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Handbook of Research on

Practices and Outcomes in


E-Learning:
Issues and Trends

Harrison Hao Yang


State University of New York at Oswego, USA

Steve Chi-Yin Yuen


The University of Southern Mississippi, USA

InformatIon scIence reference


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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Handbook of research on practices and outcomes in e-learning : issues and


trends / Harrison Hao Yang and Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, editors.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Summary: "This book includes a selection of world-class chapters addressing
current research, case studies, best practices, pedagogical approaches and
strategies, related resources and projects related to e-learing"--Provided by
publisher.
ISBN 978-1-60566-788-1 (hardcover) -- ISBN 978-1-60566-789-8 (ebook) 1.
Internet in education. 2. Information technology. 3. Virtual computer
systems. 4. World Wide Web. 5. Online social networks. 6. Blogs. 7. Wikis
(Computer science) I. Yang, Harrison Hao, 1964- II. Yuen, Steve Chi-Yin,
1953-
LB1044.87.H345 2010
371.33'44678--dc22
2009019593

British Cataloguing in Publication Data


A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library.

All work contributed to this book is new, previously-unpublished material. The views expressed in this book are those of the
authors, but not necessarily of the publisher.
List of Reviewers
J. Enrique Agudo, University of Extremadura, Spain
Luiz Fernando de Barros Campos, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Leah Massar Bloom, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University, USA
Jeff Boyer, University of Florida, USA
Cathy Cavanaugh, University of Florida, USA
Chaka Chaka, Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science, South Africa
Pearl Chen, California State University, Los Angeles, USA
Candace Chou, University of St. Thomas, USA
Clara Pereira Coutinho, University of Minho, Portugal
Katie Crenshaw, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Elizabeth Downs, Georgia Southern University, USA
Michael Douma, Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, USA
Dimitrios Drogidis, School Consultant of Primary Education, Greece
Jianxia Du, Mississippi State University, USA
Carrie Eastman, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Patricia Edwards, University of Extremadura, Spain
Deborah Everhart, Georgetown University, USA
Ann Dutton Ewbank, Arizona State University, USA
Teresa S. Foulger, Arizona State University, USA
Stephen W. Harmon, Georgia State University, USA
Richard Hartshorne, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
Jeannine Hirtle, The University of Hawaii at Hilo, USA
Morris S. Y. Jong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Kathryn Kennedy, University of Florida, USA
Fong-Lok Lee, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Meng-Fen Grace Lin, University of Hawaii, USA
Yuliang Liu, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA,
Susanne Markgren, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Paraskevi Mentzelou, Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece
F.R. “Fritz” Nordengren, Des Moines University, USA
Peter Reed, Edge Hill University, UK
Judi Repman, Georgia Southern University, USA
Mercedes Rico, University of Extremadura, Spain
Robin M. Roberts, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA
Rajani Sadasivam, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Junjie Shang, Peking University, China
Kaye Shelton, Dallas Baptist University, USA
Brian Smith, Edge Hill University, UK
Chareen Snelson, Boise State University, USA
Sharon Stoerger, Indiana University, USA
Daniel W. Surry, University of South Alabama, USA
Ann York, Des Moines University, USA
Chien Yu, Mississippi State University, USA
Ke Zhang, Wayne State University, USA
Robert Zheng, University of Utah, USA
Cordelia Zinskie, Georgia Southern University, USA
List of Contributors

Ajjan, Haya / University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA ........................................................ 241


Angelov, Ivan / University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria ................................................................................ 493
Baek, Youngkyun / Korea National University of Education, Republic of Korea ............................ 165
Bloom, Leah Massar / State University of New York Purchase College, USA ................................. 260
Bonk, Curtis J. / Indiana University, USA .......................................................................................... 76
Bottentuit Jr., João Batista / University of Minho, Portugal ............................................................. 19
Boyer, Jeff / University of Florida, USA ............................................................................................ 367
Brown, Robert L. / Mississippi State University, USA........................................................................ 61
Carmean, Colleen / Arizona State University, USA .......................................................................... 211
Cavanaugh, Catherine / University of Florida, USA ....................................................................... 367
Walter Sisulu University, South Africa .................................................................................................. 38
Chen, Pearl / California State University, Los Angeles, USA ........................................................... 402
Chou, C. Candace / University of St. Thomas, USA ......................................................................... 440
Coutinho, Clara Pereira / University of Minho, Portugal.......................................................... 19, 385
Crenshaw, Katie M. / University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA ................................................. 308
Datla, Raju V. / Massachusetts Medical Society, USA ...................................................................... 308
Dawson, Kara / University of Florida, USA...................................................................................... 367
de Barros Campos, Luiz Fernando / Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil ......................... 197
Douma, Michael / Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA), USA .......................... 493
Drogidis, Dimitrios / School Consultant of Primary Education, Greece .......................................... 222
Du, Jianxia / Mississippi State University, USA .................................................................................. 61
Eastman, Carrie / State University of New York Purchase College, USA ........................................ 260
Ferdig, Richard E. / University of Florida, USA .............................................................................. 241
Hamilton, Karin / Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA .................................................................. 116
Hartshorne, Richard / University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA.......................................... 241
Hirtle, Jeannine / The University of Hawaii at Hilo, USA ................................................................ 182
Hsu, Jeffrey / Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA.......................................................................... 116
Hung, Hsiu-Ting / National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology,
Taiwan, R.O.C. ................................................................................................................................ 294
Kennedy, Kathryn / University of Florida, USA .............................................................................. 367
Kim, Bo Kyeong / Jeonju University, Republic of Korea .................................................................. 165
Kumar, Madhuri / University of Houston, USA ............................................................................... 422
Lin, Chun Fu / Minghsin University of Science & Technology, Taiwan ............................................... 1
Liu, Youmei / University of Houston, USA ........................................................................................ 422
Liu, Yuliang / Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA......................................................... 150
Liu, Yunyan / Southwest University, China ......................................................................................... 61
Markgren, Susanne / State University of New York Purchase College, USA ................................... 260
Menon, Sathish / Analytic Dimension, USA ...................................................................................... 493
Mentzelou, Paraskevi / Alexander Technological Educational Institute (A.T.E.I.)
of Thessaloniki, Greece ................................................................................................................... 222
Nordengren, F.R. “Fritz” / Des Moines University, USA ................................................................. 351
Özkan, Betül C. / University of Arizona South, USA ........................................................................ 278
Reed, Peter / Edge Hill University, UK ............................................................................................. 329
Richardson, Jennifer C. / Purdue University, USA .......................................................................... 138
Roberts, Robin M. / University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA .............................................................. 93
Sadasivam, Rajani S. / University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA ..................................... 308
Sajja, Priti Srinivas / Sardar Patel University, India ....................................................................... 471
Schoen, Michael J. / University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA ................................................... 308
Scott, Carl / University of Houston, USA .......................................................................................... 422
Smith, Brian / Edge Hill University, UK ........................................................................................... 329
Smith, Samuel / University of Texas at Arlington, USA .................................................................... 182
Yang, Dazhi / Purdue University, USA .............................................................................................. 138
Yang, Harrison Hao / State University of New York at Oswego, USA .............................................. 455
York, Ann M. / Des Moines University, USA .................................................................................... 351
Yu, Chien / Mississippi State University, USA ....................................................................................... 1
Yu, Wei-Chieh Wayne / Chang Gung Institute of Technology, Taiwan ................................................ 1
Yuen, Steve Chi-Yin / The University of Southern Mississippi, USA ............................................... 455
Zhang, Ke / Wayne State University, USA ........................................................................................... 76
Table of Contents

Preface .............................................................................................................................................. xxiv

Acknowledgment ............................................................................................................................... xxv

Section 1
Chronical and Conceptual Perspectives

Chapter 1
Computer-Mediated Learning: What Have We Experienced and Where Do We Go Next?................... 1
Chien Yu, Mississippi State University, USA
Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu, Chang Gung Institute of Technology, Taiwan
Chun Fu Lin, Minghsin University of Science & Technology, Taiwan

Chapter 2
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0 ........................................................................................... 19
Clara Pereira Coutinho, University of Minho, Portugal
João Batista Bottentuit Jr., University of Minho, Portugal

Chapter 3
E-Learning 2.0: Web 2.0, the Semantic Web and the Power of Collective Intelligence....................... 38
Chaka Chaka, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa

Chapter 4
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities........................................................................... 61
Jianxia Du, Mississippi State University, USA
Yunyan Liu, Southwest University, China
Robert L. Brown, Mississippi State University, USA
Section 2
E-Learners

Chapter 5
Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies ............................................................................. 76
Ke Zhang, Wayne State University, USA
Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University, USA

Chapter 6
The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?....................................... 93
Robin M. Roberts, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA

Chapter 7
Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success: Critical Issues and Challenges
in an Adult Hybrid Distance Learning Program ................................................................................. 116
Jeffrey Hsu, Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA
Karin Hamilton, Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA

Chapter 8
Online Interaction Styles: Adapting to Active Interaction Styles ....................................................... 138
Dazhi Yang, Purdue University, USA
Jennifer C. Richardson, Purdue University, USA

Chapter 9
Strategies for Providing Formative Feedback to Maximize Learner Satisfaction
and Online Learning ........................................................................................................................... 150
Yuliang Liu, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA

Section 3
E-Learning Environments and Communities

Chapter 10
Exploring Ideas and Possibilities of Second Life as an Advanced E-learning Environment ............. 165
Bo Kyeong Kim, Jeonju University, Republic of Korea
Youngkyun Baek, Korea National University of Education, Republic of Korea

Chapter 11
When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers............. 182
Jeannine Hirtle, The University of Hawaii at Hilo, USA
Samuel Smith, University of Texas at Arlington, USA

Chapter 12
Could Web 2.0 Technologies Support Knowledge Management in Organizations? .......................... 197
Luiz Fernando de Barros Campos, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Chapter 13
E-Learning Design for the Information Workplace ............................................................................ 211
Colleen Carmean, Arizona State University, USA

Chapter 14
The Impact of Information Communication Technology (ICT)
to the Greek Educational Community................................................................................................. 222
Paraskevi Mentzelou, Alexander Technological Educational Institute (A.T.E.I.)
of Thessaloniki, Greece
Dimitrios Drogidis, School Consultant of Primary Education, Greece

Section 4
Professional and Disciplinary Implications

Chapter 15
Faculty Use and Perceptions of Web 2.0 in Higher Education ........................................................... 241
Richard Hartshorne, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
Haya Ajjan, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
Richard E. Ferdig, University of Florida, USA

Chapter 16
Librarian as Collaborator: Bringing E-Learning 2.0 into the Classroom by Way of the Library ....... 260
Susanne Markgren, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Carrie Eastman, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Leah Massar Bloom, State University of New York Purchase College, USA

Chapter 17
Implementing E-Learning in University 2.0: Are Universities Ready for the Digital Age?............... 278
Betül C. Özkan, University of Arizona South, USA

Chapter 18
New Literacies in New Times: A Multimodal Approach to Literacy Learning .................................. 294
Hsiu-Ting Hung, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan,
R.O.C.

Chapter 19
Transforming Continuing Healthcare Education with E-Learning 2.0 ............................................... 308
Rajani S. Sadasivam, University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA
Katie M. Crenshaw, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Michael J. Schoen, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Raju V. Datla, Massachusetts Medical Society, USA
Section 5
Pedagogical Design and Implementations

Chapter 20
Mode Neutral: The Pedagogy that Bridges Web 2.0 and e-Learning 2.0 ........................................... 329
Brian Smith, Edge Hill University, UK
Peter Reed, Edge Hill University, UK

Chapter 21
Dispatches from the Graduate Classroom: Bringing Theory and Practice to E-Learning .................. 351
F.R. “Fritz” Nordengren, Des Moines University, USA
Ann M. York, Des Moines University, USA

Chapter 22
Student-Centered Teaching with Constructionist Technology Tools:
Preparing 21st Century Teachers ........................................................................................................ 367
Kathryn Kennedy, University of Florida, USA
Jeff Boyer, University of Florida, USA
Catherine Cavanaugh, University of Florida, USA
Kara Dawson, University of Florida, USA

Chapter 23
Challenges for Teacher Education in the Learning Society: Case Studies
of Promising Practice .......................................................................................................................... 385
Clara Pereira Coutinho, University of Minho, Portugal

Chapter 24
From Memorable to Transformative E-Learning Experiences:
Theory and Practice of Experience Design ......................................................................................... 402
Pearl Chen, California State University, Los Angeles, USA

Chapter 25
Authentic Learning in Second Life: A Constructivist Model in Course Design................................. 422
Carl Scott, University of Houston, USA
Youmei Liu, University of Houston, USA
Madhuri Kumar, University of Houston, USA

Chapter 26
Student Perceptions and Pedagogical Applications of E-Learning Tools in Online Course .............. 440
C. Candace Chou, University of St. Thomas, USA
Chapter 27
Using Blogfolios to Enhance Interaction in E-Learning Courses ....................................................... 455
Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, The University of Southern Mississippi, USA
Harrison Hao Yang, State University of New York at Oswego, USA

Chapter 28
Multi-Tier Knowledge-Based System Accessing Learning Object Repository
Using Fuzzy XML .............................................................................................................................. 471
Priti Srinivas Sajja, Sardar Patel University, India

Chapter 29
Finding Information: Factors that Improve Online Experiences ........................................................ 493
Ivan Angelov, University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Sathish Menon, Analytic Dimension, USA
Michael Douma, Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA), USA

Compilation of References .............................................................................................................. 507

About the Contributors ................................................................................................................... 559

Index ................................................................................................................................................... 570


Detailed Table of Contents

Preface .............................................................................................................................................. xxiv

Acknowledgment ............................................................................................................................... xxv

Section 1
Chronical and Conceptual Perspectives

Chapter 1
Computer-Mediated Learning: What Have We Experienced and Where Do We Go Next?................... 1
Chien Yu, Mississippi State University, USA
Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu, Chang Gung Institute of Technology, Taiwan
Chun Fu Lin, Minghsin University of Science & Technology, Taiwan

Dramatic changes in information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide a powerful force for
the growth of e-learning. E-learning has become the undeniable trend for both secondary and higher
education. This chapter provides an overview of e-learning computer technologies within the teaching
and learning, an examination of current research studies in related areas, and a discussion of the paradigm
shift as well as on the trends and issues pertinent to the development of computer-mediated instruction/
learning and e-learning. Furthermore, this chapter explores how students perceived the effectiveness of
computer-mediated instruction and learning and their perceptions and attitudes toward learning using
computer technology.

Chapter 2
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0 ........................................................................................... 19
Clara Pereira Coutinho, University of Minho, Portugal
João Batista Bottentuit Jr., University of Minho, Portugal

In this chapter the authors analyze issues and ideas regarding the next generation of e-Learning, which
is already known as e-Learning 2.0 or social e-Learning. The authors look at the new learning tools
that have emerged from the evolution of the Web, to the Web 2.0 paradigm, discussing their potential
for supporting modern and independent lifelong learners. Even more important, the authors justify
the modeling of a new concept for the future of teaching and learning in the knowledge-based society
in which we live. The conclusion of this chapter presents a scenario for the evolution of the Web, the
Semantic Web or 3.0 generation Web, which is emerging as a higher environment that will advance the
design and development of e-Learning systems in promising new directions: machine-understandable
educational material will be the basis for machines that automatically use and interpret information for
the benefit of authors and educators, making e-Learning platforms more adaptable and responsive to
each individual learner.

Chapter 3
E-Learning 2.0: Web 2.0, the Semantic Web and the Power of Collective Intelligence....................... 38
Chaka Chaka, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa

This chapter contends that both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web (the SW) serve as critical enablers for
e-learning 2.0. It also maintains that the SW has the potential to take e-learning 2.0 to new frontiers of
advancement. Most significantly, the chapter argues that Web 2.0 and the SW provide an ideal platform
for harnessing collective intelligence, collective knowledge, the power of the groundswell, the network
effect, and the power of collective simulation for higher education institutions (HEIs) in the area of e-
learning 2.0. Against this backdrop, the chapter provides, first, a short overview of e-learning 2.0, Web
2.0 and the SW. Second, it characterizes the way in which Web 2.0 social software technologies (e.g.,
blogs, wikis, social networks and virtual worlds) can be deployed in HEIs for delivering e-learning 2.0
for educational purposes. In addition, it outlines the manner in which the SW (in the form of semantic
blogs, semantic wikis, semantic social networks and semantic virtual worlds) can enhance each of these
Web 2.0 technologies for deploying e-learning 2.0 in HEIs.

Chapter 4
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities........................................................................... 61
Jianxia Du, Mississippi State University, USA
Yunyan Liu, Southwest University, China
Robert L. Brown, Mississippi State University, USA

An online learning community can be a place for vibrant discussions and the sharing of new ideas in a
medium where content constantly changes. This chapter examines the different definitions that research-
ers have provided for online learning communities. It then illuminates several key elements that are
integral to online learning communities: interactivity, in both its task-driven and socio-emotional forms;
collaboration, which both builds and nurtures online communities; trusting relationships, which are
developed primarily through social interaction and consist of shared goals and a sense of belonging or
connectedness; and communication media choices, which impact the other three elements. This chapter
also provides suggestions for the practical application of these elements in the online classroom.
Section 2
E-Learners

Chapter 5
Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies ............................................................................. 76
Ke Zhang, Wayne State University, USA
Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University, USA

This chapter reviews the characteristics of learners of different generations. In particular, it compares their
differences in terms of learning preferences as well as their typical skills and attitudes towards technol-
ogy in e-learning. In addition, it discusses the impacts of these shared and varied learner characteristics
on e-learning and provides suggestions and recommendations on how to address generational learning
diversity in e-learning design and delivery. In responding to the emerging learning technologies, this
chapter specifically analyzes generational learners’ preferences and characteristics regarding learning
technologies, and the practical implications for designers and educators working on e-learning for highly
diversified audiences representing various generations.

Chapter 6
The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?....................................... 93
Robin M. Roberts, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA

The relationship between the Digital or Millennium Generation and Web 2.0 is investigated focusing
on how post-secondary students just entering American colleges and universities use the interactive or
read-write web popularly known as “Web 2.0” and what implications their use of those web sites has
for E-learning. Central to the investigation is addressing the question of whether the Digital Generation
and Web 2.0 concepts describe actual realities or exist merely as popular media constructions. The basic
thrust of the chapter is the position that the Digital Generation does not function as a monolithic group,
but that the use of Web 2.0 technologies is related to developmental stages and life situation.

Chapter 7
Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success: Critical Issues and Challenges
in an Adult Hybrid Distance Learning Program ................................................................................. 116
Jeffrey Hsu, Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA
Karin Hamilton, Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA

Adult learners have a set of specific and unique needs, and are different from traditional college students.
Possessing greater maturity, interest in learning, and also career and life-oriented objectives, they have dif-
ferent expectations for their education, as well as different backgrounds and goals. This chapter examines
what adult learners are, theories of adult learning, and the applicability of online learning to adult learners.
Specific teaching methods and techniques are discussed for online and hybrid distance learning courses, as
well as hybrid arrangements; encompassing teaching methods, types of exercises and activities, intensive
course structures, block scheduling, and the use of modular course segments. Examples from an adult
learner hybrid distance learning undergraduate program, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Global Business
Management, are also provided. Future trends and areas for further research conclude the chapter.
Chapter 8
Online Interaction Styles: Adapting to Active Interaction Styles ....................................................... 138
Dazhi Yang, Purdue University, USA
Jennifer C. Richardson, Purdue University, USA

Past studies indicate that students demonstrate different online interaction styles, which consist of the
ways or habits students acquire knowledge from computer-mediated discussions (Sutton, 2001). Such
interaction styles include the active interaction style (Beaudion, 2002), the vicarious interaction style
(Sutton, 2001), and the mixed or balanced-interaction style. The purposes of this chapter are to: (a)
examine relative studies on students’ online interaction styles; (b) propose a hypothesis that students’
online interaction styles can change during the course of computer-mediated discussion; (c) conduct a
case study on students’ online interaction styles to test the hypothesis. This chapter reviews current is-
sues related to students’ online interaction styles. It offers practical suggestions on the design of online
learning environments, instructor’s role in online courses, and educational tools to facilitate students in
adapting to more active interaction styles in computer-mediated learning environments.

Chapter 9
Strategies for Providing Formative Feedback to Maximize Learner Satisfaction
and Online Learning ........................................................................................................................... 150
Yuliang Liu, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA

Learner satisfaction and learning is currently a very important topic in online instruction and learning.
Blignaut and Trollip (2003) proposed six types of response for providing formative feedback in online
courses. These six response types include: Administrative, Affective, Other, Corrective, Informative,
and Socratic. The first three types involve no academic content while the last three types are related to
academic content. Each type serves a different purpose for online learners. This study is designed to
validate how the appropriate use of six response types for providing formative feedback affected learner
satisfaction and online learning in an online graduate class at a mid-western university in the summer
semester of 2008. Results indicated that all six response types are necessary to ensure maximum online
learner satisfaction and effective online learning although each has its different focus. Findings have
implications for all other online courses in the future.

Section 3
E-Learning Environments and Communities

Chapter 10
Exploring Ideas and Possibilities of Second Life as an Advanced E-learning Environment ............. 165
Bo Kyeong Kim, Jeonju University, Republic of Korea
Youngkyun Baek, Korea National University of Education, Republic of Korea

Web 2.0 is changing the paradigm of using the Internet which is affecting the e-learning paradigm. In
this chapter, e-learning 2.0 and its strategies are described for net generation. E-learning 2.0 is followed
by introduction of Second Life as an advanced e-learning environment. Flexibility, strong social net-
working, and residents’ creative activities of Second Life allow unlimited potential to educators when
they apply various educational principles to designing a learning environment. The authors assert that
Second Life is a classroom built-in 3D cyber space. This chapter presents some cases on how Second
Life is used in a new e-learning environment. Also, it explores ideas and possibilities of Second Life
that can provide to make up for the limits in the current e-learning environment.

Chapter 11
When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers............. 182
Jeannine Hirtle, The University of Hawaii at Hilo, USA
Samuel Smith, University of Texas at Arlington, USA

Communities of practice (CoP’s)—much touted and studied as a mechanism for teacher education and
professional development—may offer environments for deeper learning and transformation of their par-
ticipants. This chapter examines more meaningful outcomes possible in community-centered learning—
deep learning, changes in professional culture and identity, and participants “finding voice”—outcomes
of value not often seen in formal educational and traditional professional development settings. Drawing
on qualitative data from participants in a three-year community of writers and literacy educators, the
authors suggests that CoP’s can be linked not only to development of knowledge and skills, but also to
changes in participant beliefs, attitudes, voices, visions, and the identities of practicing educators.

Chapter 12
Could Web 2.0 Technologies Support Knowledge Management in Organizations? .......................... 197
Luiz Fernando de Barros Campos, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil

This chapter investigates whether information technology tools typical of Web 2.0 can support Knowl-
edge Management (KM) practices in organizations. An investigation on the Web is conducted and the
appropriate literature examined. The information technology tools employed in organizations nowadays
are discussed with the help of three guidelines which each present two opposing ideas: knowledge cre-
ation versus knowledge sharing, tacit knowledge versus explicit knowledge, and hierarchical KM versus
organic KM. It is argued that these tools reveal an innate contradiction: they are based on a centralized
conception and production but aim to deal with informal, fluid processes, which resist structuring. The
term Enterprise 2.0 is defined and examined, since it brings out a critical view of traditional KM tech-
nology. Also, the challenges and opportunities in the organizational use of Web 2.0 technologies are
remarked. Finally, the managerial interventions appropriate to enable the success of KM projects based
on Web 2.0 technologies are discussed.

Chapter 13
E-Learning Design for the Information Workplace ............................................................................ 211
Colleen Carmean, Arizona State University, USA

Anytime and all-the-time access to electronic resources, artifacts and community have changed learning
practices in the workplace as surely as it has changed the workplace itself. Learning today is measured
not by what we know, but by how successfully we tap into our network to find the information we need
in the moment we need it. The business environment now demands anytime and just-in-time answers
at all levels of the organization. In response to new expectations within the information-rich workplace,
the organization must look to a new practice of comprehensive design for a shared knowledge archi-
tecture that can leverage the digital tools, methods and effective practices now available. To understand
not simply technology but the affordance (Norman, 1988; Carmean & McGee, 2008) and effective use
of each technology now available, a new design practice is needed. Current digital learners seek prac-
tices, resources and help in navigating the shared knowledge flow and have little training or support
in understanding the network of information available. If anytime, anywhere, and from any source is
a new e-learning paradigm in the digital workplace (Cross, 2006), then the challenge for a new breed
of designers will be to understand, create and support the digital learner in their access and use of the
shared knowledge embedded within local and global networked resources.

Chapter 14
The Impact of Information Communication Technology (ICT)
to the Greek Educational Community................................................................................................. 222
Paraskevi Mentzelou, Alexander Technological Educational Institute (A.T.E.I.)
of Thessaloniki, Greece
Dimitrios Drogidis, School Consultant of Primary Education, Greece

The aims of Greek education system is to give to students the ability to develop the required skills,
character and values that will enable them to contribute to the prosperity of Greek Society, Greek Nation
and humanity. The fulfillments of these aims require a dynamic educational system with the potential of
incessant adjustment emanated from the interaction between national education and societal needs and
demands. Living in an information and knowledge society where quality is its goal, Greek education
system has to be enriched with all the characteristics and means that specify educational quality. In a
framework, where educational changes are unavoidable due to the entrance of Information and Com-
munication Technology (ICT) and especially the use of World Wide Web in Greek education system, an
effort to present the current impact to Greek Educational community is attempted. This chapter describes
ways, efforts, stages and methods that have been set for the application of ICT to Greek education sys-
tem and presents effects, issues, trends and utilization of World Wide Web by the Greek educational
community.

Section 4
Professional and Disciplinary Implications

Chapter 15
Faculty Use and Perceptions of Web 2.0 in Higher Education ........................................................... 241
Richard Hartshorne, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
Haya Ajjan, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
Richard E. Ferdig, University of Florida, USA

In this chapter, the authors provide evidence for the potential of various Web 2.0 applications in higher
education through a review of relevant literature on both emerging educational technologies and social
networking. Additionally, the authors report the results and implications of a study exploring faculty
awareness of the potential of Web 2.0 technologies (blogs, wikis, social bookmarks, social networks,
instant messaging, internet telephony, and audio/video conferencing) to support and supplement class-
room instruction in higher education. Also, using the Decomposed Theory of Planned Behavior as the
theoretical foundation, the authors discuss factors that influence faculty decisions to adopt specific Web
2.0 technologies. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of the study and recom-
mendations for future research.

Chapter 16
Librarian as Collaborator: Bringing E-Learning 2.0 into the Classroom by Way of the Library ....... 260
Susanne Markgren, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Carrie Eastman, State University of New York Purchase College, USA
Leah Massar Bloom, State University of New York Purchase College, USA

In this chapter, the authors explore the role of academic librarians in the e-learning 2.0 environment. Li-
brarians are excellent partners in developing e-learning 2.0 spaces with faculty, because they are already
familiar with many Web 2.0 technologies being used in these environments. The authors explore how
libraries and librarians have traditionally served their patrons, and how the library is currently becom-
ing a collaborative technology center serving increasingly tech-savvy students. With this in mind, the
authors define e-learning 2.0 and examine the history behind the development of the concept. They also
address the librarian’s role as it pertains to information literacy on campus and collaboration with faculty
in order to facilitate the e-learning process. The chapter concludes with a focus on how librarians can
help bring e-learning 2.0 in to the classroom through faculty workshops, consultations, and embedding
of librarians within classes.

Chapter 17
Implementing E-Learning in University 2.0: Are Universities Ready for the Digital Age?............... 278
Betül C. Özkan, University of Arizona South, USA

Because of the ways students learn and make sense of world change, higher education institutions try
to re-conceptualize this change process and search for better approaches to respond to the demands of
the information age. This chapter addresses current transformation specifically occurring in e-Learning
environments through emerging technologies and discusses new approaches to teaching and learning so
the future of education can be better grasped. The chapter also provides a list of suggestions so adoption
of new technologies as well as e-Learning strategies are more effective in Universities 2.0.

Chapter 18
New Literacies in New Times: A Multimodal Approach to Literacy Learning .................................. 294
Hsiu-Ting Hung, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan,
R.O.C.

The focus of the chapter is two-fold: on one hand, it seeks theoretical understanding of literacy as social
practice; on the other hand, it explores how emerging technologies afford and transcend the practice of
literacy in social interaction. The chapter begins with a re-conceptualization of literacy from the perspec-
tive of New Literacies Studies and outlines key principles pertaining to the plural notion of literacy to
provide a theoretical context for the discussion of a multimodal approach to literacy learning. The chapter
then links the development of the emerging literacy approach with the advent of technology to explore
new possibilities in language and literacy classrooms. Vignettes of emerging technologies, more specifi-
cally, social networking services are also presented to demonstrate possible pedagogic uses of multimodal
resources in education. The chapter concludes with directions for future literacy research, promoting a
multimodal approach to learning that attends to teaching and learning with emerging technologies.

Chapter 19
Transforming Continuing Healthcare Education with E-Learning 2.0 ............................................... 308
Rajani S. Sadasivam, University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA
Katie M. Crenshaw, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Michael J. Schoen, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
Raju V. Datla, Massachusetts Medical Society, USA

The e-learning 2.0 transformation of continuing education of healthcare professionals (CE/CME) will be
characterized by a fundamental shift from the delivery of static information online to a seamless, digital
operation in which all users have the ability to access, create, and share knowledge in a multidimensional,
instantaneous, collaborative, and interactive manner. This transformation will be disruptive, blurring
existing boundaries between CE/CME professionals, content experts, and student learners, and modifying
the traditional structured learning process to a more informal one. While the opportunities are unlimited,
the transformation will present not only technology challenges but also social and educational challenges.
Recent experiences with similar disruptive technologies show that a meaningful transformation can be
achieved only if the application of technology is accompanied by strategic operational changes. This
chapter offers a conceptual framework to guide CE/CME professionals interested in transforming their
operations with new e-learning 2.0 technologies. Employing several usage scenarios, a new e-learning
2.0-based model of CE/CME operation is introduced. The authors also present several examples of ap-
proaches adopted by their academic group to address the various challenges discussed in this chapter.

