Stefano Caselli, Bocconi University

Technology is a key asset to improve the learning experience of students


Ahead of the 3 June CIVICA conference on "Digitalisation and the Future of Higher Education," Stefano Caselli (Bocconi University) comments on how we can leverage technology to revolutionise higher education.

Digital tools have transformed higher education and today are a key asset for the CIVICA alliance – enhancing cooperation, interaction, outreach and experiences. Ahead of the CIVICA conference on 3 June on "Digitalisation and the Future of Higher Education", Professor Stefano Caselli, Dean for International Affairs at Bocconi University and member of CIVICA's Steering Committee, outlines how technology has revolutionised higher education, the opportunities it offers to improve learning experiences, and how CIVICA can leverage it to further its aims and outreach.

How do you think the advancement of technology in the past decade has changed the role of higher education?

Stefano Caselli: I think it was really a quantum leap, it was a revolution, because if you go back to 10 years ago, technology was simply something nice, a support, not exactly a tool to deliver higher education. Today the quantum leap is that technology is embedded into the educational process.

It's our decision how to use technology to increase the learning experience of our students. And, in my opinion, only the sky is the limit: we have great potential and opportunities to improve the learning experience of all students.

How do you define high-quality digital education?

The issue is to first define high-quality education, where high-quality education means to target exactly the needs of all the students and to support a better learning experience.

In this sense, technology becomes high quality, or higher quality, if it is useful to improve the learning experience of students. That means, for example, to run in a better way classes moving quickly from one-to-one to plenary sessions and to work in small groups, to create a repository for fundamentals of knowledge, to interact better with students spread in different countries of the world, to improve virtual mobility, to have the possibility to switch to different content, and to have a multidisciplinary approach.

The concept of high quality is strictly related not to the technology per se, but to the concept of quality of the learning experience and the level of education of our students, which remain – and we do not have to forget – social process. The modern world is a parallel running between education and technology, and we have to master obviously this parallel running.

Describe on opportunity of digitalisation in higher education, starting from an experience at Bocconi. How do you think we could leverage this opportunity to improve education in the future?

The pandemic forced all the universities and the business schools to rethink their teaching model. Not just simply to react to the constraints, but to re-elaborate and to rethink the teaching model.

In the past year at Bocconi University, we tested several experiences to redesign completely courses moving from a real blended approach and, for example, to give the possibility to run virtual mobility, and to give access to our classes to students spread in every part of the world.

This is good for the future, because the last year was very useful to test, to elaborate, to try to develop new formats. And the future is bright because, thanks to these experiences, we can really create new and better learning experiences for the students. Which is, at the end, the only parameter to evaluate our effort.

How does digital innovation play into CIVICA’s new educational offers?

In work package 4, CIVICA is working on the concept of mobility and interaction of MSc students. We have both joint courses and the Europeanship multi-campus course, which is something completely new: a course where students belonging to different universities have the possibility to have a learning experience together. This will be not possible without technology. Obviously, technology is not everything, because this is a joint effort of different universities in a multitude of areas, but thanks to technology, the multi-campus course really can exist and can have an immediate impact for the participating students.

How can universities cooperate with one another at European scale to boost innovation in higher education?

Today, cooperation is probably more necessary than ever because what we discover is that education is not just simply a good belonging to an institution or to a country; education is really a public good in a very wide sense, and cooperation is the means to increase this concept of public good and its social impact.

Moreover, similar to other sectors, where the concept of scale is fundamental to increase the outreach and the impact, also in education scale is fundamental. Technology, new content, international mobility, innovation are all items that can be increased thanks to cooperation. Cooperation is a need and a requirement for all schools. They remain competitors but, thanks to cooperation, they can increase their impact on society.

How can alliances like CIVICA contribute to the digital transformation?

Thanks to digitalisation, CIVICA can scale up, in a certain sense, quicker.

The future of the European Universities, as described by the European Commission, is to create a common Higher Education Area, to get to a real “European University” able to give European degrees. Technology can become an enabler of this process (and this even without the pandemic) - also to reach, for example, students in different areas of the world who do not have the possibility to come to Europe or to work with us. Technology will remain a key asset to make the project of European Universities quicker, more impactful and more real for the students.

To learn more about how digital tools have profoundly transformed the realm of higher education and the opportunities and challenges of digitalisation for the present and future of universities join the discussion on June 3 at the "Digitalisation and the Future of Higher Education" conference, open to all and with the opportunity to engage in the debate.

Digitalisation and the Future of Higher Education: Stefano Caselli