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.

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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?”

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.

 

Multidisciplinarity: a new discipline

 

Conversation with Vittorio Chiesa, President of MIP Graduate School of Business

 

We live in a world characterised by increasing interaction between disciplines, in which the professional profiles required by companies are changing. What role can a business school play in this framework?

The business school sector evolves with companies and the wider role they play in society. Companies have been required to operate with a “purpose”, i.e. to act not only for profit but for higher aims, so that they have a positive impact on the system in which they participate. Markets and consumers are showing a growing awareness of this issue and it has become essential for companies to have a relationship with their stakeholders.

Business schools must pay the same attention to students and companies. It is with this objective in mind that this year we obtained Bcorp (Benefit Corporation) certification by joining the international community of companies that stand out for their commitment to combine profit, the pursuit of well-being for society, inclusion, and attention to the environment.

The “purpose” must become a fundamental part in the development of people’s skills, so we can train managers capable of conceiving companies at the service of society.
Companies are asking us to make this cultural leap and we can help by teaching our students how a company can and should contribute positively to the system and country.
Our role is to prepare professionals to introduce strongly purpose oriented innovations that are financially and socially important.

Multidisciplinarity is functional to this objective as it imposes breadth of vision, flexibility, critical spirit, and intuition. Modern training does not only include restricted specialisation but interaction with other disciplines to create more complete professional profiles. Such people must be capable of systemic level analysis and guide companies by defining and drawing inspiration from a “purpose.”

Multidisciplinarity as a tool for breadth of vision and adaptability towards the world. How to integrate it into training?

Traditionally, the multidisciplinary approach was to provide different perspectives within a training programme, and offer different contributions within basic and specialist training. The synthesis between multidisciplinarity and specialist skills is left to the individual.

But it is possible to apply a radically different approach by integrating multidisciplinarity into a training programme, regardless of the subject. The modern challenge is to manage the complexity of this new approach. For example by using innovative teaching techniques which change the interaction between professor and student to make this type of training more effective.
At the moment it is not widely and easily disseminated, but several experiments are underway.

It requires training programme planning and preparation of professors, or rather groups of professors, working in teams. Multidisciplinary training needs more interaction, and to be delivered to small groups using teaching formats that actively involve students.

I believe that the future distinctive element between teaching programmes will be initiatives with specialist standardised content for large numbers, and more transversal content and innovative teaching methods, dedicated to more restricted groups.

Lately there is much talk of life-long education as a key to the continuous updating of skills. Is it a dynamic that intersects with multidisciplinarity?

Lifelong learning means remaining aligned with the environment development and this only rarely or partially happens through vertical insights. More often it means widening the professional profile.

What has been said before applies to lifelong learning too – it must be based on broader contents, and different from the past, using specific platforms capable of dealing with broad disciplinary ranges.

Purpose and multidisciplinarity. What are MIP’s plans for the future of these aspects?

All training programmes will include modules on “purpose,” the role of the company and managers as leaders and innovators.

Opening “Purpose Labs”, i.e. training initiatives dedicated to in-depth studying and analysing how a company can build its purpose, and support companies’ top management in this development.

Finally, innovating our service formats, so that the school is not just a place for training, but a place that encourages a person’s growth. This includes the assessment of skills, guidance, and professional development.

Call for Visiting Professors and Fellows at the School of Management

The School of Management is committed to host visiting professors, guest professors and fellows from all over the world to promote and enhance the international exposure of research and teaching activities.
We are eager to host researchers in different fields of Management, Applied Economics and Industrial Engineering.
More information on the research lines and research groups are available here.

The call for the academic year 2020-2021 is now open. Applications must be sent before November 30th 2020.

For more details please visit:

https://www.som.polimi.it/en/join-us/

DRIVE – Developing Research and Innovation capacities in Albania and Kosovo

 

Margherita Pero, Associate Professor of Business Processes Reengineering, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

 

Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices is one of the key actions of the Erasmus+ Programme, which makes it possible for organisations from different participating countries to work together, to develop, share and transfer best practices and innovative approaches in the fields of education, training and youth work.

In this context, transnational capacity-building projects are a unique opportunity to address the challenges of higher education institutions and systems, to increase cooperation within the EU, to promote people-to-people interactions, intercultural awareness, and understanding.
And this is possible even despite the current pandemic and health concerns.

This is the first goal we can consider as being achieved by the Erasmus+ DRIVE project, which is a partner of the School of Management.
Launched in February 2020, just before the pandemic spread in Europe, Developing Research and InnoVation capacitiEs in Albania and Kosovo (hereinafter DRIVE) is an Erasmus+ project with the objective of developing the research and innovation capacities of Higher Education Institutions in Albania and Kosovo, by enhancing their institutional capabilities, staff skills and networking.

