By Federico Frattini, Dean of MIP Politecnico di Milano
The need for more flexibility from students had been growing years before the pandemic. Then coronavirus had its own impact, affecting teaching within business schools and, in many institutions, different online approaches were quickly created to accommodate for students who had to work and study remotely from campus.
It’s now a reality that traditional face-to-face teaching approaches are being increasingly integrated with digital tools. In many cases, business schools have had to direct their efforts and investments towards developing new interactive teaching capabilities in order to create digital environments where students can feel involved in the learning journey as much as possible without having to be physically in the classroom.
Even before the pandemic, at MIP we have seen for many years now the growing demand by students for greater digitalisation, flexibility, and continuous learning. That is why we created FLEXA – an AI-powered, personalized learning platform which acts as a digital mentor for potential students, current cohorts and alumni networks.
Developed in partnership with Microsoft, FLEXA is an innovative platform that allows participants to decide where and how to access their personalized learning path from anywhere in the world and with any device – an invaluable element, particularly during the recent health crisis.
FLEXA, which was previously only available for MIP students and Alumni, is now accessible to all and free of charge, and has subsequently been recognized as one of the most innovative projects in the world of business schools. This is because it uses artificial intelligence to create and suggest personalized training courses for each user. This starts with an assessment phase which evaluates their skills gaps, and what they need to learn and stay updated on in order to achieve their professional goals.
Participants then have access to an ecosystem of about 800,000 pieces of learning material, including self-paced digital courses, webinars, podcasts, articles and case studies. Through a tool such as FLEXA, managers, entrepreneurs and professionals can now ensure that they stay up to date and develop their skills over time.
Also, through FLEXA, digital networking is made possible. Each user can send contact requests relating to specific business topics or professional needs to others users, thus expanding their range of professional connections. Users can be creative and boost their brain cells with a bit of healthy competition by interacting with the other FLEXA users, and they can take part in challenges to create top‐quality content of relevance to a specified subject area.
Indeed, for several years now we have already been able to respond to the lifelong learning needs of an ever-increasing number of students and alumni of our school thanks to the use of FLEXA. But now, by opening FLEXA for free to anyone interested in using it, we aim to contribute to the update and renewal of the skills of anyone who wants to get involved and continually develop their professionalism over time.
FLEXA is an incredibly innovative platform because ultimately it will allow professionals to keep moving closer to their professional aspirations, and to help them face the challenges of the ever-changing business environment. The uniqueness of FLEXA is of combining on a single platform three services – lifelong learning, skill assessment and job posting.
But how does FLEXA do all of this? Well, in honing each user’s personalized training path, FLEXA is aided by artificial intelligence which, in light of the objective, cross-references the particular skills gaps with the most appropriate contents. For this purpose, FLEXA is able to extrapolate contents from more than 200 certified and selected sources, using around 14,000 content-search keywords.
Furthermore, in order to stay relevant at all times, work on the selection of sources to be integrated into FLEXA’s data lake is constant and ongoing, in turn enabling users to have the latest information at their fingertips. This task is carried out by faculty in collaboration with companies, universities and business schools at national and international level, meaning that while designed and created by MIP, FLEXA has a global outlook and is based on an open ecosystem of partners.
Sources include learning contents offered by other outstanding business schools, business editors and publishers, specialized online training providers, and all of the most important MOOC’s platforms. Moreover, FLEXA suggests the MIP courses that fit the most the users’ needs. Artificial intelligence is used to digitize the process of creating a personalized training path. FLEXA’s AI attributes enable a tailormade educational path to be designed, individually aligned to each user’s skills gaps. Furthermore, thanks to artificial intelligence, FLEXA itself continues to learn and improve.
Of course, FLEXA is not a substitute for traditional education programs, but a complement to it. Today, education no longer consists only in designing content/courses, but also in creating the conditions for developing platforms and ecosystems that will enable personal growth. Digitalisation can be truly disruptive, and digital tools can transform a business school into a hub of educational contents that can be delivered in a personalised and tailored manner to students.
As well as this, digital platforms like FLEXA can broaden the boundaries of universities, and schools who embrace digitalisation can offer their students access to knowledge from far beyond their own faculty. In an ever more digital world, it is also important to note that digital tools such as FLEXA can enable schools to maintain meaningful links between the members of their community, and ultimately enhance the student experience in the long-term wherever they may be.