Higher Education in a Web 2.0 – some thoughts
Posted by gazjjohnson on 12 May, 2009
I’m currently reading through the the HEA and JISC’s report “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World ” that’s just been published on the Web. A few thoughts and highlights follow.
p8 – “Students are looking for traditional approaches, notably personal contact, in a modern setting…The bridge between Web 2.0 in social user and in learning is as yet only dimly perceived by students“. I’m taking this to mean that students are viewing Web 2 as more of a social thing, and not a learning activity. I know talking with people like Alan (Cann) that students can take a dim view of our intruding on what they view as their “personal space”. There is the broader debate of the where the divide between private/public lies in social media (mine are certainly blended and intertwined) that has to be remembered – do the students really want us being their “friends” on Facebook or following them on twitter – or vice versa.
p10 Recommendations “HEIs to take steps to keep abreast of the prior experience and expectations of their student bodies“. Er yes, always useful – question is how? In the past I’ve been involved in pre-assessing students (for future ICT skills training) and the picture has been spotty and incomplete. Asking students about their skills base is not a good metric, most of them either considerably over or under estimate their ability. On the other hand, this might mean HEI has to work more closely with secondary education – OK for the UK, but what about for our thousands of overseas students? Sounds quite a job.
“HEIs support staff to become proficient users of an appropriate range of technologies and skilled practitioners of e-pedagogy” Well yes I agree, but this might be with some considerable reluctance – going on the experience of people I meet at conferences, those of us up skilled and enthusiastically engaging in this area is still very much in minority right now. A lot of time and resource will be needed in training, and from senior levels in advocating staff to really engage here.
p15 I see in their definition of Web 2.0 and social software that “Media sharing” is mentioned, but doesn’t include “file sharing”. I wonder as I delve further in, if the culture of free/open access sharing of information, music etc is going to be included as a consideration. It might breach (c) laws left right and centre, but I bet a lot of students are doing it, and don’t see if as a problem. Online essay banks might be the least of our worries.
p19 The Five principal perspectives on the Social Web. I’m a point 4 man myself (force for good and offers possibilities – IDIC I say!). I seem to know a lot of people who’ll embody the other points though.
p20/21 Ah good, access and the digital divide is getting a look in. I keep worrying that we’ll get to a point of assuming students have a certain skills/access base but won’t require them to have it to join an institution.
p23 “Students may think they are doing this [checking validity of courses] although their methods may not be sufficiently rigorous”. Oh yes indeed, as I said about p10 – self perception of ability can be seriously flawed. On the other hand on the same page there’s a good quote in support of peer-peer enabled support.
p24 “Information literacies…represent a significant and growing deficit area“. Not news to we librarians who have (all of my professional working life at least) been striving to get these onto the agenda across institutions (with mixed results). This might well be the single most important point for us LIS types
p29-32 Focus is on current Web 2 being used, bit thin on details to be honest “Facebook and Second Life presences for most HEIs”. Would have preferred a few exemplars in here, maybe even some best practice models.
p34-35 Back to focus on information literacies – will it actually mention the key role librarians have been playing here? Nope, they raised my hopes. All the same what the report stresses are important considerations are well worth the read (if nothing else) for librarians involved in supporting learners. Which is, let’s face it, all of us.
p37 Some very timely comments about the danger to HEIs in the UK if they continue to focus on throughput and efficacy, rather than excellence and relevance. I’ve commented elsewhere on this myself, so it is sobering but timely to see this appearing in black and white in this report.
p40 The new learners and the old HEI structures currently co-existing, but for how much longer? One of the themes of this report that it keeps coming back to is that the learning styles and mores of school carry over into HE. I don’t think personally I’m familiar enough with how secondary (or even primary) educators are training their students in terms of information literacy and ICT skills, let alone their approaches to study and learning. I’m sure I’m not alone. Perhaps that’s the key lesson I’m taking away from this report – a need to understand the adjacent educational realms more. The stark phrase in the report “The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating” – sent more than a few shivers down my spine.
This is a very readable report, with a lot of very interesting points made in it – if you do get the chance, I’d certainly advocate reading it yourself; don’t take my interpretations for gospel in any way! Access the report directly here.