Steve Rayson explores the development of E-learning 2.0 and what it all means.
At the E-learning Guild Conference there was a lot of discussion about e-learning 2.0. That got us thinking about the our own questions and the Kineo position on 2.0. This briefing reflects our current view.
No time to read online, download e-learning 2.0.
Is e-learning 2.0 just another ”rhetorical manoeuvre”, as David Jennings says from suppliers and consultants distancing themselves from the failures of the first wave of e-learning? What does it really mean in practice? Should you be considering it for your learning approach?
No doubt there is the overhyping of blogs, wikis and podcasting to name but three web 2.0 phenomena but at Kineo we believe that there are fundamental changes taking place which will change the way we design and think of e-learning in the future.
We take a look at some of the current thinking, and identify five key trends that we believe will shape the e-learning of he future namely:
• Dynamicness and interoperability
• Open source
• Social networking and tagging
• Self publishing
What is being said about E-learning 2.0?
Stephen Downes probably made the first reference to the concept in his article e-learning 2.0.
Tony Karrer has taken this further. He has also created a wikipedia page on e-learning 2.0. See Tony's take on e-learning 2.0.
For Downes e-learning 2.0 has a clear focus on the community and social networking. He points to the impact of tools such as blogging, wikis and podcasts. These tools allow everyone to become publishers. Downes correctly recognised that "the model of e-learning as being a type of content, produced by publishers, organized and structured into courses, and consumed by students, is turned on its head."
For Downes content can be created rather than just read and is as likely to be produced by learners as courseware authors. Importantly "insofar as there is structure, it is more likely to resemble a language or a conversation rather than a book or a manual."
Karrer identified the most relevant aspects of web 2.0 for eLearning 2.0. In his view these are:
• Software service
• Harnessing collective intelligence
• Everyone as publisher
• Aggregation and tagging
• Lightweight programming and composition
In his view "THE major trend that we’ve seen is a demand for faster learning in the context of work. We’ve also seen the slow smushing together of Online Reference, Online Job Aids, small eLearning pieces, Rapid eLearning and Blended Learning."
Karrer's concept of eLearning 2.0 "starts with the trend towards:
• Small pieces of content
• Delivered closer to time / place of work
• Likely delivered in pieces over time as part of a larger program"
We are grateful to Downes, Karrer and others for getting this debate underway. We don't disagree with many of the comments, however, we feel some of the really important aspects of web 2.0 which will shape the future of e-learning have been missed. We now throw our hat into the ring on what will emerge as e-learning 2.0.
Web 2.0 is fundamentally different
Both Downes and Karrer are right to seek to understand what is web 2.0 before looking at the impact on e-learning. For more on web 2.0 see the following http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0.
Our thoughts have also been heavily shaped by an excellent article a few years ago by Tim Ziegler http://www.webmonkey.com/webmonkey/06/12/index4a.html?tw=design
See a nice overview of web 2.0 on YouTube here.
While self publishing (blogs, wikis, podcasting) highlighted by both Downes and Karrer is in our list there are other arguably equally important web 2.0 changes taking place which will impact on e-learning design.
We believe the key emerging web 2.0 trends which will shape e-learning over the next few years are:
• Dynamicness and interoperability
• Open source
• Social networking and tagging
• Self publishing
Patterns- You don't need to reinvent the wheel!
One of the major features of web 2.0 is the emergence and acceptance of patterns.
A pattern is "an optimal solution to a common problem within a specific context."
As the web has developed, designers have come across common problems. These get debated within the web community and everyone looks at an devaluates the various ways that others have tried to solve the problem. Through this process of review and reflection a range of solutions emerge. Eventually, through a process of natural selection the best of these rise above the noise and become the accepted best way of doing something. These get refined until they reach the status of a Design Pattern.
One of the best collections of design patterns can be found on the web at Yahoo http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/
In essence this set of design patterns sets out the commonly accepted best way of designing an online booking calendar, an online glossary etc. As these patterns get accepted all users become familiar with them on the web.
Within e-learning we believe similar patterns will emerge. Through masses of experimentation there will become a commonly accepted set of best practice patterns. These will get adopted into tools and make it easier to produce best practice learning interactions.
To some degree this is already happening if you look at some of the tools on the market, for example the ten learning interactions that come with Articulate Engage. These are pre-programmed learning interactions which means you just need to change the text, colours and images. You don't need to pay a flash designer to create yet another timeline or glossary.
In our view the emergence of patterns is why some rapid e-learning is better than some custom e-learning. Custom e-learning depends a lot on the quality of the designer, as with other things in life these can be variable. With the use of patterns within rapid tools you can help ensure best practice learning interactions.
"Dynamicness" and interoperability
One of the key changes in web 2.0 is the ability to create non-static web pages, i.e. pages that can automatically be updated through a content management system or feed. As Ziegler said back in 2005 "If you are not using a dynamic modular publishing system that capitalizes on using templates and smart metadata — that is to say, if you're still coding scores of dumb static web pages — change your ways immediately."
