web 2.0

Do you want Web 2.0 help for your educational development?

Brian Kelly, of the great blog UK Web Focus, has recently been reflecting on the different approaches that universities have in using Web 2.0 tools (I’ve commented on the matter there too).

Institutions obviously want to know how they can reach out to students effectively and maintain quality contact.  They want to make sure that the right information and help is there for each and every student.  They would like to succeed in making their lives a little clearer and a little easier.  In the process, they hope that your lives will also become a little easier.

In recent years, it’s obvious that the end-user (i.e. YOU) calls a lot of the shots.  If you’re not publishing blog posts, you’re updating your Facebook profile.  If you’re not Tweeting, you’re sharing photos for the world to view (and possibly even reuse).

No longer is the Internet just a bunch of static views and specific functions.  Now you can create mashups, specialise on YOUR terms, and personalise to your unique and individual brand.

For us as ‘Generation Y’ (as it’s known), we’ve grown up with the Web and all the exciting developments that we take for granted.  It’s led to this:

  1. Students don’t want specifics imposed upon them (who wants – or needs – that now?);
  2. Students don’t appreciate the changes from what they see as a platform for personal and social interaction, to a platform that’s been hijacked by educators and officials as a method of contact and coming closer.

It doesn’t matter that your uni is developing new tools to make your life easier.  Firstly, you may disagree that it helps your individual circumstances.  Secondly, it clouds the boundaries between personal/social life and educational/study life.

With so many Web 2.0 tools out there, the point is that you can pick and choose the services you want/need. It’s mainly up to you, as an individual, to decide what’s important.  That’s an essential component of the Web 2.0 idea.  It’s a fluid, changing space.  To an extent, you help to create the rules.  Once the fluidity is taken away, much of the ‘Web 2.0’ badge may as well be gone.

So the big question is, in what ways can universities achieve a solid base that you – as users – can embrace, but then further develop yourself?

Has your uni helped to give you more control of your educational pursuits online?  Do you make use of social networking and Web 2.0 tools to further your education/career, or do you see these functions as purely a tool for entertainment purposes?

[Update: I’ve found that new research by JISC has found that nearly three quarters of those students who use social networking sites (which is almost every student) use the sites to discuss coursework with others.  Over a quarter do this frequently.  But does this mean that students want a social networking connection to their tutors, or is it better to keep the discussion between peers as another way to do group work…?]