Welcome to the international (English-speaking) blog of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki. Our blog invites views on research, education, student life, and other societal themes connected to our computer science fields. The intention is to build a forum as an open window for readers from inside and outside computer science. If you have any good ideas or articles to share on this blog, please feel free to contact us: cs-blog [ät] cs.helsinki.fi.

Reflections after five years of Software Factory projects

by Fabian Fagerholm

This 2015 spring term marks the fifth anniversary of the Software Factory at the Department of Computer Science, University of Helsinki. The first Factory project started in January 2010, and since then, we've been running projects on a continuous basis. We've done projects with both small and large companies and on a variety of topics, as shown in the list of completed and ongoing projects. In this year's spring edition, ten students from the Department of Computer Science participate in the Facebook Open Academy program. Open Academy is a large-scale educational program which brings together students from top universities around the world to work with selected open source projects.

With the Software Factory turning five, it's a suitable time to reflect on the experiences from a coordinator's perspective.

The Software Factory is first and foremost a realistic learning environment. Participating in a Software Factory project is a challenging experience, but students have considered it to be well worth it. Reading the learning diaries from both this and last year's programs, you can get a glimpse of the challenges and successes that they experienced during the Open Academy program. I'm amazed by the amount of time and thought that has gone into the contributions they made to the Kotlin IDE, Ruby on Rails, App Inventor, Socket.IO, and Lokki projects. With these experiences under their belt, I believe that these students are well prepared for challenging positions in working life.

Software Factory students and coordinator Fabian Fagerholm (right) visiting Facebook in Menlo Park, California, in 2014. Photo by Jarmo Isotalo.

According to töissä.fi, an employment statistics site maintained by the University of Helsinki's Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education, 68% of Finnish computer science university graduates find employment in the private sector. A majority of graduates are employed in positions where they plan and develop software, or manage software-related projects. There appears to be a strong demand for practical skills in programming, software engineering, and project management combined with a solid foundation in computer science. For university educators, a difficult question is how to provide opportunities for students to transform foundational theory into skills which are relevant in working life.

Some of the issues have to do with scale. With MOOCs, the traditional classroom can be automated and universities can handle an order of magnitude more students without increasing the number of teachers. Employers have caught on quickly: online competency-based modules can be used to assess potential hires based on performance rather than credentials. But MOOCs can become impersonal. A recent book on near-future developments in engineering education, inspired by Gardner's notion of multiple intelligences, and with pertinent relevance to computing, suggests that students educated in such automated settings will feel let down, and seek an education that develops their mastery and skills as designers and innovators. This includes knowing technical practices and being able to solve actual real-life problems, but also a plethora of other skills that are needed to create in a collaborative environment. Effective coordination and communication requires the ability to speak and listen: disclosing information and listening to concerns raised by individuals and communities. Acting as a designer requires the ability to propose solutions for real problems by using existing technologies. Being an entrepreneur and innovator means helping communities transform their practices and navigating the changing landscape of possibilities. These skills are important in industry, but also for those who want to pursue an academic career.

Software Factory students, mentor Anton Berezin (front) and coach Kati Kyllönen (right) visiting Facebook in Menlo Park, California, in 2015.

Perhaps most importantly, students must know themselves. They need presence of mind to be thoughtful and reflective, learn from mistakes, find meaning, and switch between perspectives. Goldberg and Sommerville assert that a learning environment for cultivating such skills must be founded on the deceptively simple concepts of joy, trust, courage, openness, and connectedness with a collaborative community.

One of the main educational goals of the Software Factory is precisely to provide such relevant experiences in an authentic environment. By working in open-ended, realistic projects, students must access all the foundational knowledge they have acquired during their studies so far. They must put this knowledge into use to create actual working software, and they must do so in a collaborative environment with others. The transition from foundational knowledge to practical application, and onwards to collaborative creation is what turns students into experts in their field.

Meaningful experiences during university studies are also important because they affect students' self-efficacy beliefs – what students think they are capable of. A recent study of US college graduates found that the type of experiences students had during their studies was the most significant predictor of happiness and satisfaction in work and life elsewhere. The top-ranked, most expensive universities did no better than lower-ranked, less expensive ones. Students who felt they had a professor who cared about them, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, had more than twice the odds of being engaged at work and thriving in other areas of life. An internship, job, or project of at least one semester, where students could apply what they learned in the classroom, also more than doubled their odds of being engaged at work. It would be surprising if this would not apply to students in our university as well.

