Troilo: Online Learning? A cultural, before technological, innovation

Conversations with SDA Bocconi new managers


In a time when the world (except for the inherently digital one) has been forced to move online most relationships, business and exchange of knowledge and information, those who had already fared this way now have responsibility to guide the transition, so that online activities earn a full and independent cultural status and are no longer considered a minor edition or, worse, an emergency solution. The creation of SDA Bocconi Online Learning Division, led by Gabriele Troilo, makes our mission in the field of managerial education official. The year of the global lockdown can’t be certainly compared to a Big Bang for the online activities of the School, rather an opportunity to field-test, develop and strengthen a project that had started several years before with our blended and full distance-learning programs. This being the state of the art at SDA Bocconi, we have asked the new Associate Dean for Online Learning to share some insights on the next future.

Which are the main new directions in online managerial education?

“I think the two words that most help us understand the evolution of the online universe are ‘cross-fertilization’ and ‘personalization’. Cross-fertilization occurs because the digitalization of contents has blurred the boundaries between disciplines and even between markets, and has made those boundaries more permeable. Actors who used to have nothing to do with education now provide methods and technology that are of great interest to us. I am thinking of gaming, for instance, whose components are useful in some learning processes, and of entertainment platforms, which include movie-quality video content that is extremely effective for distance learning. This generates significant synergies between players in sectors that hardly had any mutual connections, and remarkably extends potential markets, thanks also to cheaper offerings.”

Evolving to become a “Netflix in education” with a wide range of highly usable programs means in no way disregarding content or quality of teaching, nor standardizing our offer. Says Troilo: “The other key word is personalization. In education as well as other domains, a great plus of the digital mode is the opportunity to more precisely detect specific customer expectations, to communicate one-to-one and to create individual educational journeys. We can move from tailoring our programs to a single class to tailoring them to individual participants.”

Which is your priority in leading the new Online Learning Division?

“Everything comes from the work we have been doing in the past four years to create online educational products for the so-called ‘new business’. This section has become so important and strategic to result in the creation of a specific Division. Our goal now is to expand our educational formats, leveraging the potential of digital technology. So far,” says Troilo, “we have had two main online formats: asynchronous on-demand and live. These can blend with other learning experiences that become more immersive and effective when online: think of simulations and role-playing. Teaching is just one of the sources of learning, an essential one but not the only one.”

And what do you think is going to be your main signature mark in the new Division?

“I’d say my work and personality have always been inclined towards innovation and change. And I think this is a key requirement in my present role. Creating new online products implies you first have to develop new working processes, new ways of designing our courses, of bringing up and sharing ideas. I hope that being keen on innovation becomes the distinctive trait of the whole Division.” Evoking a celebrated motto, this is an invitation to be the change you want to teach.

SDA Bocconi School of Management


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