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Design e-Learning Platform for Collaborative Innovation. Long Life Learning for Italian “Know how” and…“Know why

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Journal of International Business Research and Marketing
Volume 5, Issue 3, March 2020, Pages 7-12


Design e-Learning Platform for Collaborative Innovation. Long Life Learning for Italian “Know how” and…“Know why

DOI: 10.18775/jibrm.1849-8558.2015.53.3001
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.18775/jibrm.1849-8558.2015.53.3001

  Dalia Gallico

  Professor, University San Raffaele Roma, Italy

Abstract: E-learning, knowledge sharing, design education as a productive sector and collaborative innovation are all concepts that are key elements of this case study. One hundred design schools are now operating in Italy. Results, obtained from the first accurate research give a first benchmark of design learning and formation industry in Italy, in its wider meaning too (product design, fashion design and communications). One hundred schools and thousands of students are many or few? Are professional figures created by schools and their competencies suitable for market requests? What relations are there amidst schools, enterprises and institutions? Which problems or expectations are there in design schools today? The learning and education sector, as all industries, needs strategies, development policies, sustainment laws, qualification and promotional instruments, political attention. There is a particular focus here on the question of what role design should play in innovation in the future. Other key topics include the role of e-learning and of long life learning. Such roles are not always easy to explain, since they differ from case to case, but Design in Italy is – and will increasingly become – a definite value and a competitive tool. Design can and must be a fundamental part of every single company’s production, communication and distribution strategy. The e-learning platform launched by Università Telematica San Raffaele Roma’s “Design for Business & Business for Design” is intended to demonstrate that design is neither a sole interest nor an exclusive prerogative of large companies or those operating in sectors that have traditionally been design oriented. In fact, design driven education and innovation is a basic lever for competitiveness and internationalization that is available in every sector. Creating an e-learning platform is an important opportunity of building a new designing and community identity; a significant chance to meet and a landmark not only for professionals, but also for creative people working outside established enterprises (from every countries). Conclusions are about design education and possible future developments, the role of design as a key competitive variable for the system, the new professionals and the winning models: instances of success, failure and best practices.

Keywords: E-learning, Collaborative innovation, Knowledge toward specialization, Long life learning, Knowing how to make system, Training professionals, Design for business, Business for design

Design e-Learning Platform for Collaborative Innovation. Long life learning for Italian “Know how” and…“Know why

1. Introduction

The first Italian designers were self-taught, coming from workshops, laboratories or schools of architecture and engineering; along the way, they left an indelible print in design history. In the Seventies the ISIA (Artistic Industries Institutes) were founded as designated places for experimental courses with. In 1993 the first university degree in design was launched at the Politecnico of Milan, a sign of a multi-technological culture that relates technical and scientific knowledge to humanistic subjects. This was followed in 2000 by the first design department, also located at the Politecnico. In these early years industrial design instruments found their application in many industries, from communication to fashion, and from light to colour, as many universities and schools began to offer a wide range of design degree courses at bachelors and masters levels. There is now a proliferation of private degree and masters courses which are not always related to industrial reality. The University Administration has declared the existence of “degree inflation”. The number of degree courses has quadrupled (26.207 students registered last year). This situation poses a question whether, behind the shield of culture, there is only a business speculation, creating an industry of illusions.

To acknowledge the “learning industry” of creativity and project, we need strategies and investments for developing human resources into an “Italian Design System”. We need excellent schools equipped with wide resources and autonomy, which are able to manage laboratories, museums and archives. This kind of school become an important meeting point for professionals (students and teachers) and for creative people (who are trained inside the school or join the school in the future) standing outside schools. These excellent schools represent a new positive identity for the subject of design. In the future, design education is likely to be characterized by a growing need among learners to access local content and to develop both personal and global knowledge in different social contexts and environments. There are many different learning situations outside the classroom and the workplace that could use the knowledge that is produced and shared through social learning experiences.

2. Background

In these years the approaches to industrial design’s instruments found their application in many industries, from communication to fashion, from light to colours, as many universities and schools began to offer a wide range of design degree courses, bachelors and masters.

