Programs and research projects of the University and the Faculties
of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO
The scientific and research activities of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, as provided for by art. 30 of the General Regulations of the University of the Ministerial Decree of the 15th April 2005 (published in the “Gazzetta Ufficiale” of the 12th May 2005), are defined in art. 20 of the University Didactic Rules, envisaging the development of research activities on technologies and methodologies related to distance teaching and learning processes.
This research activity is identified as university research since its outcomes are applied to UNINETTUNO’s organizational models as well as to the psycho-pedagogic and technological models applied to distance teaching and learning processes and are utilised by all Faculties that, of course, participate in the conduct of the research work.
For each implemented study Faculty the Dean can request to the Faculty to start up research activities that must be strictly related and coherent with their own class of studies or grouping of similar studies.
The research work conducted at the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, which is, by now, considerable in the various scientific sectors in which the Institution is structured, has been lately increased thanks to the inclusion of a large team of young researchers, reaching high levels both at national and international level. We began analyzing the skills of the teachers and, above all, those of the researchers, reviewing the tools, that were mainly computer-based of which our research work could benefit. Research laboratories are available on UNINETTUNO technological platform, among hardware and software packages, tele- and videoconferencing systems, distributed calculus, computer-based networks with other research laboratories of different countries and universities of the world allow our researchers to carry on their research work using the Web to exchange data, standardize research protocols and share materials, equipments and laboratories. UNINETTUNO platform allow collaboration with other international research centers and teams and working together at distance. Studies and research work that are conducted by these teams are divided in several units participating in the realization of complex experiments requiring ever more diversified competencies that can hardly be found in a single research centre, but in several research centers and universities of different places of the world (see the research work of the Engineering Faculty). This choice allowed to maximize costs, reduce travels and missions, share knowledge and make assessment before, during and after the realization of expensive and complex experimentations. Additionally, we concluded some agreements with the CNR (National Council of Research) in order to utilize, when needed, their research laboratories. Also as it regards humanistic subjects researchers have at their disposal on the Web book collections of many libraries worldwide. The digitization procedure allowed the creation and updating of national book catalogues that can be accessed via the Internet and everybody, from anywhere in world, can access knowledge that would be otherwise accessible only on the spot, in libraries and study centers. This procedure not only makes accessible to many users and researchers precious cultural resources that would be otherwise precluded, but preserves rare book collections that could run the risk of being destroyed and allows the exchange of knowledge among cultures that have been set apart for thousands of years. Thanks to connection facilities, available in UNINETTUNO’s premises, it is possible to work in constant contact with colleagues of other laboratories – exchanging documents and data – as well as access the databases of the most prestigious national and international online journals of several disciplines, thus allowing a continuous updating of knowledge in a sector and making interactions and interdisciplinary exchanges easier.
Very important were the agreements for common research work in various sectors with public Institutions as well as with private companies having a greatly innovative character. These allowed a fruitful exchange of ideas and skills as well as the inclusion of highly-skilled professionals among the teaching staff. In addition, we fostered the work on three-year degree theses dealing with original research contents – an experience that will give its fruits in the forthcoming years with the second-cycle degree theses. Monthly Inter-Faculty meetings are devoted to programming activities, to the preparation of new programs and to make final assessments. The coordination of the research activities is entrusted to a teacher of the University. Particular attention is paid to developing synergies among the different cultural expression of the various Faculties, promoting common initiatives that highlight the University’s in-house competencies. The PRIN and FIRB / SIR programs of MIUR, European calls for proposals, such as Horizon 2020, ESA calls, regional calls are the main occasions of cooperation. The more specifically departmental functions are carried out by the Faculties that have the task of promoting and coordinating each initiative to make the related scientific literature available online for all fields of knowledge.
Risourses for Research
The research activities of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO are managed and supervised at central level by the University and, at more specialized level, by each Faculties. The University allocates to research activities a share of its annual budget, as shown in the budget report. In particular, it allocates to them 30% of the revenues given by the students’ fees. To these we have to add revenues gained with research projects, funded at national and international level.
University Research Activity
Beside research activities linked to the Faculties and to each discipline there is a sector of university research that is aimed at:
Carrying on research work to be able to keep on innovating distance study courses’ psycho-pedagogic-didactic models;
Identifying the application of technologies allowing for improving the services offered by the University;
Identifying patterns of qualitative and quantitative assessments of the efficacy and efficiency of UNINETTUNO University overall system;
Identifying distance assessment models of the students;
Developing tridimensional and augmented-reality applications within UNINETTUNO distance teaching and learning processes.
The university research aims at achieving results that can be applied and utilized by all Faculties that, of course, take part in the realization of the research work. The new cognitive society and the evolution of multimedia technologies applied to distance teaching point out to the birth of a kind of educational communication that represents a particular form of dialogue in which the general rules of communication theories need to be revised. Therefore, it is necessary to develop research programs and compare their results in order to assess the potentials of the various technologies (computer and telematic networks, digital television and education, hypertextual and multimedia systems, models of cognitive interfaces etc.) so as to construct a coherent body of theoretical and operational knowledge establishing a fair balance between technological-engineering components and cognitive, methodological, cultural, educational components that actually pertain to information technologies. At present the first type of components, namely the engineering-technological ones, tend to predominate compared to the cognitive ones, and thus place serious obstacles and dangerous distortions in the use of the results. This problem – which arises in many of the fields where the technologies are used – assumes particular relevance in the educational area, given the characteristics and the delicate nature of the functions to be carried out. Cognitive science, psychology, linguistics, computer science, pedagogy have all already produced epistemological models and strategies for analyzing specific problems in the fields of their respective disciplines and which are useful for identifying the complex interrelations that exist between means of communication, cognitive processes and messages. A distance teaching system based on the use of technologies, since it triggers the mechanisms of didactic communication which make up a particular form of dialogue between professors and students together with new interactive procedures between the source of the message and the receiver, requires the development of programs of applied research as a basis for planning and executing psycho-pedagogical and didactic models for distance teaching and learning. Applied research becomes essential so as to ensure that the results can constitute the basis upon which found the organizational psycho-pedagogical models for distance teaching and learning.
Actually, the results of the research projects realized with NETTUNO represented the basis for the pedagogical and didactic model’s evolution which led to the realization of the new distance teaching and learning model applied by the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO.
Most of the research programs carried out are aimed at building up a coherent body of theoretical and operational knowledge on the basis of which there has evolved a complex distance teaching system founded on the use of technologies and cognitive and connectionist theories. The results of the research conducted so far allowed to keep a fair balance between the engineering/ technical components and the cognitive, cultural and educational ones at the heart of the development of information technologies, and have involved scholars from various disciplines (technologists, computer scientists, educationalists, educational psychologists, experts in various languages); the research activity carried out was at once theoretical and experimental, pure and applied.
The results, therefore, made it possible to identify new ways of carrying out the teaching-learning process whether face-to-face or at a distance, and they have already had a significant effect on theories linked to the learning processes, to teaching methods, and to the distance learning relationship. From the economic point of view, the results have also supplied the basis for developing new e-learning models.