November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

Università Telematica Internazionale –UTIU (International Telematic University) UNINETTUNO, Italy

UniNettuno is a telematics university where visiting professors from prestigious universities teach courses in real classrooms and over the internet, for free.

Objectives of the Intervention

Origins

UNINETTUNO takes origin from the training model of Consorzio NETTUNO - Network per l’Università Ovunque, a consortium of 43 Italian and foreign universities with which, since 1992, thousands of Italian and foreign students obtained a distance university degree thanks to television and the Internet. At present, many of these universities put at UNINETTUNO’s disposal physical facilities such as laboratories for conducting research work and training activities, libraries, halls equipped with PCs and classrooms to organize face-to-face exams sessions for the students. UNINETTUNO takes origin also from the international success of Med Net’U (Mediterranean Network of Universities) Project, funded by the European Commission in the framework of the EUMEDIS Programme, aimed at realising a Euro-Mediterranean Distance University.

With Med Net’U it was established a network of 31 universities of 11 countries of the Euro-Mediterranean Area (Algeria, Egypt, France, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey). The development of Med Net’U from project to system was supported by the Governments of the partner countries. Actually, on the 29th January 2006, in the framework of the Catania 3 Conference for the realisation of a “Euro-Mediterranean Area of Higher Education and Research”, 14 Ministers of Higher Education of several Mediterranean countries, undersigned a joint declaration by which they stated their goal of strengthening the distance learning system of the Mediterranean countries, by expanding the results attained through the Med Net’U Project.

The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO thus takes origin from the experience of Consorzio NETTUNO and benefits from its know-how that was acquired in over 15 years of practice in the field of distance education and e-Learning.

The birth of UNINETTUNO was supported by the Governments of the partner countries and become one great university in which prestigious lecturers of important European and Mediterranean Universities deliver their courses in several languages in various faculties including engineering, conservation of cultural heritage, law, economics, psychology and communication sciences.

Thanks to the cooperation of the professors of different universities they created the first e-learning portal (www.uninettunouniversity.net) where teaching and learning are available in 5 languages (Arabic, English, French, Greek and Italian).

In the Didactic Cyberspace it is possible to access the different learning environments: get digitised videolessons linked in a multimedia and hypertextual way to books, texts, selected bibliographical references, lists of websites and virtual laboratories. In the virtual classroom the professors and tutors of each subject interact with the students and support their learning processes. Through forums and chats intelligences get interconnected and knowledge is exchanged.

Drivers

UNINETTUNO was born with the following spirit in mind: to give all citizens world-wide access to knowledge without any space, time or geographic limits. Thanks to new technology, the production and dissemination of knowledge can take place through collaboration with the best Universities of the world. Students can therefore broaden the scope of their knowledge, study and learn about different cultures. In this way, they can expand on their learning experience in a productive and cooperative way.

Theoretical framework / Model

Alliances with higher-education institutions from across the world allow UNINETTUNO to supply a wider and more diverse educational offering, based on a scientific psycho-pedagogical model built on 20 years of research by Prof. Maria Amata Garito, professor of "Technologies of Education and Learning", Psychology Faculty, at the University of Rome "La Sapienza", UNINETTUNO Rector and Director of Network Nettuno.

Thanks to the use of new technologies and a faculty of professors from some of the world’s biggest universities, UNINETTUNO offers a university experience based on quality, flexibility and innovation.

The psycho-pedagogic and didactic model is based on cognitive and connectionist theories and it concretizes the shift:

• from the central role of the teacher to that of the student;

• from the transmission of knowledge to the building of knowledge;

• from passive and competitive learning to active and collaborative learning.

The student is at the centre of the educational process, being guided by the professor and tutor who has the task of giving him the tools that are best suited to make the web-based learning and communication process easier.

The entire teaching and learning process takes place on the Internet. In the portal www.uninettunouniversity.net that transfers directly to the student’s desk: lessons, multimedia products, databases, exercises, evaluation and self-evaluation systems, online tutoring, forums, chats, thematic wikis. There is also a students’ virtual community managed by students themselves to exchange opinions, suggestions, notes.

