Category Archives: 2008/1-2


The current issue of FormaMente is published shortly after the GUIDE International Workshop 2008, held in the prestigious headquarters of Università Telematica “Guglielmo Marconi”, from 15 to 16 May.
The theme of the event, closely related to the current debate and celebrations of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and typically characterized by telematic  pervasiveness, revolved around issues concerning the specificity of digital impact on education: “E-learning and multicultural education: digital divide and digital opportunities”. During the five thematic sessions and the two plenary sessions, about 70 papers were presented by GUIDE Members and other personalities, representing as many  universities and researchcentres from all over the world. From our own point of view, the Meeting actually witnessed the growth of our network. Some of the participants,  contributing their own activity and research issues, are also featured in the current issue of FormaMente.

AI in training (1980-2000): foundation for the future or misplaced optimism?

Since the beginning of the use of technology to support training and learning, there has always been the belief that such new technologies would be able to add value, either by reducing costs or increasing effectiveness. The 1980s and early 1990s were a period of enormous optimism as to the promise that such technology could bring. The governments of Europe and the US were generous in their funding of research in this area. In Europe, research and development programmes, such as ESPRIT, DELTA, RACE, ERASMUS, and COMETT, to name only a few, funded a wealth of initiatives, aimed at advancing the use of technology. At the margins of the early initiatives was the belief that AI must have a part to play in these developments. This paper reviews the early initiatives, and suggests reasons why the potential for the use of AI in education and training has never been truly fulfilled.

Article originally published in ‘British Journal of Educational Technology’, V.39 (2008), n. 2, Blackwell Publishing. Published with permission in print. For full version of the article see: //

Modalities of using Learning Objects for Intelligent Agents in learning

This article details some common characteristics of applications using intelligent agents as they relate to learning objects as software systems in delivering education. Readapting learning objects to different categories of learnenrs constitutes a challenge for intelligent agents in their effort to provide a large scale of collaboration between different e-learning organizations. In order not only to have efficient access to learning objects, but also to offer to learners tutoring and mentoring help, collaborative and cooperative learning strategies, learning advancements, and social interactions, intelligent agents have been highly recommended by a number of researchers. This study investigates how these e-learning applications are designed, how student`s differences are explored, and how these software systems are able to improve learning and teaching performances.

Article originally published in “Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects“, V.4 (2008), //

Reprinted with permission

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Creativity in online courses: perceptions of MBA students

Creativity is a key competency skill sought after by many employers. And yet, one of the major criticism of business schools relates to the lack of programs that promote creative and/or innovative thinking. This could be compounded by the fact that a large number of business programms are currently offered online. Consequently, the issue of whether online education stifles or enhances students` creativity is brought to the forefront. Using this question, the authors engaged in an inquiry process dealing with MBA students` perceptions of how online courses impact their creativity. Based on students` feedback, it appears that taking online courses generally enhances their creativity. They are not only more inclined to be creative thinkers, but also more likely to be organized and exercise critical thinking. The students noted, however, that online instructors are largely instrumental in enhancing creativity. They also suggest that creativity cannot be integrated equally in all types of business courses.

Article originally published in “MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching“, V.3 (2007), n. 4. // This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Licence (//

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V-learning: how gaming and avatars are engaging online studenys

The article describes how avatars in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) can contribute to the learning experience by giving students a sense of social presence, and investment in the learning community, that may otherwise be difficult to access. VLEs have the potential to become the next generation of instructional tools for online learning. By allowing students to simulate the campus experience online, VLEs offer rich, flexible class environments, without compromising their reach to diverse students desiring online courses. Describing studies carried out in the WolfDen VLE, the authors examine how gaming and avatars are engaging online students, and the role personality may play in a student`s selection of an avatar.

Article originally published in ‘Innovate’, V.4, n.3. // Reprinted with permission of the publisher, The Fisher School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University.

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The use of interactive multimedia to promote students` understanding of science concepts and generic science skills

Multimedia plays an increasing role in education, especially in science instruction. Unlike the conventional teaching media, multimedia allows flexible combination of different modes of representation, such as written texts, pictures, animations, and sound. Using multimedia, teachers can use a combination of pictures and texts to explain a complex structure. Multimedia also allows a simulation of complex processes in simpler forms of animations. The research results reported here represent the first year results of a three-year research project, which aims at developing a Web-based instruction utilizing multimedia. The aim of the first year is to develop multimedia, and to analyze its impact on the improvement of students` understanding of science concepts, and on the improvement of their generic skills. This study finds that the use of multimedia in science instruction can promote students` understanding of science concepts. Relativity high gains were observed in biology lessons (junior high school) and chemistry lessons (senior high school), while a mediocre impact was observed in the thermodynamics course (pre-service teacher training) and magnetic induction course (in-service teacher trainig). The use of multimedia in instruction also promotes the participants` generic science skills.

Original article received: 5 April 2008 – Revised: 10 May 2008

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Delivering on the e-learning promise: a case for a learning environment that enables Collaborative Online Problem Solving (COPS)

Research spanning the last thirty years confirms that people learn better by active enquiry, collaboration and experimental problem solving than by passive reception and acceptance of information. Empirical evidence, as well as the pressing demands of pervasive social and technological change, requires learning and teaching approaches that combine problem-centred learning and collaborative learning, and open up possibilities for equitable participation in real-world learning. This paper mounts a theoretical and pedagogical case for such an approach, by examining the developmental work being conducted in this area at QUT-Queensland University of Technology (QUT, 2003). It argues for a Collaborative Online Problem Solving environment (known colloquially as COPS) that will combine the problem-centred and collaborative dimensions of learning. The developmental work of COPS seeks to go beyond current online learning and teaching resources, offered by most learning management systems, to provide a framework and system, in order to create and deploy environments, where teams of student learners can collaborate, engage, grapple with, and seek to make sense of, authentic problems, within an online environment. It seeks to do so by creating problem-centred ‘learning designs’, that can be integrated with face to face teaching, to bridge the gap between the classroom and real world experience.

