Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (2009) Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World Bristol, UK: JISC/HEFCE, 52 pp.

‘Supported by the principal bodies and agencies in UK post-compulsory education, the Committee was set up in February 2008 to conduct an independent inquiry into the strategic and policy implications for higher education of the experience and expectations of learners in the light of their increasing use of the newest technologies. Essentially, these are Web 2.0 or Social Web technologies.’ Chair: Sir David Melville.

Extracts from summary of main findings (you are strongly recommended to download the full report):

‘• Use of Web 2.0 technologies is … high and pervasive across all age groups from 11 to 15 upwards

• The processes of engaging with Web 2.0 technologies develop a skill set that matches both to views on 21st-century learning skills and to those on 21st-century employability skills – communication, collaboration, creativity, leadership and technology proficiency

• Face to face contact with staff – the personal element in study – matters to students

• Imagining technology used for social purposes in a study context presents conceptual difficulties to learners as well as a challenge to their notions of space. They need demonstration, persuasion and room to experiment in this context

• Web 2.0 technologies are being deployed across a broad spectrum of university activities and in similar ways in the UK and overseas

• Deployment is in no way systematic and the drive is principally bottom up, coming from the professional interest and enthusiasm of individual members of staff
• Addressing the digital divide from the student perspective means ensuring access to technology for all and the development of practical skills in its use. This is a basic entitlement. For staff it means ensuring technical proficiency, reflection on approaches to learning and teaching, and the development of practice, and skills in practice, of e-pedagogy – learning with and/or through technology – so that when they choose to use technology, they can do so effectively.
• Students are looking for traditional approaches, notably personal contact, in a modern setting, ie web-supported. The bridge between Web 2.0 in social use and in learning is as yet only dimly perceived by students, and only a little more clearly by staff.
• e-Learning incorporating Web 2.0 offers the sense of being a contributing member of a learning community, which is one of the hallmarks of higher education. For learners unable to participate in an actual community for some, or even all, of the time – notably part-time, distance and, increasingly, work-based – Web 2.0 may be a reasonable proxy.
• Learning that is active – by doing – undertaken within a community and based on individual’s interests, is widely considered to be the most effective. Driven by process rather than content, such an approach helps students become self-directed and independent learners. Web 2.0 is well suited to serving and supporting this type of learning.
• The single issue here is the role of the tutor. Tutors are central to development of approaches to learning and teaching in higher education. They have much to keep up with, their subject for example, and developments in their craft – learning and teaching or pedagogy. To practise effectively, they have also to stay attuned to the disposition of their students. This is being changed demonstrably by the nature of the experience of growing up in a digital world. The time would seem to be right seriously and systematically to begin the process of renegotiating the relationship between tutor and student to bring about a situation where each recognises and values the other’s expertise and capability and works together to capitalise on it. This implies drawing students into the development of approaches to teaching and learning.’
The conclusions are interesting and provocative – but you need to read these for yourselves!
News coverage
For a totally distorted article on this report see: Attwood, R. (2009) ‘Internet is fostering a ‘want it now’ culture among students’ Times Higher Education, May 7, which is typical of the British gutter press these days.
Probably nothing new in this report for most readers of this web site, but it does provide weight to the argument for greater and more professional use of web 2.0 in higher education teaching. The conclusions discuss the need for a greater partnership between professors in students in teaching and learning – in other words, professors have much to learn from students about the use of web 2.0 tools: shock, horror!



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