Online tutoring is organized in classes of 20 or 30 students, with an advanced system of Agenda that is able to acknowledge the single user and customise the training activity. An advanced system of qualitative and quantitative tracing makes it possible to continuously monitor the learning process of each single student.

The tutoring activities take place:

• In a synchronic mode by means of chats, video-chats, video and virtual classrooms, that are implemented in the Didactic Cyberspace, but also in the 3D classroom set up on UNINETTUNO Island of Knowledge on Second Life;

• In a diachronic way by means of forums, wikis and social networks.

The virtual classroom is an environment where direct interaction between teachers, students and tutors takes place, where knowledge is shared. In the virtual classroom interactive practice exercises, mid-term assessment tests take place; dialogue and learning take place in a cooperative and collaborative way.

 

Origins and rationale of this initiative

Origins

UNINETTUNO takes origin from the training model of Consorzio NETTUNO - Network per l’Università Ovunque, a consortium of 43 Italian and foreign universities with which, since 1992, thousands of Italian and foreign students obtained a distance university degree thanks to television and the Internet. At present, many of these universities put at UNINETTUNO’s disposal physical facilities such as laboratories for conducting research work and training activities, libraries, halls equipped with PCs and classrooms to organize face-to-face exams sessions for the students. UNINETTUNO takes origin also from the international success of Med Net’U (Mediterranean Network of Universities) Project, funded by the European Commission in the framework of the EUMEDIS Programme, aimed at realising a Euro-Mediterranean Distance University.

With Med Net’U it was established a network of 31 universities of 11 countries of the Euro-Mediterranean Area (Algeria, Egypt, France, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey). The development of Med Net’U from project to system was supported by the Governments of the partner countries. Actually, on the 29th January 2006, in the framework of the Catania 3 Conference for the realisation of a “Euro-Mediterranean Area of Higher Education and Research”, 14 Ministers of Higher Education of several Mediterranean countries, undersigned a joint declaration by which they stated their goal of strengthening the distance learning system of the Mediterranean countries, by expanding the results attained through the Med Net’U Project.

The International Telematic University UNINETTUNO thus takes origin from the experience of Consorzio NETTUNO and benefits from its know-how that was acquired in over 15 years of practice in the field of distance education and e-Learning.

The birth of UNINETTUNO was supported by the Governments of the partner countries and become one great university in which prestigious lecturers of important European and Mediterranean Universities deliver their courses in several languages in various faculties including engineering, conservation of cultural heritage, law, economics, psychology and communication sciences.

Thanks to the cooperation of the professors of different universities they created the first e-learning portal (www.uninettunouniversity.net) where teaching and learning are available in 5 languages (Arabic, English, French, Greek and Italian).

In the Didactic Cyberspace it is possible to access the different learning environments: get digitised videolessons linked in a multimedia and hypertextual way to books, texts, selected bibliographical references, lists of websites and virtual laboratories. In the virtual classroom the professors and tutors of each subject interact with the students and support their learning processes. Through forums and chats intelligences get interconnected and knowledge is exchanged.

Drivers

UNINETTUNO was born with the following spirit in mind: to give all citizens world-wide access to knowledge without any space, time or geographic limits. Thanks to new technology, the production and dissemination of knowledge can take place through collaboration with the best Universities of the world. Students can therefore broaden the scope of their knowledge, study and learn about different cultures. In this way, they can expand on their learning experience in a productive and cooperative way.

Theoretical framework / Model

Alliances with higher-education institutions from across the world allow UNINETTUNO to supply a wider and more diverse educational offering, based on a scientific psycho-pedagogical model built on 20 years of research by Prof. Maria Amata Garito, professor of "Technologies of Education and Learning", Psychology Faculty, at the University of Rome "La Sapienza", UNINETTUNO Rector and Director of Network Nettuno.

Thanks to the use of new technologies and a faculty of professors from some of the world’s biggest universities, UNINETTUNO offers a university experience based on quality, flexibility and innovation.

The psycho-pedagogic and didactic model is based on cognitive and connectionist theories and it concretizes the shift:

• from the central role of the teacher to that of the student;

• from the transmission of knowledge to the building of knowledge;

• from passive and competitive learning to active and collaborative learning.

