Friday, 30 May 2008

Web 2.0: “What research evidence is there that learners want web 2.0 to help them learn?”

This was the question posed to me after my presentation at a recent British Institute for Learning & Development (BILD) event. I gave an acceptable answer, but you know what it is like you always think of a much better answer later! Well, here is my second attempt.

Before, I attempt to answer the question, what is the definition of web 2.0? According to Wikipedia ( :

“Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies.”

Well back to the question about “what research evidence is there that learners want web 2.0 to help them learn”.

Now I used to be a researcher and speech writer to some UK Members of Parliament. So having this political training in mind (!!), I should tackle this by posing a different question and discussing the general issues (!!)………

“People are using web 2.0 in their everyday life and have embraced it. What evidence do you have that they do not want it to help them learn?”

There is a wealth of evidence to support the view that Web 2.0 has changed the way young people collaborate, socialise and create user generated content (eg. TGI surveys etc), and that these behaviours are starting to spread across different age groups. People are using web 2.0 in their everyday life. Why wouldn’t they want to use these tools for learning?

These web 2.0 behaviours are migrating into the world of learning. Universities are increasingly integrating web 2.0 stuff (particularly collaboration and user generated content) into the way they deliver learning. For example, many universities are hosting all copies of lectures on their website (Metropolitan University believe that podcasting lectures has increased grades), encouraging students to post self generated content, students are collaborating via social networking sites (Henley Management School are using a business networking site Linked In, while Cranfield uses You Tube), using mobile devices to access short guest lectures, using web 2.0 to replicate help bridge the gap between classroom theory and the workplace (eg. Warwick) and there is uproar when the campus wi-fi goes down for only a few minutes (students are that dependent!). (The FT elearning Supplement, March 2007)

I understand that if you ask many lower skilled learners or learners that are new to the web, they would look at you blankly if you asked them if they want web 2.0 to help them learn. Ufi is conducting some “action research” in a particular curriculum area which embeds many elements of web 2.0. We’ve had some focus groups demonstrating some of the features and getting feedback. What the focus groups show is that when lower skilled learners actually see materials which use web 2.0 tools they are very positive and believe it will help them learn. The trick is to get the right blend of web 2.0 stuff at the right time using good instructional design. This is the real learning curve for all training and learning providers out there (it is easier said then done! We are all only at the start of this journey…..). For more information see the PS at the end of this blog.

Web 2.0 is also changing the nature of informal learning (ie. formal learning covers training programmes, workshops, mentoring, while informal learning covers learning via network, on the job, manuals/instructions or through taking your own initiative). The barriers between formal and informal learning seem to be breaking down. People want information or training when they need it (“just in time”) not in long training courses. Behaviour on the web show that people are using google, You Tube, Wiki “How to…..” and various other sites to gain access to tips and solutions to their issue immediately. I believe this trend of using web 2.0 is changing the way we live and learn. Surely our learning institutions should keep up with their customers? Why wouldn’t people want schools, higher education and adult education to use web 2.0 to help them learn?

End of blog…………..but you can read on for the PS!!!

PS. Here is some more detail from Ufi’s Action Research in a particular curriculum area which embed many elements of web 2.0 (please bear in mind that this is from Focus groups so it highlights trends rather than facts!). At the usability stage of the action research, the focus groups were shown mock up resources and web frames. There was……..

*Strong endorsement for an interactive and engaging style of learning: “I especially like the downloads, video clips and visual aids, as this helps you see things more clearly and gives you a better understanding”
* Learners liked the short learning resources which utilised a mix of different media (Learners like the video style of learning – it is easier and preferable to just reading)
* Learners were happy to receive virtual support from their tutors as well as face-to-face support
* Learners wanted a site that was current, updated regularly and contained information/views from both experts and peers
* Wiki’s, communities/forums and rating resources were well received, but blogs were not. Oh dear (!!). But, perhaps this isn’t a criticism to all of us bloggers out there (!!). Learners said they didn’t feel they would have the time to contribute to their own blog.

PPS. Thank you to Sara Bingham and Kelly Golding Smith for their comments on the draft blog

1 comment:

Richard Hyett said...

I'm not sure that the term Web 2.0 conceals more than it illuminates, the use of the word seems to have changed a hell of a lot. When I came across it first it applied to the use of technologies like AJAX to make web pages more intuitive. Quite different from the way it is being used now. My children are quite familiar with youtube and wikipedia from their teachers, both at primary and secondary school, we use these resources at home as well to help them with their homework, there is no generational divide here. Do you really think this is a big problem?