The multiplication of universities, is not only an actual Italian feature. Journalese articles and television broadcasts, denounce the poor quality of many degree courses: many of them are born only for personal motivations or political careers, or else, they are closing due to the low attendance.
Today we could talk about “High-schooling” universities,
This situation poses a question: behind the shield of culture, there’s only a business speculation, creating an industry of illusions.

Against these results, without future certainties, we need new thinking models, new ideas about how and what to do without certainties, new educational approaches inserted in a creativity and intellectual-based values context.

The question is: how could design schools reach this goal?
The training vocations must adapt first to the changes: cultural changes, technologies introduction, growing importance of “intellectual heritage” and “knowledge” related to facilities and goods possession. At same time the “apprenticeship” experience is fundamental to acquire a technical maturity indispensable for a concrete experience.

We should work on schools to encourage a training environment where new creative figures could grow up, improving their skills, working together. But schools could be in addition a continuous landmark that goes beyond the starting mission of learning. To acknowledge the “learning industry” of creativity and project, we need strategies and investments for developing human resources into “Italian Design System”.

We need excellent schools equipped with wide resources and autonomy, schools able to manage laboratories, museums, archives, and so on. This type of schools become an important meeting point and landmark for professionals (students and teachers), and for creative people (trained inside the school or joining the school in the future) standing outside schools.

These excellent schools must be Design Center where to build the identity and project sense. We need better tutoring, from professional designers and enterprises, about young designers’ projects. They should work together in order to accelerate the knowledge transfer and creating a fruitful global system: that would be useful for learning and for a chance to select partners involved in future ideas and energies.

We need a better alignment between learning and industry, because without cooperation it is hard to obtain good results. Another significant feature is the presence of learning system inside the complex research and production system that claims in our territory, young talents, new researchers and ideas producers.

We need better relations between applied research and design learning, because the new school of intuitive learning clashes against the old school of engineering deduction. An invention could be casual, but creativity is an awesome gift, but it must be properly expressed. The research of “new” design is looking for new fields. Design as a conceptual project penetrating inside life, distorting all service enterprises. Life-design is the perception of which outcomes from society, from interpreting needs to interpreting which is indirectly suggested. It focuses itself on human being and what stands beside him: meetings, jobs, expectations, entertaining, learning, movement… Not only designing beautiful, tissues, dresses, chandeliers or sofas, but also projects for communities, social situations, living moments.

Following the better Italian tradition, this system is often based on various scientific e cultural units, substantially isolated and autonomous, mistrusting each other, focused on their individual future.

There’s a lack of law reforms concerning the modernization of Italy that could enormously influence this industry development: the deregulation of technical professions, the whole reorganisation of artistic learning, the cancellation of university degree legal value, the acknowledgment of phenomenon from the industrial community board, the regulation of job system oriented to help thousands of temporary workers and graduated sustaining the industry from bottom.

3. Structures. Areas. Approaches

Design is an evolving subject, because its operative context is constantly changing (Production, society, and so on). Beside some historical areas such as product design, interior design and visual design; new subjects are growing such as fashion design, service design, marketing and management design.

According to a comparative analysis about different standards (in particular those described by Joan Vinyets in “Reflexions on design Teaching”) we could outline four types of design teaching:

  •  continuity of creative tradition in product developing by using craftsman’s work
  • relating with the art world used as a creative instrument for ideas and projects
  • orientation towards a job, shaped by new information technology instruments
  • researching and developing new standards for subjects, science-based about the different knowledge areas, from creation to production and expenditure.

That should be an opening to new knowledge areas, considering the recent fragmentation and exchange generated towards product creation. This article leads to identify the new agents and the process range involved, in order to give an answer to new needs posed to designers. This standard could be strong but risky inside a stock market, but it’s indispensable and very innovative.

We could start from this sentence to affirm the need for a diversified learning industry, considering changes generated by new industrial development and new marketing strategies born from globalization. In the last 30 years, design learning institutes have constantly grown up. As a result, it is not wrong talking about wide range design learning, so we could trace a roadmap showing the different teaching standards and the subject which got major or minor importance: knowledge, facilities, opinions, values and methodologies.

