborative learning. The objective will be to calibrate the LEIND action plan and to provide further information for decision makers.