A review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 0) in higher education

A review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education

Jill Armstrong
York St John University

Tom Franklin
Franklin Consulting

With National reports by

Catherine McLoughlin

The Netherlands
Wim Westera

South Africa
Philipp Schmidt

The United Kingdom
Brian Kelly

The United States
Alice E. Marwick

September 2008

Table of Contents

Table of Contents i

List of Tables and figures iv

List of tables iv

List of Figures iv

Acknowledgements v

Executive Summary 1

The areas in which Web 2.0 is being used, including academic and administrative support 1

The drivers to use of Web 2.0 in these areas 2

The issues encountered and the responses made 2

The perceived advantages and disadvantages of Web 2.0 use 3

Prospective developments in Web 2.0 use 3

Introduction 4

What is Web 2.0 / Social web 7

Blogs 7

Wikis 7

Social bookmarking 8

Media sharing 8

Social networking 8

Aggregation 9

Other technologies 9

Information Quality 10

The current state of Web 2.0 10

Why does Web 2.0 matter in higher education? 12

Drivers and enablers 13

Drivers and enablers for using Web 2.0 in Higher Education 13

Enablers 16

Barriers 17

Inequity in student access 17

Institutional ICT/audit restrictions 17

Institutional management indifference/inertia/risk aversion/different values 17

Risk or uncertainty of success with students 18

Academics indifference/inertia/risk aversion/different values/lack of knowledge and skills 18

Time restraints from overload from development, administrative changes/demands, research, student numbers 19

Pedagogic uncertainty 19

Not yet ‘user friendly’ enough 19

Benefits of using Web 2.0 20

Provides an opportunity to tap into student motivations 20

Improves student learning 20

Meets current pedagogic goals 20

Changes the nature of learning boundaries 21

Provides new functionality for supporting students 21

Ease of use providing ready access 21

Provides new flexible virtual spaces without walls or time constraints 21

Being at the front of the game 22

Motivates staff 22

Supports wider HEI practices 22

Environmental benefits from using Web 2.0 technologies 22

Issues encountered and responses to them 23

Social issues 23

Issues for Institutions 24

Issues for students 25

Implications 26

Information services 26

Curriculum 26

The future of universities 27

Examples of use 29

Teaching and learning 30

Learner support 35

Marketing 37

International comparisons 38

Appendix A: International reports 42

Web 2.0 in Higher Education in Australia 43

Catherine McLoughlin, Australian Catholic University 43

Background 43

Social technology in the classroom 46

National drivers for using social technology in the classroom 46

Drivers for use of the social web 47

Issues encountered and responses to social software tools 49

Barriers to the implementation of web 2.0 in higher education in Australia 51

Examples of use in academic and administrative support areas 52

Mobile and Web 2.0 adoption in Australia to support student learning 60

Universities using Web 2.0 tools and applications to support students 61

References 61

Web 2.0 in Higher Education in the Netherlands 63

Wim Westera, Open University of the Netherlands 63

Introduction 63

The national context 63

Agencies driving higher education innovation 64

Description of Web 2.0 / Social Web practices in higher education 66

References 72

Web 2.0 in Higher Education in South Africa 73

Philipp Schmidt, University of the Western Cape 73

Acknowledgements 73

National Context 73

Drivers for use of the social web 80

Issues encountered and responses to them 82

Ways in which the use of the social web is affecting higher education 85

Examples of use in academic and administrative support areas 86

References 89

Web 2.0 in Higher Education in the United States of America 91

Alice Marwick, New York University 91

Executive Summary 91

Definitions 91

National Context 91

Web 2.0 Background 95

Drivers for the Use of the Social Web 97

Policy drivers 100

Issues / Responses 101

Examples of Use in Academic and Administrative Support Areas 104

Conclusion 115

Bibliography 115

References 115

Web 2.0 in Higher Education in the United Kingdom: 122

Brian Kelly, UKOLN, University of Bath 122

Acknowledgements 122

Approach Taken in This Report 122

Initial Institutional Awareness of "Web 2.0" 122

Web 2.0 Becomes Mainstream 123

Early Institutional Adopters 123

Sector Wide Interest 125

Institutional Exploitation Of Social Networks 127

Amplified Conferences 129

Accessibility and Social Inclusion 134

Preservation and Web 2.0 134

References 135

Annex 1 138

List of Tables and figures

List of tables

Table 1: International comparison of computer and mobile phone usage
(Source: World Bank) 38

