Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World

This JISC report from an Independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on HE of students' widespread use of Web 2.0 is out. Here is the summary, and here is the full report.

As I expected they do not paint a uniform picture of the Web generation as multi gadget-owning and tech savvy. This kind of view went out with the CIBER report. There is still some evidence of digital divides in access to, engagement with, capability of the technology, as well as individual ability.

The importance of the learning experience at school keeps recurring. Methods of delivery encountered there are likely to be what is expected in HE. The report draws heavily on evidence from the JISC Great Expectations and Great Expectations of ICT studies. Present day students value face-to-face delivery and are not pushing for changes in traditional approaches. However if school practices do begin to change (use of Web 2.0 delivery) then this will present a challenge to HE, not just in continuing their experience from school to HE but also in providing challenge and development.

At present use of Web 2.0 is patchy in HE and tends to be driven from the bottom up. Web 2.0 technology has not yet been fully exploited for student learning yet. As this develops in HE it will challenge some students who expect traditional delivery. Surely the role of HE is to challenge and provide opportunities for adapting - that's what tomorrow's students will require. This is where the usefulness of Web 2.0 for supporting constructivist educational practice comes into play.

The report notes concerns about lack of systematic information searching; the user being impressed with speed of access, huge information available and power browsing. None of this is new to readers of the CIBER report and subsequent investigations at University College London. It is good to see this important report saying for prior experience of HE learners :
"Information literacies – including searching, retrieving and critically evaluating information from a range of appropriate sources and also attributing it – represent a significant and growing deficit area."
and finally recommends :
"HEIs, colleges and schools treat information literacies as a priority area and support all students so that they are able, amongst other things, to identify, search, locate, retrieve and, especially, critically evaluate information from the range of appropriate sources – web-based and other – and organise and use it effectively, attributed as necessary, in an appropriate medium".

This report supports what we are doing in HE but challenges us to improve what is done in schools and smooth the transition into higher education.

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