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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.

14 Responses to “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 – some thoughts”

  1. […] This post was Twitted by llordllama – […]

  2. AJ Cann said

    I suspect that (but don’t yet have any evidence for) students find a Twitter “follow” less threatening/invasive than a Facebook “befriending”.

    Second Life? Pull the other one.

    • You’ll be glad that Second Life only has a odd comment, rather than being presented as the solution to all ills.

      Have to agree with you about the twitter follow – maybe they’d find us librarians even less threatening to follow as we’re not involved in giving them any marks towards their degree. Or in the current attainment culture maybe they would see us as valueless to follow? Answers on a postcard…

  3. Seems to me there’s a major difference between Facebook type things and blog/twitter type things. My blog entries and tweets are there for anyone who wants to look at them, Facebook is for keeping in touch with those people I select as friends – mostly in my own age group as it happens. I wouldn’t want students as Facebook friends any more than they would want me as theirs! I do think it’s different though to be a fan of an organisation on Facebook. I’ve become a fan of a few organisations but I don’t see them at all in the same way as I do my friends.

    • I agree – I’ve very definied uses for different social media, and they’re just the way I handle them (Facebook is for friends or close trusted collegues, twitter and this blogis for all, other blogs vary depending on intended audience).

      And I’m still waiting for the “Don’t like” or “Enemy” button in Facebook for some organisations – negative feedback is still feedback…

  4. Emma Cragg said

    I’m definitely in the camp that keeps Facebook for friends and uses a blog and Twitter for the wider world. I agree that I wouldn’t want to befriend students on Facebook or heaven forbid have them befriend me.

    However, I’m always struck when walking round the library the number of screens that have Facebook displayed. If the majority of our students are using it then I would argue that it cannot hurt the library to have a presence there. Then it’s up to the student whether they become a fan. Some will, some won’t but at least they’ll have a choice.

    And on that note I reckon I’m off to create a Facebook page for our library this afternoon…

    • Good luck! We’ve a Facebook page, though it’s not really been exploited sadly – still we’ve ended up with hundreds of fans – including our current students – which does give us a potential audience we can occassionally message in a different way.

      But it’s been all kept very very offical what goes out/up on the page. Unlike this blog which (probably in part due to my influence) is being kept very much unoffical. And allows for a much more rapid fire discourse as a result, IMHO.

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  7. sarahw9 said

    I don’t have any problem with the idea that work / social can be kept separate – that web 2 can be for both, and in theory I don’t think many students would. If students are getting used to debating / dicussing online informally in their social lives online, how can we get them do to this in an academic context? – they will be inhibited thinking they are being assessed and marked. Are they too busy trying to get their heads around the traditional academic structures and communication channels (which they need to do to get their degree afterall)? I think there is a gap here.

    • That was one of the points the study touched on – that students coming to uni are shell shocked by the culture; but that they expect the culture to adapt to them (and not vice versa). In an area of student satisfaction driving HE provision, i think we might find this a useful aid to those of us who are using Web 2.0 to try and meet our students in the information environments where they are already!

  8. Everything is very open with a really clear description of the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

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