Web communities are emerging at an alarming speed, as are sites that offer Web 2.0 community services. The latest I came across is frappr. A rather cool site where visitors to a site can leave a trace by adding themselves to a google map. They can also add a hello. It’s the GIS version of the old visitors’ book.
Of course, one may wonder what the point is of all this bonding and sharing. Is it to satisfy your ego when appearing all over the net? Or is it to give your seal of approval to sites you have visited? We may never find out – or is there a tool that gathers “Communities of Motivation” – people with the same intentions? Surely!
With AJAX technology becoming more widespread, Web2 philosophy gets a strong boost. Social sharing, networking, communities, and online applications are the forebodings of the greatest change the Web has seen in a long time. What’s behind it is a change in culture and maybe a return to the philosophical origins of the first Web community, where not proprietary commercial companies and public authorities ruled, but the free open spirit of creative innovators.
The strong community element of Web2 applications such as flickr or odeo, together with an abundance of online applications for about anything you would want to do on a computer, may create new thinking patterns. It is not so much the “designing your Web-presence to inform” that is important. The core element, rather, seems to be the idea of “being part of it”, “exhibiting and sharing thy inner self” from bookmarks to photos.
The good news: You can now measure your standing in society by comparing your bookmarks with those of other folks. Are you in, are you up-to-date, do you know what’s cool? Show me your bookmarks and I tell you who you are…!
On the readers’ end we may see democracy overpowering broadcasting. Where, previously, search engines spat out information based on “facts” and statistics, we now receive opinions, ratings, and rankings. The more people find a site interesting the more impact it will have – don’t worry about credibility. This will require new skills for evaluating information we get from the Web.
Will the learning landscape be affected by it? Almost certainly. Already personal web usage is changing. Chambers’ model of the student-centred PLE (Personal Learning Environment) away from institutional infrastructure, may still be some way off, but it is a feasible vision of things to come.
Here’s a non-comprehensive list of important Web2 sites:
Quality management in an organisational sense is usually understood to aim for common standards across a set of people, tasks, or systems. It is not an instrument but a vision. The instruments are a set of normative rules that is expected to be observed. The “management” part in the concept’s name expresses the necessity that one is in control of the outcomes, i.e. of the produced quality.
Standards are only effective if applied without exception. The equation of “quality management = rules + control”, therefore, implies two main features: creation of rules and enforcement of rules. In HEIs the former is largely wishful thinking, while the latter is rather non-existent. The first part of enforcement, naturally, is to make the rules known to the users concerned. This is where staff development comes into play. However, the evasive reality of academics to areas that aren’t exactly their interests, turns this into a futile institutional hope.
The second part of enforcement is consequences for failure to keep to the rules. If quality does not happen within the anticipated scope, what is to be done? In most cases nothing happens, which in a worse case scenario leads to a survival tactics by standard-resistent users: resist for long enough and the thing will go away. The standard is dead, only to be replaced by another vision – with the same chances of success.
Can quality management then exist in Higher Education? Well, I think, it would need at least a proof of concept!
Student-centredness is moving into the next phase with the emergence of PLEs or Personal Learning Environments. In plain English it’s a shift from centralised to de-centralised service provision. An interesting and more extreme viewpoint was expressed by Oleg Liber recently claiming that universities should not fulfil the role of an ISP (Internet Service Provider). This could lead to the outsourcing of many IT services to external providers and students. Is this the beginning of the virtual BYO student?
Another aspect is Andrew Chambers’ map of the personal learning space, presenting students as active participants in control of their own tools – largely Web 2.0 communtiy tools such as del.icio.us, weblogs, wikis, concept maps and search engines. I like this view as it portraits the maturing information society, where knowledge is up for grabs and knowledge production takes a shortcut to publication.
From the institutions’ perspective it was the personal teaching environment that held the monopoly in service provision. the assumption had been that what benefits the tutor will cascade to benefit the learner. Of course, this led to a dependency of students on their sometimes technically challenged tutors. In a reverse case scenario a digital divide between students is the result, where a perfectly computer literate learner cannot use and develop their skills because the tutor resists change.