Section 5
Pedagogical Design and Implementations

Chapter 20
Mode Neutral: The Pedagogy that Bridges Web 2.0 and e-Learning 2.0 ........................................... 329
Brian Smith, Edge Hill University, UK
Peter Reed, Edge Hill University, UK

In this chapter, the authors share their excitement about the 2.0 era with some notes of caution. From
an educational perspective, the authors believe there is a void between Web 2.0 and E-learning 2.0 - in
the shape of pedagogy. What academics have traditionally delivered in a classroom setting has been
framed around a sound set of principles – the pedagogy. As for e-learning, many educators have adopted
classroom pedagogies within the ever-evolving online world and have noted their incompatibilities.
Nevertheless, the common aim of using technology in education is intended to support the learner in their
studies. Integrating any (new or old) technologies into education requires a pedagogy that is effective
in information exchange, yet flexible enough to respond to the various demands placed upon learning
and teaching by both the learner, and the technology. This chapter details the authors’ evidence-based
pedagogical model – Mode Neutral – showing how contemporary education can promote the use of Web
2.0 tools to harness collective intelligence. The authors outline their case study of using (arguably) a
Web 1.0 technology, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as the single learning space, with Web
2.0 tools integrated to encourage collaborative learning.

Chapter 21
Dispatches from the Graduate Classroom: Bringing Theory and Practice to E-Learning .................. 351
F.R. “Fritz” Nordengren, Des Moines University, USA
Ann M. York, Des Moines University, USA

This chapter is a practical overview of both the theoretical, evidence-based research in pedagogy and
the anecdotal, experience-based practices of faculty who work daily in online and blended learning
communities. This approach combines best practices with theoretical aspects of delivering and facili-
tating education with diverse adult learners. Issues and trends in E-learning are presented with specific
examples for implementation and suggestions for future research. Using an evidence-based approach,
the authors explore and summarize recent research with a concurrent analysis of the anecdotal popular
literature. This chapter explores the concept of information literacy and other skills necessary to succeed
in the Web 2.0 world. The discussion takes readers away from the traditional “sage on stage” versus
“guide on side” dichotomy towards both a new understanding of Web 2.0’s role in education as well as
a preface to what may become Web 3.0 and beyond.

Chapter 22
Student-Centered Teaching with Constructionist Technology Tools:
Preparing 21st Century Teachers ........................................................................................................ 367
Kathryn Kennedy, University of Florida, USA
Jeff Boyer, University of Florida, USA
Catherine Cavanaugh, University of Florida, USA
Kara Dawson, University of Florida, USA

Using the theoretical framework of “craft” highlighted by Richard Sennett (2008) in The Craftsman, this
chapter focuses on constructionism and the implications of project-based learning in an undergraduate-
level pre-service teachers’ technology integration course. The chapter evaluates an approach to teaching
undergraduate pre-service teachers to teach children to use constructionist technology tools, including
Web 2.0 technologies – wikis, blogs, podcasts, etc. Data were collected and analyzed to document pre-
service teachers’ experiences with these tools as well as to gauge their level of confidence in teaching
with the technology in their future classrooms. Data collected included pre-post concept maps, pre-post
preinternship interviews, and learning artifacts. Analyses show an increase in pre-service teachers’ com-
plexity of knowledge and awareness of Web 2.0 tools and skills, and a moderate impact on their beliefs
about student constructionism in their future classrooms.
Chapter 23
Challenges for Teacher Education in the Learning Society: Case Studies
of Promising Practice .......................................................................................................................... 385
Clara Pereira Coutinho, University of Minho, Portugal

In this chapter, the author presents the results of a project developed in pre-service and in-service teacher
education programs at the University of Minho, Portugal. The main goal of the research was to test the
importance of providing technological-rich experiences in education programs as a strategy to promote
the integration of technologies in the classroom. The author assumes that the failure of ICT integration
in Portuguese schools is due to a lack of teacher training in technology-supported pedagogy. This chapter
presents and discusses a set of principles that are essential to understand and sustain the importance of
the learning experiences in teacher education programs both for pre-service and in-service teacher educa-
tion. Different Web 2.0 tools are explored in different contexts and with different pedagogical goals: to
build e-portfolios, to enhance cooperation and collaboration among peers, to develop skills in searching,
organizing and sharing Web resources and to facilitate interaction and communication competencies.
Results are presented and discussed in order to infer a set of guidelines for the design of teacher educa-
tion and training programs regarding the use of ICT in teaching and learning.

Chapter 24
From Memorable to Transformative E-Learning Experiences:
Theory and Practice of Experience Design ......................................................................................... 402
Pearl Chen, California State University, Los Angeles, USA

This chapter reviews the current state of theory and practice of experience design and suggests that
the notion of experience should be regarded as an essential and unifying theme in guiding a broader
perspective of design and study of e-learning. Underlying this chapter is a view that suggests a shift
from designing learning environments to “staging” learning experiences. By looking at learning through
the prism of experience design, we may begin to discover ways to create compelling, memorable, and
transformative e-learning experiences. Some existing models and effective practices in education are
considered as viable models for adapting experience design to e-learning contexts. Furthermore, this
chapter identifies some converging areas of research from the fields of experience design and education,
so as not to reinvent the wheel but to expand our knowledge on designing quality e-learning experiences
that are engaging and valued by people.

Chapter 25
Authentic Learning in Second Life: A Constructivist Model in Course Design................................. 422
Carl Scott, University of Houston, USA
Youmei Liu, University of Houston, USA
Madhuri Kumar, University of Houston, USA

This chapter examines the relationship between a constructivist teaching approach and online learning
experiences in the Virtual Worlds of Second Life, using a specifically constructed MBA-level course
teaching Systems Analysis and Design. A research study was incorporated in the course design to test the
Constructivist Learning Design (CLD) model (Gagnon & Collay, 2006) and social (use of individual- vs.
group-oriented activities) domains. This chapter covers: (a) fundamentals of Systems Analysis and Design
course; (b) current research of Second Life in education; (c) course design based on CLD models; and
(d) research data analysis of course delivery through constructivist learning in Second Life and student
learning experiences in the Virtual Worlds.

Chapter 26
Student Perceptions and Pedagogical Applications of E-Learning Tools in Online Course .............. 440
C. Candace Chou, University of St. Thomas, USA

This study explores student views of various E-Learning tools as teaching and learning media in an
online course for pre-service and in-service teachers. This chapter also examines the pedagogical ap-
plications of E-Learning tools in an online course. The capabilities of a system that allows meaningful
interaction, reflection, personal identification, and a sense of community play a key role in the degree
of social presence. This study highlights some key findings regarding the efficacy of E-Learning tools
from student perspectives and make recommendations for future pedagogical practice.

Chapter 27
Using Blogfolios to Enhance Interaction in E-Learning Courses ....................................................... 455
Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, The University of Southern Mississippi, USA
Harrison Hao Yang, State University of New York at Oswego, USA

Enhancing the substantial interaction in e-learning courses can be a challenge to instructors. The chap-
ter gave an overview of online interaction, portfolios development, and blogs use in education. It then
discussed the potential uses of Weblog-based portfolio for e-learning courses in supporting interactions
among students and instructors, and presented a case study on how a blogfolio approach was imple-
mented into three hybrid courses and one fully online course at two universities in the United States.
The effectiveness of the blogfolio approach on interactions in both fully online and hybrid courses has
been assessed and confirmed in this study.

Chapter 28
Multi-Tier Knowledge-Based System Accessing Learning Object Repository
Using Fuzzy XML .............................................................................................................................. 471
Priti Srinivas Sajja, Sardar Patel University, India

Quality of an e-Learning solution depends on its content, services offered by it and technology used.
To increase reusability of common learning material which is accessed by multiple applications, there
is a need for user-friendly and cost-effective knowledge based approach. This chapter discusses basic
concepts of learning object repositories; presents work done so far and establishes the need of knowledge
based access of the learning repositories to improve cost-benefit ratio of an e-Learning solution. For
this purpose, a multi-tier knowledge based system accessing a fuzzy XML learning object repository is
described with architectural framework and detailed methodology. The working of course tier, reusable
LO tier, presentation tier, fuzzy interface tier and application tier is discussed in detail with an example
to identify learners’ level and determine presentation sequence accordingly. The chapter concludes by
discussing the advantages and questions related to further enhancement.
Chapter 29
Finding Information: Factors that Improve Online Experiences ........................................................ 493
Ivan Angelov, University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Sathish Menon, Analytic Dimension, USA
Michael Douma, Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA), USA

This chapter outlines central findings from surveys that considered factors that drive online experience
as expressed by the three different groups of subjects – nonprofit organizations and cities, web design-
ers and firms, and the general public. The survey’s significant findings are: designers underestimate the
thresholds for an effective site; easy access to complete information is the key to visitor enjoyment;
good visual design and up-to-date information are critical; visitors want information fast; visitors want
a broad range of topics; designers are overly optimistic about visitors’ ability to maintain orientation;
visitors still need handholding; and visitors cite the lack of breadth and depth of content as causing an
“information gap.”

Compilation of References .............................................................................................................. 507

About the Contributors ................................................................................................................... 559

Index ................................................................................................................................................... 570


xxiv

Preface

Learning has been dramatically influenced by information and communication technology (ICT). There
is no doubt that ICT keeps bringing new excitement into learning and communication. Multimedia on
the Internet, telecommunications, wireless applications, mobile devices, social network software, Web
2.0, etc. are all radically redefining the way people obtain information and the way to learn and com-
municate. Consequently, electronic learning (e-learning) has become one of the most exciting, dynamic,
and yet challenging fields that we have been facing. What is the history of e-learning? Where are we
now? What will the future bring? What are the key elements of e-learning we need to focus on? Where
has progress been made? How will we face and rise to new opportunities and challenges? How do we
analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate e-learning? In order to shed light on these questions,
we’ve taken a comprehensive view and looked at e-learning and innovative e-learning 2.0 from historical,
conceptual, empirical, practical, and vocational perspectives. The result is this book, entitled Handbook
of Research on Practices and Outcomes in E-Learning: Issues and Trends.
Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in E-Learning: Issues and Trends is written for
broader audiences including educators, trainers, administrators, and researchers working in the area of
e-learning or distance learning in various disciplines, e.g. education, corporate training, instructional
technology, computer science, library information science, information technology, and workforce
development. We hope readers will benefit from the work of authors who range from cutting edge
researchers to experienced practitioners regarding the research and practices in e-learning. The book
covers focal points of e-learning and is organized into five parts of e-learning: Chronical and Conceptual
Perspectives (Chapters 1-4); E-Learners (Chapters 5-9); E-Learning Environments and Communities
(Chapters 10-14); Professional and Disciplinary Implications (Chapters 15-19); and Pedagogical Design
and Implementations (Chapters 20-29).
Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in E-Learning: Issues and Trends provides not
only the advanced and latest development of e-learning for experienced professionals, but also provides
clear and inclusive information for novice readers. It is designed to be used in a flexible manner, and it
can adapt easily to suit a variety of ICT related courses/workshops and needs by students, instructors,
professionals, and administrators. The book can be used as a research reference, pedagogical and pro-
fessional guide, or educational resource in the area of e-learning.

Harrison H. Yang and Steve C. Yuen


March 11, 2009
xxv

Acknowledgment

Throughout this endeavor we have benefited from the advice, encouragement, and support of numerous
individuals, including the contributing authors, thoughtful reviewers, supportive colleagues, and patient
family members. Without the contributions of all of these people, this book would not been possible.
First, we would like to express our deepest thanks and sincere appreciation to the authors whose
chapters appear in this book. We have enjoyed working with all of them, for they have made our work
interesting, enjoyable, and relatively painless. Their excellent contributions make us feel confident that
readers will truly benefit from reading chapters of this book.
Second, we are very grateful for the support provided by the reviewers. They have done outstanding
work providing us with detailed comments and constructive suggestions for each of the chapters. Their
comments and suggestions were helpful to us in making editorial decisions and providing important
feedback to the authors for improving and revising their chapters.
Finally, we would like to thank our families for their patience and encouragement. Both of our
families have been a constant source of understanding, support, and encouragement. We dedicate this
book to our spouses, Li Chen and Patrivan K. Yuen, and thank them both for love and support and for
letting us disappear into the abyss for hours on end.

Harrison H. Yang and Steve C. Yuen


March 11, 2009
Section 1
Chronical and Conceptual
Perspectives
1

Chapter 1
Computer-Mediated Learning:
What Have We Experienced and
Where Do We Go Next?
Chien Yu
Mississippi State University, USA

Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu
Chang Gung Institute of Technology, Taiwan

Chun Fu Lin
Minghsin University of Science & Technology, Taiwan

ABSTRACT
Dramatic changes in information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide a powerful force forthe
growth of e-learning. E-learning has become the undeniable trend for both secondary and higher edu-
cation. This chapter provides readers with an overview of e-learning computer technologies within the
teaching and learning, an examination of current research studies in related areas, and a discussion of
the paradigm shift as well as on the trends and issues pertinent to the development of computer-mediated
instruction/learning and e-learning. Furthermore, this chapter will explore how students perceived the
effectiveness of computer-mediated instruction and learning and their perceptions and attitudes toward
learning using computer technology.

INTRODUCTION The knowledge economy gives rise to ICTs because


they provide the needed tools and these tools al-
Today, knowledge and technology play a critical role low us to create, collect, store, and use this new
in driving productivity and economic growth. A new knowledge and information. They also enable us
phenomenon, commonly known as the “knowledge to connect with people and resources all over the
economy,” uses information and communication world, to collaborate in the creation of knowledge,
technologies (ICTs) to create revolutionary changes and to distribute and benefit from knowledge prod-
in the workplace and in society in general. Kozma ucts (p. 2).
(2003) stated:
Due to their rapid development and growing
popularity, ICTs have gained many proponents in
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch001

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
Computer-Mediated Learning

education. Some researchers (Finger, McGlasson and learning, an examination of current research
& Finger, 2007, Kozma, 2003) are convinced that in related areas, and a discussion of the paradigm
the innovative use of new and emerging technolo- shift as well as on the trends and issues pertinent
gies can bring about quality change in the world of to the development of computer-mediated instruc-
education in terms of opening the possibilities for tion/learning and e-learning. Furthermore, this
improved presentation and delivery of programs chapter will explore how students perceived the
that benefit both the educators and the students. effectiveness of computer-mediated instruction
Many studies (Johnston & Joscelyn, 1989; Kozma and learning and their perceptions and attitudes
& Johnson, 1991; Perkins, 1992) emphasize that toward learning using computer technology.
the use of computers in a learning environment can
increase students’ active engagement in thinking
and problem solving, promote understanding and COMPUTER-MEDIATED
mastery learning, and add realism to instruction INSTRUCTION
to enhance knowledge construction.
Even though the majority of researchers and The use of computer technologies has presented
practitioners have positive views related to the numerous opportunities to support teaching and
potential that information and communication learning for educators and improves quality and
technologies (ICTs) have in our education systems, excellence in education. Vogel and Klassen (2001)
some have remained cautious in using computer pointed out “teaching methods that assume a single
technology to facilitate teaching and learning. language and shared homogeneity of proficiencies,
Bransford, Brown and Cocking (as cited in Kozma, learning styles, and motivational systems are in-
2003) noted that the positive impact of the com- creasingly inadequate and inappropriate” (p.105).
puter does not come automatically because much They suggested that educators should reassess
is dependent on how instructors and students use current teaching methodologies and incorporate
computers in their classrooms. Oliver (2005) stated a variety of teaching methods. Bentley (2003)
that the prevailing use of the new and emerging indicated that conducting classes in an entirely
computer technologies will only occur as greater computer-mediated learning environment can ef-
numbers of teachers perceive that such technology fectively facilitate students’ knowledge construc-
will benefit them and their learners, because for tion. According to Bull, Kimball, and Stansberry
many, ICTs simply present more barriers than op- (1998), computer-mediated instruction means
portunities for teaching and learning. Derek Bok the efficient and effective use of computer and/
(as cited in Kozma & Johnston, 1991), a former or technology to support and facilitate teaching
Harvard university president, also shared his and learning activities. There are various forms
cautious optimism, saying that technologies can of computer-mediated educational environments,
undoubtedly engage students in the active thinking such as Computer Mediated Communication
process and problem solving and at the very least, (CMC), blended Technologies, the Internet, online
helping students learn. However, he suspected that learning. This section reviews these forms and
“computers can contribute much to the learning of the practices of computer-mediated instruction
open-ended subjects such as moral philosophy, re- and learning.
ligion, historical interpretation, literary criticism,
or social theory – fields that cannot be reduced Computer Mediated Communication
to formal rules and procedures” (p. 10-11). This
chapter provides the reader with an overview of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is a
e-learning computer technologies within teaching broad term used to refer to the use of computers to

2
Computer-Mediated Learning

support human communications (Santoro, 1995). a computer-mediated seminar class in place of a


It is also referred to as the use of computer networks conventional face-to-face class, and the learners’
to facilitate interactions among distance learners responses were generally positive. However, he
(Jonassen, et al, 1995). Activities that are asso- inferred that computer networks present additional
ciated with CMC include electronic mail, group challenges to students such as technology frustra-
conferencing systems, synchronous (real-time) tions related to “coordination difficulties, timing/
or asynchronous (delayed) group communication delay frustration, and skills deficits” (p. 39).
modes such as chat rooms or listservs. Jonassen, et
al. advocated that when used properly and effec- The Internet
tively, things such as group conferencing systems
and e-mails can be powerful constructivist learning The core of e-knowledge, the Internet, will ‘democ-
tools to enhance conversation and collaborative ratize’learning, providing greater access at lower
learning. Students who are engaged in electronic cost, ultimately improving quality. Ubiquitous
interaction or discussion with peers or experts are PCs combined with high-speed bandwidth will
in a form of social negotiation. Through different facilitate engaging anytime, anywhere learning
exchanges of positions and perspectives, students and human capital management. Online learning
are able to reflect, re-evaluate and re-structure should become the new ‘killer application’ for the
their positions and perceptions. As a result, these Internet, providing attractive growth potential for
activities may lead to a higher level thinking and e-knowledge enterprise that can effectively marry
understanding of materials in which knowledge learning, technology and electronic commerce
construction takes place. For example, in the (Moe & Blodget, 2000, p. 24).
study of Virtual Classroom & Virtual Corporation
Systems (VICTORY), a Communication Medi-
ated Communication device, was developed and The world of postsecondary education has been
integrated in a business policy course at National faced with increased demands to increase produc-
Taiwan University. Tyan and Hong (1998) revealed tivity, to offer quality academic programs and to
that by making VICTORY a part of the course allow greater and easier student access to educa-
requirement, students showed true collaboration tion. As a result of these formidable challenges,
among themselves through working together as institutions are resorting to new information and
close-knitted group in decision making and in communication technologies that claim to increase
solving problems presented to them. Furthermore, access, promote the quality of instruction and at
they noted that students expressed positive atti- best, control costs (Baer, 1998). The development
tudes toward CMC learning in particular because of the Internet has been praised to speed up the
it allowed out-of-classroom communication be- technological transformation in higher education.
tween the instructor and learners. CMC students With its vast amount of information and constant
learned to think analytically, to articulate their emergence of creative Web uses, such as web
thoughts, and to be more critical in terms of blogs, instant messaging, RSS (Really Simple
negotiating their own views with others. In ad- Syndication) web feeds, streaming videos, and
dition, Morse (2003) supports conducting classes other interactive media, the Internet is substantially
in a computer-mediated environment. He found changing the way people access, retrieve and use
that the overall class objective, which was the information (Hiemstra & Poley, 2007).
discussion, argument and analysis of knowledge The Internet can be a powerful tool to facilitate
development and e-business in light of technol- teaching and learning and to enhance and enrich
ogy changes in the 1990’s, was achieved using academic and social life if it is utilized properly

3
Computer-Mediated Learning

and effectively. The World Wide Web can provide technology options for instructional designers:
personal motivation, inspiration and interest as Interactive Television (ITV), Web-based curricu-
well (Brode, 2005). Breneman, Pusser, and Turner lum, including websites, WebCT and Blackboard
(2006) suggested that the Internet does not provide software programs, VCR and CD-ROM technolo-
“a single output but a range of different educational gies, and other technologies such as Web (Pod)
products… and it has played a significant role in casting, desktop video conferencing and instant
the institutional evolution of higher education” (p. messaging. Online learning/education has become
4). Liaw (2002) revealed that computer-based or a crucial part of computer mediated learning.
Internet-based instructional designs can be reward-
ing experiences to teachers, trainers, and students,
with teachers being more attentive and considerate WHAT WE HAVE EXPERIENCED:
of the learners’ perceptions toward Web-oriented RESEARCH STUDIES FOR
instructional and learning environments. COMPUTER-MEDIATED LEARNING

Online Learning The Emerging Use of


Computer Technology
Almost every higher education institution has
infused or intends to incorporate some features “Computers have a vital role in the area of edu-
of information and communication technologies cation, and it is inevitable that the role is going
into its curriculum delivery system, even though to continue to grow at an ever increasing rate,”
each varies in the manner of technology organiza- says Dr. Donald J. Senese (1983, p. 10), former
tion and integration (Rudestam & Schoenholtz- Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and
Read, 2002). Harasim (1998) claimed that Improvement at U.S. Department of Education.
there are basically three levels of application of The technology of the computers available for
instructional technology in education: (a) as the educational use has vastly improved since Dr.
dominant pedagogical mechanism for one or Senese delivered his speech more than 20 years
more courses, (b) as a facilitative or enhanced ago. A number of trends are emerging within this
medium to conventional face-to-face classes, and changing environment. Oliver (2005) offered his
(c) as a platform for information exchange and own observations in terms of the developmental
discussions and for accessing resources over the progress of educational computing, noting the
Internet. Higher education, in connection with increasing expenditures on hardware, software
teaching and learning with online technology, and technical support beginning in the mid-1990s.
can take many forms. For example, some col- Figuratively speaking, in 1994 alone, more than
leges and university choose to offer the majority $6 billion dollars were spent by American col-
of their courses exclusively online for distance leges and universities on hardware and software,
education; some prefer to take full advantage of network wiring and technical support. During this
computer networks to supplement the teaching and same period nearly $2 billion dollars were spent
learning experience (Rudestam & Schoenholtz- to support learning and instruction. Since then, the
Read, 2002); still others encourage faculty to use investment has continued to grow, but at a less
“blended technologies,” that is, using computer rapid rate. In the school year ’99-00, an estimated
conferencing systems in conjunction with or as $2.7 billion was invested in academic computer
an add-on to the traditional classroom experience. hardware and software (Cuban, 2001).
Bridges, Baily, Hiatt, Timmerman and Gibson Since computer technology continues to
(2002) outlined the following available blended advance in capacities and capabilities (Yu et

4
Computer-Mediated Learning

al., 2008), the computer is gaining popularity in in at least one online course in the Fall 2006 term.
mainstream classrooms. Every day computers That is a 10% increase compared to the number
become more capable of storing, processing, reported in 2005. Institutions are enjoying a 9.7%
and analyzing larger amounts of data faster and growth rate for the online enrollments, which is
in a much more effective and organized manner. far exceeding the estimated 1.5% growth of the
Teachers can easily craft and/or edit their lesson entire higher education student population.
plans and tests, and can generate more complex The Internet also provides added benefits to
yet meaningful student records with computers. a computer-mediated teaching/learning environ-
In addition, Yu, et. al (2008) and Vogel & Klassen ment. As suggested in the report of NCRIPTL’s
(2001) state that the adaptive nature of computer (National Center for Research to Improve Postsec-
technology permits teachers to cater to students’ ondary Teaching and Learning) study of computer
learning needs, addressing a variety of learning use in higher education (Johnston & Joscelyn,
styles and abilities. Software companies have 1989), “computers increase student engagement,
also been striving to produce more affordable, add realism to instruction, promote skill mastery.
yet high-quality programs to meet the needs in . . and encourage inferential thinking” (p. 2). It is
a diverse environment. Teachers who teach with not unusual to see computers used in disciplines
the computers seem to be able to better promote such as foreign languages, mathematics and
the emerging educational trends of collaborative sciences, just to name a few. For instance, the
(partnering) learning, cooperative learning, and computer in an English composition class can
autonomous (individualized) learning (Annand & be used for providing and receiving useful and
Haughey, 1997; Kozma & Johnston, 1991; Vogel just-in-time feedback that can contribute to the
& Klassen, 2001; Wheeler, 2001). quality of student writing. It can also be used for
Another very noticeable trend in educational facilitating the process of writing so that students
technology is the availability and wide adoption of and teachers or students and students can inter-
the broadband Internet (Baer, 1998; Goffe & Sosin, act with the content in meaningful ways that are
2004; Hiemstra & Poley, 2007; Oliver, 2005; Vogel difficult with pencil and paper in a traditional
& Klassen, 2001). Over 90% of college students classroom (student engagement/skill mastery).
have access to the Internet on college and univer- The computer technology used in linguistic ex-
sity campuses (Tutty & Klein, 2005), and almost pression is expanding our capabilities to interpret,
79% of college students agree that Internet use understand and infer ideas in other symbol systems
has enhanced their college academic experience (Kozma & Johnston, 1991). Taking advantage
(Pew Internet & American Life, 2002). The high of today’s virtual reality computer technology,
speed Internet enables individuals to use multime- students in Asia can even take an interactive field
dia representation of enriched audio and video to trip to The Franklin Institute Science Museum in
create complex social networks in which people Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, without travel-
communicate, exchange ideas, explore and learn ing one-half way around the globe.
(Grementieri, 1998). The success of the University Educational uses of computer technology
of Phoenix, one of the pioneer institutions special- cannot go unnoticed, and the list of technologies
izing in online, degree-granting, postsecondary coming to classrooms cannot be overstated. The
education, depends on Internet access. Allen and truth is that we are living in unprecedented times
Seaman (2007) for the Sloan Consortium provided of technological change (Knapper, 2001) where
evidence on the growth of online learning. They the new economy is a social economy and a
reported that nearly 3.5 million students (20% of knowledge economy based on intelligence, en-
all U.S. higher education students) were enrolled trepreneurism and ideas (Moe & Blodget, 2000).

