Italy from Re.ViCa

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by Alessandro Caforio, UNINETTUNO

For the main entry on this country see Italy

For entities in Italy see Category:Italy

The regions of Italy are not yet incorporated into the structure of this wiki - for details see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_Italy

Contents

Partners situated in Italy:

The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO - U.T.I.U., recognised with Ministerial Decree of the 15th April 2005, is the Italian partner of the Re.Vica Project and has its headquarters in Rome (Italy). The U.T.I.U includes also Technological Poles, facilities at the students’ disposal located both in Italy and abroad, equipped with all the technologies needed to attend distance education courses, participate in training activities by videoconferencing and which represent a true meeting place to host face-to-face exams and meetings and seminars with professors and tutors as well. The Technological Poles put at the students’ disposal technologies, courses educational materials, free access to high-speed Internet; several Technological Poles, connected to each other by transmitting and receiving satellite dishes, are operational both in Italy and abroad The International Technological Poles are:

  • The Technological Pole at Helwan University campus (Cairo)
  • The Technological Pole at the Secretariat of State for Vocational Training of Morocco
  • The Technological Pole of “Don Bosco” Institute in Cairo
  • The Technological Pole at Tunis Virtual University - UVT

The National Technological Poles are:

  • The Technological Pole of Imola
  • The Technological Pole of Palermo
  • The Technological Pole of the University of “Roma Tre”
  • The Technological Pole of Sorrento
  • The Technological Pole of Naples
  • The Technological Pole at the “Misericordia” of Viareggio
  • The Technological Pole at the Politecnico di Torino

In these last months new Technological Poles are being implemented in order to widen and enhance U.T.I.U.’s network.


Italy in a nutshell

Italy is a parliamentary republic. The State’s republican set-up was established by the referendum of the 2nd June 1946 by which the Italian people abolished monarchy in favour of Republic. The Constitution of the Republic is the fundamental and founding law of the Italian Republic. It was approved by the Constituent Assembly on the 22nd December 1947, promulgated by the Interim Head of State, Enrico De Nicola, on the 27th December 1947 and came into force on the 1st January 1948. It consists of the Republic’s fundamental principles, the rights and duties of the citizens and lays down the organisation of the Republic also as it regards the national education system.

The Italian population is 59.715.627 (source: ISTAT, 2007) and the per-capita GDP is about 27,000 euro per year. Italy extends from the southern side of the Alps’ arc and stretches out to the Mediterranean Sea; its territory includes also Sardinia and Sicily, two large islands, beside a range of smaller islands. The sea at the Eastern side of the peninsula is the Adriatic Sea, at Southeast there is the Ionian Sea; at the West, along the entire peninsula, there is the Tyrrhenian Sea, whereas in the Northwest of the peninsula there is the Ligurian Sea. From a geographical viewpoint Italy’s regions are divided into: northern regions (Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Emilia-Romagna); the central regions (Tuscany, Marche, Umbria, Latium, Abruzzo); the southern regions (Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria) and the islands (Sicily and Sardinia).

Administrative division

The President of the Republic is the State highest charge and he represents national unity. He is appointed every seven years by the Parliament, convened in a joint sitting, integrated by the regional representatives. He does not have a policy-making role, nevertheless the Constitution entrusts him legislative, executive and judicial functions. In periods of political stability his role is actually limited to representative and monitoring functions. However, the powers conferred to him by the Constitution make the role of the President of the Republic get more importance in situations of political instability or of institutional drift of the State.

The State legislative power is entrusted to a bicameral Parliament composed of the Chamber of Deputies (630 Deputies) and of the Senate of the Republic (315 Senators elected, plus the life Senators). Both houses are elected by universal suffrage (at present, the electoral law provides for the allocation of the sieges among the candidates of different blocked competitive lists in proportion with the votes obtained, with a majority bonus assuring the governability to the most voted coalition lists). In Italy is in force a perfect bicameralism: the Houses have the same functions and the same powers. A law has to be approved, in its same text, by both Houses. In case of contrast between the Houses the law is not approved. As a consequence, the electoral laws of the two Houses are quite similar in order to avoid that differences in policy-making paralyse the Parliament. This system was conceived in order to have a higher balance of the decision-makers in approving the laws. The Houses hold office for 5 years, but the President of the Republic can dismiss them in before the term office.

The executive power is held by the Government, which, according to art. 92, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, comprises two distinct bodies: the President of the Council of Ministers, the Ministers and the Council of Ministers consisting in the union of the above-mentioned bodies. The Ministers are responsible on an individual basis of the acts of their offices and, on a collegial basis, of the acts of the Council of Ministers. The President of the Council directs the Government’s policy, but in the framework of the Council he is primus inter pares among his colleagues. However, if he resigns, the entire Government resigns The President of the Republic, further to consultations with the main political leaders, appoints the President of the Council and, upon proposal of this last one, the Ministers. After taking office, the Government shall present itself to the Parliament and obtain confidence vote by both Houses. Since the Ministers cannot be revoked, sometimes. in order to force them to resign, each Chamber votes for no confidence for an individual minister.

The Magistrates exercises the judiciary power (both the inquiring and the judging one and it is an autonomous and independent body from any other power. The ordinary Magistrates have the jurisdictional function (see jurisdiction entry), which they govern in the name of the people. The Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura (the Higher Council of the Magistrates), elected for one third of its members by the Parliament in joint sitting and for two thirds by all Magistrates is chaired by rights by the President of the Republic and has self-governing tasks of the Magistrates.


Country education policy

The Italian State is the main provider of financial support for the school. In 2006 it invested a bit less than 47 billions euro, corresponding to 82.5% of the public expenditure for the education sector (Source: SISTAN - Sistema Statistico Nazionale - "LA SCUOLA IN CIFRE 2007” - Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, 2008). Local Agencies follow with less than 8 billions (13,5%) and the Regions with approximately 2.2 billions euro (3,9%). In 2006 public intervention in favour of the school system was about more than 57 billions euro by an increase of 11% in real terms compared to 2005 (Tab. 1.1.1). The general incidence on GDP is about 3.8% compared to 3.5% of the previous year (+0.3% rate). The trend of the 1997-2006 decade shows an overall variation of a +0.2% rate of expenditure of the GDP, even if, within this period, some years were caracterised by considerable drops (1997, 1998, 2002, 2004). One has to remember that the increase had last year includes also the salary increase for the school personnel of the last economic two-year period 2004-2005 (Source: SISTAN - Sistema Statistico Nazionale - "LA SCUOLA IN CIFRE 2007” - Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, 2008).

Italy education system

The reform of the Italian school underway affects the entire Italian Educational and Training System. One of the most evident aspects of the reformed school system in compliance with the change specified in Chapter 5 of the Second Part of the Constitution, is the emphasis put on the autonomy of the individual school institutions and the introduction of the subsidiarity principle and decentralisation by the assigning to the Regions exclusive or competitive skills as it regards education and training. Compulsory education (up to 18 year-old) can be completed according to educational and training (also integrated) pathways within the school system and the education and vocational training system.

The school education system is structured according to a cycle including:

  • Non compulsory, three-year nursery school;
  • Compulsory, five-year primary school;
  • Compulsory, three-year first level secondary school.

This cycle ends with a final exam and once passed it is possible to enter the second cycle of the secondary school.

The second cycle of compulsory school is characterised by the right-duty to education and vocational training that lasts for at least 12 years or, anyway, up to the attainment of a qualification by the age of eighteen. There are two kinds of educational offers: the system of the licei (secondary schools) and the system of vocational training and education. They are two profiles that contribute to a single final profile, but that differentiate to meet the needs and the kind of study the young woman/man wishes to devote her/himself.

The system of the licei envisaged by the act of reform of the education system is composed of liceo classico (high school specialising in humanities), liceo scientifico (high school specialising in sciences), liceo linguistico (high school specialising in languages) and liceo artistico (high school specialising in arts) – that is to say already known high schools – and in the new licei: the economics one, the musical one and dance (education to dance) one, the technological one and human sciences one.

The education and vocational training system falls under the authority of the Regions, even if the regulations required to establish the minimum educational standards and the spendability of the professional qualifications at national level and also for the shift from the training to the school paths, are established by the Government in agreement with State-Regions-Towns Unified Conference and of Local Autonomies. That is the reason why in Italy the vocational training paths are significantly diversified and mainly linked to the economic and peculiar characters of the territories (tourism, for instance).

In Italy, the diploma obtained at the end of the education and vocational training path, as well as the completion of the fourth year of the secondary school, entitles the student to access to high technical education and training courses which represent a specialised path which is parallel to the university one, aimed at preparing highly specialised and professional executives. The rules also envisage other modes to facilitate the shift from one system to the other by the acknowledgement of education and training credits.

Higher education

In Italy the higher education system can boast a pre-eminence of unparalleled intellectual and historic value thanks to the fact that in the city of Bologna was established the Alma Mater Studiorum, considered as the most ancient university of the western world. The date of its establishment is uncertain and during the Nineteenth Century 1088 has been agreed on by a Committee of historians, lead by Giosuè Carducci, an important Italian poet and writer, to celebrate its eight-hundredth anniversary.

A sure date is 1158, when King Frederick 1st Hohenstaufen (named as Barbarossa) promulgated the “Costitutio Habita”, further to which the University became a place where research work developed independently from any other power. The presence of many foreign students in Bologna led to the creation of associations, named as "universitates", that gathered the students with the aim to defend their rights.

Such origins assure to the Italian university system solid cultural foundations and an exceptional rooting to the territory. In the national social structure the need to have prestigious and qualified scientists is deeply felt. Even if choosing an academic career represents a very hard commitment, many are the young Italians who are keen to start a career as university researcher and as academician.

Universities in Italy

In Italy there are state and non state (that is to say private ones) universities as well, legally recognised and authorised, by deliberation that are legally binding, to bear the title of university or university institution and to deliver academic titles linked to the university system, having the same legal value as those issued by the state universities.

