Thursday, October 21, 2010

Research: A literature review of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education

A report commissioned by the Higher Education Academy

Prof. Gráinne Conole and Dr. Panagiota Alevizou

The Open University Walton Hall, Milton Keynes UK

August 2010

This review focuses on the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education. It provides a synthesis of the research literature in the field and a series of illustrative examples of how these tools are being used in learning and teaching. It draws out the benefits that these new technologies appear to offer, and highlights some of the challenges and issues surrounding their use.

The review forms the basis for a HE Academy funded project, ‘Pearls in the Cloud’, which is exploring how Web 2.0 tools can be used to support evidence‐based practices in learning and teaching. The project has also produced two in‐depth case studies, which are reported elsewhere (Galley et al., 2010, Alevizou et al., 2010).

The case studies focus on evaluation of a recently developed site for learning and teaching, Cloudworks, which harnesses Web 2.0 functionality to facilitate the sharing and discussion of educational practice. The case studies explore the extent to which the Web 2.0 affordances of the site are successfully promoting the sharing of ideas, as well as scholarly reflections, on learning and teaching.

Our aim in this review is to draw on the existing body of international literature in this field. It synthesises some empirical evidence on the patterns of use of Web 2.0 tools and social media in higher education and structures findings in themes relevant to communities of educators.

Although evidence exists regarding the benefits of Web2.0 in informal learning environments, and within administrative contexts, results from longitudinal studies showing the depth of change in pedagogical practice in either tertiary or post‐tertiary education are either scarce or far from consensual. And while an emerging body of literature focuses on experiences of learners, structured evidence regarding the issues surrounding integration in formal education, such as those outlined above, is only slowly emerging.


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