Pursuant to a Decree issued by the Council of Ministers on 4 March 2020, the Italian government has ordered the suspension of all teaching activities of schools and universities nationwide, including the Rome Campus, until 15 March. As Gaetano Manfredi, Minister for University and Research, explains: ‘from tomorrow, 5 March, until 15 March, all teaching activities of Italian Universities and AFAM Institutions (Higher Education in Art and Music) are suspended. These Universities and Institutions, within the scope of their autonomy, may exert the discretionary power to offer their students distant learning courses, as already happened in many universities. The universities continue to develop all research activities and to guarantee all other student services in compliance with the provisions of the Ministry of Health ‘.
All Università Cattolica lectures are suspended. At our Rome campus, the internships for all degree programmes will be held as per usual.
Currently our professors and instructors lecturers are recording and uploading lessons on Blackboard (see video) to recuperate lost teaching hours, in agreement with the Rector and with the support of the University facilities, the Deans are reprogramming the academic calendars, including all exams.
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During the period of the coronavirus emergency, the university’s online service has been duly enhanced. Introduced in 2000 as a virtual learning support it is a well-established system for both professors and students.
March 3rd, 2020
During the period of the health emergency linked to the spread of Coronavirus, the digital support platform has served a vital role in enhancing courses traditionally delivered face-to-face and in re-establishing classroom lessons.
As the Rector Franco Anelli stated in his message to the students, the Blackboard learning platform has been fundamental in achieving this goal and is accessible to all students enrolled on all the programmes in the 12 Faculties.
In the last two weeks, 1317 courses at Università Cattolica campuses of Milan, Brescia, Piacenza and Cremona have been uploaded by 975 professors/instructors and assistants who have accessed the platform which has been enhanced to respond to the circumstances.
Since 2000, Blackboard has been the University's Learning Management System platform and is now a well-established structure for all Cattolica students and professors. 60% of the University's professors use the platform which enables integration of activities normally provided in the lecture room with webinars, PPT presentations, lecture notes and online debates. Furthermore, since 2016, when the first blended programmes were introduced, it has played an increasingly important role by interconnecting the different forms of teaching.
One of the most important elements of Blackboard is Collaborate Ultra, an integrated tool within the courses that enables web conferencing.
Being browser-based it is straightforward to use for both professors and students: additional plugins or software are not required and it enables live participation webinars with the use of various tools such as an online whiteboard, sharing slides or other apps, plus, student-to-tutor chat seminars. The session can be recorded so that it can be viewed on demand and even students attending live can access it later to study the topics addressed in-depth. The contents can also be accessed through the Blackboard app on mobile phones.
As previously mentioned, during the critical period of the suspended lessons (and given that that we will try to reschedule the face-to face lessons) the Blackboard platform has been enhanced.
The video content will be published asynchronously in a more agile way through the Collaborate Ultra tool which, thanks to its ease of use, will enable teachers increasing autonomy in uploading and sharing their didactic material.
Nonetheless, upon request, professors will be able to record classroom lessons assisted by the University staff who are always available for preparation and support.