The development and emergence of new technologies in distance learning has opened a broad range of options for promoting learning. New technologies and the latest generation of Web-based tools have been increasingly adopted in distance learning. Integrating these technologies into education has a profound impact on all areas of learning, from course management to problem-solving instruction. The new technologies have provided a valuable addition to interactivity and interactions in the process of teaching and learning. In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the use of the latest generation of Web-based tools (Web 2.0), such as wikis, blogs, and podcasts, in distance learning. The possibilities of wikis and blogs and other new Web tools are countless. Any topic that needs to be discussed openly, quickly, or in a collaborative manner can benefit from these tools.
Main Focus: The Latest Generation Of Interactive Web-Based Tools
Web-based tools, like wikis and blogs, have been increasingly adopted in distance learning to extend the interactive aspects of teaching and learning with the opportunity to exchange ideas, unrestricted by classroom space and time.
wiki, the Hawaiian word for “quick,” was firstly created by Ward Cunningham in 1995, and permitted users to create, edit, and organize content in a Web format (Richardson, 2006; Wagner, 2004). Wiki technology pemits group collaboration across the Internet, providing users with both author and editor privileges, with the ability to incorporate sounds, pictures, and movies. Wiki Web pages can be edited, modified, created, and saved using a Web browser by anyone who has access to them, at any time, from anywhere (Desilets, Paquet, & Vinson, 2005; Parker & Chao, 2007; Raman, Ryan, & Olfman, 2005). Wikipedia (2007), an online encyclopedia, is one of the best-known wikis.
Wiki pages are, by default, open, but they can be configured to give selective access, or may even be entirely closed. A wiki’s versioning capability can show the evolution of thought processes as contributors interact with content. Wiki technology can impact knowledge management, and can support knowledge creation and sharing (Boulos et al., 2006; Bower, Woo, Roberts, & Watters, 2006; Lamb, 2004; Leuf & Cunningham, 2001; Raman et al., 2005; Richardson, 2006; Robinson, 2006; Sauer, Bialek, Efimova, Schwartlander, Pless, & Neuhaus, 2005; Wagner, 2004).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Asynchronous Communication: Communication that does not occur in real time. There can be a delay between sending information and retrieving it. Responses to messages may be delayed, each message waiting until the recipient is ready to read and/or reply. Asynchronous communication utilizes such tools as e-mail and discussion groups.
Chat: One-to-one synchronous communication in which two persons exchange messages in real-time.
Teleconferencing: Many-to-many synchronous communication between two or more groups in separate sites via audio, video, and/or computer systems. Participants at each site can simultaneously hear and see each other via monitors. Connecting two sites together is known as point-to-point or site-to-site conferencing. A connection between three or more sites is known as multipoint or multisite conferencing.
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): A combination of telecommunication technologies and computer networks that enable users to transmit, receive, and store information via synchronous and asynchronous communication tools.
Discussion Group: Many-to-many asynchronous communication in which a group of people exchanges messages and information on a specific topic. Members of the group send messages and reply to messages of other members. Synonym: Discussion forum, Forum.
Wiki: A collaborative authoring Web site whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it. Wikis permit asynchronous communication and group collaboration across the Internet. Multiple authors can read, add, remove, edit, and contribute to wiki page contents. Its collaborative technology allows pages to be created and updated easily by non-technical authors. A wiki’s versioning capability can show the evolution of thought processes as contributors interact with content. Wiki can be used to support collaborative knowledge creation and sharing in an academic setting. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is one of the best known wikis.
Discussion Thread: A set of sequential responses messages to an original message in a discussion group.
Chat Room: Many-to-many synchronous communication that provides communities of users with a common interest in the opportunity to communicate in real-time. Users register and log into a particular “room” and chat by typing messages that are instantly visible in the communal message area (“room”). Synonym: Group chat.
Podcast: A digital media file or files distributed over the Internet using RSS (really simple syndication, an XML format for distributing content on the Web) feed that can be automatically downloaded to personal computers and synced to portable media players to support mobile learning, anytime and anywhere.
Synchronous Communication: Communication that occurs in real time. For two or more people to communicate synchronously, they need to be available at the same time. Synchronous communication utilizes such tools as chats and videoconferencing.
Blog (or Web Log): A Web site to post and store ideas, thoughts, and comments, the blog contains dated entries in reverse chronological order, updated on a regular basis. The blog entries may contain links and references to other Web sites. The technical backbone of blogs are content management programs and collaboration and communication features that are designed to be easy to use by non-technical users. Blogs offer significant benefits for academia as a strong tool for rapid knowledge development. Blogging is the term used for the activity of writing and publishing to a blog, and the term blogger is used for someone who maintains a blog.