The student is at the centre of the educational process, being guided by the professor and tutor who has the task of giving him the tools that are best suited to make the web-based learning and communication process easier.

The entire teaching and learning process takes place on the Internet. In the portal www.uninettunouniversity.net that transfers directly to the student’s desk: lessons, multimedia products, databases, exercises, evaluation and self-evaluation systems, online tutoring, forums, chats, thematic wikis. There is also a students’ virtual community managed by students themselves to exchange opinions, suggestions, notes.

Online tutoring is organized in classes of 20 or 30 students, with an advanced system of Agenda that is able to acknowledge the single user and customise the training activity. An advanced system of qualitative and quantitative tracing makes it possible to continuously monitor the learning process of each single student.

The tutoring activities take place:

• In a synchronic mode by means of chats, video-chats, video and virtual classrooms, that are implemented in the Didactic Cyberspace, but also in the 3D classroom set up on UNINETTUNO Island of Knowledge on Second Life;

• In a diachronic way by means of forums, wikis and social networks.

The virtual classroom is an environment where direct interaction between teachers, students and tutors takes place, where knowledge is shared. In the virtual classroom interactive practice exercises, mid-term assessment tests take place; dialogue and learning take place in a cooperative and collaborative way.

 

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The target group is world-wide.

However, it is specifically beneficial in order to also tackle the digital divide. The lack of funding to improve and maintain the Italian phone network has made internet access incomplete and outdated, and many urban, hill and mountain areas in Italy are not covered by broadband internet. Additionally, mountainous regions pose serious problems for infrastructure development and therefore access to eLearning opportunities. In comparison with broadband internet access, 95% of Italians have a television and RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) terrestrial channels cover the entire national territory, including the previously mentioned remote Northern and Southern mountain regions. Furthermore the spread of satellite technology in Italy is increasing. The satellite channel is able to cover the Mediterranean Basin and the whole of sub-Saharan Africa providing direct connectivity to Europe. UTIU students also come from the aforementioned regions and from rural and urban areas of Sicily (more than 16%). The students who reside abroad represent 20% of the total and come from: Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Morocco, Nigeria, Netherlands, Russia, United States of America, and Switzerland.

The adult population is also an important target group for UTIU: 45% of the enrolled students are more than 40 years old and 15% more than 50 years old. Whilst taking into account internet infrastructures and TV access, people aged between 15 and 24 have the highest familiarity with the Internet and that this percentage decreases rapidly with increasing age. The adult population is much more familiar with (terrestrial and satellite) TV.

UTIU has extensively used terrestrial and satellite broadcasting to make some of it educational material more available and more accessible to people in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean region. This is in part to overcome the issues of access to such material through the Internet in remote and mountainous regions.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

International / National policies

The initiative fits within the significant changes to the Italian educational system occurring nationally. For example:

• From the 90s, the developments produced an opening to the new multimedia systems for higher education.

• 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 concretely implements the institution of the telematic universities, authorised to issue academic titles.

Stakeholders supporting the initiative

Founding partners of NETTUNO were the Universities of Turin, Milan, Naples, several telecommunications companies, and representatives of over 42 Italian and International Universities. The structure of a consortium, which is currently evolving, has enabled to foster a large number of human resources.

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.

Technological poles, situated both in Italy and abroad, are structures which are available to the students and equipped with all the technologies to follow distance-learning courses, to participate in didactic activities via video-conference as well as being a meeting point. The Technological Poles make available to the students technologies, didactic course material, and PCs and rapid access to the Internet. Various Technological Poles are active both in Italy and abroad, with interconnections with receiving and transmitting satellite antennas. They offer the student a physical meeting place for overcoming the isolation in which the distance learner can often find himself. They are breeding grounds of innovation in traditional universities and can also be set up in companies for carrying out staff training and updating services.

In particular the Technological Pole:

• Promotes and coordinates design, relation and development activities within the territorial framework of its competence;

• Is in charge of the Distance Learning Office, at disposal of all the students enrolled;

• Activates multi-medial positions and provides for the upkeep of the network and technological plants;

• Implements and coordinates the local web site and updates it continuously, according to the specific needs of the students;

• Coordinates and plans the promotion and orientation activities, also those on-line, locally-based.