The consortium is composed of three universities from Albania (POLIS University, Polytecnich University of Tirana, European University of Tirana), and three universities from Kosovo (University of Prishtina “Hasan Prishtina, University of Gjakova “Fehmi Agani”, Universum College), the Hamburg University of Technology (Germany), the University of Aalborg (Denmark), and Politecnico di Milano, with the School of Management.

Within the consortium, the School of Management will contribute to:

  • Enhancing the skills of students (graduate level and beyond) to conduct independent research by improving the capacity of teachers and mentors,
  • Enhancing the research capacities of academic and managerial staff through study visits and tailored training,
  • Strengthening institutional level managerial capacities for research activities and innovation by setting or strengthening dedicated research and innovation support structures (RISS), and
  • Promoting research excellence and innovation by developing interdisciplinary networks and industrial collaborations among local and international stakeholders.

The partner Higher Education Institutions in Albania and Kosovo would be able to improve their research and innovation capacities and foster links and collaborations among the actors in the innovation ecosystem (institutions and organizations) by the time DRIVE comes to an end.

To achieve this aim, five training workshops are planned, and will be hosted by the European partners throughout the project’s lifespan. A wide set of activities will be organized during these workshops, including training sessions, brainstorming, discussions, study visits, establishment of new structures and development of guidelines and roadmaps.

The series of workshops are designed to target different audiences that require capacity building actions on the following themes:

  • new methods of training and mentoring (for teachers)
  • developing guidelines for new methods of training and mentoring application (for mentors)
  • ethics in research, on how to publish in high-quality journals, how to build a research project and how to manage a research project (for researchers)

Finally, partner universities will be trained on establishing or empowering dedicated research and innovation support structures (RISS), research networks, and developing a virtual platform for managing such a network.

From 22nd to 24th September 2020, the School of Management successfully designed and chaired the training week on “creating the framework for improving study programmes to enhance the research skills of students”. Although due to the current health concerns not all partners could join the sessions physically, we were able to develop and virtually chair the programs related to sharing and discussion on teaching methodologies, leveraging on blended online sessions and face to face group discussions.

Three sessions were arranged in this workshop:

  • sharing experiences on the well-developed innovative teaching methodologies by EU partners,
  • brainstorming innovative teaching methodologies applicable at partners in Albania and Kosovo, and
  • developing a roadmap for the adoption of innovative teaching methodologies.

The results of this intensive week show that the main barriers to be overcome in order to fully benefit from the innovative teaching methodology are cultural, skills-related, institutional and technological.
Therefore, the roadmap that will be developed based on this workshop will include actions at all levels: from a single course and a single teacher, to a study plan level and an institutional one.

The participants, both physically present and online, were strongly engaged in the discussions on the future of teaching in their countries, showing that the topic is relevant and, despite the emergency situation, that people are willing to take on these new challenges. Although we—School of Management professors—were connected online, we could feel the enthusiasm of the participants in sharing their thoughts and experience of teaching with innovative methods.
This enthusiasm gives us the energy to continue with our project, to move from words to deeds.

A new era for academic partnerships: the (successful) ‘recipe’ of Politecnico di Milano in China

Conversation with Giuliano Noci
Professor of Strategy and Marketing and Vice Rector of the Chinese Campus of Politecnico di Milano

The Joint School of Design and Innovation Centre in Xi’an, inaugurated in 2019 in collaboration with Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), is the first physical campus of the Politecnico di Milano outside Italy. It is an unconventional choice for an Italian university. How did you manage to finalize this project?

Our relationship with XJTU began 12 years ago thanks to a Chinese student who had the opportunity to see the quality of our doctoral programmes, in particular the doctorate in electrical engineering under Professor Sergio Pignari. It was he who, working hard for many years and taking many trips, began to build this bridge between us and China, until he developed this strategic partnership.
We first initiated various exchanges and combined Laurea courses. The idea of having a physical presence on the new XJTU campus then arose and was realized with the construction of a building designed by architects at the Politecnico di Milano (Remo Dorigati and Pierluigi Salvadeo with studio wok, Chiara Dorigati, Francesco Fuoco), which we will fill with people very soon thanks to the numerous projects we have incubating.

What effects did the pandemic have on this project and how did you reorganize yourselves?

