New PhD Scholarships funded by PNRR

 

The Politecnico di Milano announced 211 PhD scholarships funded with funds provided by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), among  which there will be 17 topic scholarships assigned for the Management Engineering PhD Programme in the following areas:

  • Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0
  • Sustainable Mobility
  • Sustainability & Circular Economy
  • Space
  • Smart Cities
  • Energy Transition & Environmental Impact

Detailed list is available at “Admissions and Scholarships“.

The calls for the assignment of scholarships are available at:

https://www.dottorato.polimi.it/en/prospective-phd-candidates/calls-and-regulations/calls-starting-november-2022/pnrr-calls

The online application deadline is 12 September 2022, at 14:00 CEST

 

Talents and the challenges for education: published the new issue of SOMe Magazine

The world of education is evolving very quickly: thanks also to the innovations offered by digital tools, we are experiencing new platforms, new dynamics between trainers and students, a whole new experience in classrooms, both online and physical.

We investigate what we can expect for the future of education in the new issue of SOMe: from the evolution of teaching in undergraduate courses but also in open programs, to its effectiveness, to the need for new skills for trainers, the challenges are presented by Marika Arena, Antonella Moretto, Tommaso Buganza, Mara Soncin and Tommaso Agasisti.

In “Stories” we tell about two research projects aimed respectively at improving the living conditions of people with visual impairments and at monitoring the well-being of young people during sport activities. Finally we share an international networking experience between young European researchers.

To read SOMe #9 click here.

To receive it directly in your inbox, sign up here.

Here are the previous issues:

  • #8 “The challenge of pursuing impact in research”
  • #7 “From data science to data culture: the emergence of analytics-powered managers”
  • #6 “Innovation with a human touch”
  • #5 “Inclusion: shaping a better society for all”
  • #4 “Multidisciplinarity: a new discipline”
  • #3 “New connections in the post-covid era”
  • #2 “Being entrepreneurial in a high-tech world”
  • Special Issue Covid-19 – “Global transformation, ubiquitous responses”
  • # 1 “Sustainability – Beyond good deeds, a good deal?”

The students of the “Invest in Foreign Markets” Lab among the best in the international “X-Culture” competition

X Culture, the international business-themed challenge, this year saw the participation of 6,188 students from 171 universities and 53 different countries, divided into 1032 mixed teams. As in every edition, students are asked to collaborate remotely for 8 weeks in the realization of a real internationalization project for one of the four Italian companies selected by Alibaba.com that have subscribed to X-Culture.

The 44 students of the “Invest in foreign markets” Lab of the Master’s programme in Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering participated in the competition and were distributed to international teams by working remotely with colleagues from foreign universities. At the end of the competition, 12 students from the Politecnico di Milano distributed in 3 groups won the “Best Team” award, awarded both for the excellent peer-to-peer evaluations they received and for the quality of the final reports they produced, which represent real business plans to support the internationalization of the companies involved.

In addition to this, the Politecnico di Milano also distinguished itself with the “Best Instructor” award, which was awarded to prof. Stefano Elia, supported by Alessio Di Marco and Ludovico Benetel, for the commitment and professionalism with which the students were coordinated in carrying out their project, allowing them to also obtain prizes for the “Best Team”.

Awarded students:

Gabriele Capobianco
Giuseppe Carrabino
Andrea Cigognini
Federico De Cosmo
Sofia Monica Di Vincenzo
Emma Maria Antonietta Rosa
Francesco Faugno
Alessandro Gastaldo
Simone Gianotti
Martina Mauri
Beatrice Raimondi
Mercedes Maria Ugarte Herrero

For further details:

Awards, for the projects and the winning students

Best educators

Train the trainers

Digital technologies are deeply changing the dynamics of teaching and learning: a re-design of the whole educational experience is needed, requiring trainers to develop both digital and pedagogical new skills.

Tommaso Buganza, Full Professor of Leadership & Innovation, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

 

The pandemic has made us all blackbelts in Teams, Zoom, Webex, etc.
It has catapulted us into a digital world and forced us to develop digital skills quickly, with no opportunity to back out. In some cases this has worked very well (as students are telling us), while in other cases it has not.