Political support

The Consortium, from which UTIU developed, was promoted in 1992 by the Ministry of the University and Scientific and Technological Research, thus is recognised as an important contributor to distance learning and widening participation.

In terms of the University borne out of the Consortium, the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research is just one of a number of institutions to give it formal recognition. The birth of Università Telematica Internazionale UNINETTUNO was also supported by the Governments of the partner countries.

Other factors supporting success

The quality of the educational paths offered by UNINETTUNO is assured by the presence of professors and researchers coming from the most prestigious international universities and of professionals coming from the industrial world capable of transferring knowledge, experience and professionalism to all those who aim at enhancing their own professional and cultural background.

In addition, the priorities that the NETTUNO System gave to itself as business models are crucial:

• Quality of the video professors, selected among the best ones of the Italian and foreign universities;

• Quality of the educational structures achieved thanks to full professors, regular and associated ones, recruited through selection procedures. These professors are hired by contract in accordance to agreements established with the universities they belong to, as envisaged by the ministerial regulations now in force. So doing, they have formed a stable teaching staff, bound to represent, also in the future, the focal element which assures the quality of the educational paths and that of the recruitment of researchers and tutors;

• Quality of the computer-based platform, realised on basis of the already developed and continuously checked didactic and psycho-pedagogic model;

• Accurate selection, targeted training and continuous coordination and monitoring of the tutors;

• Realisation of Technological Poles and didactic facilities in cooperation with Italian and foreign traditional universities and with public and private bodies;

• Development of cooperation relationships with foreign universities for the realisation of distance training courses and the issuing of joint degrees, more specifically focused on the realisation of a Euro-Mediterranean network stably linking UNINETTUNO to the best universities of the Mediterranean countries;

• Considerable investments in international-level research work and in initiatives aimed at enhancing the quality and effectiveness of the distance teaching methodologies.

 

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

UNINETTUNO’s psycho-pedagogic model is a unique learning model where students have at their disposal an exemplar of knowledge organisation that makes them active players of the teaching and learning processes on the web the first portal of the world where didactic is available in 5 languages.

Key roles:

To guide students, there are two professional figures:

• The Mentor, who is concerned with offering support for the duration of the degree course. The mentor’s role is to guarantee optimum conditions for the learning process;

• The Tutor, specific for each teaching subject, has the task of facilitating the learning process and communication on the web. The tutor provides the necessary instruments in order to get the most out of students’ studies, guiding them to the final exams.

For each teaching subject the students are divided into virtual classes. A tutor is assigned to each virtual class, which can contain up to 30 students. This applies to all of the Faculties, with the exception of the Degree Course of the Engineering Faculty where the virtual classes can contain a maximum of 20 students. During the period of time in which teaching is carried out, the tutor will follow students’ progress as the didactic activity unfolds.

In addition, All UNINETTUNO professors, those who realised video lessons and the educational contents as well as those who support the students learning processes, are full professors and includes also some Rectors of traditional universities: these relations enabled UNINETTUNO to deliver high-quality educational services and to develop research projects jointly with traditional universities that make available physical structures such as laboratories, technological poles to make students take face-to-face exams.

Activities / outputs:

1. Delivery of teaching materials

The didactic approach does not follow a traditional semester plan. Instead, it unfolds as teaching materials are presented. All of the teaching activities of the Degree Courses at UNINETTUNO are delivered in modules of two months. These are repeated three times each academic year.

Each video-lesson is divided into topics and created with a predefined indexing system which allows for flexible use.

The slide presented by the Video Professor during the video lesson.

The video lessons, furnished with their relative slides, are enriched with didactic materials known as a learning object; these are signalled during the course of the video lesson by an icon link (bookmark) and are made available in the Didactic Cyberspace of the Internet site.

Such materials can comprise the following:

• books and articles (extracts, study activity sheets, etc.);

• exercises (with answers);

• virtual laboratories;

• annotated bibliographies;

• annotated site links.

