Technologies entered in education since their first appearance and were used both for improving the efficacy and efficiency of traditional teaching and for creating new teaching-learning opportunities (Galliani et al., 1999). The definition “educational technologies” was coined in the 1950s to describe the equipments to be used in teaching-learning controlled environments. The introduction of the computer in teaching led to the definition of “new educational technologies” to mark the overcoming of traditional systems like audio-visual media (i.e., cinema, radio and television) with the new digital medium. In the 1970s the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) formulated the definition of instructional technology as “… the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning. ... We can think about it as a discipline devoted to techniques or ways to make learning more efficient based on theory but theory in its broadest sense, not just scientific theory”. The Internet in the 1990s introduced further elements of innovation in the use of technologies for education with an exponential growth of instruments and resources leading to the transition from face to face (f2f) teaching to online teaching-learning experiences. The Internet more than other technological experiences entered in the educational systems all over the world and is today marking a revolution in continuous education and lifelong learning.
Italian Universities And E-Learning
European universities have met the challenge of modernisation by introducing e-learning activities in their organization. The governments also encouraged the establishment of e-learning in higher education by supporting the digitization of the infrastructures of their institutions.
The ELUE project (E-Learning and University Education) belongs to the initiatives approved and funded from the European Commission for the promotion of e-learning and aims at the diffusion of e-learning in the university in Finland, France and Italy. The study reports the results of a joint survey carried out on the universities of the respective countries by the Conference of Italian University Rectors (CRUI), by the Conference des Presidents d’Université Française (CPU) and by the Finnish Virtual University (FVU).
The project belongs to the set of initiatives designed to foster the creation of an European Area of Higher Education (as referred to from the European Community action in the Bologna Process) and its main ideas and aims can be summarized as follows:
• The systematic analysis of e-learning experiences and their sharing could help in the achievement of a progressive convergence of the university systems in the individual countries towards the establishment of a unique European model,
• The collection and the dissemination of statistical information on the state and role of e-learning in the universities of the countries involved in the project are the main information to be shared. The project also aimed at the individuation of elements useful in identifying, understanding and implementing an observatory on e-learning evolution in the universities.
The results of the investigation were published in 2006 and are available online on the Website of the CRUI (2006).
In what follows some data on the participation in the survey of the Italian universities is reported and the information considered relevant for what follows is discussed.
In Table 1 the percentage in the distribution of Italian universities in the survey is shown.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Brick and Click University: A definition of university which is derived from a business model (bricks-and-clicks). In that model both offline (bricks) and online (clicks) activities and presences are integrated.
Virtual University: Sometimes called telematics university is an organization that provides higher education on the Internet. Among these organizations there are truly “virtual” institutions, existing only as aggregations of universities, institutes or departments providing courses over the Internet and organizations with a legal framework, yet named virtual because they appear only on the Internet.
Lisbon Conference: Held in January 2000 (in Lisbon) and underlined the aim of making the European Union the most competitive and dynamic society of the world, based on innovation and knowledge.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): A software system designed to help teachers in the management of educational courses. The system can often track and monitor the students’ operations and progress. It is often used to supplement face-to-face classroom activities.
Bologna Process: European reform process aiming at the creation of an High Education European Space within 2010. Actually it includes 45 countries and many international organizations. It pursuit the organization of the national High Education Institutions so that: (a) curricula and degrees are transparent and readable, (b) students can make their studies wherever they want in Europe, (c) European High Education can attract extra-European students and (d) an high quality knowledge base for the social and economic development of Europe is made available.
Instructional Technology: A growing field of study based on the use of technology as a means to solve educational challenges, both in the classroom and in distance learning environments. Resistance from faculty and administrators to this technology is usually due to the fear in the reduction of human presence in education it is hypothesized to induce.
Blended Learning: The combination of at least two different approaches to learning. It can be accomplished through the use of virtual and physical resources, i.e., a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions used together to deliver instruction.