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Learning innovation with FutureLearn & M&S

Innovation Strategy

MOOC provider FutureLearn have a new course starting this week, entitled Innovation: The Keys to Business Success. The course has been created by Leeds University, and features case studies provided by Marks & Spencer. The M&S Company Archive is based at Leeds University, with over 70,000 historical items telling the story of M&S from the early days of the business right up to the present day.

We’ve enrolled for the course and here’s a summary of our experience so far.

On logging into the course there is a wealth of material to review, including 14 videos, ranging from ‘Welcome to the Course’ to ‘Clothing Innovation at M&S – a Potted History’. There are also a number of quizzes discussions and articles. This is just a short course – 3 weeks – so it’s understandable that the course designers need to load up on the content. If you’re considering signing up for the course, consider that it’s a pretty significant time commitment if you’re going to make the most of it.

The first video introduces the course leaders / educators:

  • Dan Trowsdale, senior teaching fellow in Leeds University’s school of mechanical engineering, specialising in product design
  • Mark Sumner, lecturer in sustainability, retail and fashion at Leeds University’s school of design. Mark previously worked at M&S
  • Andrew Richardson, deputy programme manager, business management at the Lifelong Learning Centre
  • Paul Grimshaw, research associate in the centre for technology, innovation and engagement
  • Krsto Pandza, professor in strategy and innovation at Leeds University Business School
  • Simon Colbeck, head of innovation & quality general merchandise for M&S
  • Carmel McQuaid, Head of Sustainable Business for M&S
  • Steve Rowe, Executive Director of Food for M&S
  • Paul Willgoss, Director of Food Technology for M&S

In terms of content, the course follows the following path:

  • Week 1 – Introducing innovation – you will be able to identify the different types and levels of innovation.
  • Week 2 – Why innovate? – you will be able to identify a range of drivers and challenges to innovation and understand the specific challenges of wicked problems.
  • Week 3 – People and innovation: you will understand the important part that people play in the success of an innovation through both the development and adoption processes.

Within each of these weeks, expect to find the following:

  • The three weeks have a similar format, with each week including four activities. The first activity sets the scene, by providing a number of short videos that introduce the topics for the week.
  • This is followed first by a case study which draws on information from the Marks & Spencer company archive. And then, by a case study looking at innovations that have been inspired by research at the University of Leeds.
  • The final activity of each week provides an opportunity for you to reflect on what you have  learnt during the week. Throughout the course, there are also opportunities to read around the subject. The course educators have provided additional videos and sourced a range of supplementary reading materials for those who want to find out more.

As with most MOOCs there’s a big focus on introducing yourself and adding comments below most pieces of content. If you have time and inclination, this is a great way to fully immerse yourself in the content and get to know some of the other people taking the course. Just a quick scan reveals participants from a wide range of professions and countries.

Read more on this from BBC News: Marks and Spencer moves into online courses

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