5
Computer-Mediated Learning

To help students become productive members of Cuban (2001) indicated that even though the
the world of tomorrow, our schools need to make cost of the computers declined quite dramatically
computers an integral part of the educational set- in the late-1990s, and became more affordable to
ting. As Dr. Senese (1983) once said, computer the institutions; schools nationwide were facing
technology offers the educator a great opportunity a dilemma of technology being oversold and un-
to improve education, and it is here to stay. He derused. In 1999, the Higher Education Research
concluded as, “We must not treat this technology Institute (HERI) at the University of California in
as a fad or game but as a tool tied to quality and Los Angeles published the findings of its triennial
excellence in education” (p. 13). survey of teaching methods, which was sent to
71,000 professors of undergraduate instruction in
Changes Driven by Computer over 500 private and public colleges and universi-
Technology in Higher Education ties. Based on a 42% return rate, equivalent to close
to 30,000 responses, the report revealed that in
Higher education has also experienced notable academic year 1998-1999, 53% of the respondents
changes driven by accelerated advances in said they used “Extensive Lecturing” as primary
computer technology, the same force that has instructional method in most or all undergraduate
reshaped our society and many aspects of life. courses, down 2% from 55% in the 1995-1996
Such changes include a very heavy dependence academic year. Only 17% responded that they
on schools’ management and administration used “Computer/Machine-Added Instruction” in
systems. In terms of teaching and scholarship, it most or all undergraduate course, up from 14% in
is believed by many that more promising results three years. This percentage growth is relatively
can be seen and that students are better served small compared to that the 35% increase of the
in a computer-mediated learning environment total projected computer technology expenditure
(Duderstadt, Atkins & Houweling, 2002) due in postsecondary schools during the same time
to the computer’s seemingly infinite ability span (Cuban, 2001). Zemsky and Massy (2004),
to multiply and expand, to simulate physical in their “Thwarted Innovation,” contested that
phenomena, to create virtual experiences and to corporations are pushing too many products to
open learning environments made possible by educators that fail to deliver as much value as
powerful information networks (Brode, 2005; promised. Nevertheless, many educators (Brode,
Grementieri, 1998; Hiemstra & Poley, 2007). 2005; Grementieri, 1998; Hiemstra & Poley, 2007)
Not everyone has shared the same optimism still believe that the effective use of computer
about the introduction of computer technology into technology will enhance teaching and learning in
the academic area. In mid-1980s, when college higher education. As a result, in 2002, more than
faculty members and administrators were hyped two million participated in web-based education
about adding new computing to campuses, Gilbert and over 90% of U.S. higher education institutions
and Green (1986) pointed out that purchasing and offered online options in 2005 (The Chronicle of
integrating computer technology can raise com- Higher Education, 2005).
plicated issues at the core of academic life, and
these issues involve considerable costs. For many Use of Computer Technology and
school managers and administrators, allocating Its Impact on Student Attitude,
a large sum of capital from limited resources is Satisfaction and Achievement
indeed a big gamble. They further added that one
misstep in decision making can mean catastrophic In the areas of the impact of computer technology
damage to the organization. and students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of

6
Computer-Mediated Learning

computer mediated technology, researchers often the first half and online in the remaining half of
made comparisons across various course delivery the school term. Questionnaires were used, and
methods. In their study comparing two alternative learners’ written comments were also collected.
delivery approaches, Computer-Based Instruction Students provided positive feedback by saying
versus Video Presentation for instructing the learn- they were allowed to proceed at an individual-
ers in their use of an electronic communication ized pace in the online setting, because online
system (FIRNMAIL), Ivers and Barron (1994) instruction allowed reasonable accommodations
reported that the computer-based simulations for students needing special assistance as well as
pedagogical method enhanced knowledge transfer students with disabilities to learn new techniques.
and was superior to other media such as audio/ On average, the researchers concluded that the
video tapes, prints or lectures. Their findings students agreed they learned from the online
revealed that computer-based simulated tutorials setting just as much as they would have from
exhibited greater impact on students’ perception of the tradition setting. However, even though the
instruction as well as “near-transfer performance” researchers indicated that many students would
than on-screen video presentations. “Near-transfer recommend the online class format to their friends,
performance” is the degree to which the learners they failed to take into account it was the same
transfer what they learn into the real work envi- group who also said they were less likely to take
ronment. Students in the computer instruction Internet classes over traditional classes in the
group reported that they enjoyed the instruction future. Lacking of interaction was cited as one
and preferred learning the materials via using a of the students’ main concerns.
computer over watching a video in a lecture room Contrast to the other studies, Summers,
or reading the content in a book. Their achievement Waignandt, and Whittaker’s (2005) compared the
level on assignments was higher than that of the two outcome dimensions: students’ examination
comparison group. However, the study did not find grades and students’ satisfaction with the course
any significant difference in the area of student between an online and a traditional, face-to-face
achievement, based on a 25-item, multiple-choice, undergraduate beginning level statistic course.
knowledge-level question test. According to Ivers The researchers found no significant differences
and Barron, the results from the tests indicated for either online or traditional classroom group
both methods were equally effective. between students’ pretest and posttest scores mea-
When Passerini and Granger (2000) sought to suring students’ statistics knowledge. However,
explain “whether or not interactive multimedia their findings revealed that online group was less
applications are effective learning tools compared satisfied with the course than traditional group,
to traditional learning environments” (p. 50), they mainly because of the instructor ‘lack of clarity
did not find any significant variations in students’ in his or her explanations regarding class matters
perceptions (satisfaction and attitude) of learning (assignments, questions/discussions, and evalu-
effectiveness under the environment they were ation/grading). The researchers indicated miss-
placed for the purpose of the study. Thus, they ing personal contacts in the online environment
concluded that the learning effectiveness of in- contributed to students’ dissatisfaction with the
structional technology had yet to be proven. On course because they felt the instructor was not
the contrary, Beard, Harper and Riley’s (2004) enthusiastic or interested in student learning.
study showed positive impact as their study took Studies have been conducted to investigate the
on a single course, Characteristics of Disabili- impact of new computer technology on students’
ties, which was offered in two delivery modes, perceptions of course quality and instructors in a
traditional face-to-face classroom environment in computer-mediated environment. Weitzenkamp

7
Computer-Mediated Learning

and Heckathorn’s (2001) study involved a gradu- overall perception of social presence with women
ate special education class which was originally overwhelming perceiving a much higher degree
developed for delivery via primarily audio and of social presence.
video recordings. The researchers observed that Despite studies that found evidence of students’
this synchronous delivery mode failed to account perceptions of satisfaction in learning outcomes,
for the instructor-students and students-to-students course quality and course instructors based on the
interaction and the visual cues that were usually chosen delivery method(s), there appears to be a
evident in face-to-face classrooms. Compared to paucity of literature that deals with direct computer
a traditional classroom, time for the instructor technology use and the student achievement, which
to respond to students’ inquiries was reduced is sometimes referred to as the true measurement
significantly also due to this delayed delivery of learning effectiveness. It could have been that
mode. Furthermore, learning effectiveness was the word “achievement” can be defined in unique
diminished because the instructor and students’ ways for various studies and use interchangeably
inexperience and/or inability to operate the equip- with other terms. Sankaran, Sankaran and Bui’s
ment. To provide a solution to the problem, the (2000) questioned whether students’ attitude
researchers added a web-based element to the toward course format, specifically web-based or
synchronous course. Text-based materials were classroom-based, can have much impact on their
used to supplement audio and video presentations. learning performance. They reported there was no
A technical advisor also joined the instructor to significant difference between groups in learning
support any potential difficulties. The outcomes performance despite students’ varying perceptions
were positive. The instructor developed good of course formats.
skills in the application of digital resource with
proper technical assistance and monitoring. Stu- Incorporating Constructivism with
dents’ learning needs were better met because of Computer-Mediated Learning
the considerable latitude of a web-based course.
Interaction between the instructor and students Many researchers often associate meaningful
and among students was improved due to the computer-mediated learning with the construc-
communicative features such as email, chat room tivist’s view of knowledge construction. Con-
and discussion board. structivists view effective learning as learners’
Richardson and Swan’s (2003) survey study own interpretations and reflections on the new
examined the relationship between the social information received, based on their prior ex-
presence, for instance, teacher immediacy be- periences. Learners ought to be able to analyze
haviors, learners’ participation and the presence and interpret the meaning of knowledge and also
of other students in online courses and students’ to revise their understanding by drawing from
perceived learning and satisfaction. The research- the new experiences (Bednar & Charles, 1999).
ers concluded that students who had high overall Cooper and Hirtle (1999) described a construc-
social presence scores also rated higher in term tivist orientation to education as “teachers are to
of their learning and satisfaction with their in- encourage students in schools to develop problem
structors. Therefore, the amount and intensity of solving and critical thinking skills and to apply,
students’ perceptions of online social presence analyze, synthesize and evaluate knowledge, skills
was a good indicator of their own learning and and attitudes” (p. 3).
satisfaction toward the instructors and the courses. To the extent that a constructivist approach
Richardson and Swan further found that gender is incorporated in using computer technologies
accounted for some of the deviation in learners’ in learning and instruction, Rakes, Fields and

8
Computer-Mediated Learning

Cox (2006) maintained that the adequate use of own prior experiences and their own learning
computer technology in an educational setting as it progresses. They concluded that students
can not only strengthen learners’ higher cognitive can learn needed skills collaterally and collab-
skills and complex thinking skills but also can oratively in a constructivist-driven curriculum.
provide them with complete and dynamic learn- According to Perkins (1992), “technologies and
ing experiences. Jonassen, Carr and Yueh (1998) the constructivist point of view, together, fashion
suggested that computers should be used as mind an image of education much more attentive to
tools to engage learners in critical thinking as understanding and the active use of knowledge
many computer applications have been explicitly and skills” (p. 54). Constructivist views of learn-
developed to do. ing offer theoretical bases for unique and exciting
Cooper and Hirtle (1999) became interested learning environments, and the computer, with its
in learning how a traditional skills-based course expanding capabilities, can effectively support
like a computer science class could be organized meaningful learning and knowledge construc-
in a manner that students can not only obtain tion (Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell &
the required skills but also at the same time can Haag, 1995).
gain an understanding of how to apply the skills
to solve real world problems? They conducted Changing Role of the Teacher
a study in an introductory Multimedia and Net-
working Computer class with an enrollment of Incorporating constructivist disciplines in com-
138 pre-service undergraduate teacher educators puter technology-driven classrooms has resulted
and in-service graduate students. The class was a call for the development of learner-centered
restructured using the constructivist approach in instruction and learner-directed learning. As tech-
which students were expected to learn to use a nological revolution brings about changes in the
number of software applications such as word classroom, the role that teachers/faculty play in
processing, spreadsheet, database management an educational setting has been examined under
and presentation, as well as communication ap- magnifying glasses.
plications such as email, World Wide Web and Sandholtz, Ringstaff and Dwyer (1997) de-
web development tools. Students in the newly scribed the multi-faceted acts by the teachers at
structured learning environment were provided work (p. xv):
with more time, resources and motivation to
obtain appropriate skill levels, compared to other • Teachers alternatively spin, balance and
Multimedia and Networking Computer classes in toss knowledge of where students are and
a conventional setting. The researchers reported where they need to go;
that in many cases, students used other features • Teachers gain insights into students’ spe-
of the requisite applications or even used differ- cial needs and progress;
ent applications and hardware in addition to what • Teachers need to make choices of curricu-
they were expected to use, which has not been the lar materials and activities;
norm in a traditional class. • Teachers follow the rules that govern stu-
A study carried out by Bednar and Charles dents, as well as the norms and rules that
(1999) supported Cooper and Hirtle’s points by govern themselves as teachers;
indicating students should engage in authen- • Teachers need to deal with expectations
tic tasks and be placed in real world contexts from parents, communities and of course,
whenever and wherever possible. The students from students.
should also be encouraged to reflect on their

9
Computer-Mediated Learning

As teachers unfold their enormous responsibili- tional teaching and learning, and the concept of
ties every day, researchers and practitioners are e-learning has been greatly impacted our educa-
often concerned with bottom line questions such tional system. E-learning represents a very broad
as: does the computer pose more opportunities concept, which includes or even has frequently
than threats to classrooms in terms of teaching been interchangeable with computer-mediated
and learning? What role(s) do teachers play as a learning, distributed learning, online education,
result of a significant shift in paradigms due to a web-based learning, virtual learning, networked
systematic change of computer technology use? learning, and also distance learning (Jereb & Smi-
Will the computers eventually replace teachers? tek, 2006). Although e-learning has been shown to
Kozma and Johnston (1991) maintained that impact students’ learning, little empirical evidence
the role of teacher is shifting because students exists to show that e-learning leads to meeting
are given a more active role in knowledge con- more learning outcomes than traditional methods
struction, an opportunity presented by computer (Wang, 2008). It is critical for educators to realize
innovations. The teacher acts more like a mentor that many elements and adjustments need to be
or coach, helping solve problems as they are posed made in order to ensure better use of e-learning.
or encountered by the students. In a discussion of The following section reviews the trends, issues,
instructor considerations in Computer Mediated and recommendations for increasing learning
Communication classes, Wells (1992) suggested outcome with e-learning.
teachers function more like facilitators than mo-
nopolists in an educational setting. Bullen (1999) Adjusting Teaching Styles
stated that because of the pragmatic features of for E-Learning
the computers, teachers’ roles will change from
a content expert to a mixture of content expert, Torrisi-Steele (as cited in Yu, et al., 2008) believed
learning process design expert and learning pro- that as some educators realize the potential of
cess implementation expert. McCain and Jukes technologies to enrich and revive teaching and
(2000) suggested educators’ roles as that of a learning opportunities, others definitely fail to do
futurists, learning-process instructors, guides, so. The researcher contended that these teachers
knowledge experts, models and most importantly, often lack much needed pedagogical skills and
as learners. In their studies, Cooper & Hirtle are generally unprepared for substantial changes.
(1999) and Bednar & Charles (1999) all noted This supports the point made earlier by McCain
that instructors took the collective roles of con- and Jukes (2000) that conventional school culture
tent expert, coach and encourager. Teachers not does not adapt itself well to change. As a result,
only act as a resource that guides and structures it is difficult for teachers to adjust their teaching
learning experiences, but also provide necessary style from one of sole providers of knowledge as
motivational supports when organizing multiple students are moved away from being the passive
group projects in classes. receptors of information. When the educators do
not capitalize the on the full benefits of innovative
computer learning technology, they fail to provide
TRENDS, ISSUES AND our nation with good and productive citizens (Mc-
RECOMMENDATIONS Cain & Jukes, 2000). From a traditional face-to-face
FOR E-LEARNING to e-learning environment, teachers and educators
have to realize that they need to adjust themselves
The innovation of information and communica- to the “high-tech” world in order to maximize
tion technologies (ICTs) has challenged tradi- students’ learning progress and outcome.

10
Computer-Mediated Learning

More Interactive Multimedia the Japanese students then traveled to the United
Instruction States in 2008 to meet with their Second Life
counterparts in California (Kelton, 2007). Northern
The design of e-learning depends on the digital Illinois University is using Second Life to enhance
platform of multimedia to present the information. students’ learning experience in the areas of educa-
Multimedia involves the integration of images, tion, computer science, and communication. As
video, sounds, animation, and simulations, and Jennings and Collins (2007) posited, “virtual
can offer many potential benefits to instructors for worlds such as Second Life, Active Worlds. . . are
delivering information and instruction (as cited expected to become more widely used and more
in Jereb & Smitek, 2006). Some of the benefits sophisticated within two to three years. . . as more
of multimedia instruction include non-linear de- educational institutions begin to participate, the
sign format and flexibility, and more importantly, complexity and abundance of virtual locations
multimedia instruction can be more interactive for these institutions will continue to grow” (p.
than traditional classroom lectures. Therefore, 180). Although the growing popularity of virtual
applying effective multimedia instruction would environments for e-learning provides educators
be needed for instructors to ensure the media used with new platforms for teaching and learning, this
in e-learning complements the content instruction also means both faculty members and institutions
used in such an environment. need to work together to conceptualize a pedagogic
framework of teaching and learning within virtual
More Virtual Learning Environments learning environments.

While the quality of e-learning is still being More Emerging Technologies


debated, research that addressed the innovation for E-Learning
of virtual learning environment is mounting.
According to the Second Life Virtual Economy Today’s students are growing up with pervasive
report, there have been more than 200 universities multimedia technology, such as the World Wide
or academic institutions involved in Second Life Web, cell phones, iPod®, and digital cameras. As
(Liden Lab, 2007). Among these account users, so-called “academic/formal learning” has long
over 26% were between 18 and 24 years old, been the focus of learning as a whole, “informal
and 38% were between 25 and 34 (Liden Lab, learning” which is facilitated by web-based social
2007). These statistics indicated that the majority networking communities such as Facebook, Flickr,
(65.81%) of the Second Life users belonged to MySpace® and YouTube®, has also been gaining
the “potential” target population of higher educa- significant ground and attention. According to
tion (Kelton, 2007), and educators are gradually Duffy (2008), “User-centered Web 2.0 phenomena
integrating new technologies into the curriculum such as blogging, social video sharing (exempli-
to convey the knowledge and information to ac- fied by YouTube®) and collective editing (e.g.,
climatize today’s tech-savvy students. wiki or Wikipedia® as an example) are disrupt-
The use of virtual worlds for e-learning has ing traditional ideas about how students interact
been rapidly growing in the academic arena and online and how content is generated, shared, and
has greatly impacted on our educational system distributed” (p. 121). New emerging technologies
as well. One of these virtual learning examples is like podcasting for e-learning and online social
Modesto City Schools’ PacRimX project in 2007. communities such as Web 2.0, blog, wiki, or
In this study, students spent one year sharing space YouTube® will become an integral component
in Second Life with a school in Kyoto, Japan, and of e-learning.

11
Computer-Mediated Learning

More Multiple Assessment Availability of advanced mobile technologies,


and Evaluation such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), mo-
bile phones, or portable computers, has started to
The assessment and evaluation processes play extend e-learning towards m-learning (Triantafil-
an important role in education. As Russell, et al., lou, et al, 2008). Other advantages of m-learning
(2006) indicated, “assessment can help students such as flexibility, low cost, small size, ease of
process actively what they have learned, discover use and timely application had a positive impact
what they know and can do, and also identify on e-learning.
where their knowledge and skills are weaker” M-learning is web-based e-learning, but can be
(p. 465). As a result, assessment has a profound wireless without connecting to physical networks
impact on student’s attitude toward learning, permanently. M-learning has the potential to
and successful assessment is an ongoing cycle change the way students interact with one another
that involves the identification of outcomes, the as well as to change the way learning materials
gathering and analyzing of data, discussion, sug- are distributed. A number of studies have been
gesting improvements, implementing changes, conducted to examine new educational applica-
and reflection (Buzzzetto-More & Alade, 2006). tions. Triantafillou, et al. (2008) evaluated the use
The use of computer technologies and e-learning of computerized adaptive test on mobile devices,
strategies can provide an efficient and effective and reported positive comments from the users.
means of assessing teaching and learning ef- Segall, et al. (2005) compared a PDA-based quiz
fectiveness by supporting traditional, authentic, and standard paper-and-pencil applications, and
and alternative assessment protocols (as cited in indicated the PDA-based quiz was more efficient
Buzzzetto-More & Alade, 2006). Buzzetto-More because students could complete it in less time.
and Alade (2006) summarized a number of e- Although no differences in efficiency and satis-
assessment technologies that have been success- faction were found between these two quiz types,
fully implemented and are gradually becoming they concluded that PDAs were an attractive test
popular, including ePortforlio®, TaskStream®, administration option for schools. The introduc-
Foliotek®, TrueOutcomes®, SpringBoard®, Fo- tion of mobile devices into the learning process
lioLive®, and Foliotek®. These systems can not can complement e-learning (Triantafillou, et al.,
only support authentic assessment, but also allow 2008), and we believe this development will add
greater learner expression and greater adaptive more value for teaching and learning in e-learning
capabilities and accessibility. Thus, to enhance environments.
e-learning outcomes, it is important for educators
to employ multiple assessment methods, other More Careful Management
than testing, to facilitate and improve students’ for the Learning Process
learning outcomes.
The phenomenon of e-learning offers enormous
More Mobile E-Learning potential to make our teaching and learning more
effective and efficient. However, this promise does
Today, a variety of mobile devices with wireless not automatically come and happen overnight.
network connections are supporting teaching When technologies offer the rich potential of
and learning in educational institutions. Some learning delivery at anytime, anywhere, on any
researchers (Georgiev, Georgieva, & Smrikarov, topic, it is thus necessary to delineate a vision
2004) even believe that mobile learning (m-learn- and direction for e-learning in education. Effec-
ing) is a new stage in the progress of e-learning. tive E-learning technologies must be guided and

12
Computer-Mediated Learning

directed to carefully manage the learning process, effective learning opportunities, the development
must include staff development and learner sup- of e-learning will need to focus more on quality and
port services, and must be built on sound learning standards that ensure access to effective learning
principles and educational values. experiences. Although e-learning implementa-
tion will need to evolve with time and further
More Learner-Centered for research, educators need to believe in the benefits
Continual Changing Demographic of e-learning in order to achieve better learning
Profiles of Learners experience. E-learning cannot be the one size
fits all solution, and thus needs to be associated
No matter how much technologies become in- to a clear vision, strategy and an inclusive policy
tegrated in our educational processes, practices, by administration. Administrators and educators
and pedagogy, learners have always been and should be forthcoming in showing collaborative
will continue to be the heart of our teaching and efforts in fundamental policy changes to overcome
learning. E-learning provides a flexible learning the Digital Divide, one factor that has long been
environment for students who had limited learning posed as the potential hindrance for effective
opportunities in the past, because of employment, implementation of electronic learning. Learners’
family commitments, financial limitations, and limited access to computers and the Internet further
distance and time restrictions; the flexibility of leads to their digital illiteracy. Policies furnished to
E-learning as a student-centered design is one facilitate the needs of specific groups of learners
tool that can be used to address the needs of this can be motivational and help make better transi-
diverse population. Therefore, for learners to be tion to e-learning.
knowledge owners, e-learning practices not only
require quality instructional content, but also
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eracy Second Life: a 3-D virtual world created by
its Residents and it allows users to interact with

17
Computer-Mediated Learning

each other through motional avatars, providing Technology Integration: Technology integra-
an advanced level of a social network service tion is a term used by educators to describe effec-
combined with general aspects of a metaverse. tive uses of technology by teachers and students
Residents can explore, meet other residents, social- in K-12 and university classrooms. Teachers use
ize, participate in individual and group activities, technology to support instruction in various con-
and create and trade items (virtual property) and tent areas and when they do so, and the learners
services with one another. (Wikipedia, n.d.). are empowered to be actively engaged in their
Simulation: An interactive multimedia appli- learning (Wikipedia, n.d.).
cation device intended to imitate a real life situation
and permit the user to partake and experience in
a risk-free environment.

18
19

Chapter 2
From Web to Web 2.0
and E-Learning 2.0
Clara Pereira Coutinho
University of Minho, Portugal

João Batista Bottentuit Jr.


University of Minho, Portugal

ABSTRACT
In this chapter the authors analyze issues and ideas regarding the next generation of e-Learning, which
is already known as e-Learning 2.0 or social e-Learning. They will look at the new learning tools that
have emerged from the evolution of the Web, to the Web 2.0 paradigm, discussing their potential for
supporting modern and independent lifelong learners. Even more important, the authors will justify the
modeling of a new concept for the future of teaching and learning in the knowledge-based society in
which we live. The conclusion will present a scenario for the evolution of the Web, the Semantic Web
or 3.0 generation Web, which is emerging as a higher environment that will advance the design and
development of e-Learning systems in promising new directions: machine-understandable educational
material will be the basis for machines that automatically use and interpret information for the benefit
of authors and educators, making e-Learning platforms more adaptable and responsive to each indi-
vidual learner.

INTRODUCTION distance-learning method and has since been earn-


ing increased attention from those responsible for
With the arrival of the Internet it was possible to the development of formal and non-formal learn-
create virtual learning environments supported ing systems and from people, who are concerned
through models of bi-directional communication about responding to the needs of a knowledge-based
(synchronous and asynchronous), which justified society, which is demanding the need for lifelong
the exponential increase of courses available online. training (Bottentuit & Coutinho, 2007).
Malvestiti (2005) established a non-conventional Information communication technology (ICT)
created new spaces for building knowledge. The
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch002 virtual learning environment, traditionally orga-

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

nized around learning platforms, began to make PHASES IN DISTANCE LEARNING


room for new resources and free services, which
were available on the Web and could be accessed It is possible to distinguish different phases in
without any substantial computer knowledge. In the evolution of distance learning. The first phase
fact, teachers and students involved in courses in was characterized by teaching based on corre-
the subject of e/b-learning, can today rely on a spondence, that is, the teacher and the student
series of tools from the new Internet generation exchange learning materials through the mail.
called Web 2.0. These are resources that are simple With the emergence of audiovisual resources
to use and do not need installation or constant (educational TV, videos and cassettes), distance
maintenance. They encourage new ways of com- education moved into a second phase, providing
munication, expression and interaction, as well as students with alternative ways of learning; in
enrich pedagogical practices, with activities such fact, besides reading, students could hear and see
as: cooperative and collaborative work, writing pictures associated with their educational content,
stimulation, interactive and multidirectional com- allowing teaching to better adapt to individuals’
munication, increased ease of use in data storage, different styles of learning.
creation of online pages, the creation of practice With the introduction of the Internet, distance
communities (Coutinho & Bottentuit Junior, learning stepped into its third phase, opening new
2007). Besides being free, these tools also allow spaces for learning and allowing synchronous and
knowledge to be published and shared with the asynchronous communication between teachers
rest of the academic community. and students. In this phase, the use of the electronic
This range of tools and services opened new mail and chat tools quickly grew.
horizons for teaching and distance training. It The fourth generation was marked by the re-
provided the educator with alternative ways to placement of scripted material (texts, notebooks and
use e-Learning courses, which minimized some books) by digital multimedia material that could
of the traditional criticism of this model of learn- easily be accessed through teaching and learning
ing. In fact, in this new generation, the learner has environments and platforms (see Figure 1).
a more active and personalized intervention in In this fourth and last phase, the process of
their learning process. The possibilities of com- teaching and learning was mediated by technol-
munication and interaction are greater, the bonds ogy and therefore, new names for this new reality
to a community are deepened, and the spirit of appeared such as, “e-learning”, “online learning”,
cooperation and sharing is increased (Martinez, “online training” or even “online education”.
2003). After briefly examining the recent evolution According to Gomes (2005a) e-Learning can
of distance learning, this article aims to develop a ensemble multiple situations from tutorial sup-
set of principles relating to what we understand to port to physical teaching but not all scenarios are
be the next generation of e-Learning; this has also effective for distance learning:
been called e-Learning 2.0. It will look at some of
the emerging learning tools from the Web 2.0 and In this context e-Learning takes essentially the
will analyze its potential in terms of training, and place of “electronic” tutorial to support students
its implications on the future of learning. who fit in a scenario of physical teaching. The
concept of e-Learning can also be associated
with a complement between physical and distance
activities, having as support the services and
technologies available on the Internet (or another
network) (Gomes, 2005a, p. 234).

20
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

Figure 1. Different phases of distance learning

The appearance of the Learning Management private and public universities that had invested
Systems (LMS) platforms brought numerous pos- strongly in the training market. However, most
sibilities, both for teacher and student. Through of the e-Learning courses had kept the traditional
these environments, it was possible to integrate format: programs organized around the needs of
into a single space, a series of services and tools, the content providers, not around those of the in-
such as chat rooms, forums, attendance registers, dividual learners. The outcome was that students
exercises and online tests, which made a range of were provided with homogenized, standardized
multimedia content available to them. However, content “course cartridges” and “e-packs”. Thus,
what actually happened was that many of these the problems traditionally associated with distance
environments and platforms were expensive, training, remained unchanged: low enrolments
requiring payment for some kind of purchase and high attrition rates stemming from user dis-
license or maintenance contract. satisfaction (Martinez, 2004). Gilroy suggested
According to Silva, Oliveira, Carvalho & a solution that meant creating groundbreaking
Martins (2008), LMS platforms, of which Moodle learning environments, where the members of
is probably the most used, allowed course con- the online community could communicate and
tents to be made available in a similar way to the interact, establish relationships and learn with
trainer’s Web site. However, it also made possible other members of the community. He defended his
the use of new tools in the teaching–learning opinion, saying: “Learning is fundamentally both
process, not only at the level of the asynchronous social and experiential” (Gilroy, 2001, online), an
interaction (news, discussion forums, inquiry) opinion shared by many other authors.
and synchronous (chat) among students, but also It is undeniable that the first Internet genera-
in their evaluation (publication and reception of tion opened up the horizon for e-Learning. This
scheduled works, online evaluation tests, inqui- was because it allowed access to a large source of
ries). In spite of all these new opportunities, it is contents that were free of charge and could be used
argued that many students do not like to work and adapted to the profile of the user. However, it
with this technology, especially those who are needed to develop further so that the burden for
not comfortable using it. learning was not placed wholly on the shoulders
In 2001, Kathleen Gilroy argued that e-Learn- of the learner. To succeed, the online training had
ing faced a critical moment in its evolution. The to centre itself with the students and find ways to
computer-mediated distance training had turned involve them in the learning process:
into an important business for professional train-
ing and was at the top of the agenda of numerous

21
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

E-learning should be first and foremost about more important than ever. The companies that
creating a social space that must be managed for had survived the collapse seemed to have some
the teaching and learning needs of the particu- things in common, and they called them Web 2.0,
lar group of people inhabiting that space. When the second generation of the Web. Web 2.0 en-
the focus is no longer the content but rather the compasses a variety of different meanings, which
management of the learning experience, then the include an increased emphasis on user-generated
pedagogical process becomes the most important content, data and content sharing and collabora-
factor in the design and support of that experience tive effort, together with the use of various kinds
(Gilroy, 2001, online). of social software, new ways of interacting with
Web-based applications, and the use of the Web
Impelled by the development of broadband, as a platform for generating, re-purposing and
there was a revolution in the way we use, connect consuming content (Trechera, Mellado, Patino,
and interact on the Internet: the Web 2.0 genera- & Huertas, 2008).
tion opens new possibilities for education, mainly To Simão (2006), “the title Web 2.0 is not in-
for the design and development of e-Learning nocent and follows all the used terminology for
models. updates and upgrades of computer programs. This
Today there are more flexible alternatives for means that Web 2.0 is an evolution of Web 1.0”.
the implementation of e-Learning models that Yet, what exactly was the evolution that justified
can be adapted to the distinctive distance train- the new title?
ing needs of students, of companies and other In Stephen Downes’ opinion (2005), Web
institutions. Today there are free, easy-to-use 2.0 is much more a social than a technological
tools that ask for an active role from the student, revolution; of greater importance was the new
in the learning process. It is argued that there is position and attitude of those accessing and us-
great potential for the Internet’s new generation ing the network. In Simão’s opinion (2006), one
tools — Web 2.0 — to flexibly and significantly of the main and first characteristics of the new
contribute to minimize physical and time distances, Web was the fact that the users, who before had
so increasing the communication and interaction a passive role, were now able to produce content.
between the instructor and the trainee at any time The ease of producing content and of placing it
and in any location. online, generated several developments: 1) the
critical and active ability of the users who now
had new ways to communicate with the world; 2)
THE EMERGENCE OF A the ease of publishing, created communities that
NEW WEB PARADIGM could gather around a common interest/subject
leading to the creation of interpersonal relations
In Rosen’s opinion (2006), every ten years that strengthened the sense of community; 3) the
new technological trends emerge: in the 1970s, more people got involved in the production of Web
mainframe computers appeared; in the 1980s, content, the better the quality of the service. As
customer-server technology; in the 1990s, the membership increased, Web content was updated
Internet, and in 2000 onward, Web 2.0 was de- and validated to an even greater extent.
veloped. The concept of “Web 2.0” began with a Another of the great innovations of Web 2.0
conference brainstorming session between Tim was that it allowed access to, and use of, online
O’Reilly and MediaLive International (O’Reilly, applications, which created a familiar working
2005). They noticed that after the bursting of the environment for the user. Users were able to update
dot-com bubble in the fall of 2001, the Web was their own content information. This simplicity and

22
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

speed powered the generation of social networks, of Web 2.0 tools in the creation of innovative
which are sites supported through databases that learning where:
allow information to be kept and updated by an
individual and to establish links between virtual The student/trainee has … the possibility to con-
or real friends. tact with other students/trainees in other parts
Content aggregation and cataloguing allows of the world, to research contents or share their
the user of the network to create a personalized own, that is, contact with the real world and be
Web environment, adapted to their likes and needs. himself/herself the creator of meanings, therefore,
Content aggregation is possible through Really of knowledge.
Simple Syndication (RSS) technologies, which
allow the user to aggregate, on the Internet, small, According to Silva et al. (2008), the benefits of
chaotic pieces of content and organize them, thus Web 2.0 tools and services as an online learning
creating their own systems of signification (Gar- environment, can be summarized as follows:
rido, 2008). Information classification on Web 2.0
frees users from the classic rules of categorization • Promotes better teacher–student relation-
of resources (taxonomy) because it allows a less ships and communication, in a friendly
linear and more similar classification to their environment;
thought processes. This is achieved through tags • Helps students feel more comfortable
that can be translated for key-words or labels. A about expressing themselves without
categorization system is developed by placing one embarrassment;
link in more than one category simultaneously, so • Provides tools that stimulate students’ en-
creating one folksonomy (Hayman, 2007). In prac- thusiasm in writing, forming opinions,
tice, the new version of the Web is characterized peer evaluation through debate, a type of
by: a) focus in the contents; b) independent publi- journal for peer review;
cation of contents created by the user; c) network • Promotes collaborative work;
effects due to participation-based architecture; • Increases active intervention, which pro-
d) social ware or collective user intelligence as a motes students’ self-confidence.
result of the contribution and shared experience
among users with common interests. It is argued that the explosion in the popular-
In light of the above, the following question ity of this new Web paradigm was due to ease of
arises: with such panoply of applications and free access to the Internet and the wide availability of
services and with so many educative potentialities, cheaper broadband as well as the ease of use of
should it not it be expected that e-Learning evolved the content’s creation tools with free applications
via the same route and that new opportunities were from the Web. These applications will be soon be
developed for online learning experiences? widely available, in several forms of hardware,
due to the emergence of some innovative technolo-
gies such as AJAX1 and Flex2. The emergence
FROM WEB 2.0 TO E-LEARNING 2.0 of online distance education tools and e-Learning
2.0 has also been enhanced by the easy access to
The term e-Learning 2.0 describes the new gen- databases through JavaScript, Java or Flash, the
eration of e-Learning that followed the change of language XML3 and RSS.
paradigm in the Web (Rosen, 2006; Voigt, 2007). In fact, almost all characteristics of the Web
In Garrido’s opinion (2008, online), many teachers 2.0 can be applied to e-Learning within Learning
and instructors had already realized the potential Content Management System (LCMS) or plat-

