Technology trends in Higher Education: Web 2.0 and Social Learning
May 2009

Technology trends in Higher Education: Web 2.0 and Social Learning

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Not too long ago, powerpoint was considered cutting edge technology in Higher Education (HE). Today, Web 2.0 tools are making serious in-roads into Higher Education to help create a social and collaborative learning environment.

Web 2.0 is simply a term that refers to the new era of internet use where those who were previously mere consumers of information have now become creators and contributors, thanks to easy to use tools and software.

This social dimension of the Internet, that allows users and groups to communicate across space and time, has opened up the era of 'Social Learning'. By harnessing the “wisdom of peers” and the emerging technologies, this can greatly enhance the learning outcome.

The tools of Social Learning

Web 2.0 tools take the form of:
Blogs: Short for 'Weblog', a blog is an online journal, which has an owner (a person or oragnisation) and readers serve as contributors and commenter's that shape the dialogue. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic.

Wikis: The best way to describe a wiki is by giving the classic example of Wikipedia, which is an online encyclopedia generated, validated and maintained by users.

Podcasts: Series of digital media files which can be both audio and/or video.

Mashups: Similar to a portal, mashup is a newer, loosely defined Web 2.0 technique for content aggregation. Examples of popular consumer mashups are Google maps and Diggs.

Social networking and communities: Popular social networks like Facebook, orkut, LinkedIn, used to build an online community of users which share interests and/or activities.

A combination of these tools are transforming learning environments to be social and personalised. While traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Blackboard or Web CT are course centered and driven by faculty, the new approach is to create a 'learner centric' system. 

Personalised learning solutions from Excelsoft

With 8 years of experience in the e-learning industry, Excelsoft have developed an end to end portfolio of technology platform products called SARAS, that caters to the learning requirements of over 10 million end users worldwide.

The SARAS platform includes Learning Management Systems, Test & Assessment Management Systems and Learning/Talent management portals. Excelsoft is an early mover in the Social learning wave and has released a Learning Communities tool based on Web 2.0 technology called the SARAS Learning Spaces. This innovative product has been designed to create a personalised learner centric system and can be integrated into any learning management system.

Blended Learning in Higher Education

With Web 2.0 technology, online learning is developing into highly social and collaborative environments. Coupled with the management and administrative tools available in most course management systems today online learning environments are fairly robust.

This begs the question: Can learning be done completely via an online environment?
The approach being adopted to embrace technology is the Blended Learning model, which is a hybrid of online environments and face-to-face class room instruction.

Excelsoft has an exhaustive experience working with customers in Higher Education sector in India and abroad. Our customers include Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Anna University, Oxford University, Cambridge University Press, British Open University, Syrian Virtual University to name a few.

A case in point: The Syrian Virtual University, which approached Excelsoft for an eLearning platform, got the following benefits with the adoption of SARAS:

  • Cost-effective solution that is Easy-to-use and manage.
  • Scalable to handle multiple concurrent users as the size of the student & tutor community grows gradually.
  • Content porting, packaging, integration with a variety of 3rd party tools.
  • Remote tutoring for e-Tutoring using collaboration tools
  • Online tests and examinations

In Conclusion, Learning technology of today is being shaped with the help of Web 2.0 tools to create a social, highly collaborative and personalised environment. Educators, management and administrators who are pro active in embracing this trend with the help of the right technology partner, are in a position to create significant competitive advantages. This includes not just an enhanced learning paradigm but also efficient economies of scale for the educational organization to meet the growing demand.

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