Two Marshall Plan measures lend support to digital innovation. Below the projects from the universities
There is a demand for universities to become more digital, partly in response to the restrictions resulting from Covid-19, and also as a horizon for general development.
For this purpose, Lombardy Region is making available to eight public institutions of higher education (seven universities and a school of advanced studies) in Lombardy 30 million euro for a Programme to innovate digital instruments for distance learning; and an additional 13.5 million thanks to new “Joint collaboration agreements for research, innovation and technological transfer”, to promote investments in research and innovation infrastructures of the same eight universities, with a financing of nearly 1.7 million for each beneficiary.
These two measures targeted for the Lombardy university system were approved by the Lombardy Region council in its session on 3 November on the proposal of Vice President Fabrizio Sala. Two measures pursuant to the Marshall Plan, the strategic program devised by the Lombardy Region, are intended to promote the economic recovery following the coronavirus emergency.
Digital tools and “DAD” distance learning
Specifically concerning the first action to increase digitisation of universities, the contribution of 30 million euro will be in the form of a subsidy grant to cover 100% of the allowable expenses for the purchase of digital equipment and instruments, and other technologies needed for distance learning activities (“DAD”), both in response to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and as a proposal for developing e-learning solutions.
The universities involved and the allocation of resources, established proportionate to the division of the Ordinary Financing Fund (FFO) 2020 are as follows: University of Milan, 9 million euro; the Polytechnic University of Milan, 6.8 million euro; University of Milan Bicocca, 4.4 million euro; University of Pavia, 4 million euro; University of Brescia, 2.3 million euro; University of Bergamo 1.8 million euro; University of Insubria, 1.5 million euro; and IUSS (University School for Advanced Studies) Pavia, 196,000 euro.
Sala: praise for our universities
“These are fundamental resources for our Universities at a time when distance learning is becoming increasingly important; a support that is part of the Lombardy Plan to help lecturers and students with innovative and quality equipment,” commented Vice President of Lombardy Region, Fabrizio Sala. “Innovation and Research play an even more crucial role, thanks to the possibility of providing tools that respond tangibly to the challenges we are faced with.” Added Sala, “Praise for our Universities that have reacted readily and effectively to the difficult moment we find ourselves in.”
The universities are asked to provide a statement of the costs incurred, as well as a description of the innovative actions to be implemented through the purchases, and a time schedule for their execution within the scope of promoting an authentic Innovation Plan for digital instrumentation.
The eight Lombardy universities can use it for purchases of digital innovation starting 4 May 2020 (approval date of Regional Law no. 9 which led to the Marshall Plan) until 30 June 2021.
The entire amount of the resources will be at the disposal of the universities in 2021.
Agreements for research and innovation
With regard to the 13.5 million euro, this allocation is designated for the innovation of research infrastructure (equipment and/or structural interventions) existing at university bodies; a contribution that aims at creating the best conditions for Universities to develop research and innovation despite the difficulties stemming from the Covid-19 emergency.
The subsidy grant from Lombardy Region will cover up to 50% of the overall cost of these infrastructures.
The Deans weigh in: the projects according to university
“We are satisfied and grateful for the attention that Lombardy Region and council member Fabrizio Sala have given with the financing of Lombardy universities, which without exception have responded with dedication and commitment to the complex situation created by the pandemic. These are precious resources for us,” emphasizes Elio Franzini, Dean of the University of Milan, “which we will use to further expand the number of lecture halls for streaming, upgrade computer systems, and support all channels of communication and services dedicated to the students.”
“The investment of Lombardy Region is an important signal for the socio-economic recovery of the region and for the university system in particular,” commented the Dean of the Polytechnic, Ferruccio Resta. An investment that looks ahead towards developing new proposals for rethinking the role of the university as a physical and technological place. With new computerized lecture halls that enable interactive learning experiences, external and International connections, and new digital labs also for disciplines that are not exclusively technical-scientific, such as those considered for the Faculty of Architecture.”
“We intend to guarantee, in real time, the full interaction between professors and students, even remotely,” explains Giovanna Iannantuoni, Dean of the University of Milan Bicocca. With the funds of the Marshall Plan we will be upgrading the live-streaming system to conduct lessons online and practice sessions in the computer labs. In all lecture halls on campus our technological instrumentation has been operative for some time, and during the lockdown this allowed us to guarantee distance learning immediately. The actions to implement will serve to strengthen and complete the offer of services of the University for distance learning.”
“The University of Pavia intends to upgrade the computerization and multi-media capabilities of a part of its lecture halls,” notes the Dean of the University of Pavia, Francesco Svelto. “In order to best support the educational activities in the present phase when the greatest care must be taken to follow health regulations, a mixed system of teaching is necessary, online and in-person. The university will also implement new educational methodologies that require heavy involvement by students and that go beyond the Covid-19 emergency. The actions will cut through the different disciplines and different campuses.”
“We will invest the funds to complete the preparation of the lecture halls with digital equipment for distance transmission of lessons, seminars and exams,” states Maurizio Tira, Dean of the University of Brescia. “This will allow us to initiate new experimentations and ‘international connections’. We will continue to invest in the updating and professional development of our lecturers. In addition, the actions planned will go to supporting our project of simulation with interactive training based on the use of innovative training methods, directed in particular to the medical area and Schools of Medical Specialization.”
“The ambitious project the University of Bergamo is undertaking includes the development, in approximately 100 lecture halls, of a multimedia presentation and collaboration system for the reproduction, recording and sharing of digital content from a wide range of devices and platforms integrating functions of interactive whiteboard and network connectivity,” notes Dean of the University of Bergamo, Remo Morzenti Pellegrini. The objective is not only to tackle the emergency, but also to create a technologically advanced structure for the near future, which can be realised also thanks to the contributions from the Region.”
“The goal of the project is to upgrade digital technologies for distance learning and to promote the adoption of a workflow that integrates the technologies with traditional teaching methodologies,” says the Dean of the University of Insubria, Angelo Tagliabue. The project calls for both technological improvement of lecture halls and services supporting distance learning, and the setup of a permanent workshop for teaching innovation, which supports lecturers in the integration of digital technologies in traditional lectures, and for experimentation also by involving secondary schools in the area.”
“We intend to upgrade and organise technological infrastructures for the remote connectivity of halls in the School headquarters and in the new secondary School being readied,” last explains the Dean of the IUSS Pavia, Riccardo Pietrabissa . “Also included may be purchases for network services, audio services, multimedia tools, processors, peripherals, portable devices, software, servers and cabling to increase the efficiency of lecturers and researchers, post-docs, pre- and post-degree students, and the technical-administrative staff of the School.”