Orientation Network Project

Optional Abstract: 

The Orientation Network Project represents an example of collaboration between high schools and Sapienza University that university professors from the Medicine and Life Sciences Faculties and secondary school teachers have been coordinating for over thirteen years. Together they have developed an articulated orientation and tutoring path. The project consists of an introductory and preparatory course offered online and in the classroom aimed at improving student readiness. The project organises educational activities during the transition from high school to university in order for students to meet minimum university entrance requirements. Data from 2011 shows that out of 2,489 participating students 55% were admitted to the Medicine and Life Sciences Faculties. The project is a dynamic communication initiative and demonstrates public engagement in which schools, universities, students and teaching bodies at various institutions collaborate with each other as a network.

Project purpose:

The project was launched in the 1999-2000 academic year after a law on school autonomy was passed (Law n. 59 – March 15th 1997) and represents one of the first examples of inter-institutional collaboration between secondary schools and universities. Currently in its thirteenth year, the project is coordinated by university professors responsible for admissions and orientation (Faculties of Medicine and Psychology, Pharmacy and Medicine and Medicine and Dentistry of Sapienza University of Rome) and teachers from secondary schools who set up an articulated orientation and tutoring path, tailored to the needs of the Italian school system.

Project objectives:

• Create a link between secondary schools and universities by setting up a course dealing with the knowledge and contents required for admission to restricted access university degree courses in the fields of Medicine and Life Sciences, and covering topics generally studied in the first year of such degree courses.
• Promote effective inter-institutional collaboration aimed at creating a common orientation path between secondary educational institutions and the University. Foster exchange of experiences among teaching staff and practical cooperation between schools and universities.
• Strengthen the active tutoring role of secondary school teachers in order to improve the teaching/learning process.
• Enable students to make informed university choices and begin a process of training and personal growth by filling out the Conosci te stesso (Know Yourself) questionnaire, an orientation tool designed by the Faculty of Medicine and Psychology of Sapienza.
• Provide students in their last year of secondary education the opportunity to acquire university credits by taking the scientific English test which students normally take in their first year of university and which is also useful preparation for the admission test (administered by Cambridge Assessment) to the Medicine and Surgery degree course entirely taught in English at Sapienza University.

The project has implemented an orientation and educational model tailored to the needs of students, secondary schools and university institutions. It aims to provide students with the preparation required by universities, reducing the preparation gap still present in high school curricula by organising educational activities during the transition from high school to university.

The project consists of an orientation and preparation course offered online (during the winter) and in the classroom (during the summer) intended to make it possible for students to meet the minimum university entrance requirements for degree courses in the areas of Medicine and Life Sciences. The course is designed for students in their last year of secondary education. The subjects covered are those indicated by ministry-approved curricula for admission to degree courses in the areas of Medicine and Health Professions: logic, general knowledge, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics, with tests and exercises available at www.orientamentoinrete.it

Project impact:

The results obtained in the last thirteen years demonstrate a positive trend: the success of the courses has been analysed not only on the basis of student admission rates but also on the increasing number of participants.

2011 Data:
• The www.orientamentoinrete.it website registered 92,016 visits from January 1st to Septmber 30th 2011, with a peak in the summer period (July and August).
• Of all those who sat the admission test to the Medicine and Surgery degree courses (7,287), 22% participated in the project.
• Of all those admitted to the Medicine and Surgery degree courses (998), 29% participated in the project.
• 55% of the total 2,489 project participants were admitted to Medicine or Life Sciences Faculties.
• 164 schools participated in the project.
• The level of student satisfaction with the quality of the courses was medium to high, and was monitored through an anonymously submitted form at the end of the summer.

Project originality:

The project’s strengths can be summarized as follows:

- Close inter-institutional collaboration between schools and Sapienza University.

- Modular structure of the courses which makes it possible to:
- Offer highly targeted teaching
- Start, interrupt or resume learning at any time in the orientation process, thanks to the division of teaching and learning activities into winter and summer phases.
- Provide students with a high degree of flexibility during their decision process.
- Appropriate balance of distance and classroom learning throughout the entire school year.
- Active involvement of school teachers in the tutoring activities in order to support students during the winter phase of the project and with structured tests.
- Self-assessment tests through which students can autonomously verify their preparation and take further steps to improve, according to the requirements of university entrance tests.
- Student participation encouraged with the creation of a social space on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/PROGETTO-ORIENTAMENTO-IN-RETE) and analysis of their feedback.

Project sustainability:

The Orientation Network Project represents a dynamic initiative in the areas of communication and public engagement in which schools, universities, students and teaching bodies at various institutions collaborate following a network approach. The rigorous organising and teaching structure and the project’s clearly outlined procedures have allowed for a fruitful exchange of information and experiences over the years between university professors, secondary teachers and students at various institutions. This has led to the definition of a model that could be replicated in other university contexts at a national level. The initiative, open to all schools in Lazio and all other Italian regions, is also available for students who do not belong to participating institutions.

The project is funded by Sapienza and the University Orientation and Tutoring Committee. In the last two years participating students have been required to pay a tuition fee of €50, turning the initiative into an entirely self-funded project. This decision has contributed to the project’s sustainability. The project’s success is the result of various elements:

- The University Orientation and Tutoring Committee
- Professors and researchers in the Medicine and Life Sciences Faculties
- The Student Office
- Infosapienza
- The Communication Office
- Secondary schools

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