On October 21, while I was in Sweden, I spent a day in Lycksele. There, I learned about an innovative organization called Akademi Norr from Regis Cabral, their EU coordinator. The organization emerged as the result of cooperation among 13 municipalities in four counties in northern Sweden. It initiates, coordinates, and implements higher education programs and courses for people in the north, in order to meet needs for both education and development.
Each of the 13 municipalities has its own learning center, typically housed with the community library. Akademi Norr works with the center, a local industry, community members, and a university to devise a specialized higher education program. The center offers meeting spaces, ICTs, local tutoring, and other services. Their program shares many similarities with the GSLIS Chicago program in LIS education.
For example, I visited one of these learning centers, Lycksele lärcentrum. Most of their website is in Swedish, but you can see a little bit more in English on education in Lycksele. They’ve set up several programs. One currently underway leads to a BS in Engineering, with a focus on GIS; another is for a BS in Nursing, with an emphasis on ICTs.
Students who have completed these programs have easily found jobs in their region, because the program is designed from the start to make that possible. This is especially important in a region with strong ties to the land and community. The program is also designed to meet the needs of local industries, which might otherwise have dfficulty finding qualified workers in such a sparsely-populated area (3.8 people/sq-mi in Lapland versus 223.4 people/sq-mi in Illinois)
The staff in the Lycksele lärcentrum as well as at Akademi Norr are very open to having people visit or study what they are doing. There are possibilities for funding through iorganizations such as the American-Scandinavian Foundation . We could learn a great deal about community work, meaningful learning, ICTs in education, and more, through a better understanding of the learning centers programs.