23
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

forms like Moodle. Interaction with, and among, and to those who share the same interests
students is more active and, because of this built-in (Downes, 2006);
interactivity, students are offered new possibili- • In terms of format, the e-Learning 2.0
ties to become involved in, and to interact with, courses, as suggested by Anita Rosen
the content (Balog-Crisan, Roxin & Smeureanu, (2006), must be short but sophisticated in
2008). To summarize, the key characteristics of terms of design and versatility;
e-Learning 2.0 are: • Adaptive learning is created, which enables
students to select their modular contents and
• The focus is in the contents (Silva et al., to customize their learner-centric learning
2008); environments (Martinez, 2004, 2007).
• It allows independent creation, editing and
publishing of contents created by the user For Stephen Downes (2006, 9) the new gen-
(Karrer, 2006); eration of “digital natives” or “n-gen”, enjoy
• The online exchange and sharing of infor- learning, work and leisure in a different way.
mation with the teacher and fellow stu- They live in the age of the Web 2.0 and this
dents makes the course easier and simpler means rethinking new models for e-Learning,
(Garrido, 2008); models that will subtlety combine formal and
• The production of micro-contents that are informal learning logic, which is essential to the
not exclusive to designers, teachers, in- success of any development of policy in lifelong
structors or, most importantly, to trainees learning. For “digital natives”, communication
(Leene, 2006); is continuous, (Prensky 2004). They move from
• The contents produced by teaching pro- face-to-face interaction to online interaction very
fessionals and non professionals can be easily. They are accustomed to working in virtual
searched and shared with the whole com- teams and learning through simulation. Their
munity (O´Hear, 2006); multiple communication styles and their ease of
• Network effects due to a participation- using the Web have opened new ways for formal
based architecture (Silva et al., 2008); and, more important, informal forms of learn-
• Trainees can select and aggregate the con- ing. We are already starting to see the impact in
tents to better adapt to their interests and the workforce. According to Barna and Lenghel
needs helping to create and manage their (2008), over the next ten years, higher education
own Personal Learning Environment and workplaces will be flooded with technical
(Graham Attwell, 2007), which Atwell be- and communication experts, expecting to develop
lieves, will be the future of e-Learning; their styles of communication. Teachers must be
• The use of social software favours the inte- conscious that they are teaching a generation born
gration of people and groups, easing com- in the computer age. Technology is second nature
munication and promoting collaborative to these students. By the time they had started to
working in the network (Rosen, 2006); walk, they were familiar with remote controls,
• The features of online communities dimin- computers, cell phones, and other technology. To
ish the artificiality due to the restrictions teach this group effectively, educators must keep
imposed by “discussions” in the traditional abreast of developments in digital and Web-based
LMS; it allows for the creation of the true media and take advantage of the opportunities
spirit of practice communities (Wenger,), they offer to help students learn.
since the discussion and sharing is opened In 2007, the Organization for Economic
up to all those with access to the Internet, Co-operation and Development OECD (2007)

24
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

published an extensive study on the key role of resembles that of the practice communities that
the content created by users in relation to the fast Wenger (1998) talks about. In the context of higher
growth of the Web 2.0 and the social and cultural education in Portugal, the use of blogs to create
implications, and their respective impact, in the digital portfolios is probably the most used and
economic opportunities of their countries. As this investigated tool and has very promising results
study suggests, all the commercial agents have (Brescia & Miller, 2006; Coutinho, 2006; Coutinho
already understood the motivation of young people & Bottentuit Junior, 2007a, 2007b).
in relation to the use of the Web. They understand A wiki is a “system that allows one or more
that content is created by users and so they are people to build up a corpus of knowledge in a set
investing seriously in projects that aim to amplify of interlinked Web pages, using a process of creat-
this interest. The commercial and services sites ing and editing pages” (Franklin & VanHarmelen,
are opening up to the idea that content can be pro- 2008, p.5). Wiki sites like PBwiki, Seedwiki and
duced by users, which has significantly increased Wikispaces are often the top choices among educa-
all interactivity, adding value for customers. tors. Factors that may influence the choice of a wiki
Education cannot ignore this reality: E-Learning site may include lack of advertisements or ease of
2.0 is essential if the quality and effectiveness of account creation. In education, wikis can be used
education and training systems is to be improved for discussions, brainstorming, collaborative proj-
and to ensure that they are accessible to all. ects, or sharing lists. When training teachers, some
discussion points may include how/whether or not
Some E-Learning 2.0 Tools to limit access, Internet safety and ethics, and roles/
permissions of users. To E-learning 2.0, a Wiki: a)
In the world of education, Web 2.0 tools can be allows the accomplishment of collaborative works
used to teach information literacy, collaboration to the level of an entire group (repository of les-
with colleagues, implementation of student proj- sons, re-creation of manuals, glossaries); b) allows
ects, and information sharing. A summary of Web the dynamic interaction between both colleagues
2.0 tool with the potential for e-Learning 2.0 is and teacher (by the inclusion of commentaries,
set out below. suggestions, corrections); c) allows users to see
A blog is a, “system that allows a single author the history of all the modifications, allowing the
(or sometimes, but less often, a group of authors) teacher/instructor to evaluate the evolution, and
to write and publicly display time-ordered ar- d) allows the creation of structures of knowledge
ticles (called posts)” (Franklin & VanHarmelen, shared in a learning community (Santamaria &
2008, p.5). Blog sites like Blogger, Wordpress, Abraira, 2006; Qian, 2007).
Blogmeister, and Edublogs are some of the most Media Sharing Services, store user-contributed
popular. The blog is the ideal tool for the discussion media and allow users to search for and display
and exchange of ideas on the network, allowing different types of contents (VanHarmelen, 2007).
the creation of real virtual communities, who share Examples of media sharing services include pod-
interests at several levels (Gomes, 2005b). Blogs casts, videocasts, video sharing, art sharing, and
can be used individually or collectively and are document sharing. Podcast tools such as Audac-
very versatile in terms of pedagogical exploration, ity or Apple’s GarageBand allow users to easily
and very easy to conceive and to update. In an create an audio podcast, while free podcasting
e-learning 2.0 scenario, the trainees can use blogs hosting sites, such as Switchpod, allow for easy
to express their ideas and to comment on blogs publishing. Teachers may use podcasts to record
from colleagues, thus creating an intense network and publish lectures, practice world languages,
of interactions that, in Downes’ opinion (2006), record readings or announcements, and record

25
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

stories or poems (McCombs, Liu, Crowe, Houk, Penguin and Webkins provide age-appropriate
& Hitgginbotham, 2007; Pastore & Pastore, 2007). social networks. Virtual worlds such as Second
Videocast and video sharing tools such as you- Life are also considered social networks. Students
tube or teachertube allow users to easily upload and teachers may use Myspace, Xanga or Face-
and comment on videos. Teachers may use these book to network with friends or colleagues and
tools to supply videos of experiments before lab to communicate on college or school campuses.
sessions or to aid in distance learning. Newer Second Life activities range from simple study
tools such as Flickr (photo sharing), Devianart group activities to collaborative development of
(art sharing) and Scribd (document sharing) allow online spaces (islands). When training teachers in
users to collaborate and discuss the media. When the use of social networking tools, it is imperative
training teachers, it is important to discuss the to speak of privacy rights as well as to review
tools, review editing features, and demonstrate ethical and legal use of such tools.
the posting of shared media. It is also important Another interesting tool of the new Web 2.0
to review copyright rules and ensure that media generation is the Google Calendar. It is an online
is posted legally. agenda and calendar service offered free by the
Social Bookmarking is a Web-based service for Google Company. Available in a Web interface, it
saving and referencing Internet Website favorites. allows users to do a range of functions including:
Bookmarks have been available for many years, to add or to control events, make commitments,
but social bookmarks that conform to the RSS share programming with other people, and add
information sharing standard, have emerged very other public agendas of their own. This tool can be
recently (Fryer, 2005). One free example is Del. served in several e-Learning activities - for instance,
icio.us (http://del.icio.us), a Website that allows the online tutorial – to set appointments, as well as
users to (through the use of “bookmarklets”) save advertizing future events via SMS or registering
desired Website addresses and categorize them absences, and setting course-work deadlines.
quickly, with one or multiple “tags”, which are Collaborative editing tools allow users to col-
user-defined. As a social bookmarking service, laborate on a document, edit and create in groups.
the del.icio.us Website indicates how many other Examples of these tools include Google Docs &
users have links to a particular Website address, Spreadsheets. Most of these tools are still text
and allows users to link to the social bookmarks only and do require a voice tool for full collabora-
of those other users. Social bookmarks can be an tion. Educational uses would include collabora-
invaluable aid in student research projects, teacher tive work over the Web either via simultaneous
technology workshops, and for personal use in editing or shared work. One of the most peculiar
keeping track of and sharing of valuable Internet advantages of this tool is the document sharing
resources. According to Fryer (2005), since the tool as it allows the editing of the same document
del.icio.us.site “speaks” RSS, any “tag” (topic) in by more than one user, as well as the resource to
a person’s social bookmarks can be syndicated/ direct publication in a blog. In the E-learning 2.0
subscribed to using an aggregator like Bloglines. courses this tool could be used for the students to
The sharing of Website favorites/bookmarks has work in a collaborative way, allowing or restrict-
never been so easy, powerful, cheap and fast. ing the access of the edited documents by the
Social Networking refers to systems that al- remaining members of the group. In online tutorial
low people to network together and share web activities, GoogleDocs can efficiently serve as the
resources (VanHarmelen, 2007). Some of the individualized support of the teacher/instructor,
more popular social networks include Myspace, sufficing that the document is edited just by the
Xanga, and Facebook. For younger students, Club trainee and its tutor.

26
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

Google Pages also belongs to the Google fam- elearningpapers.eu), the article entitled Personal
ily of tools and allows the creation of online pages Learning Environments: the future of e-Learning,
without demanding major computer knowledge. where he emphasized the questions that have been
The system is like a text editor and, therefore, in a analyzed in this paper. The notion of Personal
quick and simple way, the trainees can build sites Learning Environment (PLE), as conceptualized
that can work as digital portfolios of the devel- by Attwell (2007), refers to a set of different
oped materials during an e-Learning course. The applications, services and various other types
use of this tool by the teacher/instructor can be of learning resources, gathered from different
an excellent alternative to the creation of course contexts.
or group pages as an alternative to the traditional A PLE is a kind of e-portfolio extension, which
LMS platforms. shows the abilities and accomplishments of the
Syndication and notification technologies student and it is from there that the student presents
provide tools to keep users up-to-date on recent their professional qualifications. It is constructed
changes to shared content. A feed reader can be by an individual and used in everyday life, for
used to centralize all of the recent changes and learning. It is not an application or a system but
works with a Real Simple Syndication (RSS) tool a personal assemblage supporting new learning
to list changes. The RSS tool essentially provides modalities, induced by ubiquitous technologies
a feed of data to the user. In education, these and social software. According to Henri, Charlier
tools can be used to keep all members of a group and Limpens (2008), from the technological point
informed. This may be particularly useful when of view, ubiquitous computing allows learning to
employing a blog or wiki in the classroom as users take place almost everywhere, through wireless
would be made aware of up-to-date information and GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Commu-
(Simão, 2006). nications) networks and mobile communication
These are just some of the new generation tools devices that are able to access the Internet. The
that can be used successfully in the e-Learning authors consider that new forms of learning can
2.0 environment. However, the technological emerge from the use of the PLE.
evolution does not stop, constantly developing
new and more versatile and interactive tools. Because the same technologies are used in the
The great challenge for teachers and instructors different context of our life, work, home, school,
is to know how to use these tools in a way that it could be possible to mobilize what has just
learning environments can become even more been learned and apply it in the context it could
personalized and adapted to each student’s needs. be used (transfer of knowledge). Additionally,
The challenge will be to ensure environments are social software, predominant in PLE, represents
capable of integrating tools and services that can technological development that allows people to
be managed by, and be the responsibility of, the connect and collaborate, and to create and share
user/student, that is, Personal Learning Environ- (Henri et al., 2008, p. 3767).
ments, which will be address next
There is a strong idea underlying the PLE con-
cept: autonomy of the learner and what Bandura
PERSONAL LEARNING (2003) calls self-directed learning. A PLE is not
ENVIRONMENTS something that is imposed on an individual but
something that one builds autonomously to suit a
In 2007, Graham Attwell published in the person’s own needs and the type of learning they
electronic magazine eLearning Papers (www. want to pursue. Self-direction is recognized by the

27
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

capacity to choose learning resources or learning mission, learning process and validation. They
providers – the time, place and context of learning. have to accept the fact that ownership of learning
It is also manifested through the ability to grasp is moving over to students. Educational systems
opportunities to learn that could be supported by should not ignore this phenomenon but rather try
PLE (Henri et al., 2008). to find ways to valorize learning that takes place
According to Kurzel (2004) and Henri et outside the institution and recognize its contribu-
al. (2008), PLEs can seamlessly bring together tion to personal and professional development.
various types of learning; learning by personal This means that educational institutions have to
interest or the desire to solve a problem, com- develop a better knowledge and understanding
munity learning, school learning, experiential of this new situation and learn how to exploit
learning, workplace learning, etc. In short, it can it in a constructive manner, for instance, being
embrace all formal and informal learning. PLEs concerned in finding innovative ways to encour-
have potential for more meaningful learning by age the efficient use of PLEs, easing the blend-
facilitating reinvestment of knowledge in differ- ing of learning from PLEs and other educational
ent contexts: resources (see Figure 2).
So, what will be the future role of the e-Learning
There is a major issue in that everyday informal institutions in this new context of learning? Will
learning is disconnected from the formal learning they cease to produce contents and offer courses
which takes place in our educational institutions online? The answer to these questions is still
(…). Personal Learning Environments have the unknown, but we can foresee new ways to man-
potential to bring together these different worlds age the production of contents for e-Learning.
and inter-relate learning from life with learning In fact, content will no longer succeed through
from school and college (Attwell, 2007, p. 4). the creation of courses, in the true meaning of
the term, but through micro-contents, which are
Since lifelong learning is recognized as being spread throughout the Internet. Blogs are one such
crucial to our knowledge societies, it can easily be micro-content demonstrated here:
envisaged that everyone will develop their own
PLE. In this context, PLEs should be considered The fact that a blog consists of individual postings
as permanent, adaptable and evolving, enabling is the start of MicroContent. These blog postings
different types of learning, in different contexts can not only be published on Web-pages, but also
and at different times in life. in syndication formats such as the RSS and Atom.
The new generation of students who share the By publishing postings in these formats a user
culture of Web 2.0 use, in their daily lives, blogs, syndicates his/her content, so that others may
wikis, RSS flux, podcasts and social software. re-use it (Leene, 2006, p. 31).
Building their own PLE, thanks to ubiquitous
technologies and social software, becomes natural. Once aggregated, this type of micro-content
By doing so, they gain control of their learning allows the user to group and organize information
and adapt it according to individual needs and within its PLE in a meaningful way. The teacher/
interests (Henri et al., 2008). They therefore instructor or learning designer thus has tools that
become part of a community for which they can surpass, in terms of the creation of knowledge,
create new content or roles to drive innovation any platform of e-Learning that may have recently
(Lave & Wenger, 1991). existed. In this context, e-Learning ceases to be
Institutions must then recognize their loss of only a medium, but starts to be the platform for
control over content production, modes of trans- learning:

28
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

Figure 2. Resources dynamics in a PLE (adapted from Henri et al, 2008, p. 3770)

What happens when online learning ceases to be also point in the direction of the development of
like a medium, and becomes more like a platform? technological tools that allow the student/trainee
What happens when online learning software to create knowledge, developing new and in-
ceases to be a type of content-consumption tool, fluential concepts of learning, such as Adaptive
where learning is “delivered,” and becomes more Learning:
like a content-authoring tool where learning is
created? The model of e-Learning seen as a type Adaptive learning is important because it enables
of content, produced by publishers, organized learners to select their modular components to
and structured into courses, and consumed by customize their learner-centric learning environ-
students, is turned on its head. So far as there is ments. Secondly, it enables them to offer flexible
content, it is used rather than read – and is, in solutions that dynamically adapt content to fit
any case, more likely to be produced by students individual real-time learning needs (Martinez,
than courseware authors. And while there is a 2004, online).
structure, it is more likely to resemble a language
or a conversation rather than a book or a manual Having the student/trainee develop their own
(Downes, 2005). course content is a new way of perceiving learning
paths. What advantages will this new concept of
However, the very fact that students/trainees learning bring to the student? The availability of
create the content of the course, could question several learning stages in a course brings qualitative
its validity. Folksonomies may be the solution, advantages. In the future, with the development of
in terms of evaluating these resources. Yet here, the technologies that support them, these paths will
the role of the teachers/instructors could gain be built by the student/trainee (Martinez, 2007). This
new dimensions for effective study. Regarding raises the importance of the new role of the teacher/
the aggregation of micro-contents, the new trends instructor in this construction of knowledge.

29
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

AND THE FUTURE? IS IT WEB Markof in 2006, in an article in the New York Times.
3.0 OR E-LEARNING 3.0? Here, the author associated the term with the con-
cept of a Semantic Web, although he considered
The first era of the Web is over; online spaces are that the latter was just one of the many technologies
becoming increasingly interactive; in the past, radio, that would be used in the future, along with a much
video and multimedia enthusiasts had perceived wider set of other tools and services, capable of
these developments as an endless set of opportu- turning the Web even more intelligent and effec-
nities, bringing improvements in social relations, tive. However, the association of the future Web
effectiveness of participation, and in decisions generation to the Semantic Web is a recurrent
about the future of people. Web 2.0 tools not only subject in the perspective of many authors who
promote sharing and collaborating, they define it. recently approached these questions (Lansiquot
These tools have personalized users’ experience & Rosalia, 2008; Balog-Crisan et al., 2008; Peter,
and have dramatically changed the ways we com- Dastbaz & Bacon, 2008; Huyng-Kim-Bang, Dané
municate. We have become part of a community for & Grandbastien, 2008). In 2007, Tim Berners-Lee,
which we can create new content or roles, and drive author of the term Web 2.0, in an interview with
innovation (Lave & Wenger, 1991). In educational, Peter Moon for the site COMPUTERWORLD,
cultural and linguistic spheres, these spaces can be when questioned about the future of the Web, he
used, most fully, to promote creativity and new answered that the “future will be the semantic
ways to see beyond Web 2.0 technologies to the Web that will arise in the moment that the users
future – to the new emerging Web that is already of the network start to place links of public data
upon us (Lansiquot & Rosalia, 2008). or their personal files in the network”. This means
The pending Semantic Web continues to that the databases, restricted today, will be even
develop, establishing the Web as tomorrow’s in- more open in a Web 3.0 scenario, allowing for
telligence (Berners-Lee, 2001). Will this be Web total access to the data as well as the creation of
3.0? One of the limits of Web 2.0 environments combinations (mashups) of different information
is the lack of contextual information; there is a gathered in a large number of databases.
lot of information but no one can organize and The Semantic Web will change the Web as
structure it in a meaningful manner. Therefore, we know it today. It will also deeply affect the
the Semantic Web technologies aim at providing e-Learning environment. The online world of
contextual information and co-ordination through the near future promises to fundamentally alter
workflow tools as supporting infrastructure. our perception of the Internet from a static com-
To invest in the Semantic Web means wel- munication channel into a thriving, virtual, global
coming the accomplishments of more complex community. To understand where the Web is
research, impracticable with the search engines heading, we can take a look at its past, and at the
known today. The purpose of this intelligent, intentions of its creators.
new generation Web is to classify information Entrepreneurs such as Nova Spivack and the
in categories in a standardized way so that it is co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, developed a
easy to access required information; discussion time line that traces and foresees the appearance
is already taking place on search systems that of Web 3.0 in the year 2010 (see Figure 3). As one
are operated through the human voice or even can see, the line shows how the evolution in the
through the search for similar pictures, by means services and programs of the network went through
of digitalization (Teten, 2007). the appearance of operational systems such as
According to Lassila & Hendler (2007), the Windows, by the development of languages for the
term Web 3.0 was used for the first time by John Internet, through the appearance of the generation

30
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

Figure 3. Evolution of the Web services (adapted from Radar Networks & Nova Spivack, 2007)

2.0 services (blogs, wikis, podcasts) and ended news from around the globe! The World Wide Web
with a forecast of what would be the intelligent will soon morph into a World Wide Simulation: an
Internet, that is, generation Web 3.0. immersive, 3-D visual environment that combines
According to Reneta Lansiquot and Christine elements of virtual worlds (Lansiquot & Rosalia,
Rosalia (2008), as the latest version of the Web 2008, p. 2662).
continues to mature, an assortment of ideas for Web
3.0 has begun to take shape. Educators must think
about how they will interact with the possibilities CONCLUDING REMARKS
of a semantic, media-centric, and pervasive Web.
In the semantic Web, for instance, machines will The model of current training requires constant
be able to read sites almost as easily as humans, training throughout a person’s professional life.
enabling users to go beyond what they do now. Companies and institutions must keep their em-
ployees updated because innovations can quickly
The media-centric Web goes beyond searching become obsolete in the ever changing learning
on just keywords, allowing, for instance, an art society (Smith, 2000). Traditional training is not
student to use a favorite painting to find a similar always appropriate, since employees (students)
painting via search engines—finding media using often have inflexibility time constraints therefore it
other media. As for the pervasive Web, designers is necessary to provide access to knowledge when
imagine the Web incorporated not only on hand- and where it is most convenient: flexible train-
helds and mobile phones but also on transparent ing systems are needed, alongside custom-built
surfaces, such as classroom windows: your closed programs, where students can personalize their
window could have its corner pane reporting the own learning process. E-learning is the tool that

31
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

will allow this to be accomplished as a life-long ways to appreciate the learning that takes place
training process. outside the institution and recognize its contribu-
The first Internet generation, which some call tion to personal and professional development.
Web 1.0 had a huge amount of accessible informa- This means that educational institutions have to
tion, which could be accessed by all. However, develop a better knowledge and understanding of
the role of the user, in these scenarios was that of the new situation and learn how to exploit it in a
a simple spectator; users did not having permis- constructive manner.
sion to alter its content. This first phase did not E-learning 2.0 has to be understood as a tool
allow applications or services to be made avail- that allows students to address the changes in the
able throughout the network unless they were dynamic environment around them. It must be
purchased, and they were only accessible to a seen as the key success factor for any institution
restricted number of users. or business that wants to meet the demands of the
With the development of the new generation, globalization challenge. E-Learning 2.0 is at the
Web 2.0, comes a new and varied range of online center of lifelong learning.
applications serving different purposes (blogs,
wikis, podcast, online page editors, collaborative
tools, etc.) To use these free resources and to ac- ACKNOWLEDGMENT
tively participate in them does not require the user
to have substantial knowledge of programming or This project was financed by CIED, University
the need for sophisticated computer environments. of Minho, Braga, Portugal.
According to this new philosophy, users also be-
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Simão, J. (2006). Relação entre os Blogs e Webjor- KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
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Web 1.0: The first generations of Internet
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Stock, W. G. (2007) Press Folksonomies and sci- the website.
ence communication: a mash-up of professional Web 2.0: The term Web 2.0 was first coined
science databases and Web 2.0 services. Informa- by Tim O’Reilly in 2004 to refer to a second gen-
tion Services & Use, 97–103, 97 IOS. Retrieved eration in the history of Web-based communities
Jan 25th, 2009 from http://wwwalt.phil-fak.uni- of users and a range of special services such as
duesseldorf.de/infowiss/admin/public_dateien/ social networks, blogs, wikis, podcast that encour-
files/1/1194272247inf_servic.pdf age collaboration and exchange of information
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Story, H. (2007). Developing Web 3.0. Java- Web 3.0: Web 3.0 is used to describe the evo-
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BOF-6747.pdf formation of the network in a database, a move
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Geospatial Web, or Web 3D
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Education and Development Conference. Valen- synchronous and asynchronous communication,
cia, Spain: IATED. etc; with traditional “face-to-face” learning. The
Vanharmelen, M. (2007). Briefing paper on Web benefits of blended e-learning is that it allows
2.0 technologies for content sharing: Web 2.0 – An students from different cultures the ability to
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ments/Introduction%20to%20Web%202.doc environment.
Semantic Web: It’s a concept proposed by Tim
Voigt, E. (2007). Web 2.0, E-Learning 2.0, EaD Berners-Lee inventor of World Wide Web. States
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cia. In Congresso da Associação Brasileira de methods such as content tags to enable comput-
Ensino a Distância. Retrieved May 24th, 2008, ers to understand what they’re displaying and to
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36
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0

consumer’s of information apply the method of when two songs were remixed and played at the
folksonomy, which is a kind of collaborative free same time, Web experts have borrowed the term
keyword indexing. There are no indexing rules, when two or more softwares tools are merged.
everyone can tag a document with his or her The resulting new tool provides an enriched Web
favorite words. (p.97) experience for end-Users. (p.19)
Meshup: According Cho (2007) originally a
term used in pop music by artists and disc jockeys

37
38

Chapter 3
E-Learning 2.0:
Web 2.0, the Semantic Web and the
Power of Collective Intelligence
Chaka Chaka
Walter Sisulu University, South Africa

ABSTRACT
This chapter contends that both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web (the SW) serve as critical enablers for
e-learning 2.0. It also maintains that the SW has the potential to take e-learning 2.0 to new frontiers of
advancement. Most significantly, the chapter argues that Web 2.0 and the SW provide an ideal platform
for harnessing collective intelligence, collective knowledge, the power of the groundswell, the network
effect, and the collective power of simulation for higher education institutions (HEIs) in the area of e-
learning 2.0. Against this backdrop, the chapter provides, first, a short overview of e-learning 2.0, Web
2.0 and the SW. Second, it characterises the way in which Web 2.0 social software technologies (e.g.,
blogs, wikis, social networks and virtual worlds) can be deployed in HEIs for delivering e-learning 2.0
for educational purposes. In addition, it outlines the manner in which the SW (in the form of semantic
blogs, semantic wikis, semantic social networks and semantic virtual worlds) can enhance each of these
Web 2.0 technologies for deploying e-learning 2.0 in HEIs.