Visit to GitHub HQ in California. Photo by Jarmo Isotalo.

One way of showing students that their education has relevance is to keep it open and visible, and to link coursework with real-world content. The Open Academy program has gained attention in online media. Our ongoing collaboration with F-Secure allowed us to link the newly open sourced Lokki service into the Software Factory and the Open Academy program. In general, all of our Software Factory projects are designed as industry-academia collaborations. The work done in those projects has benefit outside the classroom, as well, increasing the relevance and impact of what our students do.

The Software Factory has also proven to be a fruitful grounds for research. Apart from documenting the Software Factory itself, its utility as a teaching platform, the peer assessment techniques in use, and the possibilities for industry collaboration, we have published research on many other topics: the Kanban software development method, how it impacts team communication and collaboration, and the role of requirements in Kanban; self-organising software development teams; continuous experimentation; and onboarding in Open Source projects, with a continuation in IEEE Software. The factory has also allowed several Master's thesis workers to ground their studies in a realistic project environment.

It has been an eventful half-decade of designing, building, and operating the Software Factory. From the beginning, the goal was, and remains, to combine research, education, and entrepreneurship through industry-academia collaboration. I believe the challenge to universities is still relevant: to evolve computer science curricula to meet advances in the technology industry. This means having highly relevant foundational content, the best teaching methods, active links to working life, and a culture of fostering meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships between students and teachers. The Software Factory has already provided the opportunity for a meaningful experience to a few hundred students since it started in 2010. Hopefully, the future will see many more students experiencing similarly meaningful, encouraging, and growing activities!

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The CS Blog Task Force

Paba is a PhD student in Ubiquitous Interaction Group (UIx group) at
HIIT, CS Department of UH. Her research focus is on developing
interaction models to predict user interests and information-needs in
exploratory search.


Aaron is doing his PhD in the NODES group at the CS department. His research focuses on mobile computing and energy efficient design for multi-interfaced mobile devices.


Ella is a PhD student in the Nodes group. She is interested in e.g. distributed algorithms, real-life data mining, clouds and ubiquitous computing.


Giulio is a Professor at the CS department. His area is Human-Computer Interaction. For more information, please find his homepage here


Tomi is a Professor at the CS department. His area is Software Engineering. For more information, please check


31.08.2015 - 15:10

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki has a tradition of annual summer trip for all the staff members. This year, the TKTL staff members are invited to take a boat trip on J. L. Runeberg and spent a beautiful day in Porvoo.

For the memory, we share a set of photos contributed by Arto Wikla and Frans Ojala:

10.08.2015 - 12:00

by Kumaripaba Athukorala

Recently I got my first, first authored journal article accepted to the Journal of Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST for short). I thought of sharing what I learnt from the journal article writing process while my experience is still fresh.

Some of the lessons might be specific to the JASIST journal. However, I generalized the details so that this article is useful to anyone.

30.12.2014 - 13:34

By Teemu Roos

After conferring with senior professors P. Myllymäki and J. Paakki, we get some perspectives into the main issues at (or with) the department over the years. The discussions are based on the CS department Strategy Seminar of 2014.

02.12.2014 - 17:13

by Leena Salmela

Since 2009 when I came to work at the department I have been involved with the Glanville fritillary genome project. In this blog post I will tell about my experiences in the project.

05.11.2014 - 00:56

Lauri Suomalainen

On October 27th, Juhani, Lirim, Ashwin and I set forth to 3rd OpenStackFin User Group meetup. The event is a get-together for Openstack enthusiasts and experts in Finland. Its main goal is to gather like-minded people to share insights and experiences about OpenStack. The event was held in the evening at the restaurant Kaarle XII. Ashwin and I were first time aboard, while both Juhani and Lirim have attended the previous two meetups. So far the meetups have been organized once every six months. We arrived to the scene around four o’clock and there were already a few dozen people gathered to enjoy food, snacks and beverages.

21.10.2014 - 13:50

Interaction Lab is initiated and founded by Ubiquitous Interaction research group in 2014 for providing a space where novel interaction in between human, computer, and the physical environment can be developed and experimented.