In Italy there are 58 state universities:

  1. University of Bari
  2. University of Basilicata
  3. University of Bergamo
  4. Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna
  5. University of Brescia
  6. University of Cagliari
  7. University of Calabria
  8. University of Camerino
  9. University of Cassino
  10. University of Catania
  11. University of Catanzaro "Magna Græcia"
  12. University of Chieti and Pescara
  13. University of Ferrara
  14. University of Firenze
  15. University of Foggia
  16. University of Genova
  17. University of Insubria - Varese
  18. University of L'Aquila
  19. Polytechnic University of Marche (ex University of Ancona)
  20. University of Macerata
  21. University of Messina
  22. University of Milano
  23. University of Milano - Bicocca
  24. University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  25. University of Molise
  26. University of Naples "Federico II"
  27. University of Naples "L'Orientale" (former Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples)
  28. University of Naples "Parthenope" (former Istituto universitario Navale)
  29. Second University of Naples
  30. University of Padua
  31. University of Palermo
  32. University of Parma
  33. University of Pavia
  34. University of Perugia
  35. University for Foreigners of Perugia
  36. University of Piemonte Orientale Amedeo Avogadro
  37. University of Pisa (ex University of Pisa)
  38. University of Reggio Calabria "Mediterranea"
  39. University for Foreigners of Reggio Calabria "Dante Alighieri"
  40. University of Rome "La Sapienza"
  41. University of Rome Tor Vergata
  42. University of Rome Tre
  43. University of Salento (ex University of Lecce)
  44. University of Salerno
  45. University of Sannio - Benevento
  46. University of Sassari
  47. University of Siena
  48. University of Foreigners of Siena
  49. University of Teramo - Avezzano
  50. University of Torino
  51. University of Trento - Rovereto
  52. University of Trieste
  53. University of Tuscia - Viterbo
  54. University of Udine
  55. University of Urbino "Carlo Bo"
  56. University Ca' Foscari of Venice
  57. University Iuav of Venice (ex Iuav University, ex IUAV - Istituto universitario di architettura of Venice)
  58. University of Verona

In Italy there are many non state universities and can by divided into private universities and blended universities, that is to say non-state, but having a public character, since they were promoted by territorial boards (regions, provinces, municipalities) or by foundations, consortia or agencies directly depending on them.

Non-state universities promoted by public bodies:

  1. Libera università degli studi non statale legalmente riconosciuta della Sicilia centrale Kore
  2. Libera università di Bolzano
  3. Università della Valle d'Aosta

Non-state universities promoted by private bodies:

  1. Libera università degli studi San Pio V - Rome
  2. Libera università di lingue & comunicazione Iulm (former IULM - Istituto universitario di lingue moderne) - Milan, Feltre
  3. LUISS - Libera università internazionale degli studi sociali "Guido Carli" - Rome
  4. LUM - Libera università mediterranea "Jean Monnet" - Casamassima
  5. LUMSA - Libera università Maria SS. Assunta (former Istituto universitario Maria Ss. Assunta) - Rome, Gubbio, Mussomeli, Palermo, Taranto
  6. University Carlo Cattaneo LIUC (ex Libero istituto universitario "Carlo Cattaneo" - LIUC) - Castellanza
  7. Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Milan, Rome, Brescia, Campobasso, Piacenza, Cremona
  8. Università Campus bio-medico of Rome - Rome
  9. Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi - Milan
  10. Università degli studi Suor Orsola Benincasa (ex Istituto universitario Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples, former Istituto universitario di magistero pareggiato femminile "Suor Orsola Benincasa") - Naples, Pomigliano d'Arco, Salerno
  11. Università di Scienze Gastronomiche Bra, Colorno
  12. Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele - Milan, Cesano Maderno
  13. Università Europea of Rome


Higher education reform

In Italy’s recent history the university system has been affected by significant reforms started already with the appearance of the Republic during the first after-war period, when the rigid system imposed by Fascism was reformed and was sanctioned the right to university autonomy granted by art. 33 of the Constitution (published on the 27th December 1947) recognising to higher cultural institutions, universities and academic the right to give themselves autonomous rules.

A second important phase of reforms of the organisation of the Italian universities took place at the beginning of the Sixties with Maranini-Miglio project of reform, implemented in 1969 and whose organisational format was left mostly unchanged up to the new cycle of reforms starting at the beginning of the Nineties and going on between the two millennia.

The phase of renewal of beginning Nineties represent a veritable divide among the university system know up to that time and the developments produced with the opening to the new multimedia systems for higher education. By the Law n° 341 of the 19th November 1990, was realised the “Reform of the University Educational Rules”, by means of which were launched significant innovations as it regarded the universities educational autonomies, the teaching and research personnel, tutoring and scientific-disciplinary sectors. More specifically, it was art. 11, paragraph 3 of the Law n° 341 that had a deep impact on the university system and that states:

<<In the framework of the university development plan and taking into account the universities’ proposals deliberated by the concerned bodies, it can be envisaged a financial support to initiatives of distance university education implemented by the universities also in the form of consortia and with the cooperation of other public and private agencies, and also to national research programmes and structures linked to the same sector. These structures can be established by decree of the Minister of the University and Scientific and Technological Research in agreement with the Treasury Minister >>.

Consortia between traditional universities and companies enable the creation of distance teaching system based on the didactic modes of traditional universities allowing to:

  • make the places where knowledge is created through research work coincide with those where it transferred through teaching, that is to say University successfully meeting the education qualitative needs;
  • improve educational offers;
  • enhance educational productivity;
  • give a consistent support to graduate and undergraduate courses having high-rates of students and to the newly established ones;
  • bring nearer the world of education to the production one, starting up cooperation relationships during their designing phase and during the course delivery as well matching theory to practice. In other words, it is possible to directly connect trainers to users to better meet the strategically important need for continuous vocational training for human resources.

The Consortium structure, supplying experience from several universities located in the national territory allows for selecting high-level quality teaching staff and educational subjects and contents as well, since it can make its choices among a higher and more diversified range than a single university or local or regional consortia can do. In addition, Consortia can be developed also at European and international level and thanks to the enlargement of computer-based networks and to the new technologies the best universities can offer to everybody, in an open and democratic way, the teachings of the best scientists, intellectuals and masters of the world. We shall be able to build in a virtual way the model of university that gave birth to the European culture: the medieval university. In the medieval universities, curricula were common; students did not belong to a single university, but they could attend courses in all existing universities; in order to follow the lessons of the best professors, the moved from one site to another facing wearying travels on foot or riding a horse to attend a course on law at the University of Bologna or a course on theology at the University of Paris, where one of the most loved masters of the times delivered his courses, Saint Thomas. Masters too travelled from one site to another; actually they were called “wandering scholars”; the universities contended for the best ones since their presence gave prestige and power, but above all because they attracted masses of students and youths.

Today the physical displacement of professors and students can be virtually replaced by the new technologies that allow for the mobility of ideas. Therefore, the student can listen to the lessons of the most renowned masters of the world while they sit on their sofa at home. Virtual university can allow professors and student of several universities of the world interact, it can globalise culture and knowledge and can actually rapidly meet the real needs for internationalising university educational systems to prepare for the professional skills required by the new production systems, that are also characterised by trends toward the internationalisation and integration of the markets. By the end of the Nineties, a strong drive for transforming university toward a “European model” was given by the reform introducing the Universities’ autonomy. It is the Law nr. 127 of the 15th May 1997, enforced by the Decree of the Minister of the University and Scientific and Technological Research n° 509 of the 3rd November 1999, by which the study courses were redesigned introducing the so-called “3+2” structure, based on the Anglo-American model. The aim was that of harmonising all the European educational systems by inter-governmental treaties concerning the homogenisation of university cycles according the “3+2” structure, an aim established by the Sorbonne agreement undersigned in 1998 among Italy, France, Germany and United Kingdom and with the Bologna agreement of 1999 with the other countries members and satellite countries.

In Italy, this important reform was implemented during the 2000/2001 academic year. It envisages a structuring of the university courses into three cycles:

I. First cycle

It includes university Degree Courses (DCs) and first-level Master’s Courses (1UMCs). The university degree courses aim at granting the students an adequate mastery of general scientific contents and methods and the acquisition of specific vocational knowledge. The access minimal requirement is a secondary school diploma or equivalent foreign title; admission can be subject to the check of further requirements. The DCs last three years. In order to get a degree the student shall acquire 180 ECTS credits.

The 1UMCs are scientific specialisation or life-long and continuous high level training to which one can access if he has a University Degree or an equivalent foreign title; admission can by subject to the check of further requirements. Duration is one year, minimum; to get a first-level university master’s course one has to have acquired 60 credits at least.


II. Second cycle

The second-cycle studies include: 1) Magisterial Degree Courses (MDCs); 2) First-level Specialisation Courses (1SCs); 3) Second-level University Master’s Courses (2UMCs). The aim of the MDCs consists in supplying the student an advanced-level training to carry on highly qualified activities in specific sectors.

Access to MDCs is subject to the possession of a university degree course or an equivalent foreign titles; the studies lasts two years; the Specialisation Degree is delivered to the students who acquired 300 ECTS credits in total, including those obtained with the Degree and recognised as valid for the Specialisation Degree (max. 180). In order to get a Specialisation Degree it is required to prepare an original final dissertation.

A few SCs, regulated by EU directives (SCs in Medicine and Surgery, Veterinary Medicine, Dentistry and Dental Prosthesis, Pharmacy, Architecture) have as access requirement the secondary school diploma and a admission test; these study courses last 5 years (6 for Medicine and Surgery).

The SC1s aim at supplying the knowledge and skills for exercising highly qualified professional activities; they can be established only in application of specific Italian laws or EU directives. It is possible to access to them with a university degree or equivalent foreign title; admission is subject to passing a competition; in order to get a 1SC one has to have acquired between 300 and 360 credits, including those obtained with University Degree and considered valid for the 1SC. Therefore, the duration of 1SC is comprised between 2 and 3 years.

The 2UMCs are scientific specialisation courses or continuous and life-long higher education courses to which it is possible to access if one has a Specialisation University Degree or an equivalent foreign title; admission can be subject on the possession of further requirements. The minimal duration is one year; in order to get a 2nd Level University Master’ Course title it is necessary to have acquired 60 ECTS credits at least.

III. Third cycle

The third study cycle include: 1) Research Doctorate Courses (PhDCs); 2) Second-Level Specialisation Courses (2SCs); 3) Second-Level University Master’s Courses (2UMCs).

The PhDCs’ aim is to that of acquiring a correct methodology for scientific research or very high-level professional skills; they can envisage specific didactic methodologies, such as the use of new technologies, study periods abroad, internships in research laboratories. It is possible to access them with a Specialisation University Degree or an equivalent foreign title; admission is subject to passing a competition, the minimum duration is 3 years at least; at the end one gets a PhD.

The 2SCs aim at supplying knowledge and skills to perform highly qualified professional activities; they can be implemented only in application of specific Italian laws or EU directives. In order to access them it is required a Specialisation Degree or an equivalent foreign title; admission is subject to passing a competition; duration is generally one year, excepting the 2SCs in Medicine, whose duration can be up to five years maximum.