We are still not sure if the pandemic is only a memory of the past, but at least we can be sure that many aspects of our lives will never go back to how they were, and training is certainly one of these. These digital skills required much effort on our part and we will now keep them with us.

Perhaps a moment has arrived in which we have the maturity to start asking ourselves how our skillset as educators has changed (and whether it still needs to change).

We can start with a simple consideration on the concept of digital: the equation

digital = online remote

It has shown to be false.

In fact, we must distinguish between the nature and functionalities of the many tools that we have learnt to use. On the one hand, as stated, Zoom, Teams, Webex and so on are tools that allow us to interact remotely. But the pandemic has also brought us tools for interaction which facilitate innovative activities and can also be used easily in the physical classroom.

Think of instant polling software like Socrative, Kahoot! or Poll Everywhere. We can now also extend the interaction to hundreds of students in a few seconds, obtaining an accurate idea of emotions with tag clouds or the extent to which they have understood a concept with multiple responses in real time.

But we can also do more; we can activate interactive dynamics within the classroom. For example, by asking for opinions to be written and then voted on by others in a sort of simple but quick and interesting brainstorming exercise.

Then there are other tools like MIRO, Mural or Jamboard, which make it possible to create a shared space to allow teams of students to interact in a deeper way, operating a virtual artefact in a coordinated and simultaneous manner, also keeping track of what has been done in previous lessons, if necessary, and guiding them with templates and procedural steps that would have once required paper, printing, logistical management, a loss of information, etc.

However, we must recognise that all these tools, and our ability to use them, intersects with a change in the way in which society interacts with the concept of learning. Major digital platforms such as YouTube or Instagram have revolutionised the way in which we interact with knowledge. They have made it quicker, more divided, more interactive and on-demand. Micro-learning, the parcelling of the practical part into small pieces that are easier to digest and the multi-media nature of communication (slides, speaking, film, etc.) are how many of us experience this, both as users and as educators. Above all, the dynamics of training activities have changed. We can no longer consider having long periods of lecture-based knowledge transfer and then long periods of application. The paradigm of the 20-page case study to be read and then discussed has not (yet) disappeared, but in some case it is starting to seem slow and a little dated.

In this scenario it is irrelevant whether the training takes place in person or online through a communication platform; what we need to do is change the logical and experiential flow of our lessons.

But what skills do we need to develop in order for this to happen?
To change what we do in the classroom, how should we change what we do before going into the classroom?

I believe that there are three fundamental things that we always need to learn better.

The first is conceiving (and therefore designing) a lesson as a service to be provided. We must design not only the content (which obviously is and remains the central point), but also how it will be used. Where we want to place a repetition, where we want to have a test, where we want to place a group activity to reinforce a concept. All of this requires planning, and it cannot be improvised once we are already in the classroom. Designing a group activity in 4 steps means designing a specific MIRO board, doing a brainstorming activity means preparing the interactive slide, etc. In many cases we will discover that the scarce resource will be time and we will need to choose what to do and how to do it to maximise the effectiveness of the training. The content is a necessary condition, but it is no longer enough; we need to imagine ourselves as designers of educational processes.

There is obviously a dark side to this approach, when the emphasis is placed on so-called infotainment, and the centrality of the content is overlooked. A meaningful and fulfilling educational experience is a means and not the end. However, we must accept that not paying due attention to the design of the learning process today risks drastically reducing the effectiveness of education.

The second thing that we must learn to do more, and better, is exploring the digital space. New functionalities and details are continuously added to all the tools that we named above. Each one of them enables new interactions or activities. We will never be able to use them unless we are familiar with them; we need to be curious in order to have new ideas. For example, when Miro introduced the possibility of hiding some content and only showing it at the opportune moment it led to ideas on how to structure complex processes with several steps; or when Poll Everywhere added the possibility of voting on other people’s ideas it led to the opening of open spaces for collective brainstorming which would have previously been impossible (or required too much time).

