Transforming Higher Education in the Connected Society : A Web 2.0 Application at Rovira i Virgili University

AUTHOR
Teresa Torres-Coronas, María Arántzazu Vidal-Blasco, Ricard Monclús-Guitart, Mario Arias-Oliva, Margarita Ortí-García, M. José Simón-Olmos and Antoni Pérez-Portabella

ABSTRACT

The current situation and the continuing and rapid changes occurring in the digital world are affecting the way in which organizations work and do business. The emergence of Enterprise 2.0 model incorporates this idea of change focused on the development of collective intelligence, social interaction and social capital building as sources of knowledge creation. Digital workers must know how apply this model to facilitate compliance with the corporate mission and the business strategy.

In the present landscape of technological change there is a growing shift on the need to support the acquisition of knowledge and competencies to continue learning throughout life. “With respect to ICT, we are witnessing the rapid expansion and proliferation of technologies that are less about “narrowcasting”, and more focussed on creating communities in which people come together to collaborate, learn and build knowledge” (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007, p. 664).

In this context, on line communities (or e-communities) are designed to provide users with a range of tools for personal development. E-communities use web technology and social software to help members pursue new ways of learning and also, as stated by Ala-Mutka, Punie and Redecker (2008), e-communities enhance learning outcomes by:

  • Supporting different senses with multimedia visualizations and representations.
  • Supporting collaboration with new online production and networking tools.
  • Supporting diversity by supplying a wide variety of methodological tools.
  • Empowering learners to personalize their learning process through interaction, combining formal, non-formal and informal learning.

Collaborative development and sharing of media content (e.g. blogging, podcasting, Wikipedia, Flickr®, YouTube™) and social networking (e.g. MySpace™, Facebook®, SecondLife®) are transforming knowledge sharing, social capital and the learning society.

As learners have different background and competences several different learning approaches are needed. This implies that the skills needed and the most adequate learning styles will vary with professions and industries (Kolb, 1984). Thus, for instance, Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) characterize Net generation (“N-gen”) students as digitally literate, always connected via networked media, used to immediate responses, preferring experiential learning, highly social, preferring to work in teams, oriented toward inductive discovery, feeling more comfortable in image-rich environments than with text and, having a preference “for structure rather than ambiguity”. This means that there is a growing need to stimulate the creation of successful strategies for learning. Information technologies, including interactive and multimedia technologies, are tools for building up such strategies and enriching learning. Modern technology not only makes learning a daily need for people but also makes it easier to learn. The Net generation, the workers of the future, are ready for connectivism as a new learning paradigm.

So, constructivist approaches have grown to include social constructivism, which refers “to learning as the result of active participation in a ‘‘community’’ where new meanings are co-constructed.” (Brown, 2006, p. 111). Different learning strategies have been designed based on a community supported constructionist approach in which constructionism strategy is situated in a supportive community context (Bruckman, 1998). This approach emphasizes the importance of social aspect of learning environment. The construction of new knowledge and social capital is the aim of the constructivism.

But beyond constructivism and social constructivism new paradigm are emerging. Brown (2006) focus on navigationism as a learning paradigm shift. In this new learning paradigm the emphasis will be on knowledge navigation. Learning will take place when learners solve contextual real life problems through active engagement in problem- solving activities, and networking and collaboration. Siemens’ principles of connectivism (Siemens, 2004) provides a summary of the connectivist learning skills required within a navigationist learning paradigm:

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision making is itself a learning process.

Connectivist learning skills are required to learn within a navigationist learning paradigm. And this is why Brown (2006) states that “connectivism is part and parcel of navigationism,” (p. 117) a learning paradigm that needs further development. The main practical implication of Brown’s work is that teachers and trainers should become coaches and mentors within the knowledge era and learners should acquire navigating skills for a navigationist learning paradigm. To enhance learning in the connected learning society, it is vital to integrate learning experiences with ICT tools as the key solution to equipping people with the evolving knowledge and skills that will be needed to adapt to the continuously changing nature of the learning society and the Enterprise 2.0 model.

Drawing on these ideas, this paper addresses how e-competences can be developed through formal learning. In this paper we refer to a web 2.0 learning experience developed at Universitat Rovira i Virgili during a summer course held in July, 2009. We show how to design a web 2.0 learning community to develop both digital competencies and management knowledge. In particular, the case presented focuses on the field of gender equality within the framework of labour relations in a non-real company created for this purpose, Quadratonics, SA. Through the Quadratonics’ case, web 2.0 tools and social software students improve their e-competencies and, at the same time, they are exposed to the most updated innovations in ITC. This course facilitates students’ encounter with the new digital world as it includes a theoretical background as well as practical experience of the various applications of web 2.0 tools and social software.

Our final reflection is that higher education academics should continue to expand their awareness of web 2.0 applications and the role they can play in optimizing learning and knowledge creation among their students, the digital workers of the future.

REFERENCES

Brown, T.H. (2006). Beyond constructivism: Navigationism in the knowledge era. On the Horizon, 14(3), 108-120.

Bruckman, A. (1998). Community support for constructionist learning. Computer Supported Cooperative Work: The Journal of Collaborative Computing, 7, 47–86.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. J.W. (2007, December). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ASCILITE (pp. 664-675), Singapore. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/mcloughlin.pdf

Oblinger, D, & Oblinger, J. (2005). Is it age or IT: First steps toward understanding the net generation. In Oblinger, D. and Obligner J. (Eds.), Educating the Net Generation, Educause. Retrieved 15 February, 2009, from http://www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/5989?time=1236850547

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

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