Web 2.0 Technologies: Social Software Applied to Higher Education and Adult Learning

Web 2.0 Technologies: Social Software Applied to Higher Education and Adult Learning

Teresa Torres-Coronas (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain), Ricard Monclús-Guitart (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain), Araceli Rodríguez-Merayo (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain), M. Arántzazu Vidal-Blasco (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain) and M. José Simón-Olmos (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-739-3.ch059
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Web 2.0 technologies are playing an important role in building social capital through increasing flows of information, and building on knowledge and human capacity of learning. The purpose of this chapter is to show the role that social software, a component of Web 2.0 technologies, can play in higher education and adult learning. This chapter focuses on the role of Web 2.0 technologies in promoting learning. New learning paradigms and pedagogical applications are also discussed.
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Education has traditionally been conducted face-to-face, with professors performing outstanding magisterial classes in front of the learners. During the centuries, students and professors have shared the same time and same space frame. Nowadays, things are quite different. Information technology (IT) is a reality affecting the whole education system from primary school to higher education and adult learning. IT is having a considerable impact on the learning providers, on the learning process itself and, of course, on any agent involved in the process.

History has demonstrated that technology affects education profoundly. Considering the definition of technology broadly, one may say that prehistoric people used primitive technologies to teach skills to their young (Frick, 1991). Whenever a new medium entered the picture, a new wave of educational delivery arrived. Radio, television, and now computers have all impacted the field of distance education. Though some studies (see Russell, 1999) report no significant differences in performance between face-to-face instruction and technology supported environments.

Nowadays, campuses are networked, faculty post their notes on Web pages, students access the library from their rooms, and entire classes can have discussions via chat software (Rice-Lively, 2000). This development has recently come to be labeled under the by now commonly accepted term e-learning (Hudson, 2003).

The European e-Learning Action Plan 2001 (European Commission, 2001) defines e-learning as the use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services as well as remote exchanges and collaboration. This requires new e-interaction and e-communication competencies and a reorganization of e-learning structures. Components can include content delivery in multiple formats, management of the learning, and a networked community of learners (Gunasekaran, McNeil, & Shaul, 2002). Internet/World Wide Web have meant that opportunities have been identified for developing distance learning activity into a more advanced online environment. It is known as Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which eliminate geographical barriers while providing increased convenience, flexibility, individualized learning, and feedback over traditional classroom (Kiser, 1999). Higher education institutions devote substantial resources to providing students with access to internet-based information, VLEs and other forms of e-learning. These efforts are predicated upon an assumption that “university students are inherently inclined towards using the internet as a source of information within their day-to-day lives and, it follows, disposed towards academic use of the internet” (Selwyn, 2008, p. 12).

But, today, the traditional approach to e-learning is currently changing from the use of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to e-learning 2.0, an approach that combines the use of complementary tools and Web services -such as blogs, wikis, trackback, podcasting, videoblogs, and other social networking tools- to support the creation of ad-hoc learning communities. In this context, most of the current research tends to be concerned with the potential of the worldwide Web and other internet applications to accelerate university students’ learning and knowledge-building, and support interactivity, interaction and collaboration (Selwyn, 2008).

This proposal aims to provide an introductory perspective on the learning impacts of new media and Web 2.0 information and communication technologies on the e-learning environment. Web 2.0 technologies are playing a crucial role in building of social capital through increasing flows of information, and building on knowledge and human capacity for learning. Social software has emerged as a major component of the Web 2.0 technology movement. But, how can social software play a role in higher education and adult learning? To answer this question, this proposal will focus on the role of Web 2.0 technologies in promoting learning. Pedagogical applications, which stem from their affordance of collaborative knowledge discovery, will be discussed. At the same time the chapter will also explore the pedagogical methodology involved considering that e-learning Web 2.0 leads us from constructivism to navigationism. Finally, some suggestions are made for future research in this field.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Learning Environments (VLE): A set of teaching and learning tools designed to enhance a student’s learning experience by including computers and the Internet in the learning process. The principal components of a VLE package include curriculum mapping, student tracking, online support for both teacher and student, electronic communication, and Internet links to outside curriculum resources. There are a number of commercial VLE software packages available, including Blackboard, WebCT, Lotus® LearningSpace, and COSE.

Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital era. It is based upon the idea that knowledge is networked and so the act of learning takes place inside virtual networks and communities through social interaction. It is a networked model of learning.

Social Capital: A cross-disciplinary concept referring to the benefits of social networks and connections. Social capital is constructed and maintained in the interaction between individuals or groups. Social networks promote different types of social capital: bonding –referring to horizontal ties between individuals-, bridging – referring to ties that cut across different communities- or linking –referring to vertical ties.

Social Software: Software that allows the creation of communities and resources in which individuals come together to learn, collaborate and build knowledge. It is also known as Web 2.0 and it supports social interaction and collaborative learning. Current typical examples include Flickr® and YouTube™ –as audiovisual social software.

E-Learning (Electronic Learning): Technology-supported learning and delivery of content via all electronic media. These may include Internet, intranets, computer-based technology, or interactive television. They may also include the use of e-technology to support traditional methods of learning, for example using electronic whiteboards or video conferencing. This terms covers a wide set of applications and processes, such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration.

Collaborative Learning: An educational approach based the idea that learning is a naturally social act. The learner actively constructs knowledge by formulating ideas into words, and these ideas are built upon through reactions and responses of others. In other words, collaborative learning is not only active but also interactive. It is a student-centered approach in which social software tools are currently used for building and sharing knowledge.

Personal Learning Environments (PLE): A learning environment in which learners manage their own learning by selecting, integrating and using various software tools and services. It takes advantages of Web 2.0 affordances such as collaborative information and knowledge sharing.

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