2. Tutoring activities

In the proposed Educational Psychology model, the student is at the centre of the educational process, guided however by a new figure known as the Telematic Professor-Tutor, who represents a guide as well as a constant presence during the Learning Process. The student is not left alone during his/her learning progress: the tutoring activity represents one of the most significant moments of the training provision and requires a high degree of interactivity with the students. In fact, tutoring integrates the video lessons and self-learning: the tutor designs the students experiences and acts as an advisor and guide during the learning process.

3. Quality Assurance

The quality of UNINETTUNO video lessons is guaranteed by internal procedures, such as the adoption of the UNINETTUNO psycho-pedagogic model and the video professors’ selection procedure.

The video lessons are the focus of the UNINETTUNO teaching model, at least from the perspective of individual study based on the teaching materials available to the student, thus not taking into account interactive activities, collaborative learning experiences and online tutoring. The video professors are expected to learn new languages and new ways of teaching, in order to produce complex material such as a video-lesson, presented to students not just as a "learning object", but in the context of a hypermedia and modular environment, linked to other heterogeneous learning materials (such as text, slides, bibliographies, websites selections, exercises, virtual labs) and to interactive activities managed by the tutors and professors during the course delivery.

The video lessons are developed following the UNINETTUNO psycho-pedagogic teaching and learning model and this involves changing the university teachers’ traditional teaching competences.

With regard to the development of learning, it is important to note that the study strategies set up during digitised video lessons allow UTIU to set up a learning process where it is the student who masters their study time. Actually, the student, through on-screen controls such as play, stop, fast forward, rewind, is able to manage his time with the teacher and the lecture; they can watch and replay parts of the video lessons as many times as they wish according to individual needs; they can pause to think and see if they need to consult further sources, they can review what they have already seen to enhance storage in long-term memory; they can see parts of the video that can have interesting connections with other materials or sources.

 

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

The strong point of the UNINETTUNO development is represented by having succeeded in rapidly getting and developing to an international level concluding significant agreements with Mediterranean countries and agreements with several universities abroad (eg the United States, UK, European countries, Asia and South America).

See also question 5 on business model.

 

Resources used in the initiative

UNINETTUNO is a non-state university, legally recognised and authorised to issue academic titles having legal value in Italy, in Europe and in the Mediterranean countries. It does not benefit from funding supplied by the Government, but its revenues are mainly based on the fees paid by the students. The rate of funding coming from the Government is equal to 0%.

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

UNINETTUNO appointed its own Board of Evaluation, composed of experts in evaluation procedures from the academic environment and from the non-academic one as well. The Board is engaged in evaluating the training and administrative activities and carries on regular surveys on the students’ opinions.

The UNINETTUNO System is committed in assuring the quality of its educational paths and to the guidelines referring to QA established at European level. In particular UNINETTUNO joined E-xcellence Project and later on the E-xcellence+ Project (that are both coordinated by the EADTU) that promote cooperation in quality assurance in the field of higher education, in particular as it regards the use of e-Learning. In this framework it used the tool devised for these projects to assess some of the courses delivered within the degree courses in order to identify the possible integrations of this tool and spread its use as a valid support for auto-evaluation of the didactics UNINETTUNO has built a reputation for high quality programmes, delivered by highly experienced tutors. In Europe the UNINETTUNO is considered as a reference model as regards distance teaching processes: the upward trend of the latest matriculations shows a 100% increase of new matriculations dating from the 30th November 2008. This growth in enrolments results from the overall quality of the services that the UNINETTUNO offers to the students and that have given rise to a favourable grapevine that can be found in the blogs and forums of the enrolled students and of young people who exchange information about universities on the Web.

Further examples of this trend are the fragments of the video lessons posted on social networking sites such as YouTube. Video lessons’ extracts are used as open educational resources to support discussions on specific topics (such as the relationship between Psychology and Ethology) within the community that spontaneously arise around subjects of interest. Fragments of video lessons included in social networking portals receive positive appreciation and catalyse the interest of the participants in the discussion.

The circulation of open educational resources (such as texts, ppt presentations, video lessons) represents one of the main factors having a positive impact on the reputation of the Institution on the web and, as a consequence, over the number of the users interested in joining the University.

 

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