Higher Education 2.0


By Ken Piercey

Rarely does a day go by that I haven’t checked Facebook and my email account. The same is true for most of today’s students, the digital natives. Students today learn through multitasking, videos, interaction, and creation methods not well supported in the far too common large student lecture hall (Prensky, 2001). We are entering a workforce that will require increased use of technology and collaboration with teams to solve increasingly complex issues. Simply knowing information is not enough anymore. With Wikipedia boasting over nine million articles (Eijkman, 2008) and Youtube posting seventy million videos a day (Skiba 2007) students need to know how to filter out the useless from the useful. The answer to future education may well be the incorporation of web 2.0 technologies.

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 technologies are the social side to the Internet; it encompasses wiki’s, blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites (Parker, & Chao, 2007). These technologies have made collaboration online cost effective, simple to use, and accessible virtually anywhere (Parker, & Chao, 2007). Parker and Chao (2007) connect the use of Web 2.0 technology to meeting cooperative and constructivist learning theories. Competencies students gain in these learning environments include: connecting meaning to learning, intrinsic motivation, increased self direction, conflict resolution, research skills, communication skills, advanced problem solving, time management, challenge and debate, respect for others, and digital competency (Fernández, Pulido, & García-Ruiz, 2014).

What are the challenges with using web 2.0?

Integrating these technologies is not without its challenges. Cochrane (2014) identified six critical success factors for implementing web 2.0 technologies and expanded on two in particular. The first is the need for technological and pedagological support. Teachers and students need to be trained on the use of the technologies as well as the change from a pedagological learning style to more of an andragological (more self directed) and ultimately heutalogical (constructing new knowledge within a community) style. In a number of longitudinal studies a lack of ongoing support and training led to the majority of web 2.0 projects failing. The second critical success factor was the scaffolding required to shift the pedagogy. Obtaining buy in from teachers and students in the ontological shift from teacher as the authority of knowledge and student as the passive learner to student as active learner and teacher as facilitator proves to be a great barrier. This shift requires introducing students to web 2.0 technologies gradually and increasing its use as the student’s progress through their programs. The instructors require ongoing mentoring until they are proficient in the use of web 2.0 technologies.

Is there proof that it works?

The answer is not really.  There is little empirical evidence to show the effectiveness of web 2.0 technologies. Two studies that I found identified that the use of web 2.0 technologies in higher education may not produce the competencies in students that many articles claim they will. Thomposon, Gray, and Kim (2014) found that students evaluated after a class in which web 2.0 technology was used described the experience as an more individual focused than collaborative. Students felt they were engaged cognitively as individuals, they were self motivated, and felt they did not share ownership of the work they created. Fernandez, Pulido, and Garcia-Ruiz (2014) had students rank four teaching modalities by the competencies acquired using each modality in relation to collaborative and constructive learning competencies. The students ranked the use of web 2.0 technology as number three behind peer tutoring and problem based learning.

Now What?

There is a definite need for further research into how and which web 2.0 technologies could or should be integrated into higher education curriculums. For now we should consider these tools to be added to alternate teaching modalities that support constructivist and collaborative teaching modalities.


Boulos, M. N., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC medical education, 6(1), 41.

Cochrane, T. D. (2014). Critical success factors for transforming pedagogy with mobile Web 2.0. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 65-82.

Eijkman, H. (2008). Web 2.0 as a non-foundational network-centric learning space. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 25(2), 93-104.

Fernández, N. G., Pulido, P. C., & García-Ruiz, R. (2014). Competency training in universities via projects and Web 2.0 tools. Analysis of an experience. RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 11(1), 61-75.

Grosseck, G. (2009). To use or not to use web 2.0 in higher education?. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1(1), 478-482.

Parker, K., & Chao, J. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of e-learning and Learning Objects, 3(1), 57-72.

Skiba, D. J. (2007). Nursing Education 2.0: YouTubeTM. Nursing Education Perspectives, 28(2), 100-102.

Thompson, C., Gray, K., & Kim, H. (2014). How social are social media technologies (SMTs)? A linguistic analysis of university students’ experiences of using SMTs for learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 21, 31-40.


2 thoughts on “Higher Education 2.0

  1. This is a great topic, especially since we are in a blended learning course. I think that it is a great way in which we can all start to think about our own perceptions and misconceptions that we have towards online courses and web 2.0 technologies and applications so that we may be better able to utilize them to complement our learning and teaching.

