Blog #16


Authors: Daniela Casiraghi, Bianca Santolini
Politecnico di Milano – METID – Learning Innovation


The debate over digital transformation has been on the table for years. But now more than ever, the push for a concrete shift is intensifying, also due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This could lead to an important job crisis, if we do not implement new strategies for the development of digital skills for young and low-skilled workers. Universities and educational institutions occupy a key role in this scenario: the Distance Learning experience introduced in March 2020, demonstrated how they can cope with this complex scenario, also thanks to the integration in their curricula of Massive Open Online Courses, which proved to be an important vehicle of flexibility and adaptation in a general context characterised by different barriers. The Polimi Open Knowledge Platform (www.pok.polimi.it) is delivering two MOOCs series covering the topic of digitization in different sectors: they are opening the way for a new track “for professionals”, meant to answer to the increasing demand of digital skills.

The debate over digital transformation has been on the table for years. But now more than ever, the push for a concrete shift is intensifying. Companies are pressing ahead on digital transformation: they’re setting up increasingly automated workstations. Many are reinventing their work, displacing workers and exploiting the full potential of digital collaboration. This change could cause a great crisis in terms of job losses: only in the first half of 2020, around 435 million have been lost (source: International Labor Organization). To address this crisis, it is necessary to encourage practices of lifelong learning and continuing education to upskill low-skilled workers and to constantly re-train young workers. It is time to implement new strategies and share good practices that focus on learning, to enable workers and students to develop “future-proof” skills. The Distance Learning (DL) experience introduced in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, demonstrated how universities and educational institutions occupy a key role in the digital transformation. In just a few days, the educational scenario was turned upside down: almost all educational institutions were forced to activate emergency distance learning. The entire world of education faced several months of online classes, organized online tests supported by proctoring systems; universities have even held remote graduation ceremonies. This experience has shown how all people involved in the educational emergency quickly acquired the digital skills the situation required. Despite their complete lack of preparation, many educational institutions managed to guide students throughout their studies, replacing in-person teaching with distance learning. This scenario has further highlighted the urgent need to invest in digital and interactive solutions, also exploiting the potential of Massive Open Online Courses. During this crisis MOOCs have been very important: in a hugely constrained context, their flexibility and adaptability to many situations has been vital. Politecnico di Milano, like many other universities, runs its own MOOC delivery platform: POK – Polimi Open Knowledge (www.pok.polimi.it), launched in 2014. Since its foundation, the main objective of POK was to integrate the in-person teaching/learning experience with opportunities for asynchronous learning, to bridge the gaps identified in many groups of students. Interest increased in a few years: teachers, researchers and citizens were identified as new targets in addition to students. The number of MOOCs and students enrolled in the platform has steadily grown. POK currently has 70 MOOCs, about 2,000 videos, and a community of about 115,000 enrolled students.
Over the past two years, the Politecnico di Milano has been committed to supporting the dissemination of critical skills related to technology, infrastructure, and policy to compete in an increasingly digital world. In particular the Politecnico has delivered, through the MOOC platform POK, two series of MOOCs that address issues related to the fourth industrial revolution. In the past few months, these MOOCs have been gathered into a specific “for professionals” track. The first series, “Next Production Revolution”, is composed of four MOOCs addressed to people from industrialized economies, but especially to people from developing Countries. The series proposes both theoretical reflections and practical approaches to ignite the next production revolution. It explains how the confluence of technological innovation and digital transformation, combined with political, institutional and social innovations can trigger a transformative process in our societies. The second series, “Digimood”, consists of six MOOCs on ” Digital Entrepreneurship for the Creative Industries” with specific application to the fashion industry, branding of its companies, storytelling strategies and digital service models. The MOOC series illustrates how digital tools in recent years have positively impacted the fashion value chain and explains how to make the most of them. The series of MOOCs that will be produced for the EDDIE project will be the third series of MOOCs included in the “for professionals” track on the POK – Polimi Open Knowledge platform. Its goal will be to strengthen education for sustainable energy transition and digitization. The MOOCs will integrate the expertise of all the sixteen partners involved in the EDDIE project and will be part of a blended training experience. This significant boost in the production of MOOCs that can engage the general public and workers who want to upskill their competences, is also supported by the global increasing interest in MOOCs. Approximately 25-30% of the total registered users on the main MOOCs providers (Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn) came after the pandemic. Coursera states that governments and universities that have activated Coursera’s Campus Response Initiative have provided more than a million people with free access to job-relevant online learning. In the post-pandemic scenario, integrating MOOCs into the teaching/learning process is definitely one of the best practices to adopt in order to increase access to innovative and continuously updated knowledge, fostering the development of job-relevant skills.