This survey could be considered as a “white book”, a first roadmap, a chance to argue on hundreds of learning institutions, public and private schools, different standards and production features concerning learning design industry in Italy.

Inside this roadmap are not considered data such as standings, judgements or evaluations, but simply information such as student numbers, registration fees or number of laboratories.
The research shows a learning supply articulated in 100 schools located in Italy; in particular the universities and a considerable range of private schools are considered the most active; including other types of schools such as vocational schools coming from the set of decorative and applied arts (professional institutes for industrial crafts, fine arts institutes, industrial vocational schools)

Last, but not least, an interesting set of interviews has been made to entrepreneurs, managers, teachers and designers, that show up a big gap between learning system and job system. The enterprises today, are aware that surviving is related to conceiving products beyond marketing and trend rules. They must build an authentic enterprise culture and reach a strong skill leading to innovation of new products able to answer to the different customers’ needs.

Growing up Italian Design degrees last years

Figure 1: 100 design learning institutes located in Italy
Source: Author`s construction

4. Long Life Learning

In a social context and tumultuous changing economic situation, the best strategy is to remain flexible, in order to open the dynamism and respect of individual and shared forms which may from time to time be more suited to face the storm. To do this, you must continually refine the tools, and implement change incessantly regarding knowledge and skills, and continue to innovate assiduously.

It is this ongoing process of life-long learning, or education through the entire life, which is one of the guiding principles of the policy community formation and to which training initiatives of a formal or informal nature need to be devoted. There is as need to refresh a permanent spring from the “turbulence” of the system of knowledge, which is in continuous evolution because of the progressive acceleration of scientific and technological progress. However, it is mainly the result of enlargement of the global competition, not only for goods, but also in the professional. As for products and services, they must be created by professionals and possess the requirement of distinctiveness, by being original and hard to imitate. Career paths which are increasingly wide, varied and which incorporating their personal space into the global market create professional profiles and are hard to classify. These figures are referred to generically as “new professions” or “knowledge workers” as defined by Peter Drucker, and focus on the intensity of the exchange of knowledge generated by new professionals. Among the “knowledge workers”, the professionals assume an increasing importance of knowledge bearers’ “connectives”, able to connect different fields of knowledge and specialized language.

Among these types of knowledge design arise which could be said to stretch traditional knowledge frontiers, and which triggers a virtuous dialogue between different disciplines in order to generate new products, services and experiences. Becoming involved in life-long learning in the field of design means that one has time to learn new languages and explore increasingly large disciplines in order to trigger a growing number of new ideas. It also emhasises the honing of particular skills, incvluding the acquisition of management skills and stimulating a growing “process” that will improve a person’s ability to generate reports.

5. Market Research of the Future

In order to increase international understanding and awareness on our respective institutions, Università San Raffaele Roma is always more involved in collaborating in a variety of areas related to higher education and program research and to encourage collaboration on research and development between the different institutions as agreed by the coordinators on open E-learning platform S.Raffaele (www.unisanraffaele.gov.it). Since 2006 Università San Raffaele Roma has provided the first national Architecture and Industrial Design degree on an e-learning platform. The participants (even if already employed, temporarily unemployed or geographically very distant from Italy) are therefore now completely free to decide when and where use the content of the University. The main purpose is “long life learning”, to upgrade the skills needed for a professional profile that requires mastery of theoretical and practical foundations and large levels of autonomy and responsibility in the fields of design, characterized by increasing technological and organizational complexity and ever-growing competition. Italian Design is seen as a strategy for innovation and business implying a particular set of values. The project has a specific vocation regarding the concepts of transversality and contamination.

