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A collaborative university network for a disoriented society


Gabriel Mario Rodrigues, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Brazilian Association of Private Institutions of Higher Education – ABMES

“Our disorientation affects the economic, family, political, sexual, cultural spheres. If we fail to project our future, someone else will do it for us, not for our own interests but for their own benefit.” (Prof. Domenico De Masi)

In my last article published in this blog, I approached the intricate world of social networks, arriving at the conclusion that they, at the same time as they could be exquisite means of cooperation for scientific, cultural and educational improvement, end up becoming a waste of life with exchange of false and vain news, becoming a rabid and bloody inquisitional court.

I return to the theme after receiving two emails about what I wrote, one of which refers to the role of education as a promoter of values, but commenting on the little practical that I had said, and another from Prof. Raulino Tramontim, who analyzes and improves my texts.

Contardo Calligaris, on the same theme (“The virulence of social networks is the successor of totalitarianism”), cites the book Libertarian Struggles and the Brazilian Public Space, by Francisco Bosco: “In social networks there are no debates, but lynchings. There are no ideas but words of order. ”

There are those who say that this new space would reveal true human nature hungry for blood. For Calligaris, the virulence of networks is the successor of totalitarianism: the debate is won when the opponent is silent.

Prof. Raulino, in his shrewd email, complements: “Social networks are like the Tower of Babel. There is everything. They were created to facilitate communication, but, like so many other instruments developed to benefit humanity, it is also used to misrepresent ideas. In the world of technologies they all begin for good and end for evil. In the case of education, however, a social network can spread a methodology, a philosophy, a guideline, a thought, a modus operandi, with speed and the certainty that the target will be reached, because everything that comes through the networks has followers as much on one side as the other.”

But what is not yet perceived in the educational system is that in the time of virtuality real time no longer exists. We can communicate with the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of where we are, but we are stuck with the model of the timetable of a 3,200-hour face-to-face course lasting for four years. You need to be a hero to stand a four-year distance education, because when you think of innovating in education, we are still bound by the old rules of the traditional university.

Although we use the tools and resources of the web, we repeat in the virtual learning environments the presential models. In place of a lecture, hypertexts, flashes and breezes appear, even the recording of the teacher’s class.

Instead of an auditorium, there are discussion rooms based on the same model, with facilitators or animators, while the majority around are mere spectators. As for shared or collaborative learning – in which, faced with a real project, students could discuss and exchange opinions and present solutions to real challenges – very little exists, because of lack of creativity, selfishness or fear of the Ministry of Education.

I was the creator of the first Tourism program and, as early as the first year, as it happens today, evasion was rampant. Listening to a discussion group of students, I sensitized myself to the suggestion of one of them and adopted his suggestion. He proposed that students form interest groups, joining different “tribes”: who wants to discuss cinema, who wants to talk about politics, who wants to talk about sports or organize events. This idea is valid to this day because the internet is ripe  for forming networks of cooperation.

I know collaborative networks where professionals exchange experiences on projects they are developing in their areas of expertise. Very common in advertising, technology, scientific activities, construction of software, environment and even in solidarity. But I do not know of a single collaborative network that brings undergraduate students from the courses offered across Brazil. Just look on the internet: there is a social network for all kinds of meetings, from porn to catechism. But I did not see, for example, a group of students from any university courses.

Imagine if we built – and the web community was created for this – a worldwide university network, where students and teachers from different countries would exchange experiences and knowledge. It is not easy and maybe even impossible. But one day someone will be able to create it because many dreamers have already thought about a world university network. Reasons are abundant:
1 – traditional educational institutions to escape the decline in enrollments need to think about it. It is a matter of survival;
2 – it is necessary to form a community in which university students no longer anchor in the past but in the future, seeking only new ideas;
3 – it is necessary to build a community with new ideas and an understanding of the world, where people have a voice and respect antagonisms;
4 – it is necessary to build a civilized community where decisions follow the world dreamed by all of them;
5 – it is necessary to build a truly democratic community that reflects the collective values ​​of humanity, from the local to the global, encompassing diverse cultures, ideologies and religions.

Never has the world lived, despite all technological and economic progress, a social reality so distressing and that causes total instability to envisage a more harmonious future for humanity (and the problems are the same in Brazil).

In a moment of disoriented society why not think of a worldwide university network to study solutions for a better life for all? At least they would all learn a lot. And better yet, adapting to a regional project will be easy to accomplish.