There is also a possible dark side in this case, when we fall in love with the tool and add activities just so we can use it, and not for their real impact on the educational process. In this case, we must also remember that the tool is a means and not an end.

Lastly, personally, I have added and activity that I never used to do. When designing new lessons with digital interactions of varying nature and duration and mixing various tools, I had to start adding a test phase. I used to create the slides, think about how to narrate them and go into the classroom. Now I test all of the tools and interactions as if I were a participant. In fact, our ability to creatively manage the situation in the moment has drastically reduced due to the use of rich but rigid systems. If a link is missing, if the page does not refresh, if I can’t log into Mural… it takes a long time to deal with the problem and the amount of time lost without anything happening drastically reduces the educational experience, at the risk of jeopardising all the work that has been done.

Designing the educational experience, constantly exploring the potential of digital spaces and adding a test phase are new skills and activities that we must add to what we already do. Old activities are not replaced or eliminated. They are simple and also added. Like all jobs, ours is becoming more complicated and requires increasing levels of specialisation. Personally, I do not believe that this was triggered by the pandemic. This change was already underway; the pandemic acted as a catalyst and only made it quicker, giving us less time to react.

Talents and the challenges for education

Teaching and learning innovation will be central in the next few years, enabled also by – though not exclusively – digital technologies. In this evolving scenario, a holistic view on programmes’ learning experience shall be the guiding principle with also great attention paid to learning assessment methods.

 

We discussed it with Marika Arena, Professor of Accounting Finance and Control and Director of the Programme in Management Engineering.

 

The pandemic has been a shock that enabled changes that usually take centuries. What is left of our inheritance?

I think that the biggest heritage is the way the pandemic fostered the diffusion of technological instruments for teaching and learning. Digital technologies already existed before the pandemic, which made their presence pervasive, forcing all of us to use them. Today, we can continue using digital technologies for teaching and learning, taking the best out of these solutions and combining them with face-to-face activities.

On the one hand, digital technologies have facilitated many ordinary activities: they represent a useful support for students involved in international mobility projects, or those who work and cannot attend the lectures regularly. On the other hand, digital technologies provided brand new opportunities.
One interesting example is represented by collaborative classes, where two professors of different universities in different countries design and implement a course together, and the students of the two courses participate to the lectures jointly or collaborate on common activities and projects. This is something really powerful because allows all the students to experience an international environment, even if they are not involved in mobility projects.

 

What is the impact of digital technologies on students’ participation and teaching modes?

Students’ engagement and participation has changed a lot with hybrid teaching (intended as the combination of online and face-to-face teaching). A risk that is inherent to hybrid teaching is the limited participation and engagement of online students compared to those in the classroom, partly because interacting with a student is easier if they are in front of us, partly because online students could be less prone to intervene. In my opinion, this is something that could be detrimental to the learning experience and should be revised in terms of students’ engagement to make sure that they can participate and feel engaged regardless the fruition mode they choose.
This approach is obviously much more difficult since a professor needs to manage two communication channels instead of one.  This is one of the cases in which digital technologies can help us. One simple example is represented by the use of online surveys in class to collect answers and contributions from a large and dispersed audience, or by the use of different collaboration instruments (e.g. online whiteboards).
However, technology is not enough:  in order to obtain engagement and participation, courses need to be at least partially redesigned, often by rethinking the way content is presented, in order to create opportunities for discussion.

 

“Passion in Action”: what is it? Why?

Passion in Action is a “catalogue” of educational activities that students can attend on voluntary basis. These activities aim to support our students to develop transversal, soft and social skills, and to encourage them to nurture their interests, beyond the “standardized” academic offer.

Thanks to Passion in Action, our students can get acquainted with totally new subjects that may be far from their academic path, or they can enrich their knowledge approaching one topic from very different perspectives.

This catalogue of opportunities is dynamic and constantly updated since new courses are proposed on a monthly basis. Hence, it represents a precious resource that allows our students to personalize their path and access a variegated academic offer, with different levels of intensity.

 

What are the future projects for the Management Engineering study course?

Teaching and learning innovation will be central in the next few years. Many professors have already developed innovating initiatives in their own courses, introducing flipped classroom, project-based learning, digital twin, simulations, etc.