At the end of the course participants have developed the following important skills:

  • Knowing the products and production processes with particular reference to and comparison with Italian fashion and design
  • Designing a collection (product and processes)
  • Knowing how to plan and carry out market research and a marketing plan for the development of a innovation product (or process)
  • Knowing how to innovate the local product through knowledge of new styles and trends
  • Knowing how to plan and conduct a communication plan that includes promotional and innovative branding
  • Knowing the materials and technologies available for the “enhancement” of innovative local productions
  • Knowing how to plan the process of the distribution and sale of a product
  • Knowing how to lead a group at work and motivate them to achieve results.

E-Learning, through theoretical study, analysis of case studies and group works, allowing for learning by “doing” and contextualizing the concepts of individual production experience. For each module, lessons and papers are downloadable directly from the online platform at any time of day. The aim is to achieve the highest professional qualification profile. The designer (or project / product manager) is responsible for the programs and innovative projects which will bring about change, and for implementing it and using structured theoretical and practical knowledge with significant experience that can be applied to business processes, which assume responsibility for the organization and its customers.

The main purpose of the course is to upgrade the skills needed for a professional profile that requires mastery of the theoretical and practical foundations and large amounts of autonomy and responsibility in the fields of fashion design, which are characterized by increasing technological and organizational complexity and and growing competition. Italian Design is a value system, and an innovation and business strategy.
Their presence at the University is only required for the final examination. English translations are available for foreign participants. There is no end to the inscriptions. Registration is open all year round.

The training project aims to update and qualify designers, operators, employees, executives and managers about issues which are necessary to support the competitive development of the socio economic area (with particular reference to the peculiarities of their “cluster”), and to play a proactive role in the process of renovation and redesign of “new” local systems. Some professionals will need to undergo retraining to learn how to assess, develop, sell, convey the image of the design-oriented manufacturing sector (fashion design) in a “cross” that combines pragmatism and imagination, managerial and planning in support of the markets and the development of skills for managing human resources. This proposed training will involve the participation of persons who, at different organizational levels and in various industries and services, have expressed the need for upgrading and long life learning. The project has a specific vocation on Contamination and Collaborative Innovation. The course is be able to provide both practical experience and knowledge of both project-specific case studies, using a multidisciplinary approach that combines pragmatism and imagination, and managerial and planning skills.

Concrete outcomes are born from the ability to track, understand and interpret the ability of companies to identify opportunities for transfer and integration and to activate coherent management of innovations. In particular, the areas of design, communication and tourism are considered in the light of their importance to the businesses of Milan, Lombardy and the rest of Italy. The creation of new partnerships and networks across sectors, branches and new areas of knowledge depends on there being a focus on the transversal nature of reading innovation, and in the activation of operational tools and training needed to develop the capacity to anticipate, based on studies and analysis, and to identify projects and possible synergies between the paths of evolution of the different sectors. The path to implementation of research passes for initial actions of innovation and trends “mapping” that will guide the following actions of promotion, implementation, network and diffusion.

Inspiration is needed for business developments regarding new knowledge about the processes involved in the development of new products, for finding new markets, for understanding f these markets, and for assisting companies in these markets. By developing an integrated system of production design, role plays as a whole, call into question a wide variety of professions, activities and “services” and those drawing up what we might call real “sectors of the project”. The focus is not on designers in a single profession, but a “bunch” of professions.
Design can contribute considerably to the wide range of companies who would like to produce innovative their process, but find it difficult to do so. Companies in Lombardy are immersed today in an atmosphere of design, but still lack easy access to those services that can integrate external design staff, reduce the area of strategic marketing, research and development and communication. Examining the profile of these companies and their needs to be given some priority. The most challenging proof that design must deal with now is the redesigning of a new system of knowledge and alliances, a multicultural system that feeds on differences.

6. Knowing How (and Why) the System Works

Learning in the field of design, then, means learning to “systemize” knowledge related to actors and other specialists, and to connect applications and organizational skills, knowledge and know-how. The multifaceted nature of design and connective requires that “a school has in it many souls” providing students with a network of expertise and professionalism that fosters trans-disciplinary and allow them to build their own paths towards “mending” languages and making disparate contributions. It is essential, of course, that such a school is a node in a larger network, which connects the actors in the design of its territorial system. The entire territory is a “becoming school” for students, particularly those in a high-intensity relationship-driven design, as is the case in Milan. It is also important, as already noted, that the schools “systemize” each other, to form a common front on issues of common interest. This does not always take place, but increasingly there are frequent actions that trigger a dynamic exchange between the centres of learning. These include cooperation projects at EU and global level, exchanges between students, international workshops, conferences and seminars, as well as scientific connections which match the forms of training and research design.

