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Information and communication technologies in university education systems

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From the point of view of information and communication sciences, education and university systems should be noted as organisations which are partly part of the national states (in France only) and partly of the private sector. These organisations aim at the ownership by their students of information, procedures and representation systems that fulfil three main functions: the transmission of a culture, within the framework of collective structures; access to a profession (or at least putting it on track), hence the existence of a broad, professional sector; finally, it is one of their distinctive features in relation to the production system, with the emergence of a critical posture leading to research. The critical function of universities is clearly distinguishable, for example, from mere development research or that of the consultancy firm. These functions have traditionally been carried out through mainly collective processes, most often involving a teacher, who is the guarantor of transmission, often at the same time a researcher (awakening the research function), as well as possibly professionals (for professionalisation). The ways in which information is entered and how to transmit procedures to enable it to be taken over have been relatively stabilised for several centuries. In addition to oral communication, it is paper registration that is the basis for academic communication (from book in library, notes taken in progress, polycopied or duty of examination) and its economic and institutional existence. The rapid development of information and communication technologies leads to a challenge in the academic sector, as in other sectors of society, of practices and balances. The destabilising factors of the system are the progressive and widespread registration on electronic memory, whether these are CD-ROMs, virtual campuses, websites or digitised libraries; (vs the traditional inscription on paper); the technical possibility of instant duplication and transmission of information (which does not mean equality before information, but raises fundamental legal and ethical problems); the transition from a situation where the central issue was access to information to a situation where crucial capacities become those related to sorting, the elimination of unnecessary information and the exploitation of relevant information becomes the one of managing the abundance of information (vs difficult access and scarcity); the emergence of situations in which the network can become the dominant form of information flow for inforicts. This has been the case for many research laboratories for years, but this method of communication differs radically from traditional forms of education (vertical transmission, group work, and access to books according to institutional networks).

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