Thanks to an agreement with the Coursera platform, Università Bocconi has entered the world of MOOCs (Massive open online courses), the web courses which can be attended for free by anyone interested. The Bocconi catalogue includes three courses of diverse nature, in English, available from March 2014 onwards.
“We are working on the storyboards and on frameworks able to provide rhythm to the videos, without losing sight of the teaching purpose”,Luigi Proserpio, director ofBETA (Bocconi education and teaching alliance), the University lab which deals with teaching innovation, explains. “MOOCs have to strike a subtle balance: they can’t be simple lesson footage, but they have also to steer clear of spectacular excesses that distract from learning”.
While distance learning is often associated with basic courses, repetitiveness and standardization, Proserpio’s opinion about MOOCs is completely different. “To us”, he says, “they are an experimentation. Nobody, today, can say whether the MOOCs are going to become an alternative way to deliver complete programs, or snippets to be included in them, or an experience marketing tool, able to give a taste of the university to prospective students. In any case, thanks to these experimentations, we’ll be ready”.
MOOCs are, however, supposed to be a tool that can increase the value of time spent in the classrooms. “If basic information is delivered via MOOCs”, Proserpio continues, “there is more time in the classroom for value-added activities: discussion, interactivity, teamwork, simulations. The scope of a university is not only to deliver knowledge, but also to develop critical thought, problem solving and social capabilities”.
The three courses BETA is developing have been chosen because they cover a broad range of types of courses and present diverse challenges to MOOC designers. International Organizational Behavior and Leadership is a basic course directed to all management students and, in the MOOC version, and aims to transmit soft skills from a distance. Managing Fashion and Luxury Companies is a theme course about a typically Italian industry that tries to make it comprehensible to students from any country. Financing and Investing in Infrastructure, lastly, is a specialized course, that must deliver sophisticated technical knowledge.
“The agreement with Coursera”, Proserpio concludes, “is motivated by the fact that it’s the most experimental platform, it is rich and with a large following, has a great look-and-feel and a very good support, which facilitates the job of BETA and ASIT, the Bocconi information systems department, which works with us at developing innovative teaching”.