However, when it comes to innovating initiatives there are two aspects that in my opinion should be taken into account. First, innovating teaching implies necessarily a reflection on the innovation of the learning assessment methods. Learning assessment is an integral part of a course and its design is strictly connected to the design, organization and administration of the course itself. Second, innovation should be considered and designed also at the Programme level (and not only at course level), with a holistic view of students’ learning experience. This means designing the Programme not only in terms of contents, that obviously are crucial, but also in terms of teaching modes, exposing our students to different approaches and different learning experiences.

 

Digital transformation to foster the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in tertiary education

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of Higher Education Institutions, with possible implications on their effectiveness and efficiency. The next step is to look beyond the emergency and leverage on the recent experience.

 

Mara Soncin, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Organization, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

Tommaso Agasisti, Full Professor of Data Analysis for Public Management, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

 

The digital transformation that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been undertaking over the last years has been strongly accelerated by the Covid-19 emergency., The key breakthrough for the near future is to understand how to shape the future of education by exiting the emergency mindset and leveraging the aforesaid acceleration. The turmoil on the digital transformation of HEIs is twofold. One the one hand, the digital turn can support the effectiveness of the educational system and its ability to support student’s academic success. On the other hand, digital technologies affect the input-output structure, with a possible impact on the efficiency of HEIs.

Regarding effectiveness, students will highly benefit from digitally supported learning, which allows a higher personalisation of the learning process and a higher level of flexibility in learning activities, whereas the amount of data coming from digital sources enables a profound investigation on how learning happens. The dimension of performance on which the greatest amount of evidence is available is that of student achievement, which can be evaluated as the grade obtained by a student in an exam in a certain discipline or in a test specifically designed to assess the competences gained through the online tool (i.e., experimental design). Evidence on this is mixed; however, it generally shows the higher effectiveness of a blended model comprising both in-presence and distance learning experiences compared to both the remote only and face-to-face only education delivery modes. Traditional and digital models can therefore be combined to foster the effectiveness of learning.

Furthermore, the digital transformation of higher education is expected to grow even faster in the next future as it allows broader accessibility and hence allows to meet a growing demand for tertiary education, as well as to improve efficiency and sustainability by generating new financial resources. HEIs are increasingly investing in digital tools that substitute or complement traditional education, pursuing objectives that range from driving student recruitment to innovating pedagogy and supplementing on-campus traditional education. Indeed, the digital transformation provides HEIs brand new teaching possibilities and a higher scalability (i.e., a potentially very high number of students can enrol in the same virtual environment), partially bending the economics of education and the cost structure of institutions.
The compound effect on HEIs is potentially disruptive and is affecting both the structure of the inbound inputs and outputs generated by institutions. Still, the introduction of digital tools requires high initial economic investments (especially in technological equipment) and entails additional costs for teaching assistants and extra support to students and faculty in order to ensure the quality of the learning experience in a digital context. In turn, this increases education delivery costs, and therefore, the cost-effectiveness ratio may not necessarily be in favour of the digital mode.

Based on all these considerations, HEIs should progress strategically towards the digital transformation of learning, which is first of all an organisational transformation of the faculty, and only secondly is a technological matter. In turn, the way in which the strategy is implemented will affect the resulting gain in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, and now it is up to HEIs to boost the consequent effectiveness and efficiency gains.

 

Open programs evolutions: what should stay and what should go

The last few years were a real moment of change for the role of education, and the world of open programs was not excluded: the challenge now relates to understanding which of the phenomena recently witnessed are supposed to become permanent and which are likely to go away.

Antonella Moretto, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Open Programs at Polimi Graduate School of Management

The last few years were a real moment of change for the role of education, and the world of open programs was not excluded. Just a brief definition: with the term open programs, I mean master programs available on the market and targeting the B2C world. As master programs, they could cover from 1 to 2 years, in case they are respectively full time or part time.

Over the last years, in the education on open programs, we saw three hot topics circulating.

During the first lockdown, the only discussion topic was online learning and how to make it as effective as face-to-face learning was.

