Riccardo Ocleppo, Founder & Director of OPIT – Interview Series

Riccardo Ocleppo, is the Founder & Director of the Open Institute of Technology. (OPIT). OPIT is a fully accredited Higher Education Institution under the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the MFHEA Authority. As such, OPIT degrees have full legal value in Europe and are professionally recognized by employers.

Before OPIT, Riccardo founded Docsity, a global community with 15M registered university students and a consolidated partner of 250+ Universities and Business Schools worldwide. Riccardo holds an MSc in Electronics at Politecnico di Torino, an MSc in Management at London Business School.

In 2010, you launched Docsity, a platform that helps students excel in their studies by offering them the tools they need to prepare for their exams. What were your key takeaways from this experience?

As a student in electronic engineering, always aspiring for the best grades, I never had enough study material to prepare for my exams, especially in terms of study notes, exercises and mock exams. My university – Politecnico di Torino – indeed provided many resources, but I still needed more. I felt this need was somehow shared with many other students in different fields of study, universities and geographies. From this simple insight, I created Docsity, a place where university students can share and find useful academic content with each other and improve their preparation for exams. This experience led me to work with both students and universities, shaping my vision of the status and needs of the higher education sector today.

How did this experience lead you to launching an accredited Higher Education Institution?

With Docsity, we proactively collaborate and partner with more than 250 universities and academic institutions worldwide in a number of areas. The whole higher education market is fascinating, with a lot going on and a lot to be done, mostly in terms of innovating/modernizing the curricula of degrees, fully embracing online learning, and focusing a lot more on applications (and not just theory).

With the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), we are doing just that: innovative, high-quality Degrees in tech fields at a very affordable price.

Can you discuss how OPIT differentiates itself from other AI courses that are offered?

Our Degrees at OPIT span different areas: Computer Science, AI, Data Science, Cybersecurity and Digital Business. AI is embedded in every single Degree we offer from multiple angles. We teach aspiring Cybersecurity professionals how Generative AI is changing the world of cyber threats or how it can be used to help digital forensics. We teach digital business students how to embed AI in the products they aspire to create. We have a technical AI program for aspiring programmers in this field where they go deep into all the “AI verticals” (NLP, Computer Vision, AI for IoT and Automation), and so on. One important thing to underline is that wherever we talk about AI, we also embed the concepts of ethics, responsibility and human-centeredness.

OPIT offers a Master's Degree (MSc) in Responsible Artificial Intelligence. Can you discuss why responsible AI should be at the forefront of AI education?

The Master of Science (MSc) in Responsible AI is a technical program in AI that strongly embeds the concept of “responsibility”. Future AI tech professionals must be technically savvy and fully understand the societal implications of what they will code and create.

The program offers strong foundations in AI during term 1, covering areas like Machine Learning and advanced Python programming. Then goes deeper in Term 2, by focusing on “verticals” like NLP and Computer Vision and the application of AI in different contexts through hands-on projects. Term 3 is where students put their acquired knowledge to work through a Capstone project.

How does OPIT's curriculum specifically address the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills in technology and AI, as mentioned by Professor Francesco Profumo?

Developing our degrees so that they provide students with “applicative” and “hands-on” experience has been a key priority for us since the very beginning. First, we hired top academicians and professors who combine strong academic experience and a relevant professional background. We are very transparent about who our faculty is, and all our professors are listed on the website and regularly updated. The professional experience of our professors is our best guarantee that they can build relevant, applicative case studies on top of the theory.

By hiring professors who are well versed in technology and AI fields, they can better teach students the practical skills needed as they themselves have been in the field with this technology and have first-hand experience with it.

How does OPIT ensure that its degrees, accredited within the European Qualification Framework, are recognized and valued by employers globally, and specifically in the USA?

Our degrees have full legal value in Europe, and like for any other EU institution, I don’t see any obstacle to employers' properly valuing a degree from an accredited institution. We are also working with certification bodies in the U.S. to expand and integrate this recognition from U.S. academic institutions.

You built OPIT using a top-down approach, how does this approach apply to building an education platform?

When building a new Higher Education Institution, you must ensure you have all the key management onboard from day one. This rings true especially if you build something extremely innovative and disruptive. I found this the best approach to guarantee the alignment between the mission/strategy and its execution.

You are actively, and heavily, involved in the recruiting of OPIT Faculty of Professors. What skills do you look for in a professor?

Our recruitment process is highly selective and thorough. We mostly look for three things:

  • Being a strong academician: you know how to teach, and you love doing so
  • Relevant professional experience outside academia to make sure you can not only teach theory but also how to use it in practice
  • Strong interest in OPIT and alignment with our mission

There’s a strong focus on business in many of the courses that are offered, why should entrepreneurs consider taking these courses?

Yes, even in technology Degrees, we like to give our students a broader view. The professionals of tomorrow will need to be able to connect the dots and adapt quickly. To do so, they need to broaden their horizons.

If students think of launching their own startup, our degrees would be a perfect match to acquire strong skills from multiple angles and connect with a vibrant community where they’ll likely be able to find their future co-founders.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit OPIT.

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