This report provides a review of the use of Web 2.0 technologies in five countries (Australia, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States), together with the drivers that are encouraging and promoting the use of Web 2.0 in higher education (HE) (including policy and pedagogic), and inhibitors that are slowing down the uptake of it.
Web 2.0 is an increasingly important, if poorly defined, set of technologies, which gives the user the ability to contribute to, as well as read, content on the Web. While the ideas associated with Web 2.0 were already being considered in the earliest developments of the Web they were not implemented, in order to keep the technology manageable at the time. Web 2.0, as it is now understood, dates back to the mid-1990s, but only became well-known around 2000, and the term was not coined until 2004. While there is no agreed definition of Web 2.0 it offers a series of loosely connected systems that enable users to interact through websites and includes wikis, blogs, social networking sites, file sharing (including podcasts, presentations, images and video) and social bookmarking. For this work we have deliberately chosen a broad definition of Web 2.0 as we believe it is more useful when considering the implications for institutions in terms of policy, learning and teaching and information services.
Our international comparison of drivers for the use of Web 2.0 in HE demonstrated a lack of specific ‘top down’ drivers. Countries or states have broader policies or strategies that encourage the use of virtual opportunities for engaging learners in different contexts. Universities and colleges themselves have few ‘top down’ policies for the use of Web 2.0 beyond guidelines and protocols for acceptable behaviour in use or conduct policies. Most drivers are coming ‘bottom up’ therefore, with individual academics and tutors leading the innovative use of Web 2.0 tools in their pedagogic practices. Where there is confidence in students’ ability to access Web 2.0 tools, staff is innovating new practices.
The report is based on previous work undertaken by the authors for the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience , which commissioned us to write a report on current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in HE. This report substantially reworks parts of the original, which also includes detailed reports on the situation in each of the original countries.