The Bologna Process

1999 Bologna Process represents an important phase of the harmonisation path of the higher education systems at European level. In short, the objectives of the Bologna Declaration are:

  • Creation of a European Higher Education Area
  • Worldwide promotion of the European Education System
  • Harmonisation of the European University Systems

The Bologna Process is a European-level reform process aiming at realising a European Area for Higher Education by 2010. At present there are 45 countries involved with the support of a few international organisations. It’s a big effort towards the convergence of the university systems of the participating countries that is directly involving the European institutions and their components. The aim is that by 2010 the higher education systems of the European countries and the single institutions be organised in such a way as to grant:

  • transparency and readability of the educational paths and or the study titles
  • concrete possibility for the students and graduates to easily continue their studies or find a job in another European country
  • a higher attractiveness level for European higher education for non-European countries’ citizens
  • supply of wider range of knowledge to assure Europe’s economic and social development

This Process is not based on an international treaty that has a binding character for the governments of different countries. Even if the concerned ministers have undersigned many documents of different kind, each country – and the relative academic community – freely and voluntarily joins the agreed on principles, urged only by the wish to attain a shared objective. In addition, the process does not aim at homogenising the European education systems, but it pursues the preservation of their diversities, even if in a common framework; it engages to create bridges among countries and different education systems, preserving at the same their specificities.

At national level the Process sees the involvement of the Government, of the Conference of the Rectors and of the Students’ organisations. Main adjustment modes were adopted such as: the study credit systems – on the ECTS model, the two-cycle system and the quality assurance system.

Quality assurance

In Italy it is envisaged that in each University an Internal Evaluation System dealing with the administrative management system, with educational and research activities, measures aimed at promoting the right to study, is established. The University Evaluation Committee that is granted a certain level of operational autonomy and the right to access to all the necessary information carries out the Universities evaluation activities.

In order to evaluate and assure the high quality standards to the Italian university system, in compliance with the Law n° 370/1999 it was established a National Committee for the Evaluation of the University System. This Committee is an institutional body of the Ministry of the University and Scientific and Technological Research (MIUR) having the tasks of: establish the general criteria to evaluate university activities; prepare an annual report on the evaluation of the university system; promote experimentation, the application and spreading of evaluation methodologies and practices; identify the nature of the information and data that the boards of evaluation of the universities are required to transmit; implement an annual plan of external evaluations of the universities’ or of the individual training structures; carry on technical evaluations based on the proposals of new state and non state university institutions in view of the authorisation to issuing titles having legal value; prepare reports on the implementation status and on the planning results; prepare studies and documents on the situation of higher education, on the implementation of the right to study and on access to university study courses; prepare studies and documentations for establishing the criteria of allocation of the share of readjustment of the fund for university ordinary funding; carry on consulting, preliminary, evaluation activities; identify standards, parameters and technical rules, also as it regards the universities’ specific activities and projects and proposal presented by these ones to be transmitted to the Minister.

The Committee is an independent body that interacts autonomously with the Universities and with the Ministry. Therefore, it has a technical-administrative secretariat, a specific item of expenses in the Ministry budget and can entrust to groups of experts, bodies or specialised companies the carrying out of research work and studies.

Country's HEIs in the information society

(From the article “The University for the New Market of Knowledge”, by Maria Amata Garito, ITU TELECOM AMERICA 2000, Rio de Janeiro, 2000)

New communication technologies greatly increase access to knowledge. Telecommunication networks, satellite television, Internet and virtual reality modify processes of communicating knowledge as well as their acquisition. Widespread channels have been created which offer new possibilities for a fully democratic access to training and education. This new potential marks the passage from an information society to a cognitive society. We are going through a social and cultural revolution which challenges traditional, institutional models of schools and universities. Training courses now available due to new technologies allow for the acquisition of knowledge and skills outside traditional educational facilities. Anyone can learn through telecommunication networks. Faced with these processes for change which increasingly characterize this phase of transformation, educational institutions must constantly innovate subject content, reorganize curricula, decide on new development policies tied to the requirements of a flexible, international job market. At the university level, it is clear that there is a need for university education to carry out a new function, that of continuing education and of developing the instruments and mechanisms necessary to do this.

What attracts individuals today to higher level continuing education courses is not the same as in the period after World War II, when further training allowed one to be promoted to a higher level of the production chain. Nowadays the aim is to rapidly gain specialized skills which will allow one to find a new type of job in a changing system. This requires universities to be able to impart knowledge "just in-time", in constant flux, which they were not set up to do. Apart from changes in contents, it is necessary to rethink teaching and learning models and methods due to the profound modification which new technologies have brought to the new ways of transmitting knowledge. The university, an institution which for years has satisfied the need for higher education, must therefore find new strategies which allow it to respond to new situations and reach new users if it wants to maintain a role fitting to its tradition and potential in cultural and social development.

If universities do not face this challenge, they risk following the same path they did concerning research. In the post-war period, most European universities lost their role as principal producers of knowledge. Applied research was developed mainly in public research institutes and in large industrial plants provided with prestigious laboratories which were often financed by national governments. Research was oriented to the development of products responding to market demands. The sometimes negative consequences of this process are evident.

Going back to education, it is necessary to note that today there are many agencies outside the university which have set up advanced training facilities and organized their own distance teaching systems based on the utilization of new teaching technologies. An analysis of contents and psychopedagogical models of these training courses make it clear, however, that in many cases training endeavors are not oriented towards developing knowledge and skills in a critical and problematic way. Thus we have within the information society the development of an extended and open educational and training system with considerable potential but containing high risks as well.

As far as traditional educational facilities are concerned, there is the risk of progressive decay if no profound changes take place. If universities want to maintain a key role in transmitting knowledge they must:

  • pinpoint new policies of intervention to respond adequately to training needs through an increase in flexibility;
  • redefine their functions to compete in a new context and in the new environment of the information society;
  • modify the professional role of teachers;
  • compare the parallel and separate programs they have been developing.

In other words, in universities there should be a mechanism for transferring innovation which is comparable in commitment and breadth to what takes place when new technologies are introduced into an enterprise, changing the facilities, production processes and professional skills. Industrial production models have all evolved into new flexible models as a consequence of the use of new technologies. The same evolution should take place in the training system; the rigid division of training paths should be abandoned for a more open and flexible system.

This is the challenge which all educational institutions must face. Universities can successfully respond to this challenge thanks to some of their distinct features: the fact that they are both research and teaching centers can play a key role in order to define new means and ways of communicating knowledge using new information and telecommunication technologies to activate new, flexible, diversified teaching and learning processes. And they can carry this out guaranteeing both quality and freedom in the training process, thanks to the strength of their traditions and independence.

The framework outlined above includes the transformations being brought about and the experience being developed in the construction of new models. It is happening within single universities and between different universities through cooperation programs. In the latter case there is greater potential for planning and creating innovations, starting from the process of involving more than one campus in a common project.

Information society strategy

In Italy, as anticipated in the previous paragraphs, further to the approval of the law n° 341/1990 on the restructuring of the university didactic rule (university autonomy), public-private consortia were established for distance teaching universities. Further to this law, in April 2005 the “Moratti-Stanca” Decree about “the criteria and procedures for accrediting distance education courses of the state and non state universities and of higher education institutions enables to issue academic titles, was enacted”.

This act, commonly called the “Moratti-Stanca” Decree, since it was enacted by the then Minister of Education, University and Research, Ms Letizia Moratti, with the then Minister for Innovation and Technologies, Mr. Lucio Stanca, concretely implements the institution of the telematic universities, authorised to issue academic titles.

In Italy distance education courses are established and implemented by state and non state universities and make use of computer-based and telematic technologies in accordance with the technical requirements indicated by the “Moratti-Stanca” Decree. These universities have to be organised “according to the most advanced computer-based and telematic technologies and are aimed at issuing academic titles envisage by laws currently in force”. The academic titles “can be issued by university institutions promoted by public and private bodies and acknowledge according to the criteria and procedures envisaged by the Decree”. There are specific rules as it regards the acknowledgement of study courses. More specifically, it is envisaged a Charter of Services that envisages a didactic methodology and the conclusion of a specific contract with the student. The distance education courses are characterised, as stated in the Decree: “by the use of web-based connections for the use of training materials and the development of educational activiteis based on the interactivity with teachers-tutors and with the other students, by the use of PC , by the continuous monitoring of the learning progress according to the selective and rigourous criteria envisaged to assure the quality of the courses and the reliability of the educational offer […] "The didactic organisation of the distance education courses valorises potentials of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at the highest degree and more specifically as it regards multimediality and interactivity in order to favour customised study paths and to optimise learning”.

Starting from the 16th April 2003 in Italy too it is possible to get a distance university degree through the use of the most advanced multimedia computer-based technologies applied to e-Learning. There are many motivations indicated by Ministers Morattia and Stanca to support this Decree:

  1. Distance University allows to extend university training to the whole span of life (lifelong learning) reaching segments of the population who, for many reasons, are unable to access to higher education, such as students-workers, elderly people, the sick and the weak and disadvantaged individuals.
  2. This provisions allows realising an Italian university that is able to valorise Italian cultural and national specificities worldwide.
  3. 'e-learning is a useful tool to enhance the links between university and the world of labour since it promotes the participation of private bodies that benefit form the experience made by business management, retraining employees by using then education tools.
  4. Thanks to technological innovation it is possible to dramatically decrease the costs needed to get a degree make university actually accessible to many people.

Virtual initiatives in HE

The situation we had in Italy can be better understood if one takes into due account the recent history of distance higher education initiatives and the experience of renewal we had beginning Nineties with the Law n° 341/1990. The “Reform of the University Didactic Rules” that was started up caused the appearance of new higher education multimedia systems whose achievements only Consorzio NETTUNO, in which 12,000 students were enrolled, seemed to be able to build on. With the “Moratti-Stanca” Decree of April 2003, which we referred to in the previous paragraph, it was established that the Minister of the University could acknowledge the establishment of new telematic universities by decree. Starting from 2004 it acknowledged 11 universities as a whole. The path undertaken by the Italian legislator was full of initiatives, even if not all of them were up to the undertaking. Actually, not all the telematic universities acknowledged by ministerial decree were able of carrying on proposals for distance education complying with the standards set a national level.

Therefore, one has to point out that, among the officially acknowledged telematic universities, only a few are able of being fully and satisfactorily operational. In addition, the final implementation path of all acknowledged telematic universities has not been completed. In fact, the law provides for that all telematic universities undergo an extraordinary evaluation procedure by the National Committee for the Evaluation of the University System. At the end of the third academic year of activities and after the fifth year, the Committee should evaluate the results obtained by the telematic university also on the basis of the annual reports submitted by the University Board of Evaluation. The check involves also the appropriateness requirements of the computer and telematic infrastructures of the telematic universities (actual requirements of the computer-based e-Learning platform and its capacity to actually deliver what is provided for by the Charter of Services; availability of appropriate resources for the maintenance and update of the system during time; consistency between the scaling of the compute resources and the existing users; etc.) The checks made by the National Committee are a crucial moment that could even imply the revocation of the acknowledgement with consequent closing down of the telematic university. For this reason too, it is impossible to surely establish which telematic universities will last in Italian scene in the next few years.