28.09.2014 - 17:51

by Anna Kantosalo

Computational creativity is a new and hot topic in computer science. This year I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in the International Conference for Computational Creativity (ICCC) at the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana and present my first academic paper for the Discovery Research Group. The great community and fascinating topics of the conference made me want to share the highlights of my first conference experience with all of you!

07.09.2014 - 22:22

by Juhani Toivonen and Lirim Osmani

The European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) is a federation of research organisations that provide computational resources and services to European researchers and their partners around the world. It consists of National Grid Initiatives, one of which is in Finland (http://fgi.csc.fi) and is managed by an organisation called EGI.eu.

09.04.2014 - 12:53

by Sini, local member of the international branch in the department well-being group

24.01.2014 - 22:05

By Carolina Lindqvist

20.12.2013 - 13:51

On Monday the 16th of December 2013, NODES research group organized the traditional NODES/KOPS-glögi before the Christmas holiday. (Glögi translates to 'mulled wine', and is a popular red spicy drink enjoyed around Christmas time.)

10.12.2013 - 14:35
By: Ella Peltonen and Tiina Niklander
07.11.2013 - 18:59

by Antti-Pekka Tuovinen

16.10.2013 - 22:04

by Kalle Viiri


12.09.2013 - 01:41

by Aino Sipari

Our Kumpula club buddy program is recruiting new buddies!

29.08.2013 - 15:34

Have you ever been worried about you mobile phone's or tablet's energy consumption? Do you need to charge your device every night, perhaps even in the middle of the day? It is generally known that large screens and continuous network connections eat our phones' battery faster than we really want. Our goal in the Carat project is to survey and analyze what else could be going bad in our phones' matters.

01.07.2013 - 12:39

The national yearly Computer Science event (Tietojenkäsittelytieteen päivät) is the main event of the Finnish Society for Computer Science (TKTS). The society hands out two awards every year, the best MSc thesis of the year, and the best PhD thesis, which is awarded by The Finnish Information Processing Association, FIPA (TTL in Finnish). This year the PhD thesis award was granted to Jouni Siren from our department, for his thesis "Compressed Full-Text Indexes for Highly Repetitive Collections". Congratulations, Jouni!

04.06.2013 - 15:03

Interview with Tiina Niklander

Question 1: What's your role in the union? Please introduce yourself and if possible, the current status at department.

I am a university instructor at the department. In addition to giving courses and guiding thesis a lot of my work at the department is related to guiding study planning of Networking and Services students. I also coordinate the international master's studies at the whole department.

I have been one of the shop stewards at the university for several years.  

08.05.2013 - 23:32

In early March, the Department of Computer Science and Innofactor organized a week-long Windows Azure CodeCamp for students. The course was held 1-11.3.2013, during which the students were asked to produce small-scale applications utilizing the Windows Azure platform - Microsoft's cloud computing platform for building, deploying and managing applications and services, like Amazon's AWS or the Google App Engine.

05.04.2013 - 14:15

Dear readers, this is the second interview of our TKTL group leader series. The goal is to provide an open forum for group leaders to present their latest research development, activities in teaching, project work opportunities, and general comments about our department. This time, we interviewed Prof. Giulio Jaccuci, who is leading the Ubiquitous Interaction (UiX) group.

31.01.2013 - 15:04

Prof. Jussi Kangasharju started a blog to chronicle his sabbatical year - first 5 months in Korea, then 5 months in the Bay Area in the US. He comments, "It is partly intended to show people in our department that going abroad is not a scary thing." We repost here his latest blog entry about the winter experience in Korea. For further interesting stories, check out his blog.

18.12.2012 - 14:56

Sasu Tarkoma

This has been a busy year for the networking and services specialization line and the NODES research community at the Department.  We have made the headlines from rooftop greenhouses to energy-optimising mobile apps and squeeze-based smartphones.  We should not forget the best paper awards and other mentions either. We did well in the university research assessment exercise as well. We have also strengthened the industry connections and the recent Internet of Things (IoT) research program is one example of this.

18.12.2012 - 14:42

At the end of November 2012, the department of computer science threw its Christmas party in "Berghyddan", an old building in the area where Helsinki was originally founded.