Article originally published in ‘JLD – Journal of Learning Design’, V. 2 (2007), n. 1, pp. 25-36, the only accredited archive of the content that has been certified and accepted after peer review. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by the JLD and the author. //

Reprinted with permission.

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Open Educational Resources: new directions for technology-enhanced distance learning in the third millennium

The Open University UK launched OpenLearn, an Open Educational Resources Website, which allows the user to browse through a selection of units of learning material, covering all subject areas. OpenLearn offers tools to enable social learning, such as a videoconference system (Flashmeeting), discussion forums, learning journals, an instant message system (MSG), and a software for the creation of knowledge maps (Compendium). The primary learning content from OpenLearn is placed in the ‘LearningSpace’, an open learning environment, built automatically from content described in XML, and running within the Moodle open source learning environment. The initiative is also producing an equally large collection of material that is in a less processed state: this is placed in a ‘LabSpace’ to emphasise its more experimental nature. LabSpace content is intended as more suitable for educators, but there is no particular barrier to learner use of the content and, in some cases, LabSpace content provides the largest collections of material from a single subject.OER initiatives must have some sort of funding model. Three of the most common ones are highlighted: external funding, institutional funding, and government funding. OpenLearn is currently located in a mixed-mode approach, because it counts on funds from its sponsor (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), and from the Open University UK itself. Though other models are being analyzed, such a kind of approach is likely to be maintained.

Article originally presented at ICDE 2007, Toluca, Mexico. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK, England and Wales Licence. //

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Teleoperation of an experimental platform of electrical machines through the Internet

Remote access to equipment through the Internet becomes an attractive research area. Most current implementations are dedicated to specific applications, such as the remote laboratory. A remote laboratory offers cost-effective and flexible means for distance learning education and remote experimentation, where students and scientists share the remote access to physical experiments. This paper presents the implementation of an experimental platform of induction motor through the Internet, having the following important features: easy implementation based on software and hardware; help based on IP telephony; use of several computers to distribute the tasks. The developed scheme is versatile and robust, allowing the different control and observer actions remotely through the Internet.

Article originally published in “IJOE-International Journal of Online Engineering“, V.4, (2008), n.1, pp. 26-31. // Reprinted with permission.

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Global learning through collaboration

Inter-campus, international cooperation online is the future of learning. I begin by showing the importance of online and blended learning. Then, I present three best practices: online collaboration between University of Illinois and Warsaw School of Economics, that started in 2006; Polish Consortium (Econet) of top economic academies, offering one certificate, based on five courses, offered by those five institutions; finally, an international project in computers and philosophy, coordinated by professors from Sweden, USA, Italy, and Greece, aimed at setting up the standards in this new and growing field. I also sketch out an idea of a worldwide academy, and what such a global program may look like.

Original article received: 18 February 2008; Revised: 15 May 2008.

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Innovación utilizando las TICs para el aprendizaje combinado. La pertinencia de una propuesta de blended learning en la universidad

A 3-year long non-conventional teaching and learning experience was undertaken, with technical support by CTER-Curriculum, Technology, and Education Reform Centre from the University of Illinois, USA – directed by Dr. Thomas H. Anderson – and technical assistance by Lic. Norma Scagnoli, in order to adjust ICT technologies to our local university context, respecting the students’ socio-cultural features and origins. At the same time, a research action was performed, so as to establish the pros and cons of the implementation, from the points of view of academic improvement, social interaction and pedagogical interactivity. The findings, further elaborated, will contribute to realize such local adjustments, also considering their possible application to other experiences, which might be undertaken with the aim of pursuing instructional innovation in Higher Education.

Original article received: 7 May 2008; Revised 15 May 2008.

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E-Learning activity of the Warsaw School of Economics

The Internet and ICT have significantly influenced the educational system, giving teachers and students brand new possibilities of enriching learning materials, broad access to information, and opportunities to teach online. More and more universities have realized that they should undertake programs of change in the traditional curriculum, and implement ICT into the didactic process. The Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) is one of the Polish universities which faced the challenge, and started to develop e-learning projects for their students. (…)

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Formazione e-learning: uno stato dell`arte

L’odierna evoluzione dei processi formativi indica una tendenza all’individuazione e al miglioramento delle strategie didattiche orientate in modo particolare alle key competences e alla lifelong learning. I due aspetti si integrano nella primaria esigenza di fornire un servizio educativo in grado di sopperire alle crisi occupazionali e plasmare le risorse intellettuali più adatte alle sfide dei nuovi mercati globalizzati. (…)

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Nigel Gilbert, Agent-based Models, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage, 2008

Gli Agent-Based Models (Modelli agent-based) sono forme di simulazione computazionale, molto usate nell`ambito della ricerca nelle discipline scientifiche ma a lungo trascurate dagli studi sociali. A partire dagli anni `90, però, le potenzialità delle simulazioni agent-based sono state riconosciute anche in questo ambito e gli studi di settore si sono moltiplicati notevolmente (…)

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Dal diritto all`educazione al diritto all`accesso

Già da un pò di tempo, la questione del “diritto all`educazione“ sembra essersi spostata verso il problema del “diritto all`accesso all`educazione“: ancora moltissime persone, soprattutto nei paesi in via di sviluppo, pur vedendo i propri diritti pienamente riconosciuti, non hanno infatti la possibilità di accedere neppure a una formazione di base. (…)

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