11: Adapting to the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Distance Learning Experience of the University of Milan-Bicocca

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The COVID-19 pandemic reveals economic, social and cultural fragilities even in those countries that were considered structurally solid. Among the most damaged sectors, the higher education and training sector stands out with serious consequences for its stakeholders. This chapter deals with the COVID-19 emergency in Italian higher education. The emergency pointed out some vulnerabilities of Italian universities but also enlightened their resilience. In a short time, most of them were able to ensure teaching activities continuity by moving online. Teaching activities are among the main aims of higher education, but they are often taken for granted and undervalued, with research activities receiving more attention. The pandemic brought teaching activities back to the centre of attention. Therefore, it became fundamental to redesign teaching activities using distance learning methods even if almost all stakeholders (including university lecturers) were unprepared. In addition to the difficulties in accepting and using information technologies, lecturers challenged themselves with planning and designing new forms of teaching to protect students’ attendance and ensure adequate learning. The chapter reflects on the experience of the University of Milan-Bicocca. It discusses the outcomes of survey research administered to university staff and proposes new teaching strategies moving beyond the emergency.

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