Currently, the telematic universities recognised by Ministerial Decree are:

  1. International Telematic University UNINETTUNO - established with Ministerial Decree of 15 April 2005;
  2. Università Telematica TEL.M.A. - established with Ministerial Decree of 7 May 2004;
  3. Università Telematica e-Campus - established with Ministerial Decree of 30 January 2006;
  4. Università Telematica Pegaso – established with Ministerial Decree of 20 April 2006;
  5. Università Telematica Leonardo da Vinci - established with Ministerial Decree of 16 November 2004;
  6. Università Telematica Marconi - established with Ministerial Decree of 1 March 2004;
  7. Università Telematica Giustino Fortunato - established with Ministerial Decree of 13 April 2006;
  8. Università Telematica delle Scienze Umane UniSu - established with Ministerial Decree of 10 May 2006;
  9. Università Telematica Internazionale Unitel - established with Ministerial Decree of 8 May 2006;
  10. Università Telematica Universitas Mercatorum - established with Ministerial Decree of 17 May 2006;
  11. Università Telematica “Italian University Line” - established with Ministerial Decree of 2 December 2005.

Major E-learning initiatives in Italy

In Italy there is an atypical situation compared with any other country which lead to a substantial scientific and didactic contents preminence of the NETTUNO System compared to that of the other recently established telematic universities. Therefore, in Italy the two main e-Learning initiatives actually operating by distance education high standards are basically two ones: Consorzio NETTUNO and the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO – U.T.I.U.. Consorzio NETTUNO was established in 1992 to put into effect article 11 of the Law n° 341 of the 19 November 1990, the “Reform of the University Didactic Rules”. Being born as non-profit association, promoted by the Ministry of Education, University and Research, Consorzio NETTUNO gathered Universities and companies with the aim of realising Distance University Courses.

From that time onwards, the Italian university system will not have been the same. With NETTUNO model the places where teaching takes place are no longer only universities’ lecture halls, but also real and virtual places: private homes, workplaces, study centres; anybody, with no limits of space and time, can attend university in actual democratic way. The students’ feedback was ready and higher than expectations and so was the support from the most prestigious Italian and foreign university teachers who gave their contributions by recording videolessons of the highest academic and educational value. Consorzio NETTUNO’s success lies in the quality of the higher education courses supplied and, above all, on the Psycho-pedagogic and Didactic model utilised for producing all videolessons. This Model, designed through the research work carried out by Prof. Maria Amata Garito, full professor of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the Psychology Faculty of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”.

From Consorzio NETTUNO’s experience was born the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO - UTIU, established by the Ministerial Decree of the 15 April 2005, logic and natural follow-up of the the use of information technologies in the field of distance education. As it clearly appears, UTIU benefits from the know-how acquired during over fifteen years of practice in the framework of Consorzio NETTUNO.

It being understood that this is the situation, below we introduce some of those that can be considered as the most important e-Learning initiatives in Italy:

  1. Consorzio NETTUNO
  2. International Telematic University UNINETTUNO
  3. Università Pegaso
  4. Università Marconi
  5. Università e-Campus

1. Consorzio NETTUNO

Revica Logo NETTUNO.jpg

Consorzio NETTUNO was established in 1992 and it included three universities and five companies, in compliance with the law on didactic university rules of the 19 November 1990, n° 341, thanks to which in Italy distance university can count on an institutional reference framework. This law gives the university the opportunity to develop a new training model that is characterised by the implementation of first-level university diploma and also by the enrichment of the training processes modes. Actually, article 11, paragraph 3 provides that distance teaching is included among the distinctive didactic modes used by the universities.

The model proposed by the Italian law is grounded on the idea that distance teaching should be based on the universities’ peculiar functions with the aim of enhancing their higher education offer in framework which is inspired by autonomy and which is open to the flexibility of the initiatives undertaken. The choice is motivated by the belief that university, an institution basically aimed at advanced level education, can be enabled to play a still crucial role also as it regards the new training needs and the new environment where they are deemed to develop. Consorzio NETTUNO, as organisational and structural mode, adopted the form of a consortium of traditional universities and companies and, as teaching-learning system, was based on a massive use of communication technologies already mature and available on the market at low costs.

The consortium was born in 1992 and included three universities and five companies. In only three years we passed from three to twenty-four universities: Politecnico di Bari, Politecnico di Milano, Politecnico di Torino an the Universities of L'Aquila, Bologna, Camerino, Cassino, Florence, Genoa, Lecce, Milan, Modena, Naples "Federico II", Seconda Università of Naples, Padua, Parma, Pisa, Rome Tor Vergata, Salerno, Siena, Turin, Trento, Trieste, Viterbo "La Tuscia" and companies such as: Telecom Italia, IRI, RAI, CONFINDUSTRIA and also eleven Technological Poles.

The consortium’s general objectives were:

  • creating an area fore education and training with characters of high quality, great capacity of innovation both in terms of contents and methods;
  • offer an educational service eliminating space and time limits at the users’ advantage and favour the access and participation both on an individual and group basis;
  • use the telecommunication highways, built by means of satellite, cable TV, computer-based and telematic networks and multimedia and hypermedia products to establish new links between the university and industry and new teaching/learning processes or new evaluation systems.
  • use technologies as new tools to promote the creation of new educational products, new distance teaching institutional models and new communication and interaction models among individuals having different cultures;
  • launch research programmes allowing to identify suitable methodologies also with the purpose of using in more satisfactorily way the resources provided by a rapidly evolvine technology.

More specifically, Consorzio NETTUNO aims at realising a distance teaching model refuting the ideas of mass production and industrialisation of the training process and valuing the availability of equal educational opportunities to all types of students. The educational practice is characterised by the high quality of the teaching that is delivered by the best university teachers who are fully responsible for the distance teaching-learning process since distance teaching is actually based on traditional universities’ institutional functions. Distance university students enrol to the same course, broadly speaking, they follow the same programme, they are supported by the same teachers, the take the same exams and get the same title as the face-to-face students. It is the same teaching body that usually share their time between internal and external students. As it regards distance students the professors perform all the tasks envisaged for in-campus students besides other ones that are more specifically related to the distance education teacher. It is up to the distance professor to design and prepare the lessons to be delivered on the screen and prepare the materials supplementing the videolesson, such as texts and software, answers to the questions asked to the distance students, exercises made both on a face-to-face basis and telematically using ISDN networks and INTERNET connections, assessments and final exams. All these activities are coordinate among professors belonging not to only one university, but of all universities members of the consortium. This is surely the most innovative component since it allows to involve the professors that are most open to innovate and the best teachers into a collegial educational project. From the organisational and structural viewpoint, the project upon which Consorzio NETTUNO is based relies on structures that, year after year, keep on evolving their model and organisation.

These structures are: the National Centre, the Technological Poles, the Workstations “at home”, the University Technological Centres and the Supplying Universities. Beside individual students, distance education courses are addressed to companies’ staff and in particular to those operating in the fields of telecommunications, computer science, consumer electronics who are located in geographical areas that are close to the partner universities’s sites. This way companies have the possibility not only to meet the educational needs and/or retraining needs of their staff, but also to offer their staff the chance to continue their university studies to get an academic title that could be used also for career development purposes. At their own sites or in premises located in the nearby, companies can set up an area equipped to receive, video record, archive and consult remotely delivered courses supplied with computer/telematic workstations to communicate with the Universities and Technological Poles. Currently, three technological Poles have been set up at the following companies’ sites: ALENIA, in Naples, ILVA , in Taranto, IVECO, in Turin.

Qualitative results achieved

Consorzio NETTUNO’s history is a success story that can be checked, first of all, against the figures that since 1993 up to now demonstrate as the Consortium has developed for the benefit of of people, increasing its enrolments, for the benefit of the development of some geographic areas, setting up new Technological Poles, for the benefit of distance education, increasing the number of videolessons recorded and the technologies used to spread it.

The significant objectives achieved on the qualitative level can be briefly reported as follows:

  • Valorisation of the cultural and scientific assets available in the Italian Universities;
  • Enhancement of the didactics resulting from the experimentation of new languages and new technologies, with the consequent positive impact also on traditional didactic activities carried out by the professors also in their academic sites;
  • Select teachers by co-opting them according to the scientific and academic achievements;
  • Innovation produced within traditional universities in structures such as Technological Poles and by educational methodologies and technologies put at the teachers’ and students’ disposal. In addition, the training activity carried out in the Technological Poles located in traditional universities allows fully respecting Universities’ autonomy that, even if the authorised to deliver distance courses at national level, have the possibility to customise also distance education offer also thanks to the fact that the Tutors, selected among their own teaching staff, and the exams teachers can customise their paths according to the study pathways provided by the own Faculties;

In addition NETTUNO organisational structure allowed to:

  • Put at the partner universities’ s disposal services, as those ones offered by the Internet site and by RAI NETTUNO SAT 2 satellite television channel allowing partner universities to support educational offer, putting at the students’ disposal training paths to be performed according to both face-to-face and distance education modes and to enhance their international profile since NETTUNO television channels has a geographic coverage that embrace all Europe and the Mediterranean Countries as well;
  • Assure a high qualitative standard both as it regards the teaching staff and the issues and learning contents since they have at their disposal the experience supplied by the different partner Universities;
  • Supply the Universities with full-comprehensive distance teaching courses and also individual didactic modules that can be exploited with the least organisational, economic and above all bureaucratic procedure compared to the implementation of traditional courses;

In the following table are included the main results achieved by Consorzio NETTUNO between 1993 and 2007 in comparative terms

Data related to Consorzio NETTUNO years 1993-2007

 

1993

2007

Partner Universities

3

University of Naples“Federico II”

Politecnico di Milano,

Politecnico di Torino

43

among Italian universities, international universities and bodies

Supplying Universities

2

18

Distance teaching courses

1

University Diploma

Computer Engineering and Automatics

27

University degree courses

University Technological Poles and Study Centres

2

Technological Poles

32 Poles

8 Study Centres

Students enrolled

80

9900

Graduated students in Acad. Year 2005-2007

//

Over 8000

Didactic modules

10

658

Video Professors, tutors and exam professors

20

7.000

Hours of videolessons produced

400

25.455 + 29.120 hours of Internet-based exercises

Contacts on the Internet Portal

//

Approx. 465.000 monthly

Technologies used

RAIUNO

Satellite Olympus

Internet

Internet via Satellite

RAI NETTUNOSAT 1

RAI NETTUNOSAT 2

RAIDUE

Videolessons broadcast

2 hours per night

24 hours during the whole year on RAI NETTUNOSAT DUE

//

187

Video courses usable online

Videolessons distributed

Vhs

Dvix and DVD

Staff employed in the poles

5

85

Staff employed in the head office

4

44 employees

44 consultants

(Source: Report on activities 2007 by Consorzio NETTUNO – 2008)


Didactic Model

The didactic activity that is carried out with distance teaching courses allows the students to benefit from services and technologies allowing to realise the synchronic model: live broadcasting of televised lessons, interactivity among students and students, professors and professors, students and professors through ISDN network, INTERNET and personal computer, and also materials, products and tools (texts, videocassettes, hypertexts, multimedia products) allowing to realise the diachronic model. In the former case the didactic model is characterised by high degree of flexibility of the educational offer enable the learners, i.e. the students, to get educational autonomy, cognitive autonomy and no limits of space/time. Consorzio NETTUNO educational activities is coordinated by the National Centre through Didactic Committees in charge of a single diploma, composed of at least 3 professors belonging to the partner universities and to the thematic areas that characterise the diploma. At present, 7 committees were established, one for each diploma plus a general coordinating committee for each thematic area.

