Web 2.0 Technologies: Student Contributions to Online Courses

Web 2.0 Technologies: Student Contributions to Online Courses

Carol Lomicky (Department of Communication, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, NE, USA) and Nanette Hogg (Department of Communication, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, NE, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jwltt.2012070103
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Web 2.0 is everywhere in modern society, and it is drastically changing the ways in which teachers teach and students learn. This study examines Web 2.0 technologies with a focus on the tools students used for interaction and content contributions in their online courses. Frequency analysis and chi-square tests indicate students most used email in their online courses. Significant differences were revealed for gender and class standing for specific Web 2.0 technologies uses including tools used for interaction. An analysis of the qualitative data finds students want more video and increased interaction in their online courses. The study supports previous literature and discusses implications of the findings.
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Today’s ubiquity of the so-called Web 2.0 applications is dramatically changing the ways in which teachers teach and students learn. Although definitions of Web 2.0 abound, O’Reilly (2005), and Cifuentes, Xochihua, and Edwards (201l) provide a concise description: Web 2.0 refers to the design and technological characteristics of the web that feature two-way communication and dynamic content. Most importantly, Web 2.0 technology expands opportunities for student engagement involving interaction and collaboration, which enhances critical thinking and learning (Hogg & Lomicky, 2012). Specifically, technologies such as blogs, wikis, instant messaging (IM), social bookmarks, podcasts and vodcasts create the potential for a fully interactive space in which the control of content allows all course participants—teachers and students alike—to collaborate, create, publish, subscribe, and share information (Saeed, Yang, & Sinnappan, 2009).

Web 2.0 technology, however, is not text because, as Stocker, Griffin, and Kocher (2011), emphasize, text alone provides no opportunity for interaction, collaboration, and engagment. Or as Greer and Mott (2009) put it, “Technological tools of learning must allow for tone and emotion, human connection, and presence to transmit contextual meaning . . . (p. 9).

Consider the first day of a face-to-face college class meeting where students sit attentively while the professor—the epicenter of knowledge—distributes the course syllabus replete with textbook and reading requirements, exercises and assignments, due dates for requisite coursework and examinations, as well as predetermined hours for out-of-class conversations (office hours). By contrast, Magolda and Platt (2009) describe the Web 2.0 counterpart:

A Web 2.0-enabled syllabus would allow students to customize their readings and resources. It would allow a student to connect with other students with similar profiles and facilitate mediated communication. It would allow students to upload content of their own and comment on the content of the syllabus with observations or questions. It would allow instant chat with their instructor. It would link to YouTube lectures or Scribd documents (p. 12).

In other words, syllabi become living documents; wikis and lectures become conversations. As Magolda and Platt (2009) emphasize, Web 2.0 technologies not only invite but encourage students to participate in the process of creating content.

We are advocating that every time they see something that reminds them of a learning domain, they should tag it, bookmark it, and share it . . . We are saying that students’ informed opinions are valid, often more valid than our own (p. 15).

Students too recognize the potential benefits of technology for academic success, according to Nagel (2008) and, more currently, to the Educause national study of undergraduate students and information technology (Dahlstrom, de Boor, Grunwald, & Vockley, 2011). However, the 2011 study found email was the most frequently used application for academic (and personal) purposes. Yet many students—though still relatively small in number—see the potential of Facebook as valuable to academic achievement, (Dahlstrom et al., 2011).

It cannot be over-stated that today students own and use an array of technologies. Yet, as the Educause study found, instructors are not fully harnessing the technologies to create opportunities for more varied and inspiring learning experiences (Dahlstrom et al., 2011). Indeed, the researchers recommend that technology be used in more transformative ways “such as participatory and collaborative interactions and for higher-level teaching and learning . . . to extend learning beyond the classroom” (p. 32).

This study seeks to further explore post-secondary students’ experiences with the Web 2.0 technology and the tools they used for interaction. This study also explores the content they contributed in their online courses.

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