The AI Era Requires a More Flexible and Affordable Model for Higher Education
AI, and its integration with society, had an incredible acceleration in recent months. By now, it seems certain that AI will be the fourth GPT (General Purpose Technology) of human history: one of those few technologies or inventions that radically and indelibly change society. The last of these technologies was ICT (internet, semiconductor industry, telecommunications); before this, electricity and the steam engine were the first 2 GPTs.
All three GPTs had a huge impact on the overall productivity and advancement of our society with, of course, a profound impact on the world of work. Such an impact, though, was very different across these technologies. The advent of electricity and the steam motor allowed the displacement of large masses of workers from more archaic and manual jobs to their equivalent jobs in the new industrial era, where not many skills were required. The advent of ICT, on the other hand, has generated enormous job opportunities, but also the need to develop meaningful skills to pursue them.
As a result, an increasingly large share of the economic benefit deriving from the advent of ICT has gradually been polarized towards people who had (and have) these skills in society. Suffice it to say that, already in 2017, the richest 1% of America owned twice the wealth of the “poorest” 90%.
It is difficult to make predictions about how the advent of AI will impact this trend already underway. But there are some very clear elements: one of these is that quality education in technology (and not only) will increasingly play a primary role in being able to secure the best career opportunities for a successful future in this new era.
To play a “lead actor” role in this change, though, the world of education – and in particular that of undergraduate and postgraduate education – requires a huge change towards being much more flexible, aligned to today’s needs of students and companies, and affordable.
Let’s take a step back: we grew up thinking that “learning” meant following a set path. Enroll in elementary school, attend middle and high school, and, for the luckiest or most ambitious, conclude by taking a degree.
This model needs to be seriously challenged and adapted to the times: solid foundational learning remains an essential prerogative. But in a “fast” world in rapid change like today’s, knowledge acquired along this “linear” path will not be able to accompany people in their professions until the end of their careers. The “utility period” of the knowledge we acquire today reduces every day, and this emphasizes how essential continuous learning is throughout our lives.
The transition must therefore be towards a more circular pattern for learning. A model in which one returns “to the school desk” several times in life, in order to update oneself, and forget “obsolete” knowledge, making room for new production models, new ways of thinking, organizing, and new technologies.
In this context, Education providers must rethink the way they operate and how they intend to address this need for lifelong learning.
Higher Education Institutions, as accredited bodies and guarantors of the quality of education (OPIT – Open Institute of Technology among these), have the honor of playing a primary role in this transition.
But also the great burden of rethinking their model from scratch which, in a digital age, cannot be a pure and simple digital transposition of the old analog learning model.
The Institutions Universities are called upon to review and keep updated their own study programmes, think of new, more flexible and faster ways of offering them to a wider public, forge greater connections with companies, and ultimately provide them with students who are immediately ready to successfully enter the dynamics of production. And, of course, be more affordable and accessible: quality education in the AI era cannot cost tens of thousands of dollars, and needs to be accessed from wherever the students are.
With OPIT – Open Institute of Technology, this is the path we have taken, taking advantage of the great privilege of being able to start a new path, without preconceptions or “attachment” to the past. We envision a model of a new, digital-first, higher education institution capable of addressing all the points above, and accompany students and professionals throughout their lifetime learning journey.
We are at the beginning, and we hope that the modern and fresh approach we are following can be an interesting starting point for other universities as well.
Prof. Francesco Profumo, Rector of OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
Former Minister of Education, University and Research of Italy, Academician and author, former President of the National Research Council of Italy, and former Rector of Politecnico di Torino. He is an honorary member of various scientific associations.
Riccardo Ocleppo, Managing Director of OPIT
Founder of OPIT, Founder of Docsity.com, one of the biggest online communities for students with 19+ registered users. MSc in Management at London Business School, MSc in Electronics Engineering at Politecnico di Torino
Prof. Lorenzo Livi, Programme Head at OPIT
Former Associate Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Manitoba, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter, Ph.D. in Computer Science at Università La Sapienza.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.