The scientific and technology research lines of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, as provided for in art. 30 of the Didactic Regulations of the Ministerial Decree of the 15 April 2005 (published in the “ Gazzetta Ufficiale” of the 12th May 2005), are established by art. 20 of the University Didactic Rules which envisages the development of research activities and methodologies related to distance teaching and learning processes.
This research is named as University research since its results are applied to the UTIU organisational models as well as to psycho-pedagogic and technological models applied to distance teaching and learning and are used by all Faculties that, of course, participate in these research activities. The University also aims at the internationalisation of scientific and technological research and at the development of a distance network as it regards their implementation. These objectives are of priority importance at national leve and also with regard to the face-to-face mode.
The research programme of the Psychology Faculty attains to both these priorities within the University research mission. Actually, the Faculty programme can be considered as an experimentation laboratory for new teaching and e-learning theories and modes. A permanent and completely independent research activity of the Faculty, in synergy with the other UTIU Faculties, and in particular with the Engineering one, is psycho-pedagogic research associated to the distance training model, carried out based on the psycho-pedagogic model designed and developed by Prof. Maria Amato Garito during her many research projects.
The results of these studies allow for a constant updating of the multimedia educational platform which, by now, represents an international standard in this sector. UNINETTUNO e-learning platform offers many opportunities for the research advancement in the field of educational development and instructional design. In this context, this research work is connected to the design of two functions: at one side, this research work can contribute to the enhancement of educational design and at the same time it can result into new theoretical knowledge. In particular, the Psychology Faculty academic staff carried out activities related to learning technologies and educational design within e-learning settings, the students’ perspective as it regards their learning environment and efficient strategies to face any individual or situational difficulties that could hinder the students’ training path.
The research work activities of the Psychology Faculty witnessed a significant development during the 2008 – 2010 years, both in terms of national and international projects and in terms of development of interest in individual research of single lecturers and researcher and represents an essential contribution to the full development and implementation of the University research mission. Actually the research programme and activities aim at studying the potentials of the various technologies (computer-based and telecommunication networks, digital television and education, hypertextual and multimedia systems, cognitive interfaces models etc.) in order to be able to create a coherent body of theoretical and operational knowledge which establishes a fair balance between engineering and cognitive technological components, the methodological and cultural and educational ones that pertain to information technologies.
The internationalisation of scientific and technological research and the use of distance networks are the priority features of the research programme of the Faculty both in terms of prevalence of European projects that characterised it and for the nature of cyclical development of the programme designed by the Faculty. The research programme follows two steps: the first step, which was achieved in 2010, starting from an internal design of the University, involved lecturers and researchers having a specific interest in these research issues and aiming at consolidating the research reference frame. The second step, that will be developed between 2011-2014 aims at involving scholars of International renown interested in this field and aiming at developing its internationally innovative character.
Briefly, UNINETTUNO research programme is described below in its interrelations among the following research lines:
- The new learning and instructional design technologies
The study and research work on the latest developments in the field of Virtual Learning Communities and the Web 2.0-based tools consists in a study on the emerging dynamics related to the learning community including the students of the Psychology Faculty and the analysis of the technologies used for collaboration and knowledge sharing. Surveys on learning styles and the impact of the new web-technologies. Particularly interesting are the Web 2.0- based tools, i.e- WIKIs, Twitter microblogging, FlickR photo, LinkedIn discussions, Video sharing, DELICIOUS social bookmarking, Social Tagging, RSS.
Other focus of interest is represented by technological innovations such as scalable multimedia contents based on the characteristics of different usage tools, the spreading of geo-referenced services, the adoption of mobile devices and the spreading of social tagging. Research in this field represent an essential pre-condition to facilitate the study of the distributed, de-centralised and constructive nature of the learning processes and of knowledge acquisition.
Research work in this field is strictly linked to investigation questions such as: what is the impact of emerging technologies on the Web and of Social Media on customised learning processes and on learning acquisition processes? The study of social construction of meanings and the recognition of patterns in knowledge acquisition represent one of the most important elements for innovating UNINETTUNO distance learning psycho-pedagogic models.
- Organisation development and the Telematic University
Applied research on organisation models of the distance teaching and learning system is essential to lead the University innovation and quality process in the context of global market. The survey on networked structures and International-level partnership, the development of cooperation policies, the transfer of knowledge and of the know-how of developing countries, the adoption of standard and common models and the development of innovative formats, as the Open Educational Resources, represent some of the issues being analysed within this research line.
- Role of individual factors and dynamics
This stream takes into account motivational aspects that can affect students’ engagement and constancy facing academic tasks as well as risk factors linked to problems in the students’ psychological and emotional behaviour. In particular, among the aspects that can affect the learning process we intend to study more in depth the role of personal expectations, self-image, emotional regulations, attention skills and learning skills in a computer-based situation that does not envisage a direct relation with lecturers.
Through the development and application of specific research tools it is possible to analyse the characteristics of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO students’ population, identifying cognitive, emotional and relational abilities that are useful in the learning process as well as their interconnections. In addition, the systematic study of these aspects enables to get data on the students’ social and working background to deepen our understanding on how individual and context characteristics can be associated to specific academic results (whether positive or negative).
The goal of this last research line is to understand the interaction between individual characteristics of the students and the resources offered by the computer-based university system and consequently to understand how the various strategies devised by the University (online tutoring, orientation and counselling centre) can promote successful academic paths, above all in supporting students facing difficulties.
The research lines of the Psychology Faculty envisage these experimental analysis activities on learning technologies and on educational design in e-learning contexts, the students’ perspectives and profiles with respect to their learning environment and effective strategies to face any individual or situational difficulty that may hinder the students’ learning path.
In addition, the research activity of the UTIU Psychology Faculty takes place in close cooperation with partner universities and research agencies, in particular with the University of Roma Tre, the Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione (ISTC-CNR), the Institut des Sciences de la Communication of CNRS (Paris – France), the LUMSA University of Rome. These agreements enable, beside sharing laboratory and library resources, to participate in joint research projects both at Italian and international level. At the same time, the UTIU is developing a virtual and multimedia library that looks like to become a standard in this field. By subscribing to electronic journals of interest for the Psychology and Human Science Faculty, students and lecturers have direct access to the most advanced technological knowledge real time from anywhere they may be.
The Faculty research programme, jointly with the researchers’ individual research interests, is structure and specified according to the following research areas:
1) Psycho-technologies and Instructional Design Area
2) Organisational Development and Telematic University
3) General Psychology and Individual Differences Area
4) Dynamics Area