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The virtual shift: Ramping up technology to deal with COVID-19

Posted on 25 March 2020

The EUI has adopted a range of technological measures to keep the Institute running, while adhering to measures to contain COVID-19. 

The academic departments and administrative services quickly moved several activities online, with everything from meetings and conferences to thesis supervision, teaching seminars, and the selection of Ph.D. candidates now being carried out remotely via online meeting platforms. While the complete rendition of  The State of the Union Conference has been postponed until 2021, a more limited edition will be offered virtually, later this spring. 

Electronic resources

Scholars can continue their research thanks to the EUI Library’s vast selection of electronic resources, including over 470,000 e-books, over 93,000 e-journals, and access to online newspapers from all over the world. Users may also take advantage of additional resources made available in open access during the COVID-19 crisis; read about those, here. Finally, nearly 10,000 open-access publications based on EUI research, including EUI Working Papers, can be accessed remotely on Cadmus, the EUI’s research repository.  

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New ways of working

The Academic Service has also adjusted its  modus operandi. Thanks to a joint effort between the Academic Service, the academic departments, the Information and Communication Technology Service and the Real Estate and Facilities Service, the annual selection interviews for the next cohort of Ph.D. and LL.M. researchers will proceed on schedule, with interviews to take place by video conference call.   

Administrative teams are also doing their best to keep the ball rolling while working from home, with VPN, video staff meetings, and live online chats now the new normal. 

Online courses and webinars

The EUI’s language courses have resumed, with students logging into virtual video classrooms where they can see, hear and speak to each other via conference call.  

While digital seminars are a novelty for the academic departments, the Florence School of Regulation has years of experience in interactive learning. As Research Associate Nicolò Rossetto explained, digital communication has always been at the heart of the School’s work. ‘We have been running online courses for years. These courses are not MOOCs (Mass Online Open Courses), instead they are highly interactive online courses’.  Online debates, book presentations and research promotion have also been key tenets of the School’s approach, and can help account for its global reach.  

The Florence School of Regulation’s experience with online courses also offered an opportunity to show solidarity in times of crisis, with the school launching its #DigitalSolidarity campaign last week. The School is now offering 50 free places in their online courses for professional and students in the energy sector, with priority being given to applicants from China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. 

The Migration Policy Centre will launch a four-part webinar series starting in April, offering a forum for debate and discussion about migration and mobility that also pays close attention to the implications of the Covid-19 outbreak. The first one, scheduled for 8 April, is entitled ‘From ‘low-skilled’ migrants to ‘key workers’: Rethinking migrants’ skills and labour immigration policies’

Extracurricular activities

Outside of the traditional boundaries of academia, the EUI’s Engaged Academics are resorting to social media to continue making academic knowledge accessible to a wider, non-specialist audience. On the 10th of March, the group of EUI scholars launched #knownusciamo, a clever word game between the Italian ‘non usciamo’ (we are not going out) and ‘conosciamo’ (let’s know, let’s learn). From Kantian philosophy to the use of drones in the war on terror to coping with the downfalls of remote working, the group is connecting worldwide thanks to livestreams on Instagram and facebook.

Mario Pagano, the groups’ coordinator, explained Instagram was specifically chosen because of its young audience, reflecting the groups’ commitment to organizing events in schools, public squares and cafes. Their next aim is to broadcast content in different languages. 

Recognising the need to keep communication lines open, the EUI researcher group Thoughts for Europe has also moved to an online platform to carry out their informal debate on Europe’s most pressing challenges. Their latest meeting discussed the limits of militant democracy in Europe and was hosted in listeners’ homes instead of the usual Fiasco Social Club venue. 

Last but not least, the Institute also has a new gathering point, remote as it may be. Radio Cavolo, the researcher-led webradio, started regularly broadcasting on the 16th of March, with listeners tuning in from all over the world. Radio Cavolo broadcasts music, discussions and stories, keeping us in touch at zero risk for contagion.