Such content management systems improve the efficiency of managing and maintaining web content. However, it is the growth of RSS (Really simple syndication) feeds that will change the way the web works. With RSS you never even need to visit the web site you just have your site or news reader go away and grab the content you need and display on your site or news reader. Thus you can dynamically use another site's information to make yours more valuable. Equally you can share your content in the form of an RSS feed to let others do the same.
In terms of e-learning we saw the growth of server based authoring tools and learning content management systems. However, often these still require content to be created albeit collaboratively online and then published to an LMS or site. Such content can easily become static and outdated.
Talking to Brent Schenkler at the E-learning Guild conference he asked the simple question, why aren't RSS feeds being used to update e-learning programmes. The answer is obvious every e-learning programme should and will use RSS feeds in the future so that content is automatically updated without anyone having to edit or republish the e-learning programme.
Brent was absolutely spot on and we have spent the last few weeks exploring this. Authoring tools such as eXe and others automatically allow you to place RSS feeds on content pages. We find it inconceivable that all tools won't do this soon, simply don't buy tools that don't do this in future. Tools such as Articulate are part way there with their web object feature which allows you place live web content from any site directly into relevant content pages. Thus this content is always updated as the sites linked to are updated.
In future if a subject matter expert needs to update some content they will just update an RSS feed and the new content will automatically be displayed within the e-learning programme. They will never need to see the authoring tool or even care about it.
The growth of interoperability and tools such as Ajax are also significantly extending the ability to combine two or more web applications to create value. Commonly know as mash-ups they allow you to use application from another site on your own. The most common example is probably Google Maps.
Open source – You can't beat free stuff!
There is more value on the internet to giving away your secrets than hoarding them. Primarily, if you give valuable information away, people will link to you. This gets you web traffic and significantly boosts your search engine rankings, both of which build your brand and help you sell whatever it is you're selling.
The growth of open source software is also a major development. We have talked lots about Moodle, the open source LMS, in the past but it is difficult to underestimate the impact of such open source tools. The latest E-learning Guild survey shows that over 20% of US small to medium corporates have now adopted Moodle as their LMS.
Corporates are traditionally slow to adopt open source solutions but once adopted such open source solutions are likely to become mainstream.
Open source doesn't just apply to software there is an increasing body of free content available on the internet. MIT in the US and the Open University in the UK now make their content freely available on the internet.
Social networks and tagging
Everyone is talking about MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites. Some are open and others have more private space. LinkedIn, for example, lets anybody join for free and once you connect to a friend you can see their friends but must get a personal introduction in order to connect to people you don't already know.
Downes notes that "in the world of e-learning, the closest thing to a social network is a community of practice, articulated and promoted by people such as Etienne Wenger in the 1990s."
There is great potential for such communities as a base for sharing and promoting knowledge. Social networking software allows disparate groups to network, share and to build a body of knowledge. The key is the shift away from sites where come and take away knowledge to sites where people come and contribute knowledge and learning. The very nature of these sites is what Downes calls a conversation rather than simply a means for publishing or broadcasting information.
Linked to this development is the growth of tagging. Basically tagging is a way for people to share bookmarks and important sites with others.
Tags are very much in their infancy. As Karrer notes they are used mainly for "lighter" applications like browsing photos on Flickr or looking up web recommendations on del.icio.us.
Social networks will become more valuable with size. Reed's law is the assertion that the utility of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network. For more see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed%27s_law
Everyone as publisher
Finally, we return to the self publishing phenomenon that Downes referred to at the outset of this article and which runs throughout much of the e-learning 2.0 discussion.. The barriers to being able to create content have effectively been removed. Now we can all be publishers. Whether it is through wikis, blogs or podcasting we can all contribute to the body of knowledge on the intranet.
In the corporate world the concept of everyone as publisher is probably the most scary thing. The central marketing, communications or learning divisions in corporates could control everything by controlling the ability to publish. They could vet, review and stop content getting out there. The idea of people sharing their knowledge and views directly through self-publishing is very worrying for them.
Thus in many organisations there has been a move to restrict the use of wikis, blogs and podcasting despite their explosion on the internet. However, self publishing is happening, it is unstoppable despite their best efforts and more importantly it can be a very valuable thing. We were involved in a project where sales staff were sharing sales tips and providing immediate feedback from the field by updating a wiki.
Even if you can stop blogs and wikis inside an organisation you can't stop it happening outside. Someone in the BBC recently said that you can get more valuable information on the BBC's internal policies on wikipedia than on their own intranet.
It has been said that no one if as smart as everyone and whilst this may not be true in every situation, it is a good generalisation. Learning in the future must be designed to incorporate content and knowledge from everyone. We predict that the role of learners in creating learning content will grow significantly.
Do you agree?
Do you agree with our views. Or do you have examples of where some of the ideas discussed here are already working?
After prompting from Tony Karrer you can add comments directly below or you can be very web 1.0 and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.