Though they may become increasingly distant from self-referential logic, thanks to the same rules of competition, the public and private schools will observe each other with interest, establish comparisons and references and qualitative models formed at national, European and intercontinental levels. Permanent links between international schools are established, which become the basis for access to the training market in a new country, forming systems whereby global networks can establish a relationship with territorial neighbourhoods.

7. The School as a “Design Center”

Each school is essentially a cultural center, a center around which sooner or later end up gravitating artists, designers, businesses, students and young people attracted by the convergence of the brains, events, events in the city, studies, youth groups, electronic journals, blog, publishing and support services to the project, new jobs, advertising agencies, special restaurants, new meeting places, music groups, students, professors from all over the country and abroad. Each of these places is first of all a “work in progress in continuous transformation” without data models, without any conditions other than those that the operators of school every day are invented to hold together the needs of creative development and current accounts in red, administrative bureaucratic constraints and testing, resource-poor structural and continuous dialogue globally.

Each place of training is, first of all, a place of research and investment in research is a measure of the quality of the school itself. Scientific research is the foundation for innovation and the continuous enrichment of teaching and contributes to the development and dissemination of a culture of design is constantly evolving.

8. Knowledge towards Specialization

The progressive complexity of the social structure and the Italian production and global revival of forms of craft-industrial production mixed with the new global division of labor, the emergence of ever new market niches related to the service and to mediate between people and businesses have also ensure that the provision of training related to the design, as well as training in general.

At the same time, the desire for “quality cultured”, it’s made in Italy, which each year attracts in Italy, as already noted, thousands of foreigners at major training centers to design, requires that the institutions forming the preservation of its character of Italian education: openness, trans disciplinary, cultural background “stretched”. Open to experimentation in different fields of knowledge and practice, the solid foundation of the humanities and the assiduous “attendance of beauty” characterize the profile of most of the masters of Italian design. Also, do not forget that many of them were formed in a period when there was a training specific to the designer. In Italy, when you remove a few exceptions, until the designer was an architect.” And the training offered at the faculty of architecture, rather than specialized knowledge, a cultural foundation, helping to place the object in a social context and broader spatial.

Remember these aspects does not mean you want to subtract value to the path often demanding that led to the birth of the first places to design training path which many of the masters of Italian design have helped with passion and generosity, and to which even today they help with younger, but no less enthusiasts, professionals. Means rather emphasize the value of a long-term vision has, especially in the early years of training. All trainers interviewed agree on whether to postpone the specialization in the final stages, even to periods of internship or professional practice, leaving the field, during the first years, “continues crossing disciplinary”.

It is important that specialization takes place on the basis of actual training needs expressed by the market, thanks to the close-contact training centers and companies with a great attention from the schools to the needs of industry. To become good and innovative professionals must learn a method to develop a strong awareness and create a great culture. These are the most important challenges in the classroom.

9. Training Professionals

As a professional designer is able to be a person of business consistent with the need to deliver value to the business, but also social conscience handler criticism of the consumer society, which is better for all of us consumers.

Designers will continue to enjoy being part of a day, a select group of elected officials who “shape the goods and services” (so that count in a society such as the contemporary remains primarily and only a consumer society). You can enjoy even more knowing free to choose which production system give its intelligence, with what constraints, for what purposes, exercising professionally aware that the market designer (as recalled De Fusco, 1985) is a mediator of interests, including those the producer and the consumer. The Italian economic system is engaged in a major process of change in order to regain competitiveness and to respond to the challenges of the global economy. A process that has as main objective productivity growth and, therefore, requires a strong investment in innovation of products and production processes, organization and ultimately in human resources.

