Category Archives: Research

The teaching of classical literary subjects – The use of new technologies for distance learning

ABSTRACT. This paper suggests a reflection on the educational potential offered by new technologies applied to the field of modern and classical literature, not only for study and scientific research, but also for academic education. Study and scientific research about humanities have greatly changed their physiognomy in recent years. The use of methodologies, logics and technologies is, in fact, associated with various kinds of media and digital resources. After an initial phase of conservatism, academic teaching of humanistic disciplines has increasingly adopted multimedia and e-learning strategies. I will therefore analyze some multimedia teaching tools for classical subjects as effective means for teaching, which do not simply constitute a transposition of the content, but are used as an equally effective method of transmission of the ancient literary heritage. The conclusion will focus on the heated debate about the relationship between humanistic literary culture and digital culture.

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Unaffiliated researchers: a preliminary study

ABSTRACT. This paper aims at exploring the apparently rising trend of unaffiliated researchers. It does so by analyzing a set of scholarly publications where the authors states to be an “independent researcher” in place of the affiliation. Some of the characteristics of this set are explained along with directions on how to expand research on this topic.

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The Power of Images – How mass media can influence the human mind

ABSTRACT. Do the mass media condition and educate their audience with clever manipulation? In the current era of expanding digital technologies, our environment is often dominated by the power of images. Human tragedy in modern society is that our scientific-technological automatisms drive us too far from real and pure authenticity of feelings and emotions of the human being. Images and mass media systems determine passivity in the human mind and they do not develop experience, real motivations, spontaneity, creativity: they are not able to form creative and critical minds. In the sociological theory of Jürgen Habermas, the mass media are seen as being controlled by political and economic forces, which have an interest in manipulating the audience. The first rule for understanding «the human condition is that men live in second hand worlds». They are aware of much more than they have personally experienced and their own experience is always indirect. The quality of their lives is determined by meanings they have received from others. As Wright Mills suggested, we do live in a «second hand world», in which many of the things we know, were learned from others rather than experienced first hand.

This means, quite simply, that more than ever we are dependent on the meanings given us by the mass media and through mass communication.

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Stephen Hawking and a new vision of the Universe

ABSTRACT. It is definitely an arduous challenge to describe in few words a person who has been considered the greatest physicist of nineteenth century. Research focused on the complexity of the Universe, Big Bang and Black Holes Theories, on the age of the Universe, on the Chronology of the Universe, on the hypothesis of Multiverse, the study of galaxy formation and evolution, as well as the cosmological inflation. His diversified activity has contributed to the scientific disclosure of several physical and astronomic theories, which have been presented in an engaging way to the audience. The essential bibliography invites the reader to appreciate the interdisciplinary and international qualities of his collaborations opened to the possibility of existence of other Universes.

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Professor Stephen Hawking: an appreciation by Lord Rees

ABSTRACT. In this paper, the Astronomer Royal and former Master of Trinity College, Lord Martin Rees, pays tribute to Professor Stephan Hawking, reminiscing the significant events of his life. The focal point of the essay is Hawking’s manifestation of willpower and determination in face of the deadly disease he was diagnosed with at the age of 22. Amongst some of the most significant achievements, Rees mentions Stephen’s ‘eureka moment’, namely when he unexpectedly discovered a link between gravity and quantum theory, predicting that black holes would not be completely black, but that they would radiate in a distinctive way. According to Hawking, this radiation is only significant for black holes because they are less massive than stars – and none of these have been found. ‘Hawking radiation’ theory had very deep implications for mathematical physics and one of the main achievements of string theory has been to corroborate his idea.

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A framework for data collection, analysis and evaluation of the relationship between students’ computer interaction and course grades in laboratory courses

Big data is an emerging topic, with huge investments in IT and education worlds. Together with awareness of the knowledge discovery and education improvement progresses, big data concept has come with a growing consciousness. There are several educational data mining analysis methods created, evaluated and presented in the literature in this manner. But, how the educational big data for finding “intelligently” valuable results to benefit students, teachers and administrators will be collected, filtered and handled? In this study, a unique data collection, filtering and evaluation framework for educational data mining was designed, evaluated and presented. In this perspective, an IT infrastructure and process monitoring software for gathering client computers’ data of 3 laboratories in a public high school was developed. Time series big data was collected during 5 months from 62 computers with this back stage working software. After filtering this data with eligible methods, resultant data was evaluated with Pearson’s correlation analysis between students’ rate of interactions with computers and their exam grades on laboratory courses. Results showed that students’ computer interaction and their success in the courses are highly correlated.