Therefore, the didactic model, is the result of cooperation among different university contexts and, in some cases, it is the object of debate also with the business world.

The Didactic Committees identify:

  • the study programme;
  • the general didactic rules;
  • Courses and other didactic services delivery modes;
  • practical exercises and exams carrying out modes and selection of professors in charge of the video courses.

The professors, selected as responsible for specific courses, video record all lessons included in the course at the University Technological Poles, set up in the various sites. The videolessons represent one of the elements that characterise the distance teaching and learning process: “the pre-produced course”.

Each didactic module comprises 40 hours of videolessons, broadcast every night by the national television networks of RAI 1 and RAI 2, from 2 o’clock to 6:30 am and it is supplemented by 15 hours of exercises and tutoring. The tutor, besides assigning practice exercises supplementing didactics, it sets up interactive relationships among students and teachers and customised relationships, based on personal meetings at the facilities located in traditional universities (Technological Poles) and in writing by e-mail, fax, telephone, computerconferencing and videoconferencing.

The distance teaching model proposed by Consorzio NETTUNO, considers the distance system as including activities in which the student works alone and activities that making him contact other people. A blended model, therefore, that matches experience supplied by a teaching mode carried on by the new technologies and a self-learning enriched by the use of the new technologies, with moments where teaching-learning take place still in a traditional way according to a bi-directional face-to-face interaction and communication. With this model we succeed in reaching that difficult synthesis between interaction and independence.

Television in Distance Teaching

Television is used in its main function of direct shooting of reality and in this case of the university lecture, where the professors addresses an audience of students and to a virtual class, trying to stimulate them and make them feel they play an active role in the teaching-learning process, even if communication is essentially one-way. The videolesson appears as guided didactic conversation in which the professors addresses the virtual student inviting him to think and involving him also from an emotional point of view; he asks him to take notes, proposes some tests and stimulates his self-assessment asking him question about the subjects treated. The students have the possibility of submitting the exercises carried out to the professors via fax or e-mail and get an assessment of the results achieved. So doing, the teacher has also the possibility of checking the comprehension level that he has obtained through his teaching method.

The videolessons are lectures where the professor, beside transferring knowledge on given subject, leads the student towards a study and learning method and to critical reading of the exam texts; this is the reason why it is basically linked to a traditional didactic methodology even if it takes into account the fact that it uses television as communication medium. As it regards the teaching modes it is interesting to note that how the same university lesson, recorded and delivered to the student according to mainly traditional criteria, undergoes a great change in its use thanks to the use of particularly popular and mature technology: the video recorder. By means of a video recorder and DVD player the student can choose the modes and rhythms of his own learning. A video recorded lesson allows to be able to get back to unclear passages of the speech, watching again the same passage and benefiting from an explanation as many times as one wishes.

The video recorder and the DVD player allows to perform an blended form of interaction: the essentially one-directional aspect of the communication relationship between the video professor and the student at home is mediated by the possibility the student has to interrupt the lesson, to go back to the more difficult passages, to take notes stopping the pictures, to build a path of his own through the reading of one or more lessons according to the points he is most interested in. The possibilities of utilisation of video recorded lesson are, therefore, notably different from those of a traditional student ones, since this last one can follow the lessons only in real time.

Television is also used as an electronic blackboard: each user can consult the Teletext pages to know the broadcasting schedule, the recommended texts and didactic software packages and any information about Consorzio NETTUNO’s activities.

Exercises and Tutoring

Exercises and tutoring are carried out at the Technological Poles. The National Centre receives from the professors who realised the videolessons the videolessons supplementary materials such as printed materials (lecture notes, texts of exercises, software, video exercises) and it sees to making the necessary copies and to quickly deliver them to the Technological Poles located at the various universities’ campuses in order to put them at the tutors’ disposal who work as researcher and professors at the traditional universities and to the exams professors’ disposal. Every day the Technoogical Poles send to Consorzio NETTUNO all information data related to the activities, schedules and places, situated in the various sites, where exercises are carried out, tutors’ availability be contacted by phone to get support, e-mail details, the calendar of the exams. Consorzio NETTUNO collects all these information and, after having processed these data, puts them on Teletext and on the Internet to spread them.

At present, 242 tutors and 203 professors who organise the exams, besides 130 video professors, carry out practice work and tutoring activities at the Technological Poles of the various universities. The relationship between tutors and students is still an essential component in distance education system.

The tutor has to:

  • motivate the student, give him his advice and encourage him;
  • support and facilitate the student’s learning process whether working by himself or with other groups of students;
  • check the knowledge and the skills acquired by correcting his assignments; this should be done by the tutors who have to make remarks on the students’ mistakes, giving suggestions and giving further explanations;
  • assess their progress and give them a tool by means of which they can assess their condition and their needs.

The assessments of the learning progress, made also through personal meetings, represent elements that can be used more or less systematically to modify the courses on the basis of the students’ needs and wishes. Even if many people believe that the tutor should be identified only with the one who carries on practice work, that often doubles the video course, Consorzio NETTUNO tutoring model is characterised by a system that sees the tutor as the person who carries on practice work activities for most of the time in traditional universities’ classrooms. This educational option is not exclusively based on rational decisions, but it is due also to the power of tradition and to negative prejudices as it regards the applicability of dissimilar teaching-learning modes. There is not a study that proves that students studying at distance work less than the other students who do teamwork in a classroom. Some studies show that they works as well and other ones show that the work even better (Childs, 1965:81).

Many students cannot or do not want to spend their own time in face-to-face sessions: the would rather call (or write) to their tutor instead of moving; the prefer working according to their own learning rhythms by themselves. Since most of the users include working students and students who cannot attend the university, distance courses effectiveness is assessed also according to the flexibility degrees assured by the educational offer.

Personal consulting, on the tutoring line realised in Oxbridge (stimulating periods of exchange between tutor and student) and group discussions, organised and spontaneously arising possibly before the exams sessions, are preferred by the students instead of face-to-face exercises.

As shown by the 1995 Questionnaire on Quality, the Consorzio NETTUNO students proposed many solutions to enhance exercises and tutoring facilities includine: send to the student’s home exercise materials; exercises more closely linked to the exams subjects; possibilità to implement face-to-face courses scheduled in specific periods of the year for those who are unable to go to the Technological Poles; for all courses, in addition, video recorded exercises would be greatly appreciated: 75% on average of the students expressed this wish.

This last issue is particularly interesting since it confirms that the use of educational contents via video is an effective learning mode and allows affirming that it would be advisable to maintain distance teaching and learning modes not only for the more theoretical lessons, but also for study sessions that are more aimed at practical issues. In order to answer to the needs directly expressed by distance students, some professors of Consorzio NETTUNO have already realised from 10 to 12 hours of video exercises for each course that are available also on videocassette. The realisation of the video exercises is carried on by the same professor who delivered the course video lessons; he shows concrete exercises and explains the relative solutions, gives suggestions on how to solve further questions and show the virtual students the exercises to be made by oneself; in addition, some video exercises are devoted to the illustration of simulations of exam texts. Beside this kind of materials that allows to transmit the exercises also at the students’ home, technologies allowing to start up bi-directional and interactive communication relationships are being tested. More specifically: videoconferencing, telematic systems such as the ISDN network, audio-conferencing and computer-conferencing and Internet.

The video/computer-conferencing system for remote tutoring that was experimented in Consorzio NETTUNO didactics between the Technological Pole of the Polytechnic of Turin and the Technological Pole of Alessandria allowed for testing a remote tutoring system; in particular a multimedia point-to-point connection through two H320 videoconferencing stations was set up. The following services are supplied:

  • video-telephone services for tutors and students’ sound and picture broadcasting;
  • window-sharing services to display and share documents in electronic format;
  • white board services for tutors-students interaction on documents acquired by a scanner;
  • file-transfer services for document exchange.

As it regards the use of systems such as the ISDN and Internet networks the audio/video-teleconferencing is being tested through the ISDN network. Teleconferencing is realised in three sites: National Centre, at the Technological Pole at Politecnico di Torino and at the Technological Pole at the University of Naples "Federico II". This is aimed at:

  • increasing interaction among professors, giving chances of meeting for the professors in charge of the courses, who are distributed over the national territory to assure the operational coordination of the Diploma;
  • promoting a higher level of interaction among professors and tutors in order to assure a higher homogeneity of the didactics and fix evaluation sessions between the professor in charge of the course and the tutors who assure their support to the students at the Technological Poles;
  • promoting a higher level of interaction between professors/tutors and students. This objective, in particular, envisages the organisation of exercises by the a tutor/trainer for the students located in the far-off sites and the supply of tutoring service by videoconferencing during which the tutor is at their disposal (according to a pre-established schedule).

In addition, the exams session will scheduled in such a way as to enable also the students living in far-off places to take the exams and know the exams mode in advance. Interactivity between professors and students that takes place with these systems is, of course, an interactivity that can work only among small groups. Actually, the word interactivity is often used in superficial way in distance teaching systems since the interactivity between professors and students in a distance teaching process, addressed to large masses of users, is difficult to obtain, as it is difficult to obtain in the over-crowded classrooms of traditional universities, where face-to-face teaching takes place. The situation is quite different, if distance teaching is addressed to few students, therefore to small groups to carry on guided practice work or in doctorate and specialisation basic courses.

As it regards the Internet, we realised a Website with the aim of:

  • creating a database for documentation, the realisation of communication infrastructure among students, professionals and the community of Internet users;
  • start up a dialogue with those who work at education and tutoring questions to keep the adopted solutions at a cutting-edge level and to be able to create international bibliographical references that is available on NETTUNO website and also virtual one, that is a set of references, links etc. related to Internet users and sites that deal with similar questions.

