Pilot case

IDBM Challenge

IDBM Challenge: probably the world's first challenge-based hybrid course!
IDBM Challenge

Pilot leader

Miikka J. Lehtonen


School of Business


40 – 50 students




Collaboration across cultures, colleagues with different skill sets, communication around the globe, obstacles that don’t respond to tried and tested methods… these are facts of our everyday and professional lives. Turning these modern complexities into advantages cannot be learned only through theory and text books — it must be experienced!

Aalto’s new IDBM Challenge is the introductory course for new Master students of the IDBM Program (International Design Business Management). The 3-week course brings together students from diverse educational backgrounds, and provides a setting for combining theory with practice. Through practical experience and learning-by-doing, students acquire the skills to conceptualise, develop and introduce socially sound and commercially successful solutions. Commencing in Autumn 2017, this year’s course has been designed together with Space Nation to deliver a space-related challenge with a societal angle.

Innovation thrives when multiple disciplines and design practices converge. Throughout the IDBM Challenge, students are taught to recognise and harness the unique working and thinking styles of their team members — as well as their own. To develop their own ways of working in multidisciplinary team environments, students are presented with a complex challenge to test and forge their skills.

Online episodes with experts are combined with workshops in physical spaces. Students are encouraged to be active partners in the course creation by sharing their own insights and knowledge: through student input, the IDBM Challenge website will come alive as it continuously changes and expands.

With great expertise across diverse fields, IDBM has teamed up with external partners and freelancers to shift teaching and learning from past–present to past–present–future: it’s all about striking a balance between the skills employers need now and the competencies that might become relevant in the future.

As an introduction to the IDBM Program, this course is crucial for teaching students about multidisciplinary teamwork and establishing a strong sense of inclusive community. The coursework supports the idea that learning takes place at individual, team and community levels. Through the IDBM Challenge, students are reminded to enjoy and have fun on their development journey.

Since 1995, IDBM has delivered world-class multidisciplinary and systemic education in global business development through design and technology. The International Design Business Management (IDBM) program is a joint offering between the Aalto University School of Art, Design, and Architecture, School of Science and School of Business.

Platforms and tools

Microsoft Teams, Vimeo, Soundcloud

Pedagogical methods

IDBM Challenge combines online content with challenge-based learning, thus creating challenge-based blended learning. Online episodes, podcasts, and readings all support the teams in their efforts to craft their vision for the challenge. Contact sessions draw on workshop- and studio-based methodologies, meaning that the facilitators do not provide top-down learning, but instead stimulate learning between the students and the facilitator. Moreover, during the workshops the students work in teams to learn about, for instance, ideation methods, teamwork skills, and scenario-building: emphasis is on learning by doing. Finally, each week also includes reflection time to ensure students become reflexive in what, why, and how they are learning.

Involved courses

JOIN-E7006 – IDBM Challenge (5 ECTS)


When we started designing the course, we had no idea how much work it would entail. Shooting and editing the episodes, recording the podcasts, and taking care of all the practicalities (booking workshop locations, getting partners on board, and so on) was time-consuming, but mostly because this was the first time we did a course like this. What really helped was that we had a strong vision on how our course – and learning in the future in general – should look like. All in all, we were really happy that Aalto’s administrative people were so open to help us. Once we figured out what we need, everything proceeded smoothly! This knowledge is something we would like to share with others inside and outside Aalto, as we also realized there are so many talented people in Aalto. Tapping into these hidden communities was definitely one of the key success factors behind the course!

We could have done many things differently, but we knew this already from the get go. In general, the students really seemed to enjoy the course and how it was able to create a strong sense of community in IDBM. It was great to realize we are on the right path, and that’s how we like to approach teaching: it is never fixed, always developing and adjusting based on the students’ needs, and as long as we have this mindset it will be easier to make the course even greater next year!


Miikka J. Lehtonen
School of Business, Department of Management Studies
Pilot leader

Katharina Schilli

Theresa Berg
School of Business

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