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Towards a domain model for integrating competence frameworks into learning platforms

Since adoption of the Europe-wide university-reform called Bologna Process, each accredited study path, module, or course has to be provided with a summary of the conveyed competences. Until now, this additional information had little effect on the comparability of learning content, because competences are usually described in form of free text. This leaves too much room for interpretation and misunderstandings. Standardized, machine-readable taxonomies are promising alternatives, especially in combination with so-called Competence Frameworks (CFs). In this article, we introduce the Competence Based Learning Model (CBLM). Its development starts with a specific solution for the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF)  and arrives to the creation of a generalized e-CF-independent version. The resulting CBLM is the basis for our two prototypical implementations – an extension for the learning platform Ecosystem Portal (EP) and a plugin for the Learning Management System (LMS) Moodle which extends its CBE-functionality introduced with release v3.1. A short summary and an outlook on future development conclude this article which succeeds our conference paper presented at the IX International GUIDE Conference.

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1616-2016 Four hundred years that may reveal more surprises

The Tempest of William Shakespeare deserves special attention. It opens a special view of the Elizabethan age and it can act as a bridge between the magic of the real World and the powers of the human mind. This play has been differently interpreted; however, an original analysis can be developed. An analysis that takes into proper account the possible influence of Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno on the English poet he met just a short while before writing the play.

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The impact of perception and presence on emotional reactions. A review of research in virtual reality

ABSTRACT. Virtual reality (VR) has made its way into mainstream psychological research in the last two decades. This technology, with its unique ability to simulate complex, real situations and contexts, offers researchers unprecedented opportunities to investigate human behavior in well controlled designs in the laboratory. One application of VR is the investigation of pathological processes in mental disorders. Research on the processes underlying threat perception, fear, and exposure therapy has shed light on more general aspects of the relation between perception and emotion. Being by its nature virtual, i.e., simulation of reality, VR strongly relies on the adequate selection of specific perceptual cues to activate emotions. Emotional experiences in turn are related to presence, another important concept in VR, which describes the user’s sense of being in a VR environment. We summarizes current research into perception of fear cues, emotion, and presence, aiming at the identification of the most relevant aspects of emotional experience in VR and their mutual relations. A special focus lies on a series of recent experiments designed to test the relative contribution of perception and conceptual information on fear in VR. This strand of research capitalizes on the dissociation between perception (bottom–up input) and conceptual information (top-down input) that is possible in VR. Recent research has highlighted the mutual influence of presence and fear in VR, but has also traced the limits of our current understanding of this relationship. An interoceptive attribution model of presence is suggested as a first step toward an integrative framework for emotion research in VR.

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The synergy between manipulative and digital artefacts in a mathematics teaching activity: a co-disciplinary perspective

ABSTRACT. This paper presents a teaching experiment aiming at constructing the meaning of axial symmetry through the mediation of a “duo of artefacts”, made up by a digital artefact and a manipulative one. The meaning of the term “mediation” is described and used from a dual perspective, joining General Didactics and Mathematics Education. Herein, we describe an interactive book, created in a Dynamic Geometry Environment and a teaching sequence, based on the use of such a digital artefact, combined with a manipulative one. The main potential of the interactive book is based on the possibility to drag geometric objects and observe the effects of the dragging. The sequence has been experimented with a 4th grade class and the activities have been videotaped and analysed. Results have been analysed through the cited dual perspective and reveal how the mediation of the duo of artefacts can foster the construction of the mathematical meaning. In this paper we show how the digital artefact, acting in synergy with the manipulative artefact, seems to exploit the potential of the sequence in terms of embodied involvement of the pupils in their cognitive process.

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How Virtualization, Decentralization and Network Building Change the Manufacturing Landscape: An Industry 4.0 Perspective