    This past assignment that we just complete, I chose the topic of blended learning, and before getting to the research about online and blended learning, I had always thought “how hard could it really be. All it really it is, is putting it into an online forum”, I don’t think that I really ever understood the complexity that goes into creating an online or blended course. This being said I like how you highlighted that there is a need for both technological and pedagological support. Through the research that I have been doing, I have learned that it is not merely just throwing up old content onto a new medium, but rather we need to redesign our thinking as well because when in an online or blended course it becomes more student centred where the students in conjunction with the instructor are creating meaning and understanding, and the students are not just there to assimilate information. In an online or blended course I think that it is very important that we do not forget that learning is a social thing, that involves interacting with others to create critical dialogue and reflective thinking. I think that sometimes when in an online course we tend to lose sight of this a bit since we are all working on different schedules interaction doesn’t seem as direct because it could be days before we see a comment or respond to one. In this regard I think that we need to change our thinking on how we approach the online so that we do not feel as much isolate within our learning.

    I also liked how you noted that there are two sides to the argument on whether or not web 2.0 is affective. I have always believe that yes online or blended courses are great, but they are not always for everyone. I really do think that it depends on the learning style, preference, and temperament of the student.

    I agree with your conclusion, I don’t think that just because there is technology available that we should drop all of the “old” ways of teaching and learning in favour of the “new and improved” web 2.0 stuff, but rather we should better learn how we can integrate them both together so that we can have the best of both world. On that note I really do think that blended learning that we are doing for the 5P52 course is a great way to explore the potentials of web 2.0 technologies and application, while at the same time not losing the spontaneous, in the moment learning that benefits face to face learning.

  2. I think you have certainly introduced a relevant topic, Ken. Many students have a strong online presence and social media is an important – and time consuming – part of their lives (and sadly, often this Facebook and social media checking happens during lectures themselves!). The discussion of integrating this technology into their educational experiences is a natural progression.

    I agree with your point that “we are entering a workforce that will require increased use of technology and collaboration with teams to solve increasingly complex issues” (Piercey, 2014, para. 1), but I would argue that simply implementing technology haphazardly could actually make matters worse. Instead, the implementation of this technology must be effective. However, reaching agreement over what constitutes effective is far from simple.

    I also think you have raised an important point with your assertion that given the rapid proliferation of available media, “students need to know how to filter out the useless from the useful” (Piercey, 2014, para.1). What do “we” as stakeholders within post-secondary institutions need to do to ensure students have the skills to makes these distinctions?

    I like how you point out challenges inherent in using Web 2.0 technologies. One additional aspect that I think warrants consideration is the unquestioned assumption of all digital natives having a similar comfort and preference level for technology. As Bennett (2012) and Jones, Ramanau, Cross, and Healing (2010) indicate, grouping an entire generation as having similar technology usage patterns is not appropriate. Despite being a similar age and presumably having similar historical and socio-cultural contexts influencing their development, which are some of the requisites of being considered a generation (Lyons & Kuron, 2014), being part of a particular generation does not guarantee that all members will interact with technology in the same way. Jones et al. (2010) found that a subset of students had extensive interaction with technology while other students’ interaction was quite limited. Similarly, grouping all Web 2.0 technologies under the same umbrella is not helpful. Since the technological usage within a generation is not uniform, where does this leave us in terms of HOW to implement these varied technologies? Is there a one-size fits all strategy? Or should we be allowing students to interact with technology as they see fit, not forcing them in a particular way? Some other strategy? While technology certainly has the power to influence the educational experience, implementation strategies must be given additional consideration.

    Bennett, S. (2012). Digital natives. In Z. Yan (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Cyber Behavior (pp. 212-219). Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2364&context= edupapers&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.ca%2Fscholar%3Fhl% 3Den%26q%3Ddigital%2Bnatives%2B%252B%2Beducation%26btnG%3D%26as_sdt%3D1%252C5%26as_sdtp%3D#search=%22digital%20natives%20%2B%20education%22

    Jones, C., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010). Net generation or digital natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732.

    Lyons, S., & Kuron, L. (2014). Generational differences in the workplace: A review of the evidence and direction for future research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(S1), S139-S157. doi:10.1002/job.1913

    K Piercey. (2014, March 6). Higher Education 2.0 [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://5p52highereducation.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/higher-education-2-0/

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