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THE UNIVERSITY FOR THE NEW MARKET OF KNOWLEDGE in "World Futures", pp. 129-132 

AuthorM. A. Garito  Place/DateRoma, 11/20/2003

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Abstract

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. 

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