Online information and communication is changing the way instructors and learners interact and learn. Today, the Web is no longer just an information repository or a place to search for resources. Traditional Web applications typically consist of browsing and searching on the Internet and are essentially a reading operation. In contrast, the new Web (Web 2.0 or Read/Write Web) is a place to find other users, to exchange ideas and thoughts, to demonstrate creativity, and to create new knowledge. Web 2.0 applications, such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, and podcasts, have emerged in a rich, interactive, user-friendly application platform that allow users to read and also to write to the Web. Web 2.0 has transformed the Web into a global network community where every user is invited to create content. The Web is shifting from being a medium, in which information is transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content is created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and exchanged. The unique feature of many Web 2.0 applications is that it harnesses the collective intelligence of users. Learners become part of a global human network in which they can harness the collective intelligence of people in the world that could have never been possible previously. Learners can interact with other learners, gain from their experiences, and then construct their own knowledge. The advent of Web 2.0 technologies allows teachers and trainers to empower learners and create exciting new learning opportunities.
The widespread Web 2.0 applications have the capacity for educational institutions and corporations involved in training to extend the possibilities of e-learning. Consequently, the model of e-learning 2.0 (as coined by Stephen Downes) has been emerged. Stephen Downes, in his 2005 article E-Learning 2.0, noted:
What happens when online learning ceases to be like a medium, and becomes more like a platform? What happens when online learning software ceases to be a type of content-consumption tool, where learning is “delivered,” and becomes more like a content-authoring tool, where learning is created? 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. Insofar as there is content, it is used rather than read- and is, in any case, more likely to be produced by students than courseware authors. And insofar as there is structure, it is more likely to resemble a language or a conversation rather than a book or a manual.
Similarly, Steve O’hear, in his 2006 article e-learning 2.0 – how Web technologies are shaping education, pointed out that the early promise of e-learning has not been fully realized. He wrote:
The traditional approach to e-learning has been to employ the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), software that is often cumbersome and expensive – and which tends to be structured around courses, timetables, and testing. That is an approach that is too often driven by the needs of the institution rather than the individual learner. In contrast, e-learning 2.0 (as coined by Stephen Downes) takes a ‘small pieces, loosely joined’ approach that combines the use of discrete but complementary tools and web services – such as blogs, wikis, and other social software – to support the creation of ad-hoc learning communities.
Web is no longer an information repository or a place to search for resources. The new Web a place to find other learners, to exchange ideas and thoughts, to demonstrate creativity, and to create new knowledge. With the new tools and services provided by the new Web, it starts laying the foundation for innovative ideas such as Classroom 2.0, Library 2.0, School 2.0, University 2.0, and E-learning 2.0.
E-learning 2.0 can capitalize on many sources of content aggregated together into learning experiences and utilize various tools including online references, courseware, knowledge management, collaboration and search. E-learning 2.0 differs from traditional e-learning. Instead of learners simply receiving, reading, and responding to learning content in traditional e-learning; e-learning 2.0 allows learners to create content and to collaborate with peers to form a learning network with distribution of content creation and responsibilities. In addition, e-learning 2.0 allows learners to easily access content through search, aggregation, and tagging. It provides learners with opportunities to interact with the content and share their thoughts and comments with not only the instructors but also with other learners. E-learning 2.0, therefore, is evolving to one of the most exciting, dynamic, and challenging fields involving teaching and learning.
[My colleague, Dr. Harrison Yang at the State University of New York at Oswego, also contributes to this post]