INTRODUCTION semantic ingredients to the existing Web 2.0 social


software applications that underpin e-learning 2.0.
E-learning 2.0 has a lot to gain from leveraging Based on this, this chapter explores the uses that
both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web (the SW). blogs and semantic blogs, wikis and semantic wikis,
This is particularly so as these two sets of hybrid social networks and semantic social networks, and
technologies are the critical drivers of not only virtual worlds and semantic virtual worlds have
e-learning 2.0 but of other forms of today’s learn- for higher education institutions (HEIs). It draws
ing technologies as well. In addition, the SW adds on relevant documented instances and argues that
the deployment of blogs and semantic blogs on the
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch003 one hand, and of wikis and semantic wikis on the

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
E-Learning 2.0

other hand, respectively helps leverage collective tools to support learning. As such, it is a bottom-
intelligence (CI) and collective knowledge (CK) up and learner-driven peer learning.
for HEIs in relation to e-learning 2.0. Likewise, Third, it refers to an architecture of learn-
it contends that the use of social networks and ing networks. Such networks are decentralised,
semantic social networks on the one hand, and distributed, emergent and dynamic. Therefore, it
of virtual worlds and semantic virtual worlds on encompasses networked learning. The latter is a
the other hand, enables the harnessing of both the learning in which information and communication
power of the groundswell (PoG) and the collective technologies are employed to foster connections
power of simulation (CPoS), respectively. between learners, between learners and tutors,
and between learning communities and learning
resources.
E-LEARNING 2.0, WEB 2.0
AND THE SW: OVERVIEW Web 2.0

This section offers a brief overview and related Web 2.0 has many and varied definitions. In this
multidimensional definitions of e-learning 2.0, chapter, Web 2.0 is understood from four comple-
Web 2.0 and the SW. It also establishes the nexus mentary perspectives: transition, technologies,
existing between the last two instances of hybrid environment and mindset. The transition perspec-
technologies and e-learning 2.0. tive of Web 2.0 relates to the transitional stage in
which the Web has evolved from Web 1.0 into Web
E-Learning 2.0 2.0. It also underlines the idea that the Web is in
a constant beta version. The technologies view of
E-learning 2.0 is perceived in three related perspec- Web 2.0 refers to the fact that the latter consists
tives here. First, it is an approach that involves of social software technologies (e.g. blogs, wikis,
virtual collaborative and distance learning lever- social networks and virtual worlds) and offers
aged through computer-mediated communication value-added services and data. This embodies
technologies. Accordingly, it enables learners to the environment conception of Web 2.0: the view
actively participate in the learning value chain that Web 2.0 is a social and participation Web
as creators and co-creators of content, and as environment. The mindset approach to Web 2.0
authors, co-authors and contributors of knowl- encompasses the notion that the latter is a Read/
edge by harnessing each other’s CI. In this sense, Think/Write Web and that data, content, and ap-
it entails an e-learning 2.0 ecosystem existing plications/tools are services (see Ullrich, Borau,
within a Web 2.0 universe (Ivanova, 2007) – such Luo, Tan, Shen & Shen, 2008). Additionally, it
as reflected in Figure 1 - that views a learning is about the Web as a platform through which the
space as a medium for personal activities and for long tail, the network effect, social data and the
communication and collaboration with members wisdom of the crowd (WoC) (e.g., users, learners,
of learning communities. Second, it is about Web employees, and customers) can be leveraged. This
2.0 social software technologies and services is the Web connecting end-users in an ecosystem
applied to e-learning (Calvani, Bonaiuti & Fini, of value additions.
2008; Downes, 2004; Spadavecchia, 2008). In this
instance, it is a loosely coordinated, components The Semantic Web
approach that harnesses the synergy of distinct
but complementary applications and web services Like Web 2.0, the Semantic Web (the SW) has mul-
such as blogs, wikis, and other social software tiple definitions and is often represented through

39
E-Learning 2.0

Figure 1. The sample e-learning 2.0 ecosystem made up of composite Web 2.0 applications (Source htpp://
bp2.blogger.com/_OxsnUFtqD1o/R0bENKEeIwIAAAAAAAAAFo/Tgx--cYEQGE/s1600-h/el2.jpg)

different metaphors. Three such metaphors - Web tions and content repositories to an interoperable
3.0, the Data Web, and the Intelligent Web - are medium. Moreover, the SW is also the Intelligent
employed here to concisely delineate the SW. Web Web. This means it possesses smart and intelligent
3.0 signals the evolutionary nature - the perpetual agents, applications, tools and ontologies that can
beta - of the Web. It is an advanced stage and the handle data, content, knowledge and informa-
next wave of the Web after the current Web 2.0. It is tion autonomically. That is, it can reason about
a view conceiving of the SW as a universal medium and represent meanings, theories and knowledge
facilitating information exchange through docu- separately from data, documents and programme
ments containing computer-processable meanings codes. Moreover, it can mount intelligent searches.
(semantics) (Metz, 2007). It is the Web based on In this manner, the SW synergistically integrates
artificial intelligence and knowledge representa- Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies (Bittencourt et
tion theories. It thus allows data to be published al., 2008; Davis, 2007-2008; Wahlster & Dengel,
using semantic technologies or standards such as 2006).
resource description framework (RDF) and web Given the above, it becomes clear that e-learn-
ontology language (OWL). ing 2.0 not only leverages Web 2.0 technologies
As a Data Web, the SW entails a universally re- but is also modelled on the Web 2.0 paradigm.
usable Web of data that seamlessly inter-connects This is where it derives its 2.0 orientation and
complex and unstructured data across diverse philosophy. In this way, integrating both Web 2.0
applications, platforms and contexts. Hence, it and SW technologies into e-learning 2.0 has an
comprises self-executable Web abstraction layers added value of synergising the collective power
(Bittencourt, Isotani, Costa & Mizoguchi, 2008; of these technologies for e-learning 2.0 purposes
Davis, 2007-2008) signalling a transformation (Gruber, 2007; Ullrich et al., 2008). Thus, both Web
of the Web from a network of discrete applica- 2.0 and the SW are critical enablers for e-learning

40
E-Learning 2.0

2.0. This is more so as Web 2.0 and the SW share • Online collaborative learning and research,
commonalities: both combine natural language, and the expression of diverse views, per-
taxonomies and tools in an open environment and spectives and opinions
strive to improve Web capabilities. • Communities of learners (CoLs) and com-
munities of practice (CoPs)
E-Learning 2.0, Web 2.0 Social • Group projects to co-produce content (e.g.,
Software Applications and the SW: collaborative writing projects for teachers
Leveraging Collective Intelligence and students, group e-portfolios, and group
journals)
This part of the chapter focuses on the way in • Discussion groups
which Web 2.0 and SW social software applica- • Networks for teachers and students
tions can be deployed for delivering e-learning • Personalised learning environments
2.0. In particular, it outlines and demonstrates • Conference participation (e.g. conference
how applications such as blogs/semantic blogs, blogs)
wikis/semantic wikis, social networks/semantic • Constructing a corpus of interrelated knowl-
social networks and virtual worlds/semantic edge via collective posts and comments
virtual worlds can be leveraged for deploying • Syndication technologies (e.g., really
e-learning 2.0. The main focus here is on the simple syndication (RSS) feeds) to enable
educational uses of these applications and on groups of teachers and students to have no-
their ability to harness collective intelligence tifications or alerts regarding new posts
(CI), collective knowledge (CK), the power of • A collaborative reviewing of course con-
the groundswell (PoG), and the collective power tent by both teachers and students (Cobb,
of simulation (CPoS) respectively. In each case, 2008; Franklin & Van Harmelen, 2007).
this section draws on instances documented at and
applicable to given higher education institutions There are several documented instances of
(HEIs) and highlights how the SW can enhance educational blogging pertaining to HEIs. Among
such applications for e-learning 2.0 purposes. these are: University of Warwick; University of
Leeds; University of Brighton; University of Ed-
Blogs and Collective Intelligence inburgh; Bond University; Queensland University
of Technology; Central Queensland University;
Blogs are among the earliest Web 2.0 social soft- University of Melbourne; Harvard University;
ware applications to have been deployed by HEIs University of Arizona; and University of British
for educational uses. In this context, they serve Columbia (Coghlan, Crawford, Little, Lomas,
as a social writing and collaborative participa- Lombardi, Oblinger et al., 2007; Franklin & Van
tion platform. In particular, they are the primary Harmelen, 2007).
Web 2.0 technologies capable of harnessing CI For example, the University of Brighton
for educational purposes in an e-learning 2.0 (United Kingdom) rolled out the Elgg blogging
environment. system in September 2006, integrating it with
its existing institutional systems. Both staff and
Blogs and their Educational Uses students swiftly adopted the system which they
used as an online social and academic community.
Blogs can help synergise participants’ CI in the Currently, Elgg - a multi-purpose application - is
area of e-learning 2.0. Thus, they can serve as a used formally by staff and students within courses
medium for: and modules, thereby enabling them to share in-

41
E-Learning 2.0

formation, reflections and comments across course There are also instances of synergising blogs
boundaries. At the same time, students use the sys- with other Web 2.0 applications such as wikis that
tem for their personal development planning and lead to tapping into the CI of these applications.
for creating their e-portfolios. Some of them even One such instance is an undergraduate course
use the system in tandem with social networking IST301X: The Information Environment offered
applications such as MySpace (Franklin & Van by the State University of New York - University
Hermelen, 2007). In this scenario, Elgg allows at Albany. The course incorporates both blogging
staff and students to constitute themselves into and a wiki - introduced in 2005 and 2007 respec-
communities of practice (CoPs) and communities tively - to encourage student team presentations
of learners (CoLs) capable of leveraging their CI. and collaborative writing. The use of these two
Integrating Elgg and MySpace in this case repre- tools helps foster CoPs among students (Mackey,
sents a peer-to-peer (P2P) harnessing of CI. 2007) and enables the latter to harness the wisdom
In a different but related scenario, Central of the crowd. Another instance is iMechanica
Queensland University (CQU) launched - in hosted at Harvard School of Engineering and
2006 - a blog-based project for its master’s Applied Sciences (since 2006) and powered by
level course - Systems Development Overview. Drupal, an open-source content management
The latter is offered online to more than 1 000 system. The platform allows mechanics academ-
students (many of whom are international) spread ics, practitioners and students to experiment with
across 7 of CQU’s campuses. At the start of the innovative ideas on engineering education, and
project, 278 students - assigned to 14 instructors collaborate and share these ideas among them-
- were asked to set up their blogs on Blogger or selves, and with other interested users globally.
WordPress. Their blogs were then integrated into It leverages three Web 2.0 applications: blogs, a
CQU’s blog aggregation management system. wiki (wikiMechanica) and RSS feeds. The iM-
One of the aims of the blog-based project - rel- echanica project has had institutional collabora-
evant to this chapter - was to give students and tive efforts. In 2007 a fracture mechanics course
instructors authentic experience of using Web was offered to students from Harvard University,
2.0 technologies. The project itself was intended Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the
for online submission, assignment management, University of Nebraska (Li & Suo, 2007). Thus,
plagiarism detection, grading and student records. this platform manages to harness CI at the level
One salient feature of the project is that it en- of users, applications and institutions.
abled both the students and instructors to blend
Web 2.0 applications such as blogs with existing Semantic Blogging
institutional systems (Coghlan et al., 2007). As
such, it introduced all the participants involved Semantic blogging is part of the SW. It builds on
to the practice of harnessing their CI in an e- traditional blogging technology and adds semantic
learning 2.0 context. Likewise, the University structure and metadata to the SW. For example,
of Melbourne trialled CultureBlogging in its it can: use a resource description framework
Cultural Studies Programme in 2007. Equipped (RDF) vocabulary to represent and export blog
with RSS feeds, marking tools and variable metadata; enrich snippet metadata by using pub-
cataloguing functions, among other features, lished vocabularies such as Friend of a Friend;
this platform involved 225 first year students. and integrate data across multiple blog entries.
Preliminary results of this project indicated that Moreover, semantic blogging offers the following
blogging was a valuable teaching and learning benefits for HEIs: rich semantic searches/queries
tool (Farmer, Yue & Brooks, 2008). and retrievals; distributed conceptual blogging

42
E-Learning 2.0

and opinion publishing; semantic navigation and • Query a single specific peer (e.g., their own
annotation; autonomic knowledge management computer), a specific set of peers (e.g., all
and content management; intelligent harvesting, colleagues in an institution), or the whole
aggregation and syndication of data; enhanced data network of peers
sharing; and human-machine synergy (Cayzer, • Search for bibliographic entries using sim-
2004, 2006; Wahlster & Dengel, 2006). ple keyword searches or advanced semantic
Based on the above, semantic blogging of- searches for special publications (together
fers many opportunities for harnessing CI or with their relevant attribute values)
the wisdom of the crowd. That is, it allows new • Integrate query results into a local knowl-
ways of convenient data exchange between users edge base for future use (Haase, Broekstra,
within a blogosphere — blog authors and blog Ehrig, Menken, Mika, Plechawski et
users alike. For instance, semantic blog users at al., 2004; Shakya, Takeda, Ohmukai &
HEIs can mount semantic queries/searches and Wuwongse, 2006).
retrievals to access and leverage their respective
communities’ CI. Alternatively, they can mount The latter is a decentralised platform for
semantic navigation and annotation so as to find sharing bibliographic information often used in
blog items of interest or blogs bearing semantic conjunction with BuRST (Bibliography Manage-
similarity (Metz, 2007). They can do so in order to ment using RSS Technology). It has the following
facilitate collaboration, research and development, affordances:
and innovation adoption or service promotion.
One semantic blogging application offering value • Decentralised information sharing (it is ful-
to users is semiBlog. This application leverages, ly decentralised and supports both the pub-
references and annotates users’ blog posts (e.g., lishing and aggregation of information)
address book entries, events, publications and • Social network based aggregation (bib-
music files) stored on their personal desktops. liographic metadata is aggregated from the
The value-added benefits offered by this appli- social network neighborhood of bloggers
cation include the following: reuse of data (once and posts by co-authors of publications are
a user has entered metadata into their desktop also listed)
applications, there is no need to re-enter it when • Interoperability (bibliographic information
annotating a blog post); reuse of functionality feeds can be aggregated from different sys-
(external applications such as electronic address tems, metadata from different systems can
books and calendars integrate well with semiBlog); be quoted in blog entries, and comments
and always up-to-date affordance (semiBlog links can be posted on the publications)
to desktop objects instead of duplicating them - • Integration and filtering (information from
this means that, when a user updates data in an different sources can be integrated using a
external application, this update is automatically common semantic standard, the collection
reflected in their blog) (Möller, 2006). can be filtered by metadata criteria, and
Most importantly, researchers at HEIs can share, results can be redistributed as new feeds)
annotate and aggregate their research publications (Shakya, Takeda, Wuwongse & Ohmukai,
using a decentralised semantic blogging publication 2007).
aggregation system such as Bibster or SocioBiblog.
The former – depicted in Figure 2 - is a peer-to-peer As pointed out earlier, within this educa-
system for exchanging bibliographic data among tional semantic blogosphere, users can engage
researchers. It allows researchers to: in distributed conceptual blogging and opinion

43
E-Learning 2.0

Figure 2. A screenshot of Bibster (Source http://bibster.semanticweb.org/screenshots.htm)

publishing. This twin process involves concept- Wikis and Collective Knowledge
maps constructed collaboratively in different con-
tainers with each participant controlling specific Wikis are convenient Web 2.0 social software
containers for viewing and publishing. It is aided applications for leveraging collective knowledge
by concept browsers. One example of the latter is (CK) for educational purposes in an e-learning
Conzilla, which facilitates an effective collabora- 2.0 environment. Like blogs, they also serve as
tion environment for knowledge management on a social writing and collaborative participation
the SW. Conzilla presents knowledge in terms of platform. Additionally, they too can harness the
specific context-maps. This is a semantic blogging power of multiple users and be used jointly with
tool for representing content in contexts through other Web 2.0 applications such as podcasts, social
concepts. Another aspect of semantic blogging is networks, RSS feeds, etc.
Confolio which is a SW portfolio platform for a
distributed opinion publication network allowing Wikis and their Educational Uses
portfolio owners to publish anything which has a
publicly retrievable Universal Resource Identifier. In the area of e-learning 2.0, wikis can aggregate
Other instances of semantic blogging applications and synergise CK possessed by multiple users.
that help harness CI by educational semantic blog Therefore, among other functions, they:
users are Magpie, Wordpress, SemanticGuide and
SemanticIntegrator (Cuel, Louis, Delteil, Jack, • Facilitate CK from diverse experts and
Leger, Rizzi et al., 2008). contributors
• Enable collaborative management of edu-
cational resources
• Serve as repositories of CK, as a platform

44
E-Learning 2.0

for knowledge management and content Flu Wiki which helps local health officials prepare
management, and as tools for electronic for the flu season (Boulos, Maramba & Wheeler,
portfolios 2006; Mietz, n.d.). Thus, not only are students able
• Foster teamwork, group research projects to form a virtual community of practice but they
and collaborative publication of course re- also manage to tap into the collective knowledge
sources (e.g., syllabi and handouts) of the entire virtual community of practice.
• Enable users (teachers and students) to In a different but related scenario, in 2006 the
co-author, co-edit, co-revise and peer re- University of British Columbia (UBC) created a
view content and co-produce annotated health library wiki to support its health library
bibliography course in the School of Library, Archival and
• Operate as online encyclopaedias and Information Studies. This was established using
dictionaries MediaWiki and the resultant wiki was intended
• Serve as virtual forums for (re-)version- to be a knowledge base for health librarians. The
ing, (re-)writing and (re-)reading content, wiki now boasts about 150 articles and 100 reg-
thereby promoting a beta concept of con- istered users and has had more than 260 000 page
tent creation views. Moreover, UBC has course development
• Promote virtual communities of practice wikis used by collaborating staff, and wikis for
(Cobb, 2008; Franklin & Van Harmelen, teaching writing skills and organising live confer-
2007). ences. Other wiki applications used in medicine
are Ask Dr. Wiki (http://wwww.askdrwiki.com)
There are many and varied documented cases and Ganfyd (http://ganfyd.org) (Barsky & Gius-
of educational wikis related to HEIs. The follow- tini, 2007).
ing are but a handful: University of Vancouver; There are two more noteworthy instances of
University of Arizona; Deakin University; Univer- educational wiki practices leveraging CI and CK.
sity of Leeds; University of Plymouth; University The first is the Engwiki project launched by the
of Zagreb; University of Sydney; University of Faculty of Organization and Informatics at the
British Columbia (UBC); Cambridge University; University of Zagreb (Croatia) in 2006. Two of its
and University of Melbourne. most important goals were: to test the applicabil-
As an illustration, staff at the University of ity of wiki technology in teaching ESP (English
Vancouver incorporate wikis into their e-learning for Special Purposes) and EFL (English as a
system. They use them as: reference tools for Foreign Language) at the university level; and to
courses, database for course outlines, brain- innovatively deploy a wiki by engaging students
storming strategies, and teaching tools; in-class in different types of individual and collabora-
communication tools; collaborative content and tive e-tivities (electronic activities). The project
project management resources; and collaborative yielded, inter alia, the following pedagogical
writing spaces. Moreover, at the University of spin-offs: multiple perspectives were supported
Plymouth, medical and health education students with a diversity of representations of concepts;
use wikis in tandem with blogs and podcasts as and cooperative and collaborative peer-to-peer
part of e-learning 2.0. Some of the functions they (P2P) learning was achieved in order to expose
serve, in this case, are as: tools for creating, shar- students to alternative viewpoints (Kovacic, Bubas
ing, disseminating and sourcing information and & Zlatovic, 2008). The second instance concerns
knowledge; a method for e-collaboration; and a wikiMechanica which is an experimental project
means for facilitating group dialogue. To this ef- for solid mechanics involving six United States
fect, students even create medical wikis such as the (US) universities: Harvard University; University

45
E-Learning 2.0

of Texas at Austin; University of California at • Platypus Wiki: It is one of the older semantic
Berkeley; University of Houston; University of wikis, having originated in late December
Wyoming; and Columbia University. wikiMe- 2003. With its Java-based implementation,
chanica is used in conjunction with the iMechanica this wiki conceptualises pages as resourc-
blogging platform and allows all concerned to es, stores semantic statements in RDF, and
subscribe to RSS feeds (Li & Suo, 2007). These keeps them separate from the main content
are two instances of educational wiki practices of the wiki. It requires users to have techni-
exemplifying the harnessing of CI and CK in the cal knowledge for manipulating it.
higher education (HE) sector. • IkeWiki: This is a complete rewrite of
MediaWiki in Java, with powerful seman-
Semantic Wikis tic features. It is aimed at knowledge engi-
neers and advanced users, and has multiple
Semantic wikis enhance traditional wikis by editing functionalities.
adding to the latter semantic technologies such • KawaWiki: This semantic wiki aims to of-
as RDF, OWL, conceptual graphs, or topic fer a complete formal structure of the data
maps. One of the main purposes behind these with proper use of RDF and RDFS (RDF
technologies is to make the inherent structure of Schema). Its architecture is divided into
traditional wikis accessible to machines (agents, three main layers: RDF templates, RDFS
services) beyond mere navigation. In this case, and wiki content.
semantic wikis allow for the encoding of semantic • Makna: This is an extension of the JSPWiki
data - e.g., metadata together with their relations adding semantic functionalities to it. Each
- concerning knowledge described in their pages. of its pages is an ontology-controlled con-
Moreover, they offer semantics-on-demand by cept. It uses the JENA reasoning engine
making semantics accessible to ordinary users in which allows the execution of complex
the same way as ordinary wikis make hypertext queries, and rejects any changes to a page
accessible to users. Classic examples of semantic which are likely to cause inconsistencies to
wikis are Semantic MediaWiki (SMW), Platypus its semantic model.
Wiki, IkeWiki, KawaWiki, Makna, OntoWiki, • OntoWiki: This is a community-editable
Rhizome, WikiSar, AceWiki and SweetWiki. It knowledge base which is more of a col-
is worth commenting briefly about each of these laborative ontology editor than a semantic
semantic wikis: wiki. While it does not have the usual wiki
interface to represent concepts, it however,
• Semantic MediaWiki (SMW): It is the ex- supports various collaborative features and
tension of MediaWiki (the system which allows the installation of plug-ins.
powers Wikipedia), enabling the latter • Rhizome: This semantic wiki uses a set of
to become a semantic wiki. It enhances Rx technologies that provide alternatives
MediaWiki annotations and conceptualises to traditional standards used by wikis and
pages as concepts. Moreover, it places se- the Semantic Web. In it, RDF is used to
mantic markups directly within the text to express the wiki information: its main fo-
ensure that machine-readable data agrees cus is on management of knowledge rather
with the human-readable data. Some of its than on advanced reasoning.
benefits are presenting the semantic anno- • WikiSar: This wiki combines the notions
tations of each page at the bottom, giving a of both a wiki system and the Semantic
summary and an improved browsing. Web while adding features to integrate the

46
E-Learning 2.0

semantic wiki into users’ desktops. It better concepts; OWL Lite level (better formality than
functions as a PIM (Personal Information simple relations with some restrictions similar
Management) system. In this regard, it al- to the functionality offered by OWL Lite); and
lows the wiki to be integrated with users’ OWL DL and OWL Full levels (high formality of
desktops and provides for a link to the lo- a rich ontology which has a functionality similar
cal machine (similar to Google Desktop). to that of OWL DL and OWL Full, allowing for
One of its features is query chaining which more restrictions and expressive relations with
allows one query to be fed to another que- property characteristics such as transitive, func-
ry, thereby facilitating the creation of more tional, disjoint, etc). Figure 3 indicates how the
interesting and useful queries. ten semantic wikis, together with MediaWiki,
• AceWiki: AceWiki is a convergent seman- compare in terms of these two dimensions when
tic wiki which tries to integrate ontology, represented in a graph. For example, wikis such as
rules and query language into one. Its edi- SMW, IkeWiki, WikiSAR and SweetWiki in the
tor allows users to either directly type in middle of the graph, balance out expressivity and
the statements or use a guided form of se- required knowledge. On the one hand, the wikis
lecting from the existing ontology. It con- on the right-hand side of the graph (Platypus Wiki,
ceptualises each wiki page as a concept and Rhizome, and to some degree OntoWiki) - even
produces an OWL output of the underlying though quite expressive - are difficult to use by
ontology. non-expert users, as they require knowledge of
• SweetWiki: It identifies itself as a system SW technologies or elaborate special syntax. On
which uses an ontology for the wiki and the other hand, wikis on the left-hand side of the
not a wiki for the ontology. As a result, it graph (AceWiki and KawaWiki) restrict user input
can describe more than one resource on the and require little user knowledge. However, they
same page. However, it does not version require users with ontology expertise to setup,
knowledge structures alongside the wiki monitor and help grow the wiki.
content. It makes use of two ontologies: To this end, there are many e-learning 2.0
one for the wiki structure and the other for affordances offered by semantic wikis for HEIs.
the content. One of its distinguishing fea- These include:
tures is that many of its concepts are anno-
tated on the same page (Kousetti, Millard • Semantic navigation: relational infor-
& Howard, 2008; Millard, Bailey, Boulain, mation added to the viewed content fa-
Chennupati, Davis, Howard et al., n.d.). cilitates orientation; information about
certain persons could be enriched with
All these types of semantic wikis differ in terms information about user affiliations or con-
of both the knowledge required to use them and nections to other people; and links such
the expressivity they have. The former dimen- as works in or knows would contain this
sion – which refers to how much technical skill information
a user needs to have to use a wiki and its ontol- • Semantic search and querying: semantic
ogy - consists of four categories: everyday user; search means that one cannot only search
power user; professional user; and ontologist (on- for knowledge elements but also for links
tology expert). And the latter dimension – which or combinations of elements; and when
refers to how much expressive the final ontology searching for works in institution a, the
is - comprises four levels of expressivity and system would display all the stakeholders
formalism: simple taxonomy; relations between belonging to that institution

47
E-Learning 2.0

Figure 3. A graph representing the ten semantic wikis and MediaWiki and showing how they compare
in terms of required knowledge and expressivity (Source Kousetti, Millard & Howard, 2008)

• Reasoning support: the ability to em- • Context-aware presentation: since both


ploy reasoning engines to infer additional links and knowledge elements are anno-
knowledge from explicit annotations made tated, semantically related pages embed
by users; and since links relate knowledge the content into a context. This means
elements to each other, additional informa- that content is semantically enriched. For
tion can be deduced (e.g., when it is speci- instance, pages about a city in a certain
fied that a person works in an institution, it country might be enriched with other cities
can be deduced that she/he is an academic, located in that country.
an employee, a manager, or a student) • Semantic Desktop computing (Granitzer,
• Typing and annotating links: knowledge Stocker, Hoefler & Tochtermann, 2008;
elements can be connected through anno- Kiesel & Sauermann, 2005; Schaffert,
tated links that state the type of association Bischof, Bürger, Gruber, Hilzensauer &
existing between the elements - such an- Schaffert, 2006).
notated links could be works in, connecting
persons and institutions The instances cited above indicate that seman-
• Improved user experience through tic wikis have a lot to offer regarding harnessing the
WYSIWYG editing (e.g., IkeWiki and CK and CI - through the human-machine synergy
SweetWiki) - of HE users in an e-learning 2.0 scenario. For
• A standardised Web service interface and example, through a Firefox add-on such as Zotero,
data exchange format for automated clients students and researchers can collect, manage, and
and distributed systems cite research material (especially bibliographic
• Integration with other social software ap- resources). They can even edit the data saved by
plications (e.g., SnipSnap integrates the Zotero and attach additional data such as notes,
wiki and blogging functionalities with se- tags, and related files so as to share them with
mantic features) other users. In addition, they can integrate their

48
E-Learning 2.0

Zotero data with applications like WordPress There are documented cases of semantic wiki
and Microsoft Word. Alternatively, they may practices involving the sourcing of CK and CI in
search and browse the captured data both online varying degrees. One of these cases is the Centre
and offline. Moreover, using a Firefox add-on for Biosecurity and Public Health Informatics
like Piggy Bank - which turns a browser into a Research (University of Texas Health Science
mash-up platform - users can capture metadata Centre at Houston). As an illustration, the Centre
for online resources and mix them together. They has developed SAPPHIRE (Situation Awareness
then can locally store, tag, search and browse their and Preparedness for Public Health Incidents us-
collected data (Dobrzański, 2007; Dobrzański, ing Reasoning Engines) for users. Key benefits
Nagle, Curry, Gzella & Kruk, 2007). of this system for end-users are:
Other SW applications - e.g., Semantic
MediaWiki and Semantic Desktop - also lend • Distributed collaboration and interoper-
themselves well to leveraging the P2P CK and ability (diverse and heterogeneous data
CI for HE semantic wiki users. Semantic Medi- can be integrated, exchanged and utilised
aWiki, for example, enables semantic data to be dynamically and seamlessly P2P)
encoded within wiki pages. The encoded data can • Multidisciplinary reuse of information (us-
be used for semantic searches and aggregating ers can re-purpose the available data in
pages, and exported via RDF. Key benefits for the system to address unprecedented use
end-users are that: they can search for, organise, cases)
browse, evaluate and share the wiki content; and • Human-machine interaction (human users
they can create content faster (Cuel et al., 2008). interact intelligently with systems, allow-
Furthermore, Schaffert et al. (2006) maintain that ing for easier and more effective and intui-
semantic wikis can facilitate cognitive apprentice- tive communication) (Cuel et al., 2008).
ship, cooperative learning, project-based learning,
interdisciplinary and intercultural learning and Social Networking, the Power of the
CoPs (communities of practice). They also argue Groundswell and the Network Effect
that they can serve as e-portfolios.
For its part, a Semantic Desktop is about de- Social networks are virtual or online networks of
ploying SW technologies to desktop computing. It people. Depending on the purposes they serve, they
is a virtual device allowing users to store personal can be classified as follows: leisure-oriented, or
or academic digital information such as messages, entertainment and personal socialising sites (e.g.,
documents and multimedia that can be interpreted MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Mixi, Cyworld,
and accessed as SW resources. It facilitates the Bebo, Orkut, or Windows Live Space); and pro-
integration of various data sources. That is, all fessional networking sites focusing on business
available data sources can be first integrated into networking (e.g., LinkedIn, Ecademy, Xing, or
a Semantic Desktop data integration framework, Visible Path) (Brock, 2007). Within an e-learning
and then be accessed from it by users through 2.0 framework, social networks help educational
semantic wikis. Data sources can be either treated users both harness the power of the groundswell
as virtual RDF graphs or buffered completely in (PoG) - in the form of swarm intelligence - and
RDF databases. In this sense, users can also lever- leverage the network effect. In either case, the
age a Social Semantic Desktop. Thus, a Semantic resultant interactions lead to P2P and people-
Desktop is a truly enlarged supplement to users’ to-people learning networks, opening access to
collective memory (Kiesel & Sauermann, 2005; content, branding, expertise, innovation and global
Wahlster & Dengel, 2006). connections (see Siemens, 2008). Moreover, social

49
E-Learning 2.0

networks enable users to leverage social capital, of Westminster; Keele University; University of
relationship capital and the long tail economics. Bath; Oxford University; University of London;
All of this dovetails with the ethos of the network Montpellier 3 University; William Paterson
economy - the more connections are made, the University; Harvard University; Pennsylvania
more value is added to the network and to the State University; University of Washington; and
other members of the network. Stanford University. In this regard, the University
of Westminster launched a closed social network-
Social Networks and Their ing platform, Connect, in September 2007 for
Educational Uses use by both students and staff. By January 2008
this project had 3 048 registered users. Since
In the arena of e-learning 2.0, social networks its inception the project has integrated Web 2.0
may have diverse uses. For instance, they may features such as personal and community blogs,
serve as a platform for: tagging, personal and community file storage,
private and public communities, social networking
• Establishing professional and private capability and syndication support. Leveraging
contacts this social networking site, both students and staff
• Connectivity and social rapport can create their profiles, form and join discussion
• CoPs, CoLs, and communities of interests groups, upload photographs and documents, send
(CoIs) messages, and publish blogs and presentations
• Learning networks and connections (Oradini & Saunders, 2008). Thus, not only are
• Networked and connected peer learning students and staff able to mix the social with the
• Distributed and socialised learning academic - thereby synergising their collective
• Networking with members and experts social and intellectual capital - but they can also
• Developing collaborative culture harness the PoG and the network effect.
• Announcing commonly shared (online) ac- Similarly, Stanford University’s practice of
tivities (e.g., conferences, webinars, paper/ using Facebook for classroom purposes does not
chapter/book writing, etc) and participat- only enable students to leverage the PoG, but
ing in them also has the element of the viral network effect
• Sharing knowledge, views, or opinions built into it. Here a course, Create Engaging Web
• Increasing brand awareness of HEIs Applications Using Metrics and Learning on Fa-
• Promoting issues of social concern or re- cebook, is offered to computer science students.
lated to institutional social responsibility It is intended to help these students, and others in
• Profiling the institution and enhancing its the business school, to learn how to develop and
institutional image, reputation and identity market user-friendly software using Facebook as
• Marketing, advertising and promoting in- a platform. Students are required to build appli-
stitutional products and services (e.g., pro- cations for Facebook, garner and analyse infor-
gramme, course or module offerings) mation concerning how Facebook users employ
• Recruiting and screening/reviewing potential them. They then have to use detailed numerical
candidates, students, or partners (Marketing measurements to guide software loopings just as
Leadership Council [MLC], 2008). developers do with existing Facebook applica-
tions. Working in groups of three, students first
Some of the documented instances of social develop an application likely to appeal to most
networking practices leveraging the PoG and the Facebook users. Based on this, they develop a
network effect in the HE sector are: University second application, focusing more closely on us-