ABSTRACT. The German manufacturing industry has to withstand an increasing global competition on product quality and production costs. As labor costs are high, several industries have suffered severely under the relocation of production facilities towards aspiring countries, which have managed to close the productivity and quality gap substantially. Established manufacturing companies have recognized that customers are not willing to pay large price premiums for incremental quality improvements. As a consequence, many companies from the German manufacturing industry adjust their production focusing on customized products and fast time to market. Leveraging the advantages of novel production strategies such as Agile Manufacturing and Mass Customization, manufacturing companies transform into integrated networks, in which companies unite their core competencies. Hereby, virtualization of the process and supply-chain ensures smooth inter-company operations providing real-time access to relevant product and production information for all participating entities. Boundaries of companies deteriorate, as autonomous systems exchange data, gained by embedded systems throughout the entire value chain. By including Cyber-Physical-Systems, advanced communication between machines is tantamount to their dialogue with humans. The increasing utilization of information and communication technology allows digital engineering of products and production processes alike. Modular simulation and modeling techniques allow decentralized units to flexibly alter products and thereby enable rapid product innovation. The present article describes the developments of Industry 4.0 within the literature and reviews the associated research streams. Hereby, we analyze eight scientific journals with regards to the following research fields: Individualized production, end-to-end engineering in a virtual process chain and production networks. We employ cluster analysis to assign sub-topics into the respective research field. To assess the practical implications, we conducted face-to-face interviews with managers from the industry as well as from the consulting business using a structured interview guideline. The results reveal reasons for the adaption and refusal of Industry 4.0 practices from a managerial point of view. Our findings contribute to the upcoming research stream of Industry 4.0 and support decision makers to assess their need for transformation towards Industry 4.0 practices.

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Meeting Industry 4.0 training needs: e-learning sets out the way to move forward

ABSTRACT. Industry 4.0 is an expression that more frequently than others like industry of the future, digital industry, advanced manufacturing and so forth, is used to indicate a series of rapid technological transformations in the design, production and distribution of systems and products. The term, initially referred only to the manufacturing sector, has been progressively extended to the digital revolution which is involving all domains and that is entailing a rapid change of job requirements and skills. As a consequence, new professions are arising but existing jobs are also going through a modification in the skill sets required to perform them. The demands on employees will increase because processes become more complex, interconnected and digital. Currently and in the future, lifelong learning, the ability to think interdisciplinary as well as the development of IT competences will be basic requirements of employees in order to ensure the employability of working people, not only in technology-oriented careers (Richert, Behrens, Jeschke, 2016). Moreover, disruptive changes to business models are producing and will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years. In such a rapidly evolving employment scenario, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals in order to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends (World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs, 2016). Education has to adapt to the changed conditions and should probably re-think the current model of pedagogy aligning it with the potential of digitization. The use of new didactic methods and the exploitation of multimedia and technological solutions such as virtual laboratories, video-based learning, augmented reality

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New teaching paradigms in the new machine age revolution

ABSTRACT. Make students be able to deeply understand topics, to create their own knowledge-creative system, to develop creativity and lateral thinking: those are the target of the education of the future, in the so called New Machine Age. In fact, new skills are demanded by the jobs of the future. According to World Economic Forum, top skills in 2020 will include Creativity, Critical thinking, Emotional intelligence and cognitive Flexibility. How can we build these skills? A possible answer should be the metacognitive approach. Using a metacognitive approach means to teach students how they can find their own strategy, gaining personal control over academic outcomes. It means also, for students, to understand how their mind just works, how they can learn, how they can set the right targets and measure results in a dynamic assessment system. Using a metacognitive approach in distance education means also make students able to follow their own cognitive system, passions and motivation, finding their well-suited learning tools. Any problems or difficulties on learning (even dyslexia or dyscalculia) can be solved without a personalized learning route, just because there are infinite learning paths any student can choose. Any student has her/his own learning system and can find autonomously the right, personalized teaching method. Motivation is the key point of the model. Teacher should motivate students and help learners to understand their own capabilities and how metacognitive system works, also in a distance learning system. This paper analyzes the future new needs in terms of job (soft) skills. Then, following the literature about metacognitive approaches, will delineate a new paradigm of inclusive and self-regulation based teaching for Universities, focused on distance education, advanced tools and new approaches, showing result of an application of these ideas into economics courses.

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Modern technologies and distance learning in science didactics

The availability of online video and increasing student access to technology has paved the way for “flipped classroom” models. In such a model, traditional teaching methods are inverted and instruction and lessons are delivered online outside of class moving homework into the classroom. (…) Many instructors have pointed out as well the benefits of a model called “peer instruction” and essentially based on an interactive learning principle, developed by Harvard Professor Eric Mazur in the early 1990s and used in the beginning to improve learning in introductory undergraduate physics classes at Harvard University. (…) In the present article, such modern teaching methods and their possible application to distance learning scientific courses will be discussed, emphasizing how the interplay between the two could allow distance learning teaching to close the gap with respect to traditional didactics, as well as possibly permitting to surpass its limits.