This natural openness to communication allows all categories of users/managers to exchange views and it also represents a basis for an auto-implementation (some sort of web-based expert system) above all for what concerns the documentation and experimentation of an interactive tutoring support.

Mixed Didactic Model

The start-up of the organizational and structural model described below has allowed a new pedagogic model to be created that fulfils the requirement of flexibility and that manages to avoid the isolation of the student. This is a mixed model that empowers traditional systems by using a way of teaching unencumbered by spatial-temporal limits, but still maintains direct interaction. The model of distance teaching proposed by NETTUNO considers the distance arrangement that includes activities out of which the student studies alone and activities that use new technologies and activities that make the student interact with other people –either in person or at a distance. With this model, one is able to attain “that difficult synthesis between interaction and independence” (Garito, 1996). The two models are described below:

Traditional Method:

  • direct interaction with teacher and tutor.
  • seminars and practical assignments carried out in the presence of the tutor or teacher.
  • meetings for tutors and groups of students held at the Technological Poles.

Distance Method:

  • Academic lectures (40 academic hours broadcast on television).
  • Practice exercises (exercises on the Internet, multimedia software, video and computer conferencing).
  • Distance tutoring (over the telephone, by video, audio, and computer conferencing, by fax, e-mail, computer forums and chat rooms).

Revica mixed model.jpg

The technologies used by the Network per l’Università Ovunque NETTUNO are basically two: television via satellite and Internet. Television via satellilte. All of the teacher’s courses are broadcast on RAI channel 2 and are aired 24 hours a day on the satellite channel RAINETTUNO-SAT, which RAI beams from the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2 satellite. There are 240 courses produced by the Network per l’Università Ovunque NETTUNO for a total of 12000 hours of university video-lessons. Besides the video-lessons, there are books, exercise books, multimedia software and products, and didactic Internet websites linked to the videolessons.

Traditional Didactic Methods

Today, modern technology can bring about “presence at a distance” (through video-conferencing, chat rooms…). NETTUNO puts forth a didactics based on a method of teaching/learning that is synchronous (teaching and learning happening at the same time, but not in the same place) and diachronic (training and educational processes that are no longer tied to the same time and place).

Diachronic Method

Above all, it’s necessary to underline that this method offers the highest degree of flexibility: the lack of spatial-temporal limitations allows the student to learn at his/her own pace and at times of his choice. The lack of limits of space also allows the student to use didactic materials in every possible context: at home, at work, at the study centres – according to his or her needs. Therefore, optimal learning is fostered. Different aspects of learning are included in the diachronic method:

  • symbolic-reconstructive learning
  • learning by doing
  • collaborative learning mediated by written work on supportive technologies.

In the first two methods, man and machine interact: the student uses a VCR, satellite television, computer, telecommunication networks, and virtual laboratories. In collaborative learning, interaction takes place not only between person and technology, but also between students and/or teachers. Interaction is carried out through the use of technologies that are based on writing: e-mail, discussion forums on the Internet, fax. Overcoming the limits of time and space, these instruments create the conditions for creating a “virtual community” and for triggering collaborative learning processes on the network, fostering new methods of socialization. The possibility to start up relationships for study purposes is essential because it allows the discussion and clearing up of the many doubts that haven’t always been taken fully into account by the teachers and tutors.

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Synchronic method

In the synchronic method, the development of new technologies has brought with it a particularly significant innovation. Telecommunication has made it possible to initiate interaction in real time without needing the participants to be present in the same place. Time unfolds simultaneously for all, but place is no longer a necessary condition. Just like in the case of collaborative learning mediated through writing, interaction happens not only with technology, but also occurs between groups of students, groups of instructors, and between students and instructors. The synchronic method, therefore, allows collaborative learning to be carried out through video-conferencing, conference calls, and Internet chat rooms.

2. International Telematic University UNINETTUNO – U.T.I.U.

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The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, recognised with Ministerial Decree of 15 April 2005, is a single great university where professors of high prestige of important universities worldwide deliver their courses in many languages in the real and virtual places on the Internet. U.T.I.U.’s internationality is a founding character that permeates all activities the didactic and research ones and the academic relationships as well. The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO is based on a close cooperation with traditional universities, Italian ones and also European, of the Arab World, of the United States, Latin America ones and at present it is concluding new agreements with universities of China, Russia and Africa. The alliance of university institutions of many countries of the world allows supplying wider and more diversified offers as it regards the teaching staff and the subjects and educational contents as well. The main didactic tool is the Internet-based learning environment www.uninettunouniversity.net , the first portal in the world where teaching and learning are carried out in four languages: Italian, French, English and Arabic. The institution is structured upon an International Centre, Faculties, University Degree Courses and Technological Poles. The Technological Poles are located in Italy and also abroad; they are facilities at the students’ disposal equipped with all technologies needed to follow the distance teaching courses, participate in training activities by videoconference and they represent a real meeting-point to host face-to-face exams sessions, meetings and seminars with professors and tutors. The management bodies are: the Board of Directors, the President, the Rector, the Academic Senate, the Faculties Councils, the Board of Evaluation, the Board of Auditors. The University is authorised to issue study titles legally acknowledged in Italy and abroad for: first-level degrees (bachelor’s degrees), specialisation degrees, research doctorates and master’s course. For the academic year 2005-2006 five faculties are operational and they offer seven three-year degree courses:

  • Engineering Faculty
    • Civil Engineering
    • Computer Engineering
    • Management Engineering
  • Law Faculty
    • Legal Expert in Development and Internationalisation of Enterprises
  • Economics Faculty
    • Economics and Business Management
  • Psychology Faculty
    • Psycho-social Disciplines
  • Literature Faculty
    • Cultural Assets Operator

The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO take origin from NETTUNO - Network per l’Università Ovunque model (operating in Italy since 1992) and from the success of the European Project Med Net’U - Mediterranean Network of University. With the Med Net’U - Mediterranean Network of Universities), funded by the European Commission in the framework of the EUMEDIS Programme and coordinated by NETTUNO - Network per l’Università Ovunque and which saw the participation of 11 Mediterranean Countries (Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Greece, France, Italy, Morocco and Syria) the following results were obtained:

  1. The design of two common curricula in the Engineering area according to the lines indicated in the Bologna and Sorbonne processes (three years of basic studies plus two specialisation years).
  2. the production, in four languages (Arabic, English, French and Italian) of all the modules of the degree course in Information and Communication Engineering and in Mechanical Engineering
  3. the training of teachers, tutors and technical staff strictly related to the competences and skills needed in distance education
  4. the realisation of networked structure based on transmitting and receiving bi-directional satellite technologies, set up at the 11 Production Centres and 31 Technological Poles, at the Mediterranean Partner Universities’ sites: it is the only bi-directional distance teaching network existing n the Euro-Mediterranean Area;
  5. the development of an didactic platform based on Internet via satellite, in four languages – the only one worldwide Arabic, French, English and Italian – and the availability on the satellite channel, RAI NETTUNO SAT 1, of an area entirely devoted to the broadcasting in four languages of the videolessons realised by the professors of the universities of the Arab World and of Europe.

Med Net’U takes origin from the model of NETTUNO - Network per l’Università Ovunque – operating in Italy since fifteen years, 31 partners, traditional universities, distance universities and technological companies from 11 Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, France, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey), they all worked together and realised a true technological network based on the use of transmitting and receiving digital satellites connecting 11 production centres and 31 technological poles at the partners’ sites.

Today all partners can produce, broadcast and receive educational contents, through Internet via satellite and on television, on RAI NETTUNO SAT 1 as well, that, since one year has been broadcasting academic lessons of the Engineering degree course in Arabic, English, French and Italian. RAI NETTUNO SAT 1 is the only television channel in the world that airs its programmes in four languages and that is broadcast by the HOT BIRD satellite that has very wide geographic coverage reaching whole Europe and also the Mediterranean Basin, Asia and Africa.

Today the Governments of the partner countries support the development of Med Net’U from project to system: the support to this process was expressed also in the framework of the Third Catania Conference for the creation of Euro-Mediterranean Area for Higher Education that took place from the 27 to 29 January 2006, and during which 14 Ministers of Higher Education of various Mediterranean Countries undersigned a joint declaration which lays the foundations to start up new relationships. The 14 signatories Ministers undersigned, at point 6 of the Declaration to “strengthening the distance learning system, by expanding the results attained through the Med Net’U Project, in order to encourage the widest possible access to education and training in a perspective of lifelong learning”.

The shift from the Med Net’U Project to the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO has been concretised by the conclusion of academic agreements with some universities of the Arab World and of the Middle East, belonging to countries such as Egypt (Helwan University and Cairo University), Jordan (Yarmouk University and Jordan University of Science and Technology) and Tunica (Tunis Virtual University) and the Ministry of Education and Training of Morocco (SEFT - Secrétariat d’Etat chargé de la Formation Professionnelle of Morocco).

These agreements were then ratified by special conventions with the Ministries of Education, University and Research of the concerned countries and they allow that the academic title issues by the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO is considered valid also in the Mediterranean countries that signed the agreement.

The launching of the activities of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO/Med Net’U in the Mediterranean countries has actually started. On the 14 March 2006 we inaugurated the UNINETTUNO Technological Pole at the site of the Secretariat of State for Vocational Training in Rabat, Morocco. In this structure, the Moroccan Government is using the Computer Literacy distance courses realised with the Med Net’U Project and is already training the executives of the various ministries in the use of the new technologies.

On the 15 June 2006 the UNINETTUNO Technological Pole was inaugurated at the Helwan University’ site in Egypt, just as a starting-point, and nearly 40 students are enrolled in the Computer Engineering Degree Course of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO and they have already successfully passed the exams of the first year. The Egyptian professors were trained by our professors to be able to follow the student as tutors and jointly with our professors the carry on the exams face-to-face and by videoconferencing.

On the 26 October 2008, in the presence of the President of the Italian Republic and of the highest officials of Egypt, was undersigned an historic academic agreement between the first Egyptian e-Learning Distance University, the EELU Egyptian E-Learning University, and the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO.

By a special provision the Egyptian Government allowed the Egyptian students enrolling to UNINETTUNO courses to get the acknowledgement of the Egyptian – Italian joint academic title. On this basis the two universities started up a cooperation in order to design and produce jointly the contents of the distance teaching courses in the fields of Economics, Management, International Law, Tourism, Cultural Heritage and Vocational Training courses aimed at meeting the employment needs of the new markets of labour and at making students acquire both professional skills and general cultural and language skills to those who want to emigrate to the European countries.