50
E-Learning 2.0

ing Facebook for educational purposes, such as in a network and a cumulative bandwidth
sharing class notes with each other. In this course of networked participants
students are graded according to the number of • Semantic Grid - networking together large
the active Facebook users they can get to use their communities with decentralised infrastruc-
applications (Eldon, 2007). Herein, lies a recipe tures for data and computation sharing and
for engaging students in collaborative learning enabling users and applications to link and
and grading them by leveraging the PoG and the cooperate with the data available and stored
network economics offered by Facebook. within a grid (like finding videos related to
Another classic instance of an organisation tap- photos of a subject searched for)
ping into the PoG, the network effect, social and • Semantic interoperability across HEIs and
relationship capital, and the long tail economics is academic disciplines
Amazon. Amazon is an online shop selling books • Allowing people and groups to search for
(particularly academic books for HEIs), DVDs and exchange social information (infor-
or software whose content is driven primarily mation describing people, their attributes,
by users. It encourages users to review, rate and their relationships with others, etc) based
recommend books or films sold through its plat- on the FOAF ontology
form. This practice enables potential customers • Enabling people and groups to read, publish
to have a basic idea of the usability, quality and and exchange information and knowledge,
suitability of the products. The site is populated thereby enhancing interoperability, coop-
by user content (product previews, reviews, rat- eration and service-oriented architectures
ings and recommendations) (Tandefelt, 2008). All • Networked Semantic Desktop - enabling
the company does, is provide a social networking people and groups to collaborate directly
platform for its users by harnessing their collective with their peers while extensively reducing
groundswell, network effect, and social capital the time spent filing and filtering informa-
and by applying the long tail approach to selling tion (Decker & Frank, n.d).
its products.
Virtual Worlds and the Collective
Semantic Social Networking Power of Simulation

As far as HEIs are concerned, semantic social Virtual worlds (VWs) are digital simulated en-
networking (SSN) combines the strengths of vironments exhibiting real or imaginary spaces
social computing with SW technologies. SW through the use of 3D (three-dimensional) com-
technologies enable SSN applications to mount puter graphics. They comprise various forms of
concept-based search instead of language-based emerging universes: metaverses; intraverses;
search and navigation (Davis, 2007-2008). On paraverses; MMORPGs (massively multi-player
this score, SSN can help HEIs better leverage the online role-playing games); and MOLES (multiple
PoG, the wisdom of the crowd and the network online learning environments) (Kish, 2007). These
economy through: 3D VWs borrow much from gaming concepts, real
world physics simulators, and existing streaming
• Semantically interlinked online communi- audio/video/data technologies. They do so in order
ties or multiplex social networking to offer opportunities for real time simulation,
• Network computing - distributed comput- experiential learning and collaboration in virtual
ing entailing P2P networks and exploiting spaces that transcend physical and geographical
diverse connectivity between participants barriers. Users or residents of VWs may explore

51
E-Learning 2.0

or inhabit them by assuming digital personalities teaching and learning


called avatars. Depending on the composition of • Educational and learning islands
the VWs or the physics programmed into them, • Academic research and test beds (e.g., de-
users can walk, swim, fly or teleport through sign, computer science, literacy, media, so-
embodied avatars. Typical examples of VWs are: ciology, psychology, education, etc)
Second Life (SL); Active Worlds; Habbo Hotel; • Exhibitions (showcasing what HEIs can
The Sims Online; There; Cybertown; and Disney’s offer prospective students)
Toontown (Hargis, 2008; Jennings & Collins, • Networking, meeting and communicating
2007; Siozos & Palaigeorgiou, 2008). (Bennett & Peachey, 2007; Joly, 2007).
VWs - such as SL - enable residents to meet
other residents, socialise, form social networks, In this context, there are several documented
and participate in individual and group activi- instances of HEIs tapping into the affordances
ties. They also allow residents to create items and the CPoS offered by VWs. Among them are:
and services and trade them with one another. As INSEAD (Institut Européen d’Administration des
such, they attract a lot of users. For example, by Affaires); Ohio University; Stanford University;
mid-May 2007, more than 6.4 million people had Ball State University; Harvard University; Indiana
joined SL and created accounts in it (Joly, 2007). University; University of Florida; Open Univer-
Given this, it follows that VWs are ideal spaces sity; Oxford University; Staffordshire University;
for leveraging the collective power of simulation University of London; and Sheffield University
(CPoS) in e-learning 2.0 scenarios. (Hargis, 2008; Joly, 2007).
Three of the cases cited above, INSEAD, Ohio
Educational Affordances of VWs University (OU) and the Open University, warrant
a closer scrutiny. INSEAD - a leader in graduate
VWs offer many educational affordances. To this business education - has two campuses in France
effect, they operate as ideal platforms for: and Singapore and offers a flexible learning en-
vironment which brings together people, ideas
• Multiple online learning environments and cultures from around the globe. This ethos
(MOLEs) and INSEAD’s institutional commitment to the
• Simulated, scenario-based, experiential entrepreneurial spirit is embodied in its campus
and experimental distance learning in SL. In this regard, INSEAD’s SL campus is an
• Embedding learning in complex, interac- operative virtual campus environment in which
tive 3D environments that allow environ- learning, research and communication occur com-
mental manipulation (e.g., wind, sun, rain, pletely virtually. That is, it maintains its mission,
etc) creates its location, and executes its educational
• Collaborative, networked, immersive, and operations virtually without replicating them in
community-based learning the real life form.
• Blended and convergent learning (e.g., In contrast, OU provides an example of a reflec-
converging and synergising different Web tive virtual campus environment: it reproduces its
2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, so- institutional spirit and its physical campus in the
cial networks, instant messaging (IM), virtual world, and connects the virtual campus to
mashups, etc) for learning purposes the physical real world. It offers a strong liberal
• Promoting role playing and project-based studies education to over 16 000 undergraduate
assessment students and rigorous graduate programmes in its
• Synchronous/ asynchronous in-world major academic divisions. Its SL campus com-

52
E-Learning 2.0

bines the old and new traditions into the virtual marketing, advertising and payment
environment. This virtual campus has Stocker • Enhancing, leveraging and synergising
Centre, Welcome Centre, Art and Music Centre, the rich immersive and experiential affor-
Classroom and Meeting Centre, Learning Centre, dances associated with the 3D Web (e.g.
Student Centre, Featured Game, and a Sandbox MMORPGs, MOLES, MUVEs, etc) that
(Jennings & Collins, 2007). These two cases rep- are impossible to replicate in real life.
resent scenarios where residents or avatars are able • Data interoperability and convergence of
to meet, socialise, learn and form social networks. platforms and applications
All this makes it possible for INSEAD and OU • Intelligent and autonomic queries and
residents to leverage the CPoS and the affordances searches
offered by SL for educational purposes. • Automatic and intelligent collating and
Finally, the Open University deploys the SL harvesting of the data and information
platform as a learning support facility (to sup- from multiple sources
port courses or modules) for its geographically
dispersed students. For example, it has purchased THE OUTLOOK FOR SEMANTIC
several islands in SL dedicated to offering vari- WEB-BASED E-LEARNING 2.0
ous modules or courses and intended for teaching
and learning opportunities within the multi-user Six trends are likely to emerge as some of the
virtual environments (MUVEs). One such island critical drivers determining the future of a SW-
is Cetlment island – shown in Figure 4 - which is based e-learning 2.0. These are: cloud computing;
available for tutors to use on a range of courses Networked Semantic Desktop (NSD) computing;
(e.g., mathematics, science, computing and tech- distributed collective knowledge systems; col-
nology). On Cetlment island learners interact as lective computing; value-added SW navigation;
avatars, using text chat in conjunction with audio, and semantic reality. Cloud computing is likely
animations and gestures. The university also em- to benefit from SW technologies. For instance,
ploys the Sloodle (Second Life Object Oriented P2P grid storage, database and generic comput-
Distributed Learning Environment) mashup for ing capabilities will be semantically enhanced
hybrid learning purposes within the MUVE (Ben- enabling various applications to have more stor-
nett & Peachey, 2007). age or computational power for a better return
on educational investment (Murugesan, 2007).
VWs and the SW Cloud computing will be enriched further by the
personalisation and widgetisation of Web applica-
WVs - for HE purposes - have much to benefit tions and by lightweight computing deriving from
from the SW in many respects. This is particularly lightweight applications.
so concerning their leveraging the CPoS which is Related to cloud computing is NSD computing.
one of their core affordances. Some of the benefits The latter will enable group data (messages, docu-
the SW can add to VWs are: ments, multimedia, artefacts, etc) to be accessed
by users via their Semantic Desktop. NSD will
• Avatar-and multi-user-driven in-world also facilitate collaboration through P2P end-user
learning, meeting, conferencing, work- applications to maintain shared and evolving views
shopping and training spaces (with animat- aggregated from disparate sources. As a collabo-
ed 3D avatars that can talk, e.g., Avatalk) ration user platform, NSD will be peer-based in
for users or residents two senses: socially (by allowing peer review-
• Increased and enhanced virtual 3D trading, ing) and technically (by being deployed through

53
E-Learning 2.0

Figure 4. Cetlment Island (Source Bennett & Peachey, 2007)

P2P technology). It will connect participants to a domains (e.g., ambient intelligence, artificial intel-
global P2P network thereby operating as a truly ligence, embedded systems, distributed systems,
Social Semantic Desktop (Decker & Frank, n.d.; software engineering, social networking, the SW,
Wahlster & Dengel, 2006). Additionally, it will etc) on a large scale (Hauswirth & Decker, 2007).
engender distributed collective intelligence and On the other hand, it refers to the transformation
the wisdom of the crowd (WoC) both in the hu- of the current Web versionings into the ultimate
man and technical senses. SW (ultimate semantic reality). This twin process
A further future critical driver of a SW-based – and the notion of semantic reality - will result in
e-learning 2.0 is value-added SW navigation. Two semantic e-learning 2.0: e-learning 2.0 powered
such instances are value-added search or federated by the SW.
searching and virtual semantic browsing. The
former relates to intelligent searches that yield
more precise and relevant results displayed on CONCLUSION
customised pages. Reportlinker and ZoomInfo
are classic examples of value-added SW search This chapter has made two related arguments:
engines (Murugesan, 2007). The latter has to do that both Web 2.0 and the SW are the key en-
with avatar-based browsing that will allow avatars ablers of e-learning 2.0; and that these two hybrid
and their properties to move between VWs. Tied technologies help leverage collective intelligence
to this trend, is the idea of travatars: avatars that (CI), collective knowledge (CK), the power of the
will travel between disparate VWs. This will add groundswell (PoG), the network effect, and the
to 3D virtual innovating and transform VWs into collective power of simulation (CPoS). To sub-
platforms of choice so HEIs can better leverage stantiate these arguments the chapter has explored
their CPoS for research and academic purposes. two sets of technologies - blogs/semantic blogs,
Lastly is semantic reality. This is, on the one wikis/semantic wikis, social networks/semantic
hand, an all-encompassing semantically driven social networks (SSNs), and VWs/semantic
convergent information space integrating disparate VWs as classic examples of Web 2.0 and the

54
E-Learning 2.0

SW respectively. It has located these two sets of Boulos, M. N. K., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S.
social software technologies within the HE sec- (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: A new genera-
tor drawing on relevant and specific documented tion of web-based tools for virtual collaborative
instances of their actual and potential applications. clinical practice and education. MBC Medical
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Networked Semantic Desktop: This is a is represented and accessed through the syntax of
global desktop network which can connect people an ontology representation language
and communities to directly collaborate with their Paraverses: Also known as mirror worlds,
peers while reducing the amount of time spent paraverses are VWs such as Google Earth that
filing and filtering information. operate beyond metaverses
Ontologies (Ontology): Ontologies consist of Second Life (SL): SL is a synthetic 3D online
a set of knowledge terms, including the vocabulary, world (simulation) where users or their avatars can
the semantic interconnections and some simple virtually walk, fly, swim, teleport, etc
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reference-knowledge, stored somewhere on the data like messages, documents, multimedia, etc. It
Web (for agents to consult it when necessary) and is an instance of desktop and cloud computing

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61

Chapter 4
The Key Elements of Online
Learning Communities
Jianxia Du
Mississippi State University, USA

Yunyan Liu
Southwest University, China

Robert L. Brown
Mississippi State University, USA

ABSTRACT
An online learning community can be a place for vibrant discussions and the sharing of new ideas in a
medium where content constantly changes. This chapter will first examine the different definitions that
researchers have provided for online learning communities. It will then illuminate several key elements
that are integral to online learning communities: interactivity, in both its task-driven and socio-emotional
forms; collaboration, which both builds and nurtures online communities; trusting relationships, which
are developed primarily through social interaction and consist of shared goals and a sense of belonging
or connectedness; and communication media choices, which impact the other three elements. This chapter
also provides suggestions for the practical application of these elements in the online classroom.

INTRODUCTION education students may be one of the contributors


to high dropout rates in distance education. Hill,
Since the turn of the century, the subject of the Raven, and Han (2002) imply that the existence of
online learning community (OLC) has become a community may actually decrease dropout rates by
hot topic in the field of learning research. The most increasing a student’s sense of belonging. Com-
influential and developmental points and contribu- munity may, therefore, directly impact a student’s
tions are overviewed as follows. successful completion of coursework (Brown,
Why has the OLC become more and more attrac- 2001). An OLC can maintain many of the supportive
tive to policy makers and researchers? Rovai (2002) attributes of traditional instruction at a distance.
suggests that the physical separation of distance Collaboration in an OLC can provide deeper un-
derstanding of content, increased overall achieve-
ment, improved self-esteem, and higher motivation
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch004

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

to remain on task (Looi & Ang, 2000). For their interactivity, collaboration, trusting relationships
flexibility and convenience, online courses appeal (shared goals and belonging), and communica-
to both traditional and nontraditional students. tion media in the online learning community are
However, many students are wary or skeptical discussed in detail.
of online courses due to factors such as isolation
and lack of immediate attention. Technology in
an online course is another reason community is DEFINING THE ONLINE
important. Technology can cause opportunity for LEARNING COMMUNITY
areas of new learning (Powers & Mitchell, 1997),
and community can develop around the solving The term community is used very broadly and
of problems or the seeking of other solutions. partly also with more or less different meanings.
Additionally, quality is a concern for distance The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines
educators, and some argue that online courses do community as “a unified body of individuals”
not offer the personal connections available in the (Merriam-Webster, 2004). However, Bellah, Mad-
regular classroom (Lowell & Persichitte, 2000). sen, Sullivan, Swidler, and Tipton (1985) define
Enhanced community can provide that connection community specifically as “a group of people who
and interaction that inevitably increases quality. are socially interdependent, who participate to-
Essentially, the majority of the literature in the gether in discussion and decision making, and who
field of distance education provides support for share certain practices that both define the com-
the idea that an increased sense of community munity and are nurtured by it” (p.4). Conversely,
will enable meaningful learning. McMillan and Chavis (1986) offer this description
Educational institutions of varying levels have of community: “a feeling that members have of
undergone rapid and massive transitions in the area belonging, a feeling that members matter to one
of distance learning (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). What another and to the group, and a shared faith that
began as a response to the needs of non-traditional members’ needs will be met through their com-
(as well as traditional) students has proven to be mitment to be together” (p. 9). Still other aspects
an extremely desirable alternative to the regular of community are addressed by Westheimer and
classroom for students and an exceptionally Kahne’s (1993) explanation, which describes com-
lucrative business venture for academic institu- munity as “a process marked by interaction and
tions (Palloff and Pratt, 1999). As the number of deliberation among individuals who share inter-
students and instructors involved with this method ests and commitment to common goals” (p.325).
of teaching and learning increase, the number of Tu and Corry (2002) address the academic and
online communities to support such learning will social-learning component of communities and
experience dramatic growth. Therefore, it is cru- define a learning community as “a common place
cial that both the online instructor and the online where people learn using group activity to define
student are aware of the characteristics associated problems affecting them, to decide upon solutions,
with an OLC. The encouragement (or requirement) and to act together to achieve these solutions” (p.
of interaction among the participants in an online 207). However, when examining online learning
community is based upon many of the tenets as- communities additional criteria must be consid-
sociated with the theory of Constructivism. ered. Fernback (1997) describes community as “a
This chapter reviews definitions for OLC and term which seems readily definable to the general
looks closely at the literature associated with public but is infinitely complex and amorphous
several key elements that comprise the OLC as in academic discourse” (p. 35). This explanation
recognized by the authors. Key elements such as seems especially accurate when referring to the

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The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

online learning community because of the many an overwhelming number of interpretations for
purposes for which these communities exist, the interactivity. This review encompasses a variety
variance in the ages of the participants, and the of research including definitions of interactivity,
frequency and type of communication that exists and methods for promoting interactivity for the
within these communities. Stepich and Ertmer purpose of establishing a sense of community
(2003) consider the development of a support- among online learners.
ive learning community crucial to the learning
process in an online environment (p.35). Palloff Interactivity Defined
and Pratt (1999) also report the critical nature of
the online learning community and describe it Interactivity is defined numerous ways by many
as “one vehicle through which learning occurs different researchers. As noted by Berge (2002),
online” (p. 29). Essentially, the authors maintain “Interaction is two-way communication among
that the absence of an authentic community of two or more persons with the purposes of com-
learners will result in the absence of an online pleting the learning goals (tasks) and building the
course (Palloff & Pratt, p. 29). necessary social relationships” (p. 183). Berge’s
For this literature review, an online learning comments regarding student-to-content interac-
community is defined as a group of diverse in- tion give way to the idea that through “engagement,
dividuals united by communication media who reflection, or study by the student [aids] in the
develop a sense of trust and connectedness through self-construction of competency of the learning
online interaction and collaboration. goals” (Berge, 2002, p. 183). He later presents the
notion that learners can mold and cultivate future
interaction through the process of “reflection on
ELEMENTS OF ONLINE learning,” a process in which students review in-
LEARNING COMMUNITIES teractions from a social stand-point (Berge, 2002).
Bills defines interactivity as “...an instructional
Compared to other learning communities, the strategy that provides the student the means of
OLC has some special characteristics in terms of being actively involved in the learning activity”
interactivity, collaboration, trusting relationships, (Bills, 1997, p. 4). Vrasidas & McIsaac (1999)
and communication media. cite their interpretation of interactivity as the
“reciprocal actions of two or more actors within
Interactivity a given context” (p. 25).
Through research on interactivity, Bannan-
Several factors play a role in the development and Ritland provides an “explanatory synthesis of the
duration of online learning communities. Possi- literature related to the construct of interactivity”
bly the most notable factor is that of interaction in the hope of promoting the use of a universal
or interactivity. Interactivity is widely accepted definition with regard to interactivity and distance
as a vital element needed to foster a sense of education. Bannan-Ritland’s review revealed
community in an online learning environment characteristics common among interactivity.
(Bannan-Ritland, 2002). The idea that interactivity “Interaction can be viewed as a function of; (a)
is key to creating a sense of community among learners’ participation or active involvement, (b)
online learners, begs the question what exactly is specific patterns and amounts of communication,
interactivity, and how can instructors secure its (c) instructor activities and feedback, (d) social
role in the development and duration of an online exchange or collaboration, or (e) instructional
learning community? Research has provided activities and affordances of the technology”

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The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

(Bannan-Ritland, 2002, p.167). Rovai (2002) essential to promoting and creating interactivity
notes that Du & Sun, 2007) provide two categories in an online learning community.
of interaction, “task-driven,” which is “directed When considering interactivity incorporation
toward the completion of assigned tasks” and methods in an online learning environment, small
“socio-emotional” which is purely focused on group activities and group facilitation should be
“relationships among learners” (p. 5). For the addressed (Rovai, 2002). Rovai (2002) suggests
purpose of this review the focus will be on the dividing students into small groups, in order to
socio-emotional interaction interpretation of provide an individual aspect to the course. Within
interactivity. Referring to the definition of com- each group, meaningful discussions and collabora-
munity stated previously in this review, it should tive learning can take place without learners feel-
be noted that at the heart of a learning community ing as if they are getting lost in the crowd (Rovai,
is the social aspect which bonds learners together. 2002). Rovai also emphasizes the importance of
Socio-emotional interactions are almost entirely group facilitation through channels like dialogue.
“self-generated” (Rovai, 2002). It is this “self- He states “dialogue is an essential component
generated” interaction that promotes relationships of an online course and facilitation efforts are
among learners. Cutler notes the impact self- meant to inspire learners to interact” (Rovai,
disclosure has on relationships and community 2002, p. 9). By facilitating an online discussion
formation stating “the more one discloses personal or chat, instructors can pique students’ interest
information, the more others will reciprocate, and in particular topics and in turn spark interaction
the more individuals know about each other, the among learners. Stepich and Ertmer also provide
more likely they are to establish trust, seek support, suggestions for fostering a sense of community
and thus find satisfaction” (Cutler, 1995, p.17). through interactivity in online learning environ-
Therefore, it can be inferred that as self-disclosure ments. Like Rovai, Stepich and Ertmer suggest
occurs among online learners the more likely it is the addition of “collaborative group activities that
that there will be a strong formation of an online give students an active voice in the development
community (Rovai, 2002). and definition of the community” (Stepich &
Ertmer, 2003, p.41). Another recommendation
Promoting Interactivity by Stepich and Ertmer is to monitor participation.
Monitoring participation and providing individual
The research examined for this review reinforces feedback can give learners a feeling of belonging.
the belief that interactivity helps foster a sense Through feedback instructors can add a sense of
of community. Acceptance of the idea that value to student participation. Feedback can also
interactivity intensifies and aids the creation illustrate the positive impact student participation
of online learning communities leads to the can have on the entire class (Stepich & Ertmer,
examination of criteria for promoting a sense 2003). Not only is participation important in an
of community among online learners (Rovai, online learning environment, but introductory
2001). Many different aspects of interaction activities carry weight as well. Ciardulli highlights
have been researched such as learner-learner, the importance of using an “ice breaker” in a dis-
learner-instructor, and learner-content (Hirumi, tance learning environment. Icebreakers can be
2002, Du, Durrington, & Mathews, 2007). None- used as a tool to introduce the instructor as well
theless, there has been little research concerning as the students. This also sustains and familiar-
the practical applications of interactivity. The izes students with the online learning community.
following section seeks to organize various Ciardulli provides three reasons in support of the
works of research highlighting elements that are use of icebreakers. First, icebreakers enable every

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The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

student to become acquainted with one another. with “Learner-Self Interactions”, interactions that
Secondly, these activities present an opportunity transpire within each learner (p.143). “Level II
for students to become familiar with how chats interactions occur between the learner and hu-
or discussions work in an online environment. man and non-human resources” (Hirumi, 2002,
Lastly, implementing exercises such as these p.143). Level II includes the following sublevels
enable students to feel relaxed in a new setting of interaction: learner-learner, learner-other
(Ciardulli, 1998). Including icebreakers at the human, learner-interface, learner content, and
beginning of an online course can help to lay the learner-environment. Level III involves “Learner-
groundwork for future interactivity as well as a Instruction interactions” (Hirumi, 2002, p.143).
sense of community. Hirumi provides three applications designed to
One common form of icebreaker is the student bring life to his proposed framework. Perhaps
introduction, wherein each student composes the single application instructors will find most
a post that introduces that student to the other useful is “Designing and Sequencing eLearning
students. While this type of icebreaker allows the Interactions” (Hirumi, 2002, p.148). Hirumi
students in the OLC to become acquainted with (2002) supplies a six step process for “Designing
each other, it doesn’t allow for much interaction and Sequencing eLearning Interactions” the six
between participants. Once read, the introduc- steps are as follows:
tions often go ignored, with few or no follow-up
remarks from other students. One alternative to the 1. Identify essential experiences that are neces-
student introduction is for the instructor to create sary for learner to achieve specified goals
a short questionnaire directed to all students in the and objectives (optional);
OLC. Since the primary goals of the icebreaker 2. Select a grounded instructional strategy
are to allow the students to both get to know each (Level III interaction) based on specified
other and how discussions work, the items on the objectives, learner characteristics, context
questionnaire should highlight student interests. and epistemological beliefs;
Some possible questions that can be included 3. Operationalize each event, embedding ex-
are “What is your favorite television show?” and periences identified in Step 1 and describing
“What song gets the most play on your iPod?”. how the selected strategy will be applied
Student and instructor responses to the question- during instruction;
naire should either be posted to a central location 4. Define the type of Level II interaction(s)
in the online environment to which all members that will be used to facilitate each event and
of the OLC have access, or the responses can be analyze the quantity and quality of planned
emailed to all the members of the OLC. After interactions;
the completed questionnaires have been posted, 5. Select the telecommunication tool(s) (e.g.
replies to students regarding their answers to chat, email, bulletin board system) that will
specific items should be encouraged among the be used to facilitate each event based on the
entire OLC membership. nature of the interaction
Perhaps the most encompassing guide to in- 6. Analyze materials to determine frequency
corporating interactivity into an online learning and quality of planned eLearning interactions
environment is that of Hirumi (2002). Hirumi and revise as necessary (p. 151).
sets forth a proposed framework which consists
of three interrelated levels of interaction, and is Hirumi’s proposed framework along with the
followed by six steps for “designing and sequenc- six steps for “Designing and Sequencing eLearn-
ing eLearning interactions” (p.148). Level I deals ing Interactions” account for numerous levels of

65
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

interaction (p.148). The four authors mentioned ate and facilitate successful communication and
above (Stepich & Ertmer, Ciardulli, and Hirumi) collaboration between members of the learning
all provide original approaches for promoting community.
interactivity, but it should be noted that each of The literature supports that discussion en-
these three approaches overlaps another at least vironments produce richness in collaboration,
once. While this review of literature regarding communication, and practical application. The
interactivity is not exhaustive, it may prove useful substance and meaning of online activities is
to instructors who wish to enhance the sense of determined by the specific individuals who work
community in online learning environments. together online. One of the tools that Wang, Poole,
Harris, and Wangemann (2001) used to collabo-
Collaboration rate in problem-based learning was 27 teenagers
in the Expeditions project on the Internet. The
Another element of the Online Learning Com- participants were children of Motorola employees
munity is collaborative or cooperative learning. who volunteered to participate in the project. This
Collaborate means “to work together, especially study revealed the value of collaborative problem
in a joint intellectual effort” (American Heritage solving in an online environment. The study further
Dictionary of the English Language, 1992). described that the participants grew significantly
“Collaborative and cooperative” mean working in their confidence in collaborating online and
together jointly, intellectually, and socially to reach competence in using the online communication
a common goal. Harasim, Calvert, and Groeneboer tools in problem solving (Wang et al., 2001).
(1997) provide a simple definition of collabora- Collaborative learning encourages the com-
tive or group learning that refers to instructional munity to develop by becoming more active and
methods whereby students are encouraged or constructive in helping each other (Dolezalek,
required to work together on academic tasks. Note 2003), thus taking ownership of learning and
that in this section the words “collaborate” and improving their skills. Individuals united in the
“cooperate” will be used interchangeably. Internet virtual classroom are bound together by
In this section, collaboration is defined within shared interests and background, and therefore,
an online learning community as a collaborative seek new areas of growth in this collaborative
group of people who have a common goal and environment (Powers & Mitchell, 1997).
desire to pursue and achieve that goal. These Learning may best be achieved through the
online learners could be students, educators, or social constructions of knowledge in a commu-
any other individual in the community. Fisher & nity where teachers and students are members
Coleman call this complex mixture “the com- of both the learning community and are agents
munity of practicing within the group” (Fisher of the learning environment (Fisher & Coleman,
& Coleman, 2001). It is considered a foundation 2001). Online collaboration seems to encour-
to the successful learning community. age the participants’ creativity and spontaneity
Studies reveal how collaborative learning in in generating ideas (Wang et al., 2001). People
the online environment provide success in the come together to construct knowledge and
classroom or workplace. A useful strategy for negotiate meaning that is consistent with the
learning communities in the virtual environment goals of the learning community (Looi & Ang,
is a real-time dialogue or discussion (Fisher & 2000). Fisher and Coleman (2001) conducted
Coleman, 2001; Du, Durrington, & Mathews, a study of the structure and interactive design
2007). These authors believe that method of of learning communities in virtual discussions.
dialogue strategy can enable instructors to initi- When interaction among community members is

66
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

encouraged, collaboration and mutual account- Literature also shows that collaborative online
ability will increase (Fisher & Coleman, 200; learning is successful because people with the
Du, Durrington, & Olinzock, 2006). same goals benefit from each other rather than
Literature suggests that cooperative and col- from competition with each other. Yu (2001) did
laborative learning brings positive results. Looi & a study on the effects and implications of embed-
Ang (2000) did a pilot study focusing on the col- ding the elements of inter-group competition and
laboration of a small group of students in Singapore non-inter-group competition with an online envi-
and Hong Kong secondary school using a multi- ronment. His findings yielded that collaboration
User Dimensions (MUD) and Object Oriented without competition engendered better attitudes
(MOO or WOO) called SpaceALIVE! Students with students.
from different schools formed a science project
and published the findings as a virtual science Trusting Relationship
exhibit. This finding evidenced that collaboration
online was successful in meeting student needs. This element is intrinsic including shared goals, a
The research also shows that using the collabora- feeling of a sense of belonging or connectedness
tive tool ScienceALIVE! facilitated cooperation within the community, or just the general feeling
among students. ScienceALIVE! tools supported of a sense of community among fellow learners.
student’s collaborative work by allowing them to The literature suggests that this element is pres-
share and compare their experiments. With proper ent within communities in differing degrees and
facilitation, students in online communities, can is needed for a successful community of online
have collaborative discussions, solve problems, learners (Wang, Sierra, & Folger, 2003).
and meet the needs the community. Another
study by Riel & Fulton (2001), examined how The Importance of Trust Building
technology can support learning communities.
This report asserts that when students are given Aubert & Kelsey (2003) define trust as “the will-
the necessary resources, they can engage in work ingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions
that has personal and community value. of another party based on the expectation that the
Another study conveyed that using collabora- other will perform a particular action important
tion in an online environment created international to the trustor, irrespective of the ability or control
coalitions of faculty and students, which pro- that other party.” (p. 98). Trust must be the basic
duced communities of learners across boundaries foundation for interaction and the relationship
(McIsaac, 2002). In addition, the study revealed formed among an online collaborative team.
that benefits of online collaboration have gradually Stanley (2005) states, “Trusting relationships
developed an individual voice in the establishment stimulate innovative thinking and lead to orga-
of an academic community. nizational improvements.” Boehlje (1995) states,
Collaborative learning nurtures the community. “Shared decision-making must be established as
Romanoff (2003) examined a case study on how an evolutionary approach that fosters trust and
technology-based distance learning can foster a confidence among all participants.”
broader sense of community by using Multi Object Aubert & Kelsey provide three antecedent
Oriented Collaboratory Walden3 (MOO). What conditions that are important in building trust.
began as conversation in cyberspace between two The antecedent conditions are “the trustee’s per-
teacher-administrators grew into a learning com- ceived ability, benevolence and integrity.” As time
munity that considered their distance collaborators progresses and group members work together, the
as colleagues. dynamics of the group evolve. Team members