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New challenges to promote a deeper interaction between e‐learning and research: Practical approach and virtual lab to provide an overview of what really happens in a laboratory of radiobiology

With the aim to illustrate to the students what really happens in a radiobiology’s laboratory, a virtual lab was created.

Through an interactive simulation of both X-ray generator and mouse models, the students can expand their knowledge about the biological effects induced by ionizing radiation using new pedagogical and technological strategies.

The realized multimedia product has also been inserted as a case study to promote a deeper interaction between e-learning and research.

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Teaching, researching and learning in a technology‐based environment

This paper analyses the relationship between teaching, researching and learning in the current wired-society.

Nowadays the technology of online communications is having an impact on the way people access to information and culture. Hence, we will show how education industry can take advantage of this “network society”, to tackle ancient problems, and then to build a better course design and to share knowledge more efficiently.

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A powerful learning object based on Multiple Answer Test

One of the principal, and still unsolved, problems for the worldwide university system is the high drop-out rate that is observed especially for STEM courses. The causes of this trend are various but many of them are directly related to the sense of abandon felt by students especially during first years. This trend can be inverted providing a set of self-assessment activities to organize students personal study-method and to transmit them a proper self-government. In this context, we realized a self-assessment activity for Physics courses based on Multiple Answers Questionnaire. (…)

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Smart University: the sustainable vector of knowledge

The term smart has been increasingly used to refer to a process of rethinking and modernization in different areas and contexts, covering the use of innovative technology solutions, sharing networks and data, and access to goods and services. That’s all feasible thanks to multi-stakeholder participation at different levels, and access through the use of ICT. (…)

This work, by considering a smart society unavoidably aimed to sustainability, particularly highlights the close link between smart university and sustainability.

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A technological enhanced self-assessment activity to reduce university drop-out

Passage from secondary school to university can be difficult for our students if they are not properly followed by instructors. To curtail the high university drop-out rate detected in various countries, a set of self-assessment activities must be devised by teachers to furnish students an important help in organizing their personal study-method and to gain a proper self-government.

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Trends in distance education research: A content analysis of journals 2009-2013

This study intends to explore the current trends in the field of distance education research during the period of 2009-2013. The trends were identified by an extensive review of seven peer reviewed scholarly journals: The American Journal of Distance Education (AJDE), Distance Education (DE), The European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning (EURODL), The Journal of Distance Education (JDE), The Journal of Online Learning and Technology (JOLT), Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning (OL) and The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL). A total of 861 research articles was reviewed. (…)

Article first published in “International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning IRRODL”, V. 16 (2015), n. 1 as open access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Distribution License 4.0 (//

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Learning innovation: a framework for transformation

Learning with and through technological enhancements operates in a landscape unrecognizable only a few years ago. Focusing on Higher Education, this article shows how to capture and model complex strategic processes that will move the potential of online and blended learning in universities to new stages of development. It offers the example of a four quadrant model created as a framework for an online and blended learning innovation strategy, and its successful implementation in practice.

Article first published in “Eurodl”, V. (2014), n. 2
Reprinted with permission.

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New results on νμ → ντ appearance with the OPERA experiment in the CNGS beam

The OPERA neutrino experiment is designed to perform the first observation of neutrino oscillations in direct appearance mode in the νμ → ντ channel, via the detection of the τ-leptons created in charged current ντ interactions. The detector, located in the underground Gran Sasso Laboratory, consists of an emulsion/lead target with an average mass of about 1.2 kt, complemented by electronic detectors. It is exposed to the CERN Neutrinos to Gran Sasso beam, with a baseline of 730 km and a mean energy of 17 GeV. The observation of the first ντ candidate event and the analysis of the 2008-2009 neutrino sample have been reported in previous publications. This work describes substantial improvements in the analysis and in the evaluation of the detection efficiencies and backgrounds using new simulation tools. (…)

@ The authors. Article first published in JHEP11 (2013) 036, and erratum JHEP04 (2014) 014, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0), //

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A game theory based strategy for reducing energy consumption in cognitive WSN

Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are one of the most important users of wireless communication technologies in the coming years and some challenges in this area must be addressed for their complete development. Energy consumption and spectrum availability are two of the most severe constraints of WSNs due to their intrinsic nature. The introduction of cognitive capabilities into these networks has arisen to face the issue of spectrum scarcity but could be used to face energy challenges too due to their new range of communication possibilities. In this paper a new strategy based on game theory for cognitive WSNs is discussed. The presented strategy improves energy consumption by taking advantage of the new change-communication-channel capability. Based on game theory, the strategy decides when to change the transmission channel depending on the behavior of the rest of the network nodes. The strategy presented is lightweight but still has higher energy saving rates as compared to noncognitive networks and even to other strategies based on scheduled spectrum sensing. Simulations are presented for several scenarios that demonstrate energy saving rates of around 65% as compared to WSNs without cognitive techniques.