The pandemic did not stop the projects; it just led to a partial review of the objectives we had set.
The idea was to start in September of this year with a joint Laurea (Bachelor of Science) course in architecture with our instructors physically present in China. Since this is not possible, we have temporarily moved educational activities online, drawing on the expertise that the Politecnico has gained in recent years.
Secondly, we moved forward an important agreement regarding MBAs made between the MIP — our Graduate School of Business — and the XJTU School of Management, which is one of the most prestigious in the country.
Finally, on the new campus we would like to create a new Joint School accredited by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
This would therefore result in going beyond the goal of having a physical presence: building a true joint university venture abroad. In recent weeks we have been developing the concept of a new Bachelor of Engineering in Industrial Product Design involving various Schools at the Politecnico di Milano (Design, Management, Mechanical Engineering, Information and Communication Technology). If the project wins the call from the Chinese Ministry of Education, it would, in fact, be the first pilot course at the new school, with unique distinctive features, above all interdisciplinarity.
Interdisciplinarity is essential in processes of innovation, about which Italy has certainly much to say. And China is strongly dedicated to this front, as shown in the Made in China 2025 plan that was launched recently.

So, education, but not only that: a university partnership that aims to be relevant for the country system?

Certainly. Our goal is also to support strategies for the international and technological development of our businesses. In this sense, Xi’an is one of the most important industrial districts in China, for the automotive and electrical industries in particular, and it is also a very important cluster in the ICT sector (Alibaba and Huawei have very important research centres there).
This is why we plan to have laboratories where we intend to carry out research together with Italian and Chinese companies. The Chinese market is complex but extremely attractive for our companies, and we can support them in their entrance into the market.

Let’s talk about students. The added value of international exchange during a course of university studies is indisputable, but how do students respond to the opportunity for a combined Laurea of this type?

The ambition of the Joint School is to go global. We intend to attract international students from around the world. But we also want to support growth and experience for our researchers and instructors, given that this is an opportunity for them to develop under multiple points of view.
Students’ reactions up to now have been enthusiastic. Faced with legitimate initial scepticism in studying on a continent that is so different from ours, Italian students have always had extraordinary appreciation for this cultural exchange. They are won over by the energy and dynamics characteristic of any Chinese university.
They realize the importance of interacting in an area with one of the highest rates of economic growth in the world, characterized by great encouragement and strong investments in digital technologies and artificial intelligence.

A partnership developed, as you said, based on continual work of visits to the host country. Now this specific historical situation imposes new forms of interconnection around the world.
What scenarios do you foresee in view of this? How do the distances bring us together or modify some means of interaction between us and China?

The topic of Hybrid Learning will further accelerate relations between the Politecnico di Milano and China. In recent months, when the number of trips has reduced to zero, we have actually interacted more frequently than before and have increased the level of objectives and results obtained. In this direction, with regard to both research and university/postgraduate teaching, previously little-explored perspectives are opening.
In China, during the period of quarantine due to COVID, a good 180 million students studied entirely online. For us, it is now natural to expand our educational programme beyond the physical presence of Chinese students, when students do not want to move. Applying the reasoning of Hybrid Learning (with in-person and remote lectures) also opens participation in new courses of study to Italian students who do not want to move to China, for example.
Paradoxically, at a time when physical connection was not possible, cognitive and relational interconnection was more frequent because on both sides we discovered the possibility of working with a never-before-imagined frequency of interaction precluded only by our sensory system.
For example, with Tsinghua University in Beijing — the most important university in China, which has a joint campus in Milan at our Politecnico — we are now launching three large educational projects involving the MIP Graduate School of Business (in addition to other university departments) which were developed in just six months. To obtain similar results in the past, four/five years of continuous trips would have been necessary.
This naturally does not mean diminishing the importance of physical contact and campus life.
It just implies new roads that are worth travelling.

One last question about the educational approach in Chinese management schools. Is the material taught evolving in a way more inclined to collaboration with the West, or are the two models radicalizing into different positions?

The perception I have always had about China is that there was curiosity about Western managerial models. What was interesting, however, were especially topics tied to managing innovation.
The approaches move in opposite directions. China is aware of the power of its economic system and is therefore self-referential, even in its means of management.
This, however, does not preclude different opportunities for us — as the Politecnico and as Italians — particularly for two reasons.
The first is the very high number of Chinese students that want to study abroad and who will move to Europe in significant numbers (and also to Italy, we hope).
The second is that Italy is very attractive for our capacity to both develop a system of small and medium-sized companies, and create luxury brands. This is a great reputation, on the level not only of design, but also of marketing.
As a result, our country and our management schools are decidedly interesting.

If you had to briefly give 3 keywords for the future of the Xi’an project in the short term, what would they be?

Consolidating the Joint School to favour paths of growth for young talent at the Politecnico.
Opening a couple of laboratories with companies: one in the automotive industry and the other might be exporting the Polifactory format to Xi’an.
Creation of a start-up incubator with the related establishment of a venture capital fund.