67
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

must “deal with project task allocation, decision of online communities is based largely on trust”
making, conflict, team maintenance tasks (e.g. (p. 175). He believes that students need a safe
esprit de corps, cohesion)-all of which can have environment where they are free to make mistakes
a positive or negative effect on trust.” Being able and learn from them without feeling intimidated.
to effectively deal with these factors will help to Haythornthwaite, Kazmer, Robins, & Shoemaker
foster a productive working environment for the (2000) concurred as one of their subjects com-
entire group (Aubert & Kelsey, 2003). Du, Zhang, mented that their online learning community
Olinzock, & Adams (2008) emphasize that trust is was a safe environment to say something, where
essential for online groups because of the lack of no one would ridicule. Further interviews with
everyday interaction. They highlight the difficul- students revealed students’ “balanced reciprocity”
ties in developing trust without having everyday, (p. 7) of sharing ideas, providing moral support,
face-to-face interaction. and giving friendship throughout the course stud-
Rovai called “Spirit” the “feelings of friend- ied. The researchers state that this demonstrates
ship, cohesion, and bonding that develop among the “trust present in communal relations” and
learners as they enjoy one another and look forward that trust is a “key attribute of community” (p.
to time spent together” (2002, p.4). The notion that 7). Powers and Mitchell (1997) collected data
social discussions strengthen the development of from a graduate course which revealed “a true
community among learners is also supported by community of learners who were committed to
the literature (Maor, 2003). providing encouragement and support to each
Community learning is a social process and other throughout the course” (p. 10). Because of
in order to create familiarity and trust the social the perceived anonymity of electronic commu-
dimension has to be emphasized (Tu & Corry, nication, students felt safe and were comfortable
2002). Maor’s (2003) study shows that students sharing information with their peers.
posted messages that were a “blend” of the Brown’s (2001) three levels of community
academic and the social and indicates that this mentioned previously included “camaraderie” as
facilitated the formation of an online community the last level. Brown considered this the highest
of learners. Wang, et al. (2003) went so far as to level of community “generally” achieved after
suggest that the “social network is the founda- long-term and/or intense association with others
tion for trust building among team members” (p. and was “primarily found among students who had
57). There appears to be no doubt that the social taken multiple classes together, e-mailed outside
aspect of online learning is almost always present the class forum, spoken on the telephone, or even
and is important if an instructor wants to build met face-to-face” (p. 13). This camaraderie was
community. developed as they worked together for a common
Is trust just an insignificant “extra” that occurs goal and could not have formed without an ele-
within some communities? Preece (2000) states if ment of trust. This camaraderie among learners
“there is trust among people, relationships flour- occurred virtually unnoticed (Brown, 2001).
ish; without it, they wither” (p. 191). She also
indicates that with most interactions among people Shared Goals
or organizations there is some level of trust. Trust
serves to channel the energy of the group to help A goal is something that an individual or indi-
community members reach goals and also moti- viduals strive to accomplish. In online learning
vates “group processes and performance” (Wang communities common or shared goals are pres-
et al., 2003, p. 57). Poole (2000) puts much on the ent. Learning communities provide a means for
shoulders of trust by saying that the “development obtaining knowledge within an environment of

68
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

shared goals, and respect for diversity (Jonassen, is typically from email, chats, discussion boards,
Peck, & Wilson, 1998). Learning communities and telephone conversations. According to Tu and
are unified by a common cause of mutual support Corry (2002), “The community of collaborative
and learning, and by shared values and experi- learning, the grouping and pairing of learners for
ences (Lock, 2002). These goals are typically the the purpose of achieving an academic goal has been
desire to obtain more knowledge of the subject widely examined and is advocated throughout the
content, obtain academic success, and meet course professional literature” (p. 213).
requirements. Individuals in online learning com-
munities often have common goals. Individuals Sense of Belonging or Connectedness
strive toward a shared goal that carries a mutual
investment (Misanchuk & Anderson, 2000). This The literature reveals that it is not the quantity of
mutual investment often includes time, finances, student postings, e-mail, or other interactions that
and other personal contributions. leads to a sense of connection, but rather the quality
To sustain an online learning community, the of those interactions (Lock, 2002). Students who
vision, goals, and interests of the community must spend time reading each other’s in-depth postings
be articulated and accepted by the members (Lock, or e-mail and responding in kind are interact-
2002). Students are likely to buy-in to the goals ing at a deeper level and will form that sense of
and visions, if they have input. Bonding among connection, thus building community (Lowell &
students can be facilitated by common interests, Persichitte, 2000). Interviews with 17 students
vision, and goals (Preece, 2003). Students in on- over a year period revealed that a sense of isolation
line learning communities can be united through was overcome by exchanges with other students
building trust, understanding, and reciprocity. (Haythornthwaite et al., 2000). Students felt that
Instructors play an active role in creating an online their classmates experienced the same challenges
learning environment that is conducive to learn- and obstacles and had similar questions. Speak-
ing and student academic growth. The instructor ing from personal experience, Conceicao (2002)
should assign group projects and other activities said, “I felt I had a voice that was recognized and
that require combined efforts to accomplish given validated when others made comments reflecting
tasks. Common goals are present in a learning on my postings” (p. 43). Common sense dictates
community, and completing an instructional task that participation is paramount for feeling a sense
is considered a mutual goal (Moller, 1998). Ac- of belonging in the online learning community.
cording to Moller, in the design stage students As previously mentioned, communication is
are encouraged to work collaboratively toward a crucial in an online learning community (Lock,
shared goal. These collaborative activities should 2002). Students must maintain ongoing bi-direc-
be intertwined in order for members to find mu- tional communication with peers, and the vast
tual interests. Collaborative activities encourage amount of technology now available allows stu-
interdependence, networking, and ongoing com- dents to communicate through a variety of means.
munication among individuals to accomplish Communication between students facilitates the
a task. Brown (2001) identified three levels of formation of relationships and commonalities, thus
community: making friends on-line, community “without effective communication, it is not pos-
conferment, and camaraderie. Making friends or sible to generate interaction, engagement, or align-
acquaintances is necessary for collaborative efforts ment” (Lock, 2002, p. 397). Given the establish-
on group projects or assignments. Brown feels ment of relationships, intimacy, and trust through
that camaraderie is accomplished after long-term effective pedagogical strategies, technology can
involvement with classmates. This involvement be used to create an environment where people

69
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

can engage in learning experiences that foster the Lengel, 1984). Richer medium facilitates more
development of community (Lock, 2002, p. 401). accurate and meaningful transmission and ex-
To foster an environment of trust, friendship, and change of ideas. However, tasks of different types
respect, communication barriers associated with and complexity have different requirements for
the academic, social, and technological elements information richness in order to achieve maximal
need to be eliminated (Lock, 2002, p. 401). Some group performance. Some tasks require more infor-
of the barriers to communication are infrequency mation and richer medium than others for the best
of communication due to technological resources, team performance. Social presence theory (Short,
response time for feedback, and lack of response Williams, & Christie, 1976) measures media in
to email or postings. Online instructors and/or terms of the degree to which they are perceived to
mediators can help ensure better response rates convey the presence of an individual. The quan-
to postings by OLC members by designing open- tity of social presence is how much one believes
ended questions that emphasize student opinions another party is present. In communication, the
and beliefs concerning the material being taught, psychological distance among communicating
rather than asking for the direct repetition of in- parties is referred to as immediacy (Wiener &
structional material. Mehrabian, 1968). Thus there are two forms of
immediacy: technological immediacy, and social
Communication Media Choices immediacy. Technological immediacy is inherent
and Media Behaviors while social immediacy can be changed (Heilbronn
& Libby, 1973). Heilbronn and Libby (1973) write
Another important element of the online learning the maximum amount of exchanged information
community is communication media choices and ensures technological immediacy, and social im-
media behaviors. As online collaboration and in- mediacy is conveyed through communications
teractivity proceeds, learners face many challenges with verbal or non-verbal cues. Walther (1996,
due to the lack of face-to-face communications. 1997) suggests that information and communica-
The fading or blurry physical, temporal and psy- tions technology (ICT) is also able to convey social
chological boundaries make it difficult for online information, just as face-to-face communications,
learning. Appropriate selection and utilization but with lower transfer rate. Walther (1995, 1996,
of communication media may help learners bet- 1997) has also found that ICT mediated groups
ter overcome some of the difficulties. It is very have greater social discussion, depth, and intimacy
important, yet challenging to select and utilize than in face-to-face groups.
appropriate media for collaborative, interactive In a review of social presence theory and studies
learning and team development. Thus media on ICT-mediated communication, Gunawardena
research provides another lens to look into the (1995) concludes that immediacy enhances social
dynamics of online learning community. presence, which in turn enhances interactions.
Media richness and social presence theories As related to online collaborative learning, it
are well-accepted rational theories that explain indicates that online teams, with assistance from
media choices and media behaviors. Media rich- the instructor or an external moderator, should
ness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1984) measures the promote the use of media that better convey the
richness of media in terms of the capacity for im- notion of social presence in order to increase in-
mediate feedback, multiple cues, natural language teractions among the members. As an example,
and personal focus on voice tone and inflection. the authors have noted that Facebook, an online
Media have varied capacities to reduce ambiguity social networking site, is one of the media appli-
and thus facilitate mutual understanding (Daft & cations that online group members often use to

70
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

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Section 2
E-Learners
76

Chapter 5
Generational Learners &
E-Learning Technologies
Ke Zhang
Wayne State University, USA

Curtis J. Bonk
Indiana University, USA

ABSTRACT
This chapter reviews the characteristics of learners of different generations. In particular, it compares
their differences in terms of learning preferences as well as their typical skills and attitudes towards
technology in e-learning. In addition, it discusses the impacts of these shared and varied learner char-
acteristics on e-learning and provides suggestions and recommendations on how to address generational
learning diversity in e-learning design and delivery. In responding to the emerging learning technolo-
gies, this chapter specifically analyzes generational learners’ preferences and characteristics regarding
learning technologies, and the practical implications for designers and educators working on e-learning
for highly diversified audiences representing various generations.

INTRODUCTION preferences, and social and political inclinations. Of


course, they also differ in terms of gender, ethnicity,
The frenzied pace in which e-learning courses and nationality, and personality traits. While such dif-
programs have increased in K-12 and higher edu- ferences were also true in traditional, face-to-face
cation settings as well as in training environments settings, they are perhaps more noticeable when
has attracted a seemingly endless stream of enroll- teaching online; especially the age differences in
ments from a huge, diverse population of younger higher education settings. It is quite evident from
as well as more mature learners into the e-learning the enrollment rosters that the learner base in higher
phenomenon. In many e-learning events today, it is education is no longer the highly homogenous
common to see a wide range of diversity among the 18-24-year-olds. Unfortunately, however, e-learning
participants, such as, background, lifestyle, learning designers and educators have yet to respond pro-
actively to the changing learner demographics and
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch005 their rapidly increasing diversity.

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies

In addition to the differences in students’ man’s (2005) highly popular book, “The World
preferred learning styles (e.g., Bonk & Zhang, is Flat. With more than half of the population in
2006, 2008; Santo, 2006; Zhang & Bonk, 2008), India being under age 25, the Zippies are certainly
generational differences in the workplace as well a huge cohort group that deserve close attention
as in education are increasingly apparent and are in India, as well as in countries or regions with
receiving increasing attention from researchers, similar populations. The Zippie phenomenon in
educators, and managers (e.g., Appel, 2003; India (McKay, 2004), however, is more than a
Dede, 2005; Dieterle, Dede, & Schrier, 2007; local occurrence, as it reflects to a certain de-
Kruse, 2004; Lippincott, 2006; Reins, 2002). gree the global trends regarding technology and
Focusing on e-learning in particular, this chapter mobility. In addition, with the ease of travel and
reviews prevailing generational differences with immigration, such groups can be found anywhere
a special focus on their lifestyles and technology globally, thereby impacting the design and delivery
preferences. Such distinctiveness in how differ- of e-learning throughout the world.
ent generations of learners were taught or tend to Instead of only impacting younger audiences,
learn, creates unique opportunities for the online this flatter world, now filled with myriad Web
trainer or instructor while simultaneously adding 2.0 technologies, has been drastically altering the
to the overall complexity of the encounter. means for learning, sharing, and communicating
across generations. Not too surprisingly, even the
baby boomers have their own social networking
GENERATIONAL LIFESTYLES site, the Zoomers (http://network.zoomers.ca/).
One such zoomer, Moses Znaimer, a media in-
With the increasing diversity apparent among novator and broadcasting visionary in Canada,
online learners, it is crucial to understand their created this online multimedia community for the
differences from a generational perspective; in 50 plus with a vision of “aging with zip” (Cravit,
particular, how they learn, how they prefer to 2008). In this community, Zoomers may share
learn, and how they would learn better (e.g., Ap- photos, videos, life style tips, post blogs, organize
pel, 2003; Dede, 2005; Oblinger, 2003). Current social events, form groups, chat, play games, and
generations are typically placed into the following participate in forum discussions established there.
categories: (1) those born before 1946 are known Lifelong learning is evident in social networking
as the mature or silent generation; (2) those born sites like this, and actively among online commu-
between 1946-1964 (or 1961) are labeled as nities of practice on social networks such as Ning
Baby Boomers; (3) those born from 1965-1981 (http://ning.com). These communities of learning
or 1961-1980 are known as Generation X, or the and practice are powerful in informal learning,
Xers; and (4) those born in 1980 (or 1982) and lifelong learning, and professional development,
later are referred to as the Millennial Generation, benefiting all users across ages and generations.
Generation Y, the Net Generation, Nexters, or the Gen Xer, Gen Nexter, Zippie, Zoomer, or
Internet Generation. millennial, each of these generational labels, to
However, such attempts to classify generations a certain degree, provide indicators of the most
of people are never that simple. For instance, more influential or representative characteristics or phe-
recently, there is news about the Zippie or Genera- nomena of that particular generation. Accordingly,
tion Z (McKay, 2004). Zippies, or upwardly mobile such defining social events have shaped people
youth (i.e., ages 15-25) of India who walk with with a set of shared characteristics, many of which
a “zip in their stride” (Friedman, 2005, p. 184), relate to how we learn and gain experiences in the
were extensively spotlighted in Thomas Fried- world at large. In effect, such events define who

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Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies

we are, how we view this world, how we interact simply catching up with their technology-rich and
with our surroundings, and how we prefer to learn ever changing surroundings. And higher educa-
or be taught. For instance, do we prefer collabora- tion institutions as well as museums, parks, and
tive or individual learning pursuits? Do we like other informal learning centers are tapping into as
instructor-led or more personalized learning? Do well as fueling such interests with free and open
we trust experts, peers, or our own explorations access online courses, downloadable podcasts,
for our knowledge? videostreamed lectures, community-built wiki
resources, and many other educational products
The Silent Generation and outlets (Bonk & Kim, 1998).
While this generation did not grow up with
In the United States, the mature or silent genera- computers or Web-based instruction, such skills
tion has grown up in the aftermath of the Great are definitely being acquired by many of them,
Depression, World War II, and the Korean War though this is not universal. Some in the Silent
(more than likely, those in other countries ex- Generation may now use e-Bay for buying and
perienced similar phenomena). This generation selling products online. They might also seek out
typically values law and order, shows respect for CNN.com or Yahoo News to read much of their
authority, and tends to be conservative as well as news in a digital format, use online mapping
silent (hence the name). Given their respect for services like Mapquest or Google Map to calcu-
authority as well as their tendencies toward con- late routes for their next trip, and even go online
formity, those of the “Silent Generation” typically to electronically order their tickets for that trip.
expect to be told what to do and how to do it in Interestingly, at the same time that e-learning is
both their work environments as well as in their inching down to younger age learners, it is also
learning-related ones. creeping up to this Silent Generation who are just
Now in the twenty-first century, those in their beginning to grasp how to take advantage of vari-
60s, 70s, and 80s are increasing in numbers in ous online technologies for their lifelong learning
the educational settings, especially online ones, pursuits. They may be silent or less vocal as well
due to job requirements, extended life-spans, and as hesitant to learn new technologies, but they
personal interests such as a desire to keep up with will likely be among the hardest workers in the
a fast-changing world. Given such trends, do not online courses and training sessions. Once they
be too shocked to soon find centenarians appearing gain confidence and time for reflecting on their
in your online classes. Instead of being surprised, thoughts and ideas, they tend to speak up and pose
use such individuals as mentors, moderators, and weighty questions or contribute dazzling stories
expert witnesses. Their rich store of experiences and other relevant experiences.
can excite younger learners into areas of learn-
ing they never previously dreamed of. As they Baby Boomers
increasingly appear online, the mentoring roles
and possibilities of those approaching or past their Just behind this silent generation are the baby
one-hundredth birthday will likely explode. boomers who are between early 40s and early
Myriad social, political, cultural, economic, 60s. In the United States, such individuals have
and heath-related factors have emerged during the experienced prosperity, the Vietnam War and its
past few decades to place us in the midst of an ex- associated anti-war actions, the Cold War with then
plosion of more mature learners, which is not likely Communist Soviet Union, women’s liberation,
to ever subside; unless, of course, the definition of and the space race. These defining events have
mature learner changes. These mature learners are shaped this generation with optimism, teamwork,

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Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies

and a love-hate relationship with authority. Baby eration to extensively use computer technology at
boomers are now playing important roles in the work, home, and school, they are the technology
workforce at executive, managerial, administra- literate, digital natives who come to training and
tive, technical, and other levels, with many of education events with relatively high technological
them being in charge in the workplace. expectations (Prensky, 2001).
As a recent study by Capella University uncov-
ered, most baby boomers are seeking, or would Generation Y or the Millennials
seek if time allowed, additional education aimed
at a career change, professional development, bet- The millennials (or Generation Y, or the Nexters,
ter opportunities, and self fulfillment (Mbilinyi, or the Internet Generation) now include preteenag-
2006). As a result, baby boomers are commonly ers, teenagers, and those in their early 20s who are
found in online Webinars, online degree courses just beginning to populate the workforce. Such
and programs, non-degree programs, professional individuals have grown up with computers, the
certificates programs, and other online learning- Internet, PlayStations, iPods, Wii, and a plethora of
related events. The rich life experiences they bring other consumer technologies; many of which have
to online learning courses are highly valuable; fortunately found extensive use in educational
yet, at the same time, they may feel overwhelmed settings. For Generation Y, technology is naturally
and/or challenged by the fast-paced turnaround part of their daily life. With “Father Google”
required online given the time-related constraints and “Mother IM” (Windhem, 2005), such young
of their family responsibilities and careers. learners bring fresh, emerging ideas, views, and
expectations to the online learning world. They
Generation X are widely open to and more acquainted with
multiculturalism and are connected to the world
Positioned behind the Boomers are those from dynamically via the Internet. Additionally, they
Generation X. At the present time, the X-Gener- are confident, social, optimistic, and seemingly
ation, or Xers are between their early 20s to early ever changing individuals.
40s. Their life experiences include the explosion As the first generation of digital natives, the
of single-parent families, AIDS, the invention of millennials distinguish themselves from older
computers, the end of Cold War with the associ- generations in many ways. For instance, in terms
ated tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and various of technology options, they make friends and
highly publicized Wall Street adventures. They connections with the world through the Internet
tend to be more willing to take risks and question and interactive communication technologies,
authority as well as prevailing ritual and traditions. such as Instant Messengers (IM), Google, Skype,
In addition, they are family-oriented, self-reliant, MySpace, Facebook, and more. In their daily
open-minded, and want to have fun. lives, online chat tools, blogging sites, social
Gen Xers currently represent the most promi- networking software, iPods, PDAs, and cell-
nent group in many online learning situations, phones with Internet services and multimedia
especially in training and development settings functions are essential. Their world or life space
and post-baccalaureate educational programs. exists on many dimensions and within myriad
Compared to older generations, they are more communities thanks to the Internet. They may
into fun, family, creativity, and self fulfillment. not go to the library very often, but they blog,
And, their openness to diversity makes them wiki, Google, and IM everyday. Their lives are
more prepared for cross-cultural online learning fast-paced, multi-faceted, and highly intense. This
collaborations and interactions. As the first gen- generation is known for its ability to intuitively

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Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies

integrate the latest consumer technologies into …neomillennial learning styles can be acquired
their daily lives. In effect, their defining exper- by someone of any age, since they depend on cur-
tise may be in “fingertip knowledge” or finding rent media usage rather than what one grew up
the right information or learning resource when with. I believe that to be true of all media-based
needed. Therefore, skills in critical reading and learning styles. So when neomillennial learners
evaluation of such fingertip knowledge are critical were born is meaningless.
for this generation.
For Baby Boomer or Gen X online instruc- The idea of how technology might impact
tors, these young students may appear to be the learning styles is apparent in the proliferation
most demanding, challenging, or hard-to-please of mobile technologies and smart objects in
consumers in the online learning business. In ef- mobile learning or ubiquitous learning (Zhang,
fect, they have extremely different expectations 2008). The concept of neomillennial learning
for their learning activities, whether it be online is a media-based learning style, and thus it is
or face-to-face or some blend of the two. Given cross-generational and may address a wide range
that this particular generation of learners is fast of ages. In addition, Professor Dede points out
becoming the major consumer group for online that international collaborations and mentoring
learning, understanding their approach to learning via our desktops or laptops will bring learners to
is no longer an option. communities of practice which can better appren-
Millennial learners are inherently different. tice their learning than traditional schools. Third,
Instead of searching for books in a library, mil- massive multiuser virtual environments engage
lennial learners may start their research with young learners in simulated worlds where they
Google and Wikipedia. It is not surprising to hear can quickly make decisions, solve problems, and
such learners say that “I respect myself more as share results with others sitting next to them as
a self-teacher,” “Learning that takes place in the well as those they touch in their cyberworlds from
classroom isn’t as important as time studying on other locales. Dede predicts that such technolo-
your own,” or “Online gives me something to do gies will nurture a generation of learners more
when I’m bored with the professor” (Dziuban, used to knowledge sharing and co-designing their
Moskal, & Hartman, 2005). As Dziuban and his learning environments. According to him, such
colleagues found out, millennials spent more learners will prefer nonlinear learning pursuits,
time pursuing their own learning paths, whether multitasking among disparate experiences, peer
it be reading articles online, reviewing personal evaluation and feedback, and constant reflection
progress, or exploring a simulation, rather than on one’s shared experiences. More specifically,
waiting for an instructor or tutor to tell them how the so-called neomillennial learning style (Dede,
they are doing or what to do next. 2005; Dieterle et al., 2007) is highlighted with the
following characteristics:
Neomillenials
• Fluency in multiple media and apprecia-
In his writings, Chris Dede (2005) from Harvard’s tion of the communications, activities, and
Graduate School of Education has painted a pic- experiences these media empower;
ture of how technologies that might impact the • Preference for collaborative, collective,
development of neomillennial learning styles. and discovery learning through multiple
According to Dede (personal communication, channels;
November 22, 2006), • Active learning that involves both real and
simulated experiences and reflections

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• The use of hypermedia resources and as- The “neomillemnnial learning style” exhibits
sociational webs of learning rather than preferences for collaboration, appreciation for the
linear or predefined paths or stories; authenticity of learning tasks and environments,
• Active seeking of information and ability learning mobility, and fluency in multimedia. In
to synthesize across it, rather than rely on addition to traditional sensory-based learning
or absorb a single best answer. styles such as the VARK model (Fleming & Mills,
1992), as well as personality style measures such as
Neomillennials differ quite noticeably from the often-used Myers-Briggs inventory (Pittenger,
the other generations. Part of the reason for their 1993) and aptitude-based styles such as Gardner’s
uniqueness, according to Dede and his colleagues, multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983), some
is that the neomilliennial style is cross-generation- scholars take into account experience including
al. In effect, they can actually cross generations that with emerging media. For instance, as alluded
with a distinct media or technology preference. to earlier, Dede (2005) proposes a learning styles
Whether a high school student, newspaper col- approach or framework he calls “media-based
umnist, or corporate trainer, neo-millennials have learning.” He argues that media-based learning
keen interests in emerging communication media, is a cross-age learning style. It is often agreed
nonlinear learning, and collaboration. They are that the millennials are more comfortable with
adapt in using wireless and mobile technologies teamwork, multitasking, and collaborations and
(Dieterle et al., 2007); thereby enabling them to are accustomed to negotiating meanings through
be learners (as well as consumers) wherever they various media resources, especially the Internet
happen to be on the planet. Based on the charac- (Oblinger, 2004). However, Dede and his col-
teristics of Generation Y learners, Dede points out leagues (Dieterle et al., 2007) further propose that
that the emerging technologies, especially wireless these characteristics are highly present in those
handheld devices with Internet access, have great who extensively use modern digital, interactive
potential for promoting collaboration, authenticity, media, and thus represent a cross-age media-based
mobility, and learner-controlled learning. learning style.
In a research study conducted during the Dede and his colleagues point out that this
2004-2005 academic year, Schrier (2006) inves- new age of learners want to be involved in co-
tigated the use of wireless handheld devices with designing their own learning experiences. They
augmented reality games to teach higher-order understand the technological capabilities as well
thinking skills at school, such as collaboration, as their own learning needs; hence, some argue
decision making, and critical thinking. She found that they should have a hand in designing their
that wireless handheld devices are vital cognitive own learning experiences. Neomillennials prefer
tools. Their benefits as cognitive tools include: more personalized and active learning experiences
(a) increased opportunities for peer collaboration which are customized for their particular needs
and reflection; (b) broadened access to real-world (Kruse, 2004) rather than generic tasks meant
contexts; such tools further facilitate problem solv- to appeal to the widest set of learners possible.
ing with task authenticity and enhanced contextual And when complete, they want some sense of
information; (c) improved participant engagement accomplishment and collective reflection on such
in the learning process as well as interactions and successes.
explorations between virtual and “real” worlds;
(d) learner control over the navigation of games
and discovery learning at one’s own pace; and (e)
engaging role playing among participants.

