Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN21 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 7776-7785
ISBN: 978-84-09-31267-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2021.1585
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for the global higher education community, the universities had to rapidly redesign their curriculum by moving most of their academic courses online (Crawford, 2020). This transition, while taking place in an uncertain and unprecedented situation, has allowed universities to experiment with innovative forms of teaching.

However, the online transition proved easier for theoretical disciplines as it was already an established practice, while the impact on design courses, with highly practical modules, was more complex. For the latter, a Blended Learning approach has proven to be more effective. Blended learning can be defined as “systems that combine face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated instruction” (Graham, 2006).

The Co.Meta course, Product Design laboratory for the 2nd year students of Politecnico di Milano - School of Design is part of this scenario, which took advantage of the emergency to experiment with innovative didactic methods. Co.meta's teaching staff was not completely unprepared to handle the digital transition as, even before the coronavirus outbreak, the Co.Meta course had always relied on Blended Learning practices. The course has always been supported by the use of an online e-learning platform called POK (Polimi Open Knowledge Platform), in addition to the use of digital tools integrated into traditional teaching.

The course, with more than 9 years of experience, aims to develop concept ideas to improve the quality of life of autistic people. The Co.Meta course, whose name is an acronym of two words co-design and meta-design, aims to transfer to students knowledge, tools and methods related to the preliminary phase of designing new products and services dealing with users, technology and market research. Co.meta is based on meta-design, defined as a process that precedes or generates design actions and defines the guidelines on which the project will be built (Giaccardi & Fischer, 2008).

During the course, theoretical knowledge intersects with practical tools, in learning by doing attitude, which allows students to learn methodologies but above all to apply in a dynamic and collaborative environment. The approach taken by Co.Meta was a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching (Fedele, 2020). The synchronous mode consisted of classroom lectures alternating with online lectures. Besides, during the months of the course, students were always guaranteed hybrid lectures; with classrooms equipped to have both online and offline students at the same time. The asynchronous mode consisted of both the recording of lectures and the use of tools such as the Co.Meta’s blog as a repository of shared knowledge among students.

The paper discusses the limits and opportunities of Distance Learning applied to Design Courses, comparing the results obtained during the year 2020 with the results of past editions.This paper aims to provide an overview of Co.meta's teaching methods and to show the tools used to address the COVID-19 emergency. Thanks to the challenging and highly social topic, the student-centred learning approach, the multidisciplinary network involved and the professional research tools, Co.Meta was able to bring innovation and create a social impact even in the pandemic situation. Co.meta has responded to the emergency by creating a breakpoint for traditional teaching, introducing an innovation that may have radically changed the higher education system.
Blended learning, Meta-design, Innovation, High Education, Design Course, Inclusive Design.