Table 2: Age split of those enrolled in study leading to qualification (ABS, 2007) 44

Table 3: Computer/internet access of those enrolled in a non-school qualification in 2005 (ABS, 2005) 44

Table 4: Households with broadband 45

Table 5: Examples of social web applications in Australian Universities 57

Table 6: Headcount and proportion of black students in South African higher education; Source 2005 HEMIS (Higher Education Management Information System) database, cited in PHEA 2008 75

Table 7: Gross participation rates in tertiary education: Total enrolment as percentage of 20-24 age group; Source: CHE 2007 75

Table 8 Graduation within 5 years in general academic first Bachelors degrees, by selected CESM and ‘race’: First-time entering students excluding UNISA (distance education); Source: CHE 2007 76

Table 9 Table: Percentage of household access to different forms of ICT by province; Source: Tlabela, Roodt, Paterson & Weir-Smith (2007: 13, 22, 26), cited in PHEA (2008) 77

Table 10 Table: Student-computer ratios at higher education institutions in the Western Cape, 2005; Source: Brown, Arendse & Mlitwa (2005), cited in PHEA (2008) 78

Table 11: Age distribution of students 92

Table 12: Report from Discussion Group B3 on "Wiki Strategies to Support the Needs of Disparate Groups the Institution" 127

Table 13: Numbers of Photographs on Flickr with an "iwmw200n" tag 131

List of Figures

Figure 1: Growth in Internet usage 1991 - 2004 (Source Gap Minder) 41

Figure 2: Enrolment of students in Australia 1996-2005 43

Figure 3:Attitudes to use of networked computers at conferences 134


We wish to thank the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience for the opportunity to undertake this work and write the report, and in particular Ann Hughes for overseeing the project efficiently and sympathetically, David Melville and John Stone for their comments and support and to all the people who gave their time to complete our questionnaire.

Executive Summary

This report was commissioned by the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience1 to review the current and developing use of Web 2.0 technologies in higher education from an international perspective. The terms of reference for the study were to produce a report that:

"reviews current and developing practice in the use of Web 2.0 in higher education internationally and provides an assessment of the relative position in the UK and the likely attendant consequences. The review should cover four countries, including the USA and Australia.

"The review should look at the following:

  • The areas in which Web 2.0 is being used, including academic and administrative support;

  • The drivers to use of Web 2.0 in these areas;

  • The issues encountered and the responses made;

  • The perceived advantages and disadvantages of Web 2.0 use; and

  • Prospective developments in Web 2.0 use."

The report is based on five specially commissioned reports from Australia, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. These were chosen to provide some of the leading countries in the use of Web 2.0 technologies in education together with one country where English is not the first language and one where infrastructure provision remains a critical issue.

The areas in which Web 2.0 is being used, including academic and administrative support

Web 2.0 is being used in nearly all areas of higher education, including academic, administrative and support areas. These tend to be in "hot spots" where "early adopters" are trying out new things rather than widespread. Take up across the different countries appears to be in some measure dependant on the technical infrastructure being available to enable students to access to Web 2.0 functions. Questions of equity therefore impact on take up in use. Usage to date has been driven primarily by the particular interests of individual members of staff rather than institutional policies. Lecturers are using Web 2.0 to enhance their teaching because of the affordances that it offers, or because their students are using the technologies already and it helps with engagement or because they are technologies that students will be using after graduation. Web 2.0 is being used in a wide variety of ways including to encourage student reflection through the use of blogs and commenting on the blog postings of their peers, collaborative working through collective development of artefacts in wikis and as a form of lecture replacement through podcasts and vidcasts.

