When Learning Becomes an Augmented Experience

, by Leonardo Caporarello - delegato del rettore per l'elearning e direttore del Built Bocconi
New technology, new methodology, new content: the distinction between learning and elearning no longer makes sense; the challenge is to create adaptive, hybrid customized educational programs

The way we teach and learn is changing dramatically. It is a transformation that reflects the evolution of the wider socio-economic context and whose implications we have yet to fully grasp. Without falling into stereotypical representations, it goes without saying that the increasingly pervasive use of new digital technologies marks a sharp break with the recent past. And its impact seems all the more significant if we consider the distinctive characteristics of the latest generations who have peopled classrooms and universities: from the millennials of Generation Y, to the first true digital natives of Generation Z.

In this highly dynamic framework, the knowledge and skills required for personal and professional development are inevitably changing. This is what numerous reports and declarations of supranational agencies and organizations, particularly the European Union, remind us, such as the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the EU Council on the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. In the current scenario, it is essential for young people not only to master several foreign languages ​​and have constantly updated computer skills, but especially nurture transversal skills, such as the ability to learn, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and the spirit of initiative.

In parallel to the evolving demand for skills, we see a very rapid transformation in the theories, methods and training techniques of academic learning. It is a change of paradigm: all distinctions between learning and e-learning have become largely meaningless, while new concepts, such as mobile learning (where mobility refers both to remote devices and people), game-based learning (where the emphasis is on working together to achieve a goal in a competition which is structured as a game), and blended learning (where the old distinction between traditional and digital learning is overcome, in the name of a student-empowering hybridization of content) are becoming increasingly salient. Change is transversal to the learning process and affects it through four different dimensions.

The first dimension is methodological: we are moving towards increasingly adaptive and personalized learning tracks, based on the specific circumstances and needs of the individual student. With the help of new technologies, we can support students throughout the entire learning process: not only during the classroom experience, but also upstream and downstream. The second dimension is technological: the use of new devices does not only improve face-to-face training activities, but also augments the classroom in a virtual way and helps build interactions between different classes. The third dimension refers to content: in the new scenario, the radical and frequent updating of educational programs is necessary. Finally, the fourth dimension is social: a distinctive element of today's educational process is the emergence of new forms and modes of interaction between class participants and instructors, both in person and remotely, either in real time or in asynchronous mode.

In the light of this evolutionary dynamic, learning processes can be better understood if we think of them as actual experiences. Digitization enriches experience, increasingly transforming learning into an augmented, adaptive and personalized form of experience, which can be used according to a multi-directional approach, where the traditional one-to-many logic of teaching gives way to the active involvement of all class participants. The University is moving in this direction with its R&D activities, through programs and facilities such as Bocconi University Innovations in Learning and Teaching (BUILT) and the SDA Bocconi Learning Lab. These initiatives cover the training of the faculty, as well as the design and implementation of online and blended courses, including the creation of virtual learning experiences, the use of big data to understand students' learning patterns, and the use of gamification techniques.

However, the classroom still represents the crucial environment for expanding the training experience: it is in class that students can be successfully motivated to participate in experiments, comparisons, and analyses that contribute to their personal growth and meet their learning needs.

Read more about this topic:
Business Schools Should Learn from Netflix. Article by Gabriele Troilo
Massimo Magni. Technology Is Not Always Enough
Beatrice Manzoni. How Students Feel About Online Learning
Ferdinando Pennarola. If Learning Is a Game