Article first published in “International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks”, V. 2014, Article ID 965495 and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 Unported (// //

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Quality experiences of inquiry in blended contexts: university student approaches to inquiry, technologies, and conceptions of learning

Evaluating the quality of inquiry using technology in blended contexts at university is a complex phenomenon as there are many variables which could account for qualitative variation in the experience. This study looks at reasons for qualitative variation in the university student experience of inquiry using technologies. It considers approaches to inquiry and technologies, conceptions of learning and academic achievement. The results identify which aspects of the experience account for relatively more successful learning and which aspects of the experience tend to be related to less successful experiences. It offers a nuanced understanding of the contribution of technology to successful experiences. The results have implications for the design of activities which involve class and on-line contexts and the way we help students to be successful.

Article first published in “Australasian Technology”, V. 30 (2014), n. 3, // Reprinted with permission.

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Bridging differing perspectives on technological platforms: toward an integrative framework

An integrative framework is proposed to advance management research on technological platforms, bridging two theoretical perspectives: economics, which sees platforms as double-sided markets, and engineering design, which sees platforms as technological architectures. While the economic perspective informs our understanding of platform competition, the engineering design perspective informs our view of platform innovation. The article argues that platforms can be usefully conceptualized as evolving organizations or meta-organizations that: (1) federate and coordinate constitutive agents who can innovate and compete; (2) create value by generating and harnessing economies of scope in supply or/and in demand; and (3) entail a modular technological architecture composed of a core and a periphery. In support of this conceptualization, a classification system is presented, indicating that technological platforms appear in a variety of organizational forms: within firms, across supply chains, and across industry innovation ecosystems. As an illustration, the framework is then applied to derive a simple model highlighting patterns of interaction between platform innovation and competition, yielding hypotheses that could be tested empirically by future scholars.

Article first published in “Research Policy”, V. 43 (2014), n. 7, pp. 1239-1249 as open access article funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 Unported (//

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Medium of natural phenomena

Looking for the deeper essence of natural phenomena and minimal number of physical laws describing them, a hypothetical vacuum medium is stratified into structural layers, as the levels of observation of respective processes. Instead of a fluidic, the dielectric medium successfully explains all EM phenomena at least. More or less convincingly, inertia and gravitation are explained on EM bases, and the speed of light propagation, with respective reference frame, is conditioned by gravitation itself. The unification of physics is thus initialized, just on the advanced classical bases.

Article first published in “International Journal of Theoretical and mathematical Physics”, V. 4, pp. 143-150 doi:10.5923/j.ijtmp.20140404.01 Reprinted with permission.

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Detection of B-mode polarization at degree angular scales by BICEP2

We report results from the BICEP2 experiment, a cosmic microwave background (CMB) polarimeter specifically designed to search for the signal of inflationary gravitational waves in the B-mode power spectrum around ∼ 80. The telescope comprised a 26 cm aperture all-cold refracting optical system equipped with a focal plane of 512 antenna coupled transition edge sensor 150 GHz bolometers each with temperature sensitivity of ≈300 μKCMB square-s. BICEP2 observed from the South Pole for three reasons from 2010 to 2012.

Article forst published in “Physical Review Letters”, V. 112 (2014), n. 20 by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative commons Attribution 3.0 License (// DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.241101.

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The system learning. Rethinking structures, role and functions of the virtual communities of knowledge and learning

The technological changes, that have been taking place long since, have not only modified the learning forms of the complex organizations, even within them, but in the large, all forms of social aggregation, generating brand new phenomenologies.

Received: 17 April 2014

Revised: 8 May 2014

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B-learning quality: dimensions, criteria and pedagogical approach

Measuring the quality of a b-learning environment is critical to determine the success of a b-learning course. Several initiatives have been recently conducted on benchmarking and quality in e-learning. Despite these efforts in defining and examining quality issues concerning online courses, a defining instrument to evaluate quality is one of the key challenges for blended learning, since it incorporates both traditional and online instruction methods.

Article first published in “EURODL”, 2014, n. 1 (Brief items) as open access article. Reprinted with permission.

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