Within administrative and support areas there is particular interest in using Web 2.0 to engage with students before they start both to support widening participation students and as a form of marketing more generally. Of particular note is the "yougofurther" service from UCAS which enables prospective students to connect with other applicants and existing students.

The drivers to use of Web 2.0 in these areas

There are limited drivers in all countries but many enablers. The UK and Netherlands lead the way in enabling use, through supporting national infrastructure developments, and some USA States have policies and strategies in place which encourage use of technologies in support of student learning. Institutions were not found to have specific drivers and, as organisations, are slow in their response to Web 2.0 technologies. Institutions have tended to start with regulations that provide codes of conduct for use by staff and students because Web 2.0 technologies cannot be excluded from the lives of their staff and students. There is a slower movement towards institutions exploiting and leading strategically with their use of Web 2.0 for institutional purposes. Where there is confidence in students’ ability to access Web 2.0 tools there are found staff who are innovating new practices and much of the drive is coming from bottom up. In whatever area, academic, administrative or support, where Web 2.0 can be seen to offer some communication function that enhances their practice there can be found someone attempting to use Web 2.0. The potential transformation of the practices themselves is yet barely understood or encountered.

The issues encountered and the responses made

Issues are common across all countries with some further ahead because of the greater opportunities afforded to them by better infrastructure. HEIs and their students find themselves in unchartered territories with respect to their use of Web 2.0 technologies. The historically more certain boundaries where information and communications were controlled by universities is being lost, and institutions are struggling to make sense of how to operate in this changed and permeable space. Students have yet to discover the full consequences of their public representations. The mind sets and frameworks of reference that we have used hitherto are no longer adequate. Many boundaries have become blurred; virtual and physical localities, professional and social lives, formal and informal learning, knowledge consumption and production.

  • 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 and disadvantages of Web 2.0 use

There are seen to be three key advantages of Web 2.0. It offers a set of affordances that are not found in other technologies notably around the co-creation of knowledge and the support for on-line collaborative activities that can cross HEI and country boundaries. Students are already using these technologies and are therefore engaged with them, and so willing to use them in their learning and finally, many of them are free to use and come without the restrictions found in many institutional systems. Other advantages include the ability to aggregate information, data and ideas from different places quickly and easily and that the material continues to be available to the student after they have left university.

On the other hand, many of the products have already disappeared giving concerns over the longevity of others. The rate at which technologies and products are appearing is difficult for people to keep up with so that there is considerable fear of being left behind and significant effort is needed to learn the technologies and how they can be used effectively in learning and teaching. It is harder (or impossible) to exert institutional control over what happens in spaces which are outside the university even if they are being used in learning and teaching. Use of external systems can mean that students have to make use of many more user names and passwords and that their learning space becomes atomised.

Prospective developments in Web 2.0 use

Web 2.0 is changing very rapidly and new technologies and new products are emerging all the time and others are disappearing. Further, use of Web 2.0 technologies is still growing rapidly in many areas. There are some prospective developments that we can identify and will be important to institutions. They include:

  • New curriculum opportunities utilising the access to primary data and means of communicating through Web 2.0 channels

  • New assessment opportunities as process becomes possible to track and record through Web 2.0 applications

  • The use of Web 2.0 technologies to provide support before students arrive at their university.

  • In the longer term a blurring of the boundaries of institutions as they become more permeable, with virtual learning environments outside the institution including people who are not members of the institution, and more information residing outside the institution.

  • The development of new virtual learning environments (including personal learning environments) which are based on Web 2.0 technologies.

  • A reduction in the ability of institutions to control the technology that students use in their learning.

  • A reduction in the ability of institutions to control access to information that students use in their study.

  • Web 2.0 applications increasingly replacing desktop applications (notably the use of free productivity tools such as Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office).

  • The use of identity management systems such as OpenID to provide access to an increasing number of both external and university based systems.

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