Cooperation in the research field and international agreements

Arab countries

Egypt

  • Letter of Intent UNINETTUNO - Cairo University - Helwan University (11 December 2004)
  • Agreement with Helwan University, Cairo (Egypt). This agreement is about the scientific and educational cooperation with the state University of Helwan that can rely on 18 faculties and 50 research centres and that has reached high prestige thanks to its engineering faculties. In addition, this agreement envisages the possibilty for Helwan University students to enrol to the degree courses produced by UNINETTUNO and also the possibility to co-produce further degree courses and master’s courses they are both interested in. Thanks to this agreement it was established a Technological Pole at Helwan University and it is envisaged the delivery of joint academic titles with double title (15 June 2006).
  • Agreement for setting up Study Centres in cooperation between UNINETTUNO and Istituto Salesiano “Don Bosco” (15 May 2006)
  • Memorandum of Understanding between Helwan University – UNINETTUNO – Istituto Salesiano “Don Bosco” – Italian Embassy in Egypt (25 Octobre 2006)
  • Academic agreement undersigned by the first Egyptian Distance University (EELU) and the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO (UTIU) - Cairo (26 October 2008)

Jordan

  • Letter of Intent UNINETTUNO – Yarmouk University – Jordan University of Science and Technology (20 April 2005)

Morocco

  • Convention de partenariat entre Le Secretariat d’Etat charge de l’Alphabetisation et de l’Education non formelle et UNINETTUNO en matiere de Cooperation dans le domaine de l’alphabetisation et de l’education non formelle a distance (28 April 2005)
  • Accord cadre de coopération entre Le Secrétariat d’état chargé de la Formation Professionnelle Maroc et UNINETTUNO dans le domaine de la Formation Professionnelle a distance (14 March 2006)

Tunisia

  • Projet de convention-cadre de Cooperation entre l’Université Virtuelle de Tunis et UNINETTUNO (14 April 2005)
  • Agreement with the Université Publique de Tunis El Manar (Tunisia). This agreement is aimed at mutual cooperation target to the analysis and use of UNINETTUNO distance teaching models and the implementation of a Technological Pole. The Université de Tunis El Manar is a state university whose main aims are education and training. It has over 45000 students and it is one of the most important of the country (10 May 2007)
  • Amendment, agree on by the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO and the Université Virtuelle de Tunis, to the Framework Agreement concluded by UNINETTUNO S.r.l. and the Université Virtuelle de Tunis on the 14th April 2005 (Tunisia). This amendment aims at mutual cooperation for the study and use of UNINETTUNO distance teaching models and the establishment of a Technological Pole. The Université Virtuelle de Tunis is a university established in 2002 operating in the field of distance education and training (24 August 2007).

Americas

Ecuador - Agreement with the Centro Ecoeducation Celestin Freinet of Quito (Ecuador). This agreement is aimed at mutual cooperation for the study and use of UNINETTUNO distance teaching models and at the establishment of Study Centre in Ecuador. The Centro Ecoeducation Celestin Freinet of Quito is one of the most prestigious bodies in the field of education in Ecuador and was realised thanks to the cooperation of Italian humanitarian activists (10 October 2008).

USA - Agreement with the St. Andrew's Theological College and Seminary of Lexington (North Carolina, USA). This agreement aims at mutual cooperation for the study and use fo UNINETTUNO distance teaching models and the establishment of a Technological Pole. The St. Andrew's Theological College and Seminary was founed in North Carolina in 1967 with the objective of supplying higher education courses to students from all over the world, promoting knowledge and culture in the humanities, technical-scientific and vocational training sector. (9 July 2007).

Europe

France

  • Partnership protocol with the Institut des Sciences de la Communication du CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique – France). This Protocol is aimed at scientific cooperation in the field of language and communication, political communication, globalisation and cultural diversity, scientific information, sciences, technologies applied to teaching and learning processes etc. (8 July 2008).

Malta

  • Letter of Intent with the University of Malta. This agreement concluded with the representation of Malta University in Italy, the Link Campus Foundation, is about the study and research work aimed at the dissemination and implementation of distance university degree courses, master’s courses and training and re-training courses paying specific attention to the subjects related to the specific studies targeted to accountants and labour consultants. The University of Malta is the first foreign university authorised to operate in Italy. The agreement aims also at cooperation between the Parties for the establishment of Technological Pole at Link Campus’ site. (18 May 2007).
  • Scientific Partnership with the EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities), an international organisation which represents the most important distance teaching universities of Europe and also national networks of the organisations operating in the field of distance education and e-learning. The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO is a member of the EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities) and develops research activities with them (27 October 2006).
  • Letter of Intent and Scientific Partnership with the EMUNI Centre - University Centre for Euro-Mediterranean Studies, a university centre, based in Portorož, Slovenia, whose statutory objectives are to promote cultural exchange among the Euro-Mediterranean countries by sharing knowledge, higher education and research; to promote networking among the countries of the Euro-Mediterranean area; play a significant role in favour of socio-economic and environmental sustainable development. The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO signed the Letter of Intent and the Foundation Charter and, in addition, it is member of the Academic Senate of the EMUNI University. At present, an important Master’s course delivered by the UTIU is being held also with the contribution of EMUNI: it is the Master’s course in Euro-Mediterranean Cultures and Policies (25 May 2008).
  • Scientific Partnership with the ICDE - International Council for Open and Distance Education, a global network for the organisation of the whole world that operate in the field of distance education. The main objective of the ICDE is to promote intercultural cooperation and mutual understanding among different cultures enhancing learning strategies and flexibility of the educational models to spread them in global basis. The ICDE is recognised by the United Nations (UNESCO) and since it is a Global Umbrella Membership Organization in Online, Flexible and Blended Learning, is one of the most reference structure at global level as it regards distance education and online training (2007).
  • Scientific Partnership with the Anna Lindh Foundation, an international organisation for the promotion of a network among the organisations of civil society that work for enhancing dialogue among the Mediterranean Countries. To this end, the Foundation keeps open communication channels with the governments of the Euro-Mediterranean Association. The Anna Lindh Foundation mission is to unite people and organisation of both shores of the Mediterranean Sea contributing to enhance a peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding. The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO supports and is member of the Foundation playing a role and giving a contribution to realisation of the statutory aims (2007).
  • Scientific Partnership with E.P.U.F. - Euromed Permanent University Forum, a network representing 37 Euro-Mediterranean Countries working in favour of internationalisation in its widest meaning. The main objective of the Forum’s activities is to contribute to the establishment of Euro-Mediterranean Area for Higher Education and Research, following the lines promoted by the Bologna Process. The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO is among the signatories of the agreement for the establishement of the Forum and it promotes its scientific activities (2006).
  • Scientific Partnership with ELIG – European Learning Industry Group, an open industrial group whose members share search for solution to problems dealing with eco-systems applying innovative tools in line with the 21st century evolution. ELIG tries to promote innovation in learning, in knowledge creation and in spreading it all over Europe. More specifically ELIG’s mission is aimed at the following issues: give innovative inputs to the policy makers at European, national and regional level. In addition, ELIG presents itself as a communication tool between research and market, highlighting the most innovative developments and trends in view of sustainable progress in favour of the respect of eco-systems and of the stakeholders and of the market as well. The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO contributes to the dialogue and internal exchange among the members of the Group and to the research of innovative channels and tools to share knowledge thanks to their know-how and through its network (2008).


The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, in order to develop its futures projects of cooperation with the Arab World can already use the technological facilities (Production Centres and Technological Poles) set up within the Med Net’U Project located at the sites of 31 Universities and Vocational Training Centres of 11 countries of the Arab World involved in the Project. The Production Centres are equipped for the realisation of multimedia educational products (videolessons, online exercises, texts, Internet sites, multimedia products) that will be aired on satellite television, Internet via satellite and that will be available on the didactic portal. Thanks to the network of professors coming from the best universities of the Arab and European countries that have been trained by our professors in the use of the new technologies and in distance teaching methods, the realisation of new courses in four languages is easy and undemanding for the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO.

The network structure created with the Med Net’U Project in agreement with all partners is the Euro-Mediterranean network of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO; we already agreed with other universities of other countries to make their students enrol to UNINETTUNO. We joint the list of countries, universities and vocational training centres already in operation.

With the Med Net’U it was realised a technological network, based on a bi-directional satellite Euro-Mediterranean satellite network connecting in an interactive way 11 Production Centres and 31 Technological Poles of the Mediterranean University. The students coming from different countries and different cultures can enrol through the Internet to the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO courses and study at distance connecting themselves to a special Internet-based learning environment (www.uninettunouniversity.net) , the can choose whether to attend their distance education courses in the language they prefer: in Arabic or Italian, in English or in French, and be support at distance by professors/tutors in the technological poles of the nearest university and connected to the international centre of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO of Rome through computer-based networks.

Thanks to this new model of university the students of the Middle East can study and learn about our culture and the Western students can learn from the best teachings of the Arab academic culture, all being free from reciprocal prejudices but having as a sole goal to deepen and enlarge their own knowledge. At present, there are by now a lot of students of the Arab World who are enrolled and who attend our courses.

Thanks to the new technologies distances are being overcome; European and Arab professors cooperate to creation of single international pole of knowledge; together they built a single great university where the best teachers of the European and Mediterranean Universities deliver their courses in their own language and in the various faculties going from Engineering to Economics, to Psychology, from Cultural Assets to International Law, to Communication Sciences.

Every university and every professor is the protagonist of the new educational process; the design of the curricula and selection of the professors in charge of the delivery of the distance courses, and therefore to realise the videolessons and the multimedia materials related to each module, is carried out jointly in the framework of the Scientific Committee of each faculty; all professors are selected and co-opted according to their CVs and therefore on the recognisability of their international scientific titles.


Psycho-pedagogic and didactic model

With the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO it has been developed a new psycho-pedagogic and didactic model allowing to:

  • Start, also at distance, new communication relationships between students and professors, promoting, thanks to a special Internet-based platform, the shift from one-way communication (typical of the first distance teaching models) to a two-way real time communication model also available in real time;
  • Use an Internet via satellite PC as the focus of a system where different contributions from different media converge. This model allows transmitting directly from the University to the student’s homes or workplaces lessons, multimedia products, databases, tutorials, practice work, assessment systems.
Internet to teach and learn

The main didactic tool is the Internet-based learning environment on www.uniNETTUNOuniversity.net , the first portal in the world where teaching and learning are carried out in four languages: Italian, French, English and Arabic. From this learning environment it is possible to access to a section named as Didactic Cyberspace. There are available, for each module included in the curriculum, the professors’ pages, the tutors’ pages from which it is possible to access to: videolessons digitised with bookmarks allowing for hypertextual and multimedia link to books, selected bibliographical reference, texts, exercises, virtual laboratories and lists of websites selected by the professors.

