Even if we’re right, we’re wrong

I can't quite resist this post to join in the series of comments on the use of Web 2.0 in HE, started by Brian Kelly with his presentation to the JISC-Emerge community: "What if we're wrong?"

Martin Weller responded to Brian's presentation with a blog post "Web 2.0 – even if we're wrong, we're right" in which Martin notes "it will never go back to how it was" – essentially we need to engage even if we are sceptical about the future of specific services or concepts, some of it will survive, and the next generation of technology will be built on this.

Brian has now posted "What if we're right" asking "are the Web 2.0 sceptics assessing the risks hat they may be wrong?"

So, now I'm jumping in. I've just been reading the JISC sponsored report "Great expectations of ICT: How Higher Education institutions are measuring up". This is a follow on from the Student expectations study from last year, and looks at first year university students' experiences of ICT us and provision in HE.

Both of these reports make interesting reading, but in this context I want to draw out some particular points.

The latest report notes:

"Students are somewhat ‘forced’ into becoming familiar with these applications since they are needed to access very basic things such as timetables, as well as lecture notes or PowerPoint slides from lecturers, with some students even taking exams via this portal. Despite them ‘having’ to use these systems students appear to feel comfortable with them, can see the benefits, and feel well supported on the technical front."

Some quotes from a couple of participants in the study:

‘The system WebCT seems a lot more suited
for university work and lectures’

‘I didn't expect to be using computers as much
as we do but I'm glad that things are accessible
on WebCT.’

The report identifies a number of activities that students weren't comfortable with using, and that were generally unfamiliar – these included:

  • Submitting assignments online
  • Using podcasts
  • Making podcasts
  • Making wikis

In both reports "the least popular form of ICT is participation in an online
community such as Second Life".

Some quotes from a number of participants about the idea of using Facebook or other social networking sites for teaching:

‘I only use it for peers and friends. You wouldn’t
want lecturers and tutors to see Facebook’

‘I’d probably get distracted by other stuff on
Facebook and not end up doing anything’

‘I don't know, it would seem kind of weird getting
lecture notes or speaking to your lectures
through Facebook!’

I would be a bit angry to be honest – tuition fees
aren't cheap!

As I read one of the comments on Brian's latest post from Frankie Roberto who says "When I was at University, we barely ever used our Uni e-mail addresses, apart from checking them occassionally to read all-student e-mails.", I thought that although I use a personal email account, I also use my work one, and I don't really want to mix them up – I like the separation that two addresses gives me.

So, can an 'institution' such as a University do Web 2.0 stuff right – even if it is the future? Is this a bit like the government trying to persuade me to txt a mnstr? It's not that I don't use SMS – I just don't want to hold particular conversations in that way.

I'd note that any of this doesn't excuse us from engaging with Web 2.0 – I agree with Martin that whatever comes next will build on what proves persistent in the current generation of technology. I'm just wondering if students will accept services from the institution without the 'official' feel?

Anyway, this is a long way of recommending you read both reports. For those of you of a library bent, the section in the latest report some interesting comments on attitudes towards research and plagiarism – and I'll leave you with this quote from one participant:

‘I usually Google…then go to the library’

Don't we all?

One thought on “Even if we’re right, we’re wrong

  1. Hi Owen, yes I agree the two reports you’ve cited are worth reading.
    And, of course, the findings can be interpretted in differing ways. When I read the comments that:
    “While students talked about creating their own group on Facebook and inviting their tutor to join, this would be less successful if the tutor were to create the group and invite students.”
    “Students are most responsive when they initiate the contact, and having tutors available to contact at any time was seen to be very important – be it via email or social networking sites (as long as it is on the student’s terms).”
    I see this as implying an expectation of a more sophisticated engagement with use social networking services within our institutions and not just adding social networking features to existing VLEs or setting up teaching areas in commercial social networking spaces and expect that students will be happy to use them.

  2. Brian, I think we agree really, although I think there is an issue around student expectations and what they expect ‘institutional’ IT to look like (how many MySpace users would want their course timetable to look like their myspace page?)
    To some extent I think the quote you use “this would be less successful if the tutor were to create the group and invite students.” says it all – this is the cultural thing, not a technology thing.

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