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Web 2.0 and eLearning

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is the nickname given to the technologies that allow online communication to be two-way, making real collaboration on the Web possible. Examples of Web 2.0 applications or web services are: blogging, wikis, Wikipedia, Flickr, and Napster. These really are more services than applications, because they manage data rather than software.

The old Web was about publishing, whereas now it’s more about participating. Now the consumers, not the advertisers, call the shots because they are able to reach the entire Web through searching, and are not just driven to the top Web sites anymore. Users are drawn to online sites by the services that are offered - which nowadays includes social networking or communities and information sharing. Users also add value to sites through participation and information is broken up into “microcontent”. And true collaboration, in terms of everyone working toward a common goal by way of online interaction, is happening.

Many Web sites are dynamic – content is generated dynamically based on user interaction. But Web 2.0 takes that one step further. For example, a link to a weblog leads to an ever-changing page, with the ability to make an entry, and be provided notification for each change.

Other sites record user input to influence content such as online radio stations where songs played are determined by user ratings. Another simple way that user input is recorded is when users can freely post reviews and rate products or services that allow other users to make better decisions such as which vacation resort to stay at.

A key to the development of these new technologies is interoperability. The open standards of the Web are the strength of the platform, and are responsible for driving much of the growth of online services.

What’s new in Web services?

Blogging: Blogging is simply an online diary, or a journal of sorts. (RSS has changed blogging as it allows someone to link not just to a page, but to subscribe to it, with notification every time that page changes.)

Wikis: Allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser, as well as edit the organization of contributions.

Wikipedia: An online encyclopedia that allows any web user to add an entry or edit any other entry. Mashups: Linking two online services such as Google Maps and a real estate site.

Flickr: An online service that allows users to store, organize, search, and share their digital photographs.

Napster: Built its network by architecting a system in such a way that every downloader also became a server, and thus grew the network.

eBay: eBay enables occasional transactions of only a few dollars between single individuals, acting as an automated intermediary.

Folksonomy: A style of collaborative categorization, by way of tagging, of sites using freely chosen keywords.

So what does it mean for eLearning?

What 2.0 means to online learners is that:

  • New collaborative learning environments (networks of interaction for learning) exist online
  • Learners can take advantage of communities of practice activities and shared resources
  • Learners can more actively participate in both content authoring and facilitation with things like wkikis and blogs
  • New tools make it easier for information sharing, such as e-portfolios and podcasting
  • User-generated content and formats will create more diversity on the Web
  • Informal learning opportunities are expanding, such as many of the examples in the above bullets
  • eLearning consists of all kinds of online content that is syndicated and then re-purposed as users see fit