It ‘a path faced by individual companies, but it is necessary that beside them there are institutions at national, regional and local know how to understand the meaning of the changes taking place, immediately adapting programs and operational strategies.

10. Conclusion

For number, size, quality, reputation, Italian schools of design are an important phenomenon. The size of this relationship is demonstrated. A set of companies, universities, professionals, students giving the proportions of a real “productive sector” in forms and entities organizationally different but active (increase of 22% over the last 6 years).

Difficult henceforth ignore it, by anyone who wants to pursue development policies of innovation, research, education and culture.

This sector produces “products and services” that are very important:

  • Because they concern the construction of professional profiles for the central Italian development model, made of processing capacity and enhancement of the national cultural heritage, tourism, quality of life, style and taste;
  • Because they are a platform for continuous exchange between companies, government, young people, professionals and intellectuals at the international level;
  • Qualify for the territories in which they settle, moving people, attracting brains, watering of thought and action and contaminating the city so multigenerational.

Learning design has a naturally strong link with industry and the job system, which in both cases testifies to many internship experiences (in university these experiences are mandatory) and which involves industries in their learning projects. These links are also verified by a wide range of exchanges, as explicated in a large number of competitions, workshops and joint projects.

We need better tutoring, from professional designers and enterprises, about young designers’ projects. They should work together in order to accelerate the knowledge transfer and create a fruitful global system that would be useful for learning and for selecting partners involved in future ideas and energies. We need a better alignment between learning and industry, because without cooperation it is hard to obtain good results. Another significant feature is the presence of learning system inside the complex research and production system that claims in our territory, young talents, new researchers and ideas producers. We need to establish better relations between applied research and design learning, because the new school of intuitive learning clashes against the old school of engineering deduction. The new concept of research involves young designers working inside small enterprises where the passion for new projects is constantly being fed. In such situations, creativity is involved from the bottom to top. Research into “new” design is searching for new fields. Design is a conceptual project penetrating inside life, distorting all service enterprises. Life-design is the perception of which outcomes can arise from interpreting society’s needs, especially interpreting what is suggested indirectly. It focuses itself on human beings, along with meetings, jobs, expectations, entertaining, learning and movement. This does not only involve designing beautiful tissues, dresses, chandeliers or sofas, but also projects for communities, social situations and living moments.

The question that this article has aimed to answer is whether a platform for e-learning can become a tool for the development of new models for creativity, design and innovation, transforming the concept of e-learning, and shifting towards the concepts of creativity learning, learning design and learning innovation. The experience described here suggests that this is what happens, generating new needs in terms of functionality of the platform, which must then be enriched with elements that encourage debate and the exchange of the community. In order to encourage creativity, design and innovation are not associated with the concept of randomness, but are part of a process and a method that is implemented in a dynamic way with the use of e-learning, producing a shift in the concept of e-learning.

The development of networks, of knowledge, relationships and ideas that transversely characterize the current system of arts and knowledge is based on the sharing – by different circles – of information, documents, tools and services, which facilitate innovation; itself the source of design processes. It is the dynamics of the movement of ideas, rather than their delimitation in circumscribed areas, that now draws up the productive landscape, broadening limits and borders, and the creation of ideas or products. This, more than the factory is the real unifying force.

Using its specific skills, it enters the arena of business, economic policies and cultural strategies, through using the new functions of design management and design direction that, by coordinating design, management and planning activities all the other business functions, push towards the redesigning of production, and communicative and distribution strategies; all of which come together to give the same definition of the business and its place on the production stage.

At last we can say that an E-learning platform is now very important to:

  • Promote and disseminate the culture of design, stimulating demand;
  • Structure an offer of services to develop processes based on design innovation in enterprises, measured by their real needs;
  • Encourage the use of services facilitating understanding and access.
  • Promote the emergence of a new network of service companies in the field of design, a real infrastructure for operating in the territory of new knowledge, creating by young professionals coming from a large pool of specialized training that puts together together a package of skills to support innovative business processes.

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