Between the first and the second lockdown, the new issue became hybrid learning and the need to simultaneously manage people in presence and people online. The purpose was to give to anyone the possibility to attend classes the way they preferred, while always worrying about how people online could feel isolated and feel that they were getting a learning experience not effective and not valuable.

Finally, over the last months, when it became once again possible to go back to face-to-face classes, the key point of discussion became how to bring the students back on campus, as they apparently were not finding a reason for doing this anymore. This is a shared problem among different schools internationally.

The scenario has changed a lot of times in a pretty short period, and this is a fact. The purpose of this short paper is not to discuss what is the most effective teaching method. The key takeaway point is that, whether we want it or not, the world of open programs has changed, and now we are struggling to understand which of the phenomena recently witnessed are supposed to become permanent and which are likely to go away.

I present here, without any purpose of completeness, my personal list of four key points that I believe are supposed to remain central in the following months.

Digital is no more the byword for evil

Before the pandemic, when we already offered some online programs, a typical question was “could you reassure me that in the diploma it is not mentioned that this was an online program?”. During the first wave of the pandemic, a typical question was “could you reassure me that the graduate school is planning to come back to face-to-face classes or otherwise could you refund me?”. Now… There simply are no questions like these anymore.

Digital became accepted as a powerful learning tool and people simply expect to have the support of digital to expand their opportunities.

The old-fashioned dichotomy “either online or in presence” simply lost all sense. Now, for open programs, it really doesn’t looks like a matter of how you deliver education, but rather of how you are planning to do so.

A new why for a new world

Now that digital is accepted, it is also very clear that there are wonderful online resources available to learn something new, always up-to-date and very often free of charge. Does this mean that attending a master has lost all its sense? The answer is (hopefully) no, but we must be ready to offer something more than contents, and something more than support to placement.

Attending a master is a “once in a lifetime experience” and should be managed as such. For a junior, it could mean living an experience which is more relevant than ever; for an executive, attending a master could be not a matter of career anymore, but rather a matter of personal satisfaction.

Experience is more critical than content

As written before, for months the “riff” was the desire to come back on campus; when this was possible, the apparently incomprehensible consequence was that the classes remained empty. Someone connected this to a stronger laziness of people, and maybe this is also part of the story. Anyhow, people are lazy when they do not care about something, when something is not providing them real value. Students have understood that they can also learn from home and that this is more than enough to get contents. This means that we need to focus more on the experience, on our capability to offer something more, to offer something memorable in which students are the protagonists and not simply the spectators. Someone says that education should be a blending of content, network, and fun; we devoted a lot of time to content, we exploited our resources for network, it is now time to introduce also the component of fun.

One-to-one caring and the role of pastoral activities

Since students find themselves everyday more in a liquid environment, without a real distinction between online and offline, if we want to provide a value for education, there is a growing need to pay attention to one-to-one activities and pastoral caring. Students want to feel as people, to be supported in designing their own experience, in identifying what it matters more for them. In this field, although new technologies could provide a lot of support, the human touch becomes more relevant than ever.

The European Microfinance Research Award to a team of the School of Management

The award for a study on the positive social impact of fintech.

 

A team of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano won the European Microfinance Research Award 2022 with paper “FinTech for Good: unveiling social value creation in the fintech sector”. The award was given by European Microfinance Network (EMN), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes microfinance as a tool to fight social and financial exclusion in Europe through self-employment and the creation of microenterprises.

The study carried out by Federico Bartolomucci, PhD candidate, Veronica Chiodo, professor of Social Entrepreneurship, and Andrea Petrolati, Junior Project Manager at Fintech District, investigates the FinTech world, aiming to understand if and how technological innovation generates impact in the financial sector and which is the role played by technology in the value creation process. Results show that FinTechs, operating in underserved markets and combining technological innovation with the intentionality to generate positive social impact, can generate social value both in developed and emerging economies. Results challenge traditional financial players, institutions and social economy actors to re-imagine their relation with them.