24.10.2012 - 16:13

In this month's NODES Pizza Seminar, postdoctoral researcher Suzan Bayhan from HIIT gave a presentation about "Energy Efficiency in Cognitive Radio Networks". In brief, a cognitive radio node is capable of changing its communication frequency in order to better take advantage of underutilized parts of the radio spectrum.

24.09.2012 - 18:04

On September 17th, the well-being group and the department invited our international staff for a casual coffee break for the start of the new semester.

20.06.2012 - 11:03

On a beautiful summer day, our department invited staff members to the idyllic located villages of Billnäs and Fiskars, which is about 80 km west of Helsinki, famous for their long tradition of iron works.

14.03.2012 - 20:13

by Jussi Kangasharju

(Instead of a literal translation, I've chosen to translate the meaning of the title. As the most astute of you may have already noticed, the title is not in English, but in fact in Italian and recapitulates the words of Italian Coast Guard Captain De Falco when "encouraging" Captain Schettino, the captain of the sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia, to go back on board the ship to coordinate the rescue. The intended meaning is: "Stop whining and start doing your job!")

This article is mainly me venting my frustration, since over the past year or so, I've noticed that the laziness and general lack of effort have reached completely unexplored peaks. Although this article is only my personal opinion, in the discussions with many other teachers in the department, I've heard very similar experiences on their part as well.

08.03.2012 - 12:28

by Ella Peltonen

This year the Department's Strategy seminar was organized from 1st to 2nd March 2012 in Hotel Haikko Manor near the city of Porvoo. Beautiful Haikko is known for a place of fabulous summer weddings, but it seems to be also a practical conference centre and a nice small spa. And so our two strategy days contained both working and relaxation.

08.03.2012 - 12:25

by Jussi Kangasharju

For two years, my group has conducted research on data center cooling optimizations, and as part of that work, we have had computers out on the roof terrace of Exactum for over 2 years, in all sorts of enclosures. For a full recap of our research, please see Mikko's excellent blog (which also discusses washing of keyboards in a dishwasher).

14.02.2012 - 15:13

Dear readers, the interview series of TKTL group leaders is making its debut today! The goal of the series is to provide an open forum for research group leaders to present their latest research developments, activities in teaching, project work opportunities, and general comments about our department.

02.01.2012 - 17:34

by Esther Galbrun

13.12.2011 - 17:52

by Oskar Gross

Autumn school on Computational Creativity was held in Porvoo from 7th till 11th of November. It is interesting to note that it was a landmark in the field of computational creativity, as it was apparently the first "school" dedicated on this topic. Moreover, the lectures were given by the leading researchers in the respective field.

09.11.2011 - 15:54

In autumn 2010 a Finnish course was organized in Kumpula for the staff of the Computer Science Department. After one year, we are interested in how the attendees feel about the course and if there is a demand for organizing such a course again.

Here are the comments from some of last years attendees:

"Overall I found the Finnish course very useful. Unfortunately I am spending just one year here in Finland, so I did not have a lot of time to study and practice what I learnt :)

17.10.2011 - 11:20

by Stefan Schönauer

Throughout my career the question of how to improve the internal communication and collaboration has been a topic at every institution I worked for. Here I present some of my thoughts on the topic, which are based on personal experience and discussions with several people.

26.09.2011 - 12:14

The new university year has just begun. It is an exciting time for our fresh Master's students as well as senior ones, both aiming at obtaining their MSc degree from the CS department. To provide an insight into the international part of the Master's students, we start from the recruitment statistics of new students, and then share with you five fascinating stories.

05.09.2011 - 14:36

by Laura Langohr

Last October I headed to Ljubljana, Slovenia, for half a year's research visit. Sitting in the airplane I remembered colleagues and friends back in Helsinki wondering about my plan to take a Slovene course. Even though I would stay only six months I wanted to learn some Slovene, a language only 2 million people speak.

15.08.2011 - 11:23

By Liang Wang

In the early morning on April 26, Prof. Kangasharju, Tiina and I started our journey from Helsinki to Petrozavodsk. The whole journey was quite pleasant thanks to the sunny weather. After 12 hours, we reached our destination – Petrozavodsk, a quiet and lovely small town in western Russia. Even though it was not our first visit there, it was the first time we visited Petrozovadsk in spring. Everything looked so fresh and full of vigor compared with my memory of last winter.

27.07.2011 - 12:14

We consulted a few staff members and students what they expect from this blog.

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