The Professor and Tutor’s page is considered as the focus of the didactic activities and is structured according to different learning environments that guide the student along its learning path. According to this model the student can build his own learning path based upon his learning needs and his skill-level and he is at the centre of the learning process, guided by the new profile of the professor  telematic tutor who has the task of supplying the tools needed to facilitate the networked learning and communication process in a synchronic and diachronic way. The proposed activity allows the shift:

  • From transfer of knowledge to the creation of knowledge;
  • From passive and competitive learning to active and collaborative learning;
  • From simple to complex (video lesson and intelligent library);
  • From theory to application projection (learning by doing in the virtual laboratory);
  • From guided exercises to research on the World Wide Web (the Internet); and
  • From individual study to interactive dialogue between professors and students (on the Internet).
Digitised videolessons

The video lessons are digitised in order to be used on the Internet via satellite. What characterises this digitisation model is:

  1. modularity of contents that allows the students to access a specific skill level;
  2. indexing of subjects favours hypertextual navigation; indexing has the function of a cognitive map and guides the students along the different didactic paths;
  3. bookmarks, icons that blink during the video lesson and lead the student to the hypertextual materials related to the video lesson; texts, exercises, Virtual Laboratories, bibliographical references, lists of websites, on-line tutoring.

Using the digitised video lessons, the student has the possibility not only of setting up symbolic-reconstructive learning processes linked to a classical linear teaching mode, but thanks to the modular structure of the contents, to the subject indexing, and to the bookmarks, the student can develop hypertextual and multimedia processes that allow him to enrich and enhance his meta-cognitive strategies and favour the customisation of the learning paths, allowing the set up of active, constructive and interactive learning processes.

In order to integrate the videolessons there are practical exercises and virtual laboratories. The Virtual Laboratory looks like a true learning environment where the student can put into practice the abstract principles learnt in the theoretical lessons and by setting up a “learning by doing” process, they can virtually develop abilities and integrate theory and practice. Human mind works better on concrete and specific cases rather than on abstract data; besides, learning by doing enhances the learning process and facilitates the solution of problems. Virtual laboratories are essential tools to acquire specific professional tools and are very frequently used in vocational training courses, where the method most used is the virtual simulation of operational procedures and abilities.

In this environment the student has an active role, but he is always guided by the intelligent system or by an expert tutor who, through the telematic networks, follows the student’s learning process. Through virtual laboratories it is possible to overcome many of the limits of web-based teaching; it allows to organise trials and offers the possibility to learn on the basis of practical simulations, allowing to virtually put into practice what has just been learnt.

This inevitably leads us to another important aspect: the overcoming of space and time barriers. Thanks to the telematic network, the same virtual environment can be shared at the same time by several users (teachers and students from different places in the world).

Online tutoring

This is the true interactive synchronic section of the portal. In this section, real tutors/professors support the students by chat, including audio and video, revise the assignments, guide them to overcome difficulties, not only with regards to learning, but also the psychological ones linked to distance study. Online tutoring is structured on classes, with an advanced profiling system, where the user is recognised unequivocally, allows constant monitoring of the learning process of each individual user/student. Using the chats, videochats, the professor-tutor, through by means of the Socratic-style interactive dialogues, helps the student to analyse his reasoning process and discover and correct not only the mistakes, but also their causes.

Through real-time videoconferences and recorded forums, the telematic tutor organises and structures the collaborative learning sessions to favour the opportunities of interaction among the different actors of the educational process and develops networked socialisation models between communities of distance students and teachers.

The professor => telematic tutor plays the role of professor-director, designs learning scenarios and gives the students theoretical and conceptual tools, but also tools that transform the knowledge in practical abilities and therefore into professional skills; it favours the integration between know how to be and know how to do.

Learning models

With regards to the development of learning, it is important to note that the study strategies set up during the use of the digitised video lessons allow setting up a learning process where it is the student who masters time. Actually, the student, besides having the possibility to customise all his study paths, can interact with different materials and realise a multimedia and hypertextual study strategy: he can organised the stored knowledge using different registers such as text, sound and pictures; he can interrupt viewing the video lessons to consult databases or texts available in the virtual library; he can try practical activities in the laboratory to see if he can transform his theoretical knowledge in practical abilities; he can navigate the Internet to enrich the subject with information that can come from different cultural and linguistic settings, or interact with other students and experts on the subject by means of “Forums” and chats (Garito, 1998).

In particular, a hypertextual learning takes place. Many authors having a cognitive and connectivity approach agree on defining the hypertextual technologies as a tool capable of favouring a new kind of learning.These technologies are closer to the natural way of working of the human mind, since there exists a substantial analogy between the network of links typical of a hypertext and that of the working of the human mind, meant as a neural network.

Hypertextual learning guides the student in his explorative dynamics by proposing to him a non-linear type of knowledge that is made up of plots and connections among nodes. Besides, the hypertextual learning stimulates autonomy and makes the student also become the author, as it gives him the opportunity to realise his own navigation paths among the nodes of knowledge proposed and to choose the detail and learning level he wishes to attain.

Basically, the student is given a learning environment that stimulates exploration and discovery, a tool to “learn how to learn”; to develop new learning strategies.

In addition, the inclusion of the virtual laboratory into the didactic cyberspace allows the development of new learning models that tend to shift human cognitive working from the symbolic-constructivist mode to that of perceptive-motor working. Learning linked to the perceptive-motor is related to the primary mode of acquisition and therefore turns out to be largely independent of differences of age, education, culture etc..

Professors and students new roles

The new distance universities allow not only to update teaching and learning methods, but also to update the roles of teacher and of student.

The new cultural setting requires above all a renewal of the old function of the teacher seen as the absolute repository of knowledge, sole transmitter of knowledge and solitary protagonist of the educational process. The teacher should abandon the role of “sage on the stage”, to take over the softer, but more crucial, role of “guide”. The new role that takes shape is that one of a teacher-director who designs learning scenarios and cooperates with his students to jointly create a training path that takes into account the different learning styles.

The new teacher should be able to use the new technologies of the mind to transmit knowledge, but also to share and develop new kinds of knowledge.

This new teaching style, that implies that “the teacher wears again Socrates’ cloak” and becomes a guide favours, consequently, the appearance on the pedagogical stage of a new student who can manage his own learning process.

The old student, no longer a passive receiver of knowledge and isolated observer of the expert performance of the teacher, yields the step to the new student, who is an active constructor of his own knowledge and independent and protagonist of the concrete application of the knowledge he acquired. Therefore, teaching and learning by means of television, telecommunications networks, Internet with its Forums, chats and e-mail, transform traditional didactics into an open system that is capable of updating itself and organise an ever increasing and diversified amount of knowledge.

3. Università Telematica Pegaso

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The Università Telematica Pegaso, established with the Ministerial Decree of 20 April 2008 (“Gazzetta Ufficiale” n° 118 of 23-5-2006- “Supplemento Ordinario” n.125), is an open university that can meet varied educational needs in compliance with the laws in force, exploiting the modern educational systems and methodologies and meet a wide range of needs of the current society. The study courses envisage a high degree of independence of the didactic path as it regards the physical presence and specific schedules and the continuous monitoring of the learning progress by tracing the student’s path including also several assessment and auto-assessment sessions. The Università Telematica Pegaso makes use of computer-based and telematic system architecture that can manage and put at the user’s disposal high-quality online higher education courses that, once completed, issue academic titles that have the same legal values of those issued by traditional universities. The strongest and most innovative aspect of the Università Telematica Pegaso is represented by the attention given to national and international level research and to the promotion of the education of younger generation in the research field. To this end the university aims to:

  • implement, after the first three years, two university interrelated degree courses;
  • implement research doctorates related to theses degree courses;
  • launch competitions for research allocations.

The University includes the following Faculties:

  • Law Faculty
  • Humanities Faculty

4. Università telematica "Guglielmo Marconi"

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The Università Telematica "Guglielmo Marconi" was acknowledged by the MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research) with Ministerial Decree of 1 March 2004 (“Gazzetta Ufficiale” n° 65 of the 18/03/2004). This University, which is a public non state university, is registered in the “Anagrafe Nazionale delle Ricerche” (National Research Register) and provides a high quality education through the use of innovative communication technologies which implement a continuous learning process without any limit of space or time. Since academic year 2008/2009 the University didactics is organized to meet the Student’s learning needs, by adapting and streamlining the training activities on the base of flexible educational paths and according to the following modalities: A) Full distance teaching (e-learning): it envisages the delivery of the course through the different technologies available, such as the platform (web/internet), mobile learning (cell phones, palms, etc.), interactive TV (TV/Web TV) according to each student’s skills and learning style. B) Blended didactics: it envisages the on-line full path and - compatibly with the limit of the missing students and teachers presence at the same time, and according to the student’s learning needs – it integrates the training activity with workshops, group lessons (minimum 15 students), in-depth and review sessions.

The University includes the following faculties:

  • Faculty of Economics
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Faculty of Training Sciences
  • Faculty of Political Science
  • Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technologies

5. Università telematica “e-Campus”

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The Università Telematica e-Campus was acknowledged by the MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research) with Ministerial Decree of the 30 January 2006. It was born with the aim of proposing to the young people accessing the university, to practitioners, entrepreneurs, managers and to any business and cultural stakeholders educational paths that meet concrete needs of acquiring skills that can be used on the labour market, that are consistent with their professional development plan and consistent with their cultural interests. Therefore their educational offer is characterised by some basic specificities that actually implemented in the didactic rules. First of all, the e-Campus Telematic University is based on research work. It established internal and external research centres aimed at carrying out basic and applied research work with the purpose of developing the potentials of the various disciplines in terms of applicability in traditional contexts and in new contexts that are presently emerging. The Research Centre on Learning plays a prominent role and the e-Campus University bases its entire educational offer in terms of didactics and innovative methodologies on it. As body aimed at learning purposes, the e-Campus University focuses its research work on it. This completely reversibility of the institutional mission allows for a continuous updating of the methodologies, a systematic monitoring of the teaching and learning processes underway, a great flexibility in meeting the new educational needs.

In addition, the e-Campus University promotes research in all disciplinary fields it works in with purpose of meeting the demands of companies, of school, public administration, social operators. In addition, the e-Campus educational offer enhances the role of research also as it regards the educational frame of reference, proposing cognitive pathways that engagé the student not so in terms of acquisition and collection of notions, but above all in tasks of action-research, that are appropriately guided, in order to develop a professional mindset point to research of solutions and that does not limit itself to the mere execution of procedures.

The e-Campus University analyses the new professional needs and designs new professional profiles on the basis of specificities that come from industrial companies, services sector, public administration, school, non-profit organisation, public and private institutions. The University includes the following Faculties:

  • Faculty of Engineering
  • Faculty of Economics
  • Faculty of Psychology
  • Faculty of Literature
  • Faculty of Law

References

Bibliography

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