 

Young people and research: increasingly international with the European Talent Academy

Interview with Arianna Seghezzi, Assistant Professor

 

Arianna, you have just returned from an international networking experience organized by the European Talent Academy, can you tell us something about the programme and how you got involved?

Of course! The European Talent Academy is an initiative created from a partnership between Imperial College and TUM (Technical University of Munich), which, starting from the 2021-2022 academic year, also involved the Politecnico di Milano. The main objective is to educate and create networking opportunities for young researchers from the three universities, united by a strong technological vocation and proximity to the world of industry, to stimulate collaboration between the parties. My involvement happened at the invitation of “Talent Development”, a Politecnico di Milano programme dedicated to supporting the career of some researchers at our university, which I joined with pleasure last year.

 

An event was organized in Brussels, with the theme “Artificial Intelligence as a key enabling technology to empower society: A European approach on excellence and trust to boost research”. Can you tell us how it went?

The Brussels event took the form of a two-day workshop, during which I had the opportunity, together with my colleagues, to participate in speeches and seminars of various kinds. In particular, I would recognise two main types of events, which accompanied the many opportunities for networking with researchers from other universities: meetings with representatives of the European Commission and seminars held on various topics by researchers and experts.

On the one hand, we had the opportunity to meet and discuss with two representatives of the European Commission: MEP Patrizia Toia, Vice-President of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), and with Evangelia Markidou, Officer of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Innovation and Excellence unit of the European Commission. With them we discussed our work themes and the role that the European Commission has in promoting and supporting research in these areas.

Afterwards, we participated in educational and information seminars, held by experts operating in different domains, all in some way related to the theme of international research projects in the Artificial Intelligence sector. Some seminars were more “vertical” (aimed at investigating aspects related to artificial intelligence and digital innovation), others more “horizontal” (focused on the correct setting of requests for participation in calls for European projects, regardless of specific themes)

 

What was the spirit of this networking initiative for “promising young researchers”?

I would say that the keywords with which I would describe the spirit of this initiative are two.

First is internationalization. We had the opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues who work in two non-Italian universities, creating fertile ground for potential future collaborations with international researchers.

Second is multidisciplinarity. Despite the common thread of Artificial Intelligence, the research areas of the participants were very different from each other, relating to the potential areas of application. From biomedical researchers to experts in legal and privacy issues, the basic idea was to try to pool different backgrounds, experiences and settings.

I believe that working together by breaking down geographical and thematic barriers is fundamental in many contexts and that it is particularly so in the world of research. This opportunity allowed me to experience these elements first hand, to meet researchers from Imperial College and TUM, who belong to different research fields, interested in topics similar to those on which I work, and I hope that this will lay the foundations for a profitable, effective (and “promising”!) path towards the creation of an increasingly international and multidisciplinary research network.

A project on circular transition funded by T.I.M.E. Association

Two research projects of the Politecnico di Milano have won a grant of 10,000 euros each as T.I.M.E. projects, one of which is coordinated by the Department of Management Economic and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management with Dr. Alessandra Neri as principal investigator.

“The role of digitalization in supporting the industrial circular transition” is the project that aims at investigating the relationship between the adoption of digital technologies and the implementation of circular economy practices within the industrial sector. The goal is to understand the supporting role offered by the digital technologies, passing from the enhancement and generation of dynamic capabilities. This would be done by conducting an international survey, providing empirical-based insights.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden) and Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) are partners of the project and members of the T.I.M.E. Association. The University of the West of England (UK) and Aston University (UK) take part in the project as external members.

The T.I.M.E. Association (Top International Managers in Engineering), founded in 1989, is a network of leading technical universities and engineering schools in Europe and all over the world, with a strong international dimension in teaching, research and industrial relations. The association currently consists of 57 members in 25 countries, and the Politecnico di Milano is a member of the Advisory Committee.

Besides double degree activities, T.I.M.E. promotes a series of other initiatives, including the T.I.M.E. projects, through which the association co-finances new or existing initiatives between member universities, in which T.I.M.E. can represent an added value.

For more information:
https://www.polimi.it/en/articles/two-polimi-projects-funded-by-time-association/