Politecnico di Milano Encourages Out-of-the-Classroom Learning with University-Wide Access to MATLAB, Online Courses, and On-Campus Training

Challenge

Enable thousands of students to learn essential skills, complete assignments, and conduct research outside the classroom and computer lab

Solution

Provide students with campus-wide access to MATLAB, online and onsite training, and a MATLAB Associate certification program

Results

  • Classroom teaching time optimized
  • Students equipped to complete assignments outside the lab
  • MATLAB certifications earned

“At Politecnico di Milano, MATLAB is probably the most used software across different disciplines. We have the highest number of active users and enrollments worldwide for MATLAB online training, which shows that our students recognize the value of learning MATLAB for their research and professions.”

Prof. Paolo Biscari, Politecnico di Milano

Doctoral students taking the MATLAB certification exam.


With more than 42,000 students, Politecnico di Milano is the largest technical university in Italy. The university was recently ranked number one in Italy and placed in the top 10 in Europe and in the top 50 in the world in six research areas, including computer science and information systems, civil and structural engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and mechanical, aeronautical, and manufacturing engineering.

Recently, Politecnico di Milano has been exploring online courses and other ways to promote student learning outside the lecture hall. Among the university’s most popular online offerings is a series of courses on MATLAB®. These courses enable students to develop computational and analytical software skills on their own so that professors can focus valuable in-class time on core curriculum material.

“Many of our courses—from the first-year calculus courses at the bachelor’s level to the most advanced courses at the doctoral level—use MATLAB for simulation, laboratory work, and numerical analysis,” says Prof. Paolo Biscari, dean of the PhD School at Politecnico di Milano. “Last year, we had more than 15,000 active MATLAB users, and our students participated in more than 1000 online training sessions, which reflects how important MATLAB is to our professors and students.”

Challenge

Previously, professors who taught at the bachelor’s or graduate level had to set aside class time to teach the software skills that students needed for homework, lab assignments, or research projects. Instead of allocating limited classroom time to teaching these skills, the university wanted to provide a flexible online alternative. Further, the university wanted to offer a certification program so that students could demonstrate their mastery of these skills to potential employers.

In past years, the university had to set up computer labs equipped with machines configured with the software the students needed. Not only were the labs costly to maintain, but space was limited—there was no guarantee that students would find a workstation available when they needed it. Politecnico di Milano wanted to provide students with campus-wide access to the software on their own laptops. 

Solution

Politecnico di Milano acquired a Campus-Wide License for MATLAB and worked with MathWorks Training Services to provide students with online and onsite training.

The Campus-Wide License gave students, professors, and researchers campus-wide access to MATLAB, Simulink®, and 80 related products. Instead of competing for limited computer lab space, students now complete assignments and conduct research using MATLAB anywhere they want on their personal computers or laptops.

The university organized tutorials consisting of 15 to 20 hours of training delivered over several weeks. The tutorials, which cover MATLAB basics up through advanced topics using specific toolboxes, were attended by more than 500 students last year.

All students were given access to online, self-paced courses on mathworks.com. Hundreds of students completed these courses, which included MATLAB Onramp, a two-hour introduction to MATLAB, as well as advanced courses on data processing and visualization, programming techniques, and machine learning.

Prof. Biscari worked with MathWorks trainers to set up a Certified MATLAB Associate program for doctoral students. Of the 33 students who participated in the program in its first year, 29 earned the certification credential.

The university decided not to offer the online courses or training sessions for credit. “We don’t require students to take a course on MATLAB; they choose to learn MATLAB because they want to develop the skills that will be most useful in their careers,” explains Prof. Biscari. “Many students prefer studying and learning by themselves because they feel it sets them apart, and they recognize that improving their personal knowledge is an important part of their education.”

Results

  • Classroom teaching time optimized. “These days, professors need every hour of class time for instruction,” says Prof. Biscari. “Taking time away to teach a software tool is difficult. That’s why the MATLAB online training and the tutorials we provide are perfect for us; they enable students to learn essential skills outside of class.”
  • Students equipped to complete assignments outside the lab. “Previously, we had to provide software and computer labs for students to do their work, and before that it was done with pen and paper,” notes Prof. Biscari. “With the Campus-Wide License, the university no longer has to provide everything; the students work on their own computers at home.”
  • MATLAB certifications earned. “Most of the 29 doctoral students who achieved MATLAB certification were planning to pursue careers in industry rather than academia,” says Prof. Biscari. “They participated not only to deepen their knowledge but also to demonstrate to potential employers that they had mastery of skills that are essential to many fields.” 

Politecnico di Milano is among the nearly 1000 universities worldwide that provide campus-wide access to MATLAB and Simulink. With the Campus-Wide License, researchers, faculty, and students have access to a common configuration of products, at the latest release level, for use anywhere—in the classroom, at home, in the lab or in the field.

Politecnico di Milano provides campus-wide training through MATLAB Academic Online Training Suite. This portfolio of self-paced online courses covers a range of topics and is used to increase productivity, support multidisciplinary projects, and enhance student skills.