Teaching in the time of Coronavirus


Institutional Communication Service

16 March 2020

From the start, USI has worked towards implementing and sharing the digital tools for remote class participation, rethinking the design of the teaching experience and reducing the need of classroom attendance. The eLab, dedicated to eLearning applications, comes to the aid of USI's teachers and assistants in the effective integration of digital technologies in their teaching activities.

There are several tools that can be implemented in regards of long distance learning. To name a few: the option of recording or live broadcasting of the lesson in the classroom, conducting Q&A with the aid of video-conferencing tools, access to additional material for individual study. To ensure a high teaching quality even in such a challenging context, USI, with its eLab, supports the faculty and students in overcoming the complexity of using distance learning tools, which today have become essential. "USI has prepared a handbook (available at www.usi.ch/didattica-coronavirus) to support teachers in rethinking their teaching activities and initially support students who could not attend classes. Of course, the same tools are now used by everyone, after the suspension of in-classroom activities on campus" explains Lorenzo Cantoni, Pro-Rector for Education and Students' experience and Scientific Director of eLab. Lessons and long-distance networking that also include collaborative models, to encourage exchange between students and teachers, "the opportunities offered by eLearning entail both the quality and variety of material made available, and also the communication between teachers and students. For example, we make extensive use of online forums, which allow the teacher to communicate with the whole class (one-to-many). Students can then upload the work assigned (individual or group) directly to the online platform. Giving the example of theses, the system automatically runs an anti-plagiarism check, making sure that the student has not forged the paper or forgot to cite sources" explains Cantoni.

As far as eLearning goes, where does USI stand in the context of Swiss universities and what projects are being carried out? USI began conducting research in the field of eLearning over twenty years ago, for example, by setting up four doctoral schools, the last two in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the University of St. Gallen, and hosting international events on the subject, such as the EDMEDIA conference in 2004. It is on the basis of these experiences that the USI eLearning Lab has developed, serving not only our University but also SUPSI and some other educational and industrial realities with ad hoc agreements. Completely online training experiences are already in place, both through individual courses (the Digital Fashion Communication Lab, for example) and through open online courses, the so-called MOOC - Massive Open Online Course, including the one on Dante Alighieri or, in collaboration with the Sorbonne in Paris, the one on the tourist management of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.