Saturday, December 06, 2008

The use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education

Peter Murray has point out to me an interesting report from Franklin Consulting entitled A review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education which has recently been published.

The report was commissioned by the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience who asked for an international perspective on Web 2.0 tools and their use in universities around the world. The results which cover Australia, The Netherlands, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America) highlights the drivers and inhibitors to use and draws some conclusions about the likely direction.

Their findings reflect patchy uptake and a wide variety of ways in which these tools are being used, but suggest "The potential transformation of the practices themselves is yet barely understood or encountered".

There was a remarkably high level of agreement about the issues to be addressed which included:

Social and professional lives: The use of Web 2.0 for both social and professional purposes has created uncertainties for HEIs. This is reflected in institutions’ current regulatory behaviour codes for use of Web 2.0 for both staff and students.
Privacy and safety: Issues of privacy and safety have been raised within the international reports as matters of concern for students and institutions.
Identity: One of the key issues that both students and institutions will face is the nature of students' and staff online identities.
Issues for Institutions: Traditional frameworks for the development of academic knowledge do not sit comfortably with the speed of information sharing and information production that exists via the Internet.
A lack of new pedagogic models creating uncertainty for both staff and students.
Time constraints; administrative overload, high maintenance of the learning process
and learning the new technologies are all time consuming.
A culture shift for academics: The rapid and huge expansion of information accessible through the web coupled with tools that can be used to repurpose and create new knowledge on-line have created a very different information and a communication environment
Issues for students :Issues for students are common across all countries where they are engaged in using Web 2.0 tools.

The perceived advantages for co-creation of knowledge and the support for
on-line collaborative activities are balanced against concerns over the
longevity of software applications and reduced institutional control as learning space becomes atomised.

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