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GENERATIONAL TECHNOLOGY they decided to loan out such technology, rather


PREFERENCES than give it away. Of course, Duke and Drexel have
by no means cornered the market on technology-
With the tremendous differences in generational related giveaways. The University of Maryland,
lifestyles, generational learners bring varied for example, entices students to their MBA pro-
expectations and technology preferences to their gram with Blackberry handheld devices so that
online learning experiences. As online instructors students can learn how to organize and prioritize
begin to understand the pedagogical variety that is their time, save and index valuable knowledge,
possible online, learners who are quite savvy with and be responsive to requests; all skills needed
multi-tasking and experimenting with the latest by business executives. Some universities offer
technology are entering college classrooms today the iPhone or iTouch or MacBook Air laptop to
and expecting their courses to contain more hands- incoming students. Still other colleges and uni-
on and interactive tasks as well as opportunities versities have offered free or reduced price laptop
to stay connected electronically to the class, their computers and cell phones for needy students as
peers, and their instructors. Given such back- well as wireless Internet access in their dormito-
grounds and expectations, there is much concern ries, academic buildings, and classrooms.
within the course development community that Table 1 details the key differences of current
courses address the learning preferences of these generations of learners, including their birth
more technologically sophisticated learners. years, common characteristics, learning and
For the younger generations, especially the technology preferences, and defining events in
millennials, computers are not technology, they their lives(Appel, 2003; Hartman, Moskal, &
are simply part of one’s life. These “digital na- Dziuban, 2003; Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). For
tives” that Marc Prensky (2001) spoke about are instance, the millennial learner prefers teamwork,
so technologically savvy, they prefer typing to experiential activities, some structure, and the use
handwriting (Oblinger, 2003). They use email, of technology for learning (Dede, 2005; Oblinger,
instant messaging, and the Internet on a daily basis 2003). In contrast, the baby boomers are used to
for life and research (Oblinger, 2003; Windhem, working alone and simply following whatever
2005). They surf the Internet all the time; they directions the instructor may provide on what to
write and read blogs; they create, publish and learn and how to learn it. In terms of technology,
download podcasts; and they communicate with boomers consider computers as “nice to have”
friends online in several, if not a dozen or more, tools, and often have to ask “what would I do with
simultaneous IM conversations. Much of this is a computer?”, though this is becoming less of an
possible since they find ways to obtain the latest issue with each passing year. Generation X and
consumer technologies and then quickly experi- Y learners, on the other hand, consider computers
ment with new ways to communicate with the as a “need to have” (Darling, n.d.).
world.
How do universities and corporations attract Boomers Versus X and
such digitally talented individuals to their cam- Y Generations
puses? Well, places such as Duke University and
Drexel University have offered them free iPods There are interesting contrasts between the baby
to use in their classes. Duke’s highly publicized boomer generation and Generation X and Y in
initiative, announced August 19, 2004, entailed terms of how they prefer to learn. Boomers are used
giving all entering freshman 20 gigabyte iPods to lecture-based approaches and being directly
(Calhoun, 2005; Dean, 2004). A year or two later, taught, while younger generations grew up in an

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Table 1. Summary of generational differences

Generation Birth Defining events Characteristics Learning preferences Technology


years preferences
Silent/ mature 1946 or Great Depression Value law and order Being used to be told Catching up with
before WWII Self-sacrifice what to do and how to popular consumer
Korean War Respect authority do things at work and technologies
Conservative in the learning process
Silent
Baby boomers 1946- Vietnam War Optimism Listening to authorities Computer is a
1964 (or Anti-war actions Teamwork lecture nice thing to have
1961) Cold War Love-hate relation- Individual work
Women’s liberation ship with authority
Space race Workaholic
Generation X, the Xers 1965- Single-parent families Risk-taking Fun Technology
1981 or AIDS Question authority Creativity literate
1961- Invention of computers and traditions Open to diversity Technology as
1980 End of Cold War Family-oriented a tool
Wall Street Self-reliant
Fall of Berlin Wall Open-minded
Want to have fun
Can-do attitude
Millennial, Neomil- 1980 (or Internet Confident social Open to multicultural- Father Google
lennial, Generation Y, 1982) or Wikipedia Diverse ism Mother IM
New Learners, the Net later The dotcom bubble and Optimistic and Dynamically connected Technology as a
Generation, Nexters, or bust hopeful to the world via tech- natural part of life
the Internet Generation Iraq War Multitasking nologies Digital natives
Terrorism Fast-paced Teamwork
Determined Experiential learning

age filled with pedagogical experimentations such pedia, Dictionary.com, and rapid fire searching
as cooperative learning, problem-based learning, in Google are tasks and technologies that they are
and student-centered curricular ideas. Boomers immediately comfortable with. Instead of being
have been brought up in a culture where they directly taught or force-fed information, they look
depended on instructors or someone in authority to be more involved, try things out for themselves,
to predefine their learning and provide supports and control their learning destinies. Along these
for such learning (Darling, n.d.). Another dif- same lines, therefore, they want to see the end result
ference is that Gen X and Y perceive gaming is of their learning tasks or assignments as well as
an essential part of there lives and their learning understand the rationale or meaning for what they
(Tapscott, 2009). In contrast, for Boomers, games are assigned. With both parents often working,
and simulations can be seen as less serious forms unlike most in the baby boomer generation, Gen
of learning, and, in many cases, distracting from X and Y are highly used to getting things done
that learning. on their own (Brown, 1997). Such experiences
Xers grew up in a climate of immediate grat- lead to skills in independent problem solving and
ification—fast food, remote controls, automatic becoming self-starters of their own learning. They
bank machines, climate controlled cars, and digital certainly appreciate external supports and aids,
cameras; such trends were even more pervasive but, for the most part, they want to try things out
for Gen Y learners. In their learning worlds, they on their own (Bresnathan, n.d., 2000).
crave stimulation and come to expect immediate There is some research that indicates that
answers to their questions, so Ask Jeeves, Wiki- older people (i.e., Boomers) prefer less interac-

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tion in distance education than younger learners percent. Other items rounding out the top five
(Kearsley, 1995). In addition, they may prefer included the use of the social networking software,
private learning activities (e.g., reflective journals Facebook.com (71%), drinking other forms of
and personal explorations) over more public ones alcohol besides beer (67%), and text messaging
with others (e.g., small group discussions, role (66%). Perhaps some students might temporar-
play, simulations, ice breakers, skits, etc.) (Vam- ily multitask many or even all such acts (Bonk,
pola, 2001). However, in contrast to Gen X and 2009). Other popular things on college campuses
Y learners, when they do not know something, in 2006 were downloading music (66%), instant
they ask questions. messaging (65%), going to clubs (63%), working
In terms of technology, Boomers are less out (62%), and drinking coffee (60%).
comfortable with it, whereas Gen X and Y see While some might incorrectly contend that
it as part of who they are. Boomers are used to the cognitive processing of humans has somehow
replying to prompts and following directions been reprogrammed or rewired within a single
one task at a time. Gen Xers, on the other hand, generation, there is no doubt that productive liv-
attempt to handle multiple tasks at once. While ing at the early moments of this century are at
much maligned as having short attention spans, times overwhelming and at other times extremely
in actuality, Gen Xers are perhaps simply coping exhilarating. The latter is much more realizable
with the vast amounts of information inundating when one has technology-related savvy as well
each of our daily lives while utilizing the many as a high degree of confidence in such skills. And
forms of communication at their disposal to discuss many Generation X and Y learners do indeed
them. As Douglas Rushkoff (1996) points out, have both.
the skill of the twenty-first century is no longer Some of these same traits or characteristics
equated with the length of one’s attention span or apply when Generation X and Y individuals tran-
the ability to sit and listen to an expert pontifi- sition to the workplace. Unlike many in previous
cate; instead, it is the ability to cope with many generations who might have worked for the same
tasks simultaneously as well as rapidly process company or organization for life and patiently
the assortment of text and visual information that waited for a turn to climb up the food chain,
bombard us each day. Generation X and Y individuals will not typically
As an example, one might envision a second- grow old working at the first or second place that
ary student talking on a mobile phone, using a they land a job. Instead, they view their current
desktop computer as a foot rest, chatting with work environment as a place for personal growth.
friends online in MSN, peering down on the In terms of learning and training, they believe that
book she has open for homework, playing music the right job is an ongoing learning process. They
from her iPod or stereo, and watching a show on love opportunities to continue their education and
television located somewhere in the background. make themselves more marketable.
Amazingly, she can effectively managing all these Instead of old models of consistency and
activities simultaneously! control of some predetermined learning event
A recent survey report from the Student Moni- (i.e., the “tell me” what I need to learn approach),
tor’s Lifestyle and Media Study revealed that iPods Generation X and Y want control, they want more
were the number one “in thing” on college cam- open-ended learning paths, and they want options
puses in the United States as indicated by 73% of (Tapscott, 2009). While Gen X and Y learners
those surveyed (Snider, 2006). For the first time truly appreciate learning-related support and as-
in nearly a decade the top item in the list was not sistance, they beg for options. They are motivated
drinking beer, though it ran a close second at 71 by variety and control over their learning pursuits.

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Fortunately, the Internet is situated to provide that. to monitor, identify, and detect the various learn-
If the learner needs videoconferencing or finds ing progresses and needs of different learners.
synchronous training sessions to be valuable, As this happens, those learners are empowered
they can be offered via Internet technologies. If to provide more personalized, flexible learning
the learning material is best offered on CDs or experiences.
DVDs, or some other emerging technology, it On a much larger scale, we must now begin
can be manufactured. If self-paced materials are to ask what resources, materials, tools, networks,
preferable, that too is possible. If radio program- people, policies, and other infrastructure can make
ming or podcasts will be helpful, they can be the personalization of learning happen? We be-
designed. Instead of traditional lecture formats, lieve that online learning frameworks or models
podcasts are a form of lecturing at the learner’s like the Read, Reflect, Display, and Do (R2D2)
convenience—they are a part of the mobile learn- model (Bonk & Zhang, 2006, 2008), can be a
ing resources of a Gen X or Y learner. part of such a personalization of learning initia-
As Weinsten (2006) insightfully notes, this is tive. Such models offer insight into the types of
an age where learning on demand, is in demand. online activities and associated technologies can
The point is that younger generations of learners empower learners and maximize their learning
have increasingly wanted more flexible and open experiences.
learning forms. Such technology-based learning
options often found today might be best referred
to as “learning at the back door” (Wedemeyer, TODAY’S LEARNER
1981) or flexible learning. Nontraditional learn-
ing, in fact, may soon be traditional. Today’s student is increasing wired or unwired—
In flexible learning, the learner is provided elated when finding a connection to the Web in
with the type of learning materials, resources, a café, bookstore, hallway, or empty room, and
and strategies that best fits her needs. And, as just as jubilant in getting a response from some-
a result, the instructional designers and support one located far away (Bonk, 2009). Once done
personnel helping pave their learning paths are at a café, he might be text messaging his peers
called “flexible learning consultants.” In effect, while listening to his iPod during a brisk walk-
the goal is to have the learning environment ad- ing across campus (Seligman, 2006). Entering an
dress diverse learner needs so that they can lead unfamiliar building on campus, he immediately
highly successful and productive lives in a global begins searching for hot spots to connect to the
work and learn environment. For example, Hung Internet. As is evident, we are living in an age
and Zhang (2008) applied data mining techniques when learners are always online or at least at-
to analyze various patterns of online learning be- tempting to be. In addition to communicating with
haviors, and to make predictions on the learning family and friends, he might be ordering concert
outcomes. They were able to scientifically identify or movie tickets, checking the weather or sports
students’ behavioral patterns and preferences in the scores, downloading instructor lecture notes or
online learning process, differentiate active and podcasts for the day, updating their e-portfolios,
passive learners, and found important parameters or finding out if a particular class is canceled.
for performance prediction in online learning. One’s personal and professional lives, therefore,
With such types of technologies built in the are seamlessly intertwined with mobile and wire-
e-learning environment, flexible learning would less technology access.
become more manageable for instructors or train- While someone from the Baby Boomer genera-
ers. In effect, the e-learning system would be able tion might consider computers and technologies, in

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Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies

general, as ’nice-to-haves,” someone from Genera- laundry machines in their dorms, ability to order
tion X or Y views technology as a key part of who late night snacks electronically, university wikis
a twenty-first century learner is (Jayson, 2006). that students can contribute to, mobile access to
Technology is something that is required within grades, instructor lectures, bus schedules, and
their lives; a needed commodity, not a luxury or a host of other personally relevant information
an option (Darling, n.d.). And, not surprisingly, (Bonk, 2009; Lombardi, 2006; Sideman, 2006).
the amount of money being spent on technology And, as the quote below indicates, local vendors
purchases is drastically rising. In fact, when a par- now are getting in on the action.
ent shows up on a college campus in the United
States today to help move a son or daughter into At DCsnack.com, students at George Washing-
a dormitory, if he does not have a laptop in hand, ton University and Georgetown University in
then something seems awry. Washington, D.C., can order Ben & Jerry’s ice
Freshmen often arrive on campuses with bet- cream, DVDs, condoms or any other late-night
ter technology than their colleges have. Many needs with the click of a mouse. The items are
first-year students moving into their dorms un- delivered to their doorsteps in 30 to 45 minutes
pack brand-new laptops or desktop computers. (Sideman, 2006).
Laptops, in fact, are more popular than desktops.
In addition to powerful laptop technology, their The United States is not the only place cater-
cellphones have the latest features. And they ing to Gen Y learners. For instance, in Korea,
don’t just have an iPod, they have video iPods students can download their lecture notes, col-
and iPhones or some other types of MP3 players lege test preparation programs, music, pictures,
and smartphones. and videos to their portable multimedia players
Students continue to spend more on electronic (PMPs) (Cho, 2006). Recently, the Educational
purchases each year, according to a report on the Broadcasting System (EBS) in Korea announced
National Retail Federation’s annual Back-to- that it is providing free high quality broadcasting
College Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. of its college entrance preparation TV programs to
That’s $10.46-billion, in a category that includes learner PMPs. Given the highly competitiveness
flat-panel TV’s, video-game consoles, laptops, nature of getting into the highest tier colleges
and, of course, digital music players (Chronicle and universities in Korea, this initiative has mas-
of Higher Education, September 22, 2006). sive implications. Imagine when such services
And, these technologies go out of date quickly; extend to other types of contents as well as to
today email is for older adults (i.e., Boomers), other countries around the planet. Learning will
whereas social networking software is the province definitely move in a more mobile, and hopefully,
of Generation Y (Carnevale, 2006). Gen Y learn- more equitable direction. It may not eliminate the
ers also dominate in the areas of text messaging, digital divide, but it will definitely change the
instant messaging, blogging, and Internet surfing. discussion surrounding it.
Universities such as Montclair State University, In this chapter, we have discussed many posi-
Carnegie Mellon University, Boston College, tive aspects of this trend toward connectivity and
MIT, George Washington University, Stanford mobility. At the same time, there are many highly
University, and Pennsylvania State University publicized negative impacts as well. For instance,
realize this. In response, they are providing their there is the increased chance of Internet addiction
students with services as mobile phone alerts (e.g., and corresponding anxiety when one cannot get
campus related emergencies and sports informa- connected (Reuters, 2006). With the increasingly
tion), capabilities for students to check on available popular social networking phenomena via Web

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2.0 technologies, some argue that problems as- webpage for school, a friend, or an organization;
sociated with the Internet technologies include share original content such as artwork, photos,
social isolation, potential depression, missed stories, or videos online; or remix content found
commitments, and missing out on a social life. online into a new creation.
Given the assorted positive and negative learning
possibilities, it is vital to plan for online learning Such individuals are using readily available
no matter how small or brief the learning event content authoring tools to share self-authored
or course might be. content about themselves and others. Lenhart and
Madden also reported that more than a third of
Fluency in Multiple Media them share their content online including personal
stories, photos, artwork, and videos. A similar per-
As reported by Roberts, Foehr, and Rideout (2005), centage indicated that they had created or worked
over half of 7th-12th graders in the United States on webpages or blogs for others including those
access at least one additional medium some or developed for friends, school tasks, or workplace
most of the time while watching TV (53%), read- settings. More than one in five had a personal
ing (58%), listening to music (63%), or using a homepage and a similar number had designed an
computer (65%). Lenhart and colleagues (Lenhart online journal or blog or had gained experience
& Madden, 2005; Lenhart, Madden, & Hitlin, remixing or redesigning content found on the In-
2005) investigated teenagers’ use of technologies ternet for their own creative expressions. Clearly
such as IM, email, and cell/mobile phones. They this is an age of student creative expressions with
discovered many interesting aspects of technology technology. In effect, the Web is a resource for
use among teenagers; including those with obvious creative expressive and knowledge production
connections to online learning. For instance, (a) instead of passive reception of knowledge.
87% of those aged 12 to 17 now use the Internet for Given these skills and experiences, it is im-
some purpose, which represents 21 million youth portant to ponder how to leverage such skills in
in the USA; (b) 51% of US teenage Internet users online teaching and learning environments. Just
reportedly go online on a daily basis; (c) 81% of how does technology awareness and use make
teen Internet users play games online, representing them prime candidates for online learning? Vari-
approximately 17 million people; and (d) 76% (16 ous online learning frameworks (Bonk & Zhang,
million people) get their news online. 2006, 2008) can play right into the cards of such
Perhaps more importantly, such tech-savvy generations of learners who desire flexibility, op-
users are not just consumers of the abundant tions, and personally empowered learning.
resources available on the Internet, they are also
contributors to the content on the Internet. In ef-
fect, they are becoming savvy Web 2.0 users who IMPLICATIONS FOR E-LEARNING
display their life to others in open online windows.
According to Lenhart and Madden (2005, p.i): As tech-savvy young millennial and neo-millen-
nial learners flood into online offerings, they not
Some 57% of online teens create content for the only expect the use of multiple media for intensive
Internet. That amounts to half of all teens ages learning interactions but they want to simultane-
12-17, or about 12 million youth. These Content ously and dynamically feed resources back to
Creators report having done one or more of the the Internet. With the emergence of read/write
following activities: create a blog; create or work technologies of the Web 2.0, they are authors of
on a personal webpage; create or work on a content on the Web.

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With many online instructors being more Online learning design frameworks such as
technology-limited compared to some tech-savvy R2D2 (Bonk & Zhang, 2006, 2008) introduce ideas
students, at least at the present time, online teach- to integrate emerging technologies to e-learning
ing is highly challenging and, at times, stress- experiences for more engaging and effective learn-
provoking. With younger learners enrolling in ing for the diverse generational learners. Bonk
online courses, course designers must consider and Zhang (2008) provide over 100 e-learning
how to design their courses for greater interactiv- activities together with selection indices of each
ity, visualization, collaboration, captivation, and activity for instructors and instructional designers
technology-sophistication, thereby motivating to help with their decision making in the design and
learners and promoting more effective learning. implementation of e-learning. The key selection
As people become increasingly comfortable using indices include risk level, time, activity duration,
communication technologies in their daily lives cost, and degree of learner-centeredness. With
and work settings, the cross-age media-based or generational learner differences in mind, one may
media-driven learning, mentioned earlier, may be- strategically choose one or more e-learning activi-
come more prevailing in online environments. ties that would fit learners’ different technology
While this chapter includes many examples skills and other preferences,
for those in higher education, there is also a sym- There is no doubt that online technologies and
phony of implications for training employees in associated learning opportunities will continue
workplace settings. For instance, Appel (2003) to proliferate. New generations of learners will
contends that Gen Xers in the workplace want to appear with their own learning preferences and ex-
be involved and have their opinions asked. They pectations. They will have experienced many types
also desire a focus on developing their skills since of learning formats and instructional strategies.
they are always gearing up for that next job or Equally important, they will have learning-ready
position (Tapscott, 2009). Other needs include technology attached to their bodies. And they will
flexibility in tasks since they want to have a life want to engage in highly exciting and entertaining
outside of work. They might also want a team- learning opportunities. Given such reality, online
like atmosphere to be developed to give them the instructors and instructional designers who create
family they might not have had at home. And, as online courses need to respond to the pressing
with most others in the human race, they want needs for online interactivity, collaboration, and
to be appreciated or shown that someone cares authenticity and purposefully integrate available
about them. They long for feedback, meaningful- media and technologies into their online teaching
ness, sincerity, fun, and the celebration of success and learning activities.
(Bresnathan, n.d.; McClure, 1997). In addition to the various learning style inven-
Unfortunately, corporate training depart- tories and instruments currently available (Santo,
ments tend not to focus on such motivational 2006; Zhang & Bonk, in review), there are scores
principles. Given the status of online training in of lists, matrices, and comparison charts related to
the corporate world and the high attrition rates how currently living generations of learners differ
often experienced, there are vast implications for on a whole host of factors. In fact, it is difficult
training departments in terms of the interactivity picking up any magazine or newspaper today
of the e-learning contents, the types of learning without some mention, explicit or implicit, of how
preferences that are emphasized, how the learning Generation X, Generation Y, and neo-millennials
assets are made available for trainees, and how are different or how their technology adoption
to recognize successful completion of an online usage varies. While much of that data is collected
experience or course. for corporate marketing purposes, there are also

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many learning-related implications and issues. Carnevale, D. (2006, October 5). Email is for old
These labels of Gen X, Gen Y, and baby boom- people: As students ignore their campus accounts,
ers are simply descriptions that provide us with colleges try new ways of communicating. Chron-
learning guideposts (Dede, 2005), and may serve icle of Higher Education, 53(7), A27, Retrieved
as reminders for today’s educators to seek out and November 20, 2006, from http://chronicle.com/
design the variety, flexibility, and personalization free/v53/i07/07a02701.htm
of learning that such diverse learners require.
Cho, J. S. (2006, July 17). U-learning in palm
of hand. The Korea Times. Retrieved November
20, 2006, from http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/
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Wedemeyer, C. A. (1981). Learning at the back interchangeably with online learning or Web-based
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tional learning style highlighted with multimedia
fluency and technology competency.
VARK Model: A widely applied learning style
KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS model that emphasizes primarily four types of
learners and learning preferences; visual, aural,
Generational Learner: Learners of different read/write and kinesthetic.
generations with different characteristics in terms Nontraditional Learning: May include infor-
of lifestyle, learning preference and technology mal learning, innovative approaches to teaching,
use, and more learning and training.
E-Learning: The use of online technologies
to deliver content at a distance sometimes used

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Chapter 6
The Digital Generation
and Web 2.0:
E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?
Robin M. Roberts
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA

ABSTRACT
The relationship between the Digital or Millennium Generation and Web 2.0 is investigated focusing
on how post-secondary students just entering American colleges and universities use the interactive or
read-write web popularly known as “Web 2.0” and what implications their use of those web sites has
for E-learning. Central to the investigation is addressing the question of whether the Digital Generation
and Web 2.0 concepts describe actual realities or exist merely as popular media constructions. The basic
thrust of the chapter will be the position that the Digital Generation does not function as a monolithic
group, but that the use of Web 2.0 technologies is related to developmental stages and life situation.

INTRODUCTION with and expertise in using those technologies that


prior generations do not have (Gibbons, 2007;
Among the many dimensions of the burgeoning Gros, 2003; Oblinger, 2003; 2006; Snyder, 1998;
web-based distance education movement in Ameri- Tapscott, 1998; Turkle, 1995). Dubbed “digital
can education is the concept of a digital generation natives” by Prensky, these students are contrasted
comprised of students who have grown-up exposed with their teachers and with prior generations
to and using digital computing technologies (Carl- whom are often designated “digital immigrants”
son, 2006; Hird, 2000; Johnson, 1997; Livingstone (2001b, 2001c).
& Bovill, 1999; Rushkoff, 1998). By virtue of this A number of common characteristics are ascribed
experiential background, members of this genera- to these digital natives who comprise the digital
tion are said to have developed a level of comfort generation (Frand, 2000; Gros, 2003; Tapscott;
1998; Prensky, 2001a; 2006). Among these are:
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch006

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

• Tech savvy: Digital natives grow-up with . . a more measured and disinterested approach is
a computer mouse in their hand and learn now required to investigate ‘digital natives’ and
to use and gain expertise with digital com- their implications for education (p. 1).”
puting technologies with ease. In addition to the threat of a having to cope
• New literacy: They are more comfortable with a generation of students for whom established
with screen-based learning than traditional educational practice may be inadequate, educators
19th/20th century, text-based educational also have to cope with the advent of a new trend
methodologies. in technology—Web 2.0. For many in higher
• Multi-taskers: They thrive in situations education, learning to cope with the old Internet
having many simultaneous multimedia is still posing a challenge and the specter of a new
inputs. Internet looming over them is disconcerting. What
• Learner control: Digital natives want to is even more disturbing is the idea that the two are
be “in charge” of their own learning rather linked, forming a post-modern double-whammy
than follow a universal, “one-size fits all” that threatens to knock higher education out for
curriculum. the count. Before mass panic sets in, however, it
• Information rich: They are accustomed to would be prudent to examine each of these claims
having a multitude of information at their to see whether there is, indeed, cause for concern
fingertips. and, if concern is called for, to begin the process
• Digital consumers: Digital natives are of adjusting instructional practice to address those
pervasive consumers of digital media and concerns. Accordingly,this chapter examines the
portable electronic devices are essential to twin concepts of the digital generation and Web
their lives. 2.0 and the relationship each has with the other
• Connected: Digital natives are constantly to form some preliminary hypotheses concerning
in contact with and draw support from oth- those concepts. Specifically, this chapter seeks to
ers, and are more comfortable working in do three things:
groups than alone.
• Critically examine the idea of a digital
Though much has been said about these digital generation to derive a better understanding
natives in popular literature and the press, the concept of its ontological base and identify those
has also received attention from serious scholars as characteristics that may inform E-learning
well (Holloway & Valentine, 2000; Negroponte, practices;
1995; Papert, 1996; Valentine & Holloway, 2002). • Identify the Internet technologies and func-
The American Library Association (2007), in an tional characteristics that comprise Web
editorial in an official publication, has gone as far 2.0; and
as saying “people born after 1980 are very different • Compare the notions of the digital gen-
from those of us who were born earlier. . . . There is eration and Web 2.0 using multiple data
some evidence that they actually think and process sources to determine whether there are any
information differently as a result (p. 28).” usage patterns that indicate a relationship
Other writers question the claims made about between the two that can inform E-learning
digital natives and analyze the nature of the debate educational strategies.
itself. For instance, Bennett, Maton, and Kervin,
(2007) argue that “rather than being empirically Integral to this examination is a report on the
and theoretically informed, the debate can be results of preliminary research by the author di-
likened to an academic form of a ‘moral panic’ . rectly addressing the use of Web 2.0 technologies

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

by recent higher education students (Roberts & (p. 1).” It is an extension of the generation gap:
Strudler, 2008). “The idea of a digital generation merely connects
these fears and anxieties to technology: It suggests
that something has fundamentally and irrevoca-
BACKGROUND bly changed, and that this change is somehow
produced by technology (p. 2).” Oblinger and
The central component in an E-learning environ- Oblinger (2005) prefer the term “Net Genera-
ment is the learner for whose benefit the environ- tion.” For them, the Net generation is “digitally
ment is provided. Understanding the character- literate, always connected, desiring an immediate
istics of learners who participate in an online response, experiential, social, visual, and craving
learning environment, particularly in respect to interactivity (p. 3).” According to Tapscott (1998),
how those characteristics may affect the teaching– “the term Net Generation refers to the generation
learning process in the online environment, is an of children who, in 1999, will be between the
important part of designing effective instruction ages of two and twenty-two, not just those who
for an on-line, E-learning environment. are active on the Internet. Most of these children
Numerous writers have theorized that the ap- do not yet have access to the Net, but most have
proaching generation of students, variously identi- some degree of fluency with the digital media
fied as the digital generation, the N-gen or other (p. 3).” The salient commonality in each of these
similar designations (Hird 2000; Johnson 1997; examples is the assumption of a close relationship
Rushkoff 1998; Smith & Curtin 1998; Tapscott between the humans comprising the generation
1998), exhibit different characteristics than prior and digital computing technologies.
generations of higher education students. While Various dates have been mentioned as defin-
that assertion has just begun to be tested, the stu- ing the borders of the generational location (see
dents in question have begun entering colleges and below) for the digital generation: From early- to
universities within the past two or three years. If mid-1980s birth dates (Anderson, 2000-2001;
these students are, in fact, different than previous Gardener & Eng, 2005; Gronbach, 2000; Tsui,
generations of students, it seems likely that one 2000; and Weiss, 2000) to ending dates ranging
of the ways they might be different lies in their from 1994 (Allerton, 2001; Darko, 2000; and
comfort level and facility with digital computing Pekala, 2001) to those still being born today
technologies and online environments. (Gardener & Eng, 2005; Tsui, 2000; and Weiss,
2000). A number of authors define the digital
Defining “Digital Generation” generation location as 1989 to 1996 (Alch, 2000;
Chordas, 2001; Gronbach, 2000; and Strauss
What is meant by the term “digital generation”—or & Howe, 1997), while Sweeney places it from
any of the other synonyms by which the current 1979 to 1994. He also notes that the single larg-
generation of young people is often identified? As est birth year is 1990—those students will begin
with any emerging concept, consensus regarding attending college in 2008 (Sweeney, 2006, p. 1).
who or what exactly is meant by the term “digital Howe and Strauss (2003) locate it between the
generation” has yet to be reached (Buckingham, years 1982 and 2003; Tapscott (1998) prefers
2006). There may be good reasons why this is so, the years 1977 to 1997. The earliest suggested
as the following analyses will suggest. date for the beginning of the digital generation
Buckingham (2006) defines the digital gen- is 1976 (Cui, Trent, Sullivan & Matira, 2003;
eration as “a generation defined in and through Duff, 1999)—the year the personal computer
its experience of digital computer technology (PC) was born. As can be seen, there is con-

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

siderable disagreement about the generational the mind of the researcher. It is composed merely
location for the digital generation. Aside from of dates that bracket the birth years of potential
the simple differences of opinion regarding what members of the generation. A generation is not
criteria to use for determining the generational actually formed—or “actualized” to use Man-
borders of the digital generation, there is also a nheim’s term—until the members of a given
lack of agreement on what actually constitutes generational location share experiences that they
a generation per se. interpret as meaningful to them. Differentiation
within an actualized generation can occur when
What Constitutes a Generation? face-to-face interaction among some members of
the generation leads them to react in similar ways
The most complete treatment of generation— to common issues they encounter. Mannheim
and perhaps the most influential—was by Karl termed these differentiated groups “generational
Mannheim in 1928. In his seminal work The units” (1952, pp. 290; 302-312).
Problem of Generations (1952), Mannheim wrote Strauss and Howe (1997) stress the idea that
that generations are formed when members of a in order to be an actualized member of a particu-
particular age-group share the same historical lar generation, individuals must be at the same
and social experiences during the years of their developmental stage-of-life when a critical mo-
youth and interpret them as being significant ment for that generation occurs (p. 66). This is an
to themselves. The last is extremely important important distinction in the present case because
for any discussion of a digital generation: For the digital divide (National Telecommunications
Mannheim, who introduced the concept of “gen- and Information Administration, 1999) prevents
eration” into sociological thought, a generation a large percentage of the individuals born within
must define itself to truly be a generation. More the same generational location (i.e., during the
recently, Edmunds and Turner (2002) have defined digital computing era) from becoming actualized
“generation” as “an age cohort that comes to have members of the digital generation because they
social significance by virtue of constituting itself have not actually used digital computing technolo-
as a cultural identity (p. 7).” Demographer Brad gies extensively. From a purely logical standpoint,
Edmonson (1995) agrees that “a generation exists it is much easier to defend the idea of a digital
mostly in the minds of the people who belong to it generation if one is speaking only of an actualized
(p. 1).” Fromme, Kommer, Mansel and Treumann digital generation—one composed solely of those
(1999) identify socialization as something that individuals who actually used digital computing
young people intentionally work to achieve. These technologies starting at an early age.
writers all support Mannheim’s original thinking Thus, the concept of a digital generation with
that a generation must define itself—others cannot a purported technological expertise requires that
do it for them. members of that generation be both approximately
Defining itself is something that may take the same age and have shared the same experiences
place within a generation at a younger age than vis á vis digital computing technology while at the
might be obvious. Mannheim (1952) believed that same age. Those three requirements considerably
youth was the key period for forging a genera- compound the idea of a monolithic digital genera-
tion, though some sociologists today argue that tion comprised of all individuals within any par-
children and adults can construct generational ticular suggested generational location. The digital
differences and identities as well (Alanen, 2001). divide—or divides, as some have suggested(e.g.,
According to Mannheim, a “generational location” DiMaggio & Hargitti, 2001)—argues against the
defines a potential generation and exists only in formation of such a monolithic generation. More-

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

over, the defining characteristics for membership visionary and elite segment of the population
in a particular generation specify that it is shared whose characteristics include being risk takers and
life experience rather than accident of birth that cosmopolites with a venturesome streak who have
determines membership in that generation. substantial financial resources, are able understand
If experience with computer technology is and apply complex technical knowledge and can
used as a criterion for membership in a mobilized cope with a high degree of uncertainty. Early
or actualized digital generation, then another dif- adopters (the next 13.5%) are more educated than
ficulty emerges: To have experience with digital the general population, with higher-than-average
computing technologies, individual members must socio-economic status and are respected change
have access to it first. DiMaggio and Hargittai agents that provide the role models whose influ-
(2001) identified five types of access in which ence others follow. These are the trend setters.
differences may take place: technical means Those who follow—the early majority (the next
(access to the necessary hardware, software and 34%)—are individuals with the financial resources
connectivity), autonomy of use (location of access necessary to follow the lead of the early adopters.
and the freedom to use the medium in an unfet- Together, these individuals account for the first
tered manner), use patterns (the way in which the fifty percent of adopters—in the case of digital
user actually uses the technology), social support computing technologies, a percentage not reached
networks (availability of usable technical support in the United States until the year 2000. This is
and connection to suitably sized networks), and important for understanding much of the rhetoric
skill (one’s ability to use the medium effectively). surrounding the capabilities and potential of the
Absence of any one of these constitutes lack of true digital generation. When Tapscott (1998), for in-
access (Wilson, 2000), meaning that all of these stance, described members of the digital generation
access issues must be resolved favorably in order in 1996, he was largely describing innovators and
for successful development of expertise in using early adopters—because they accounted for most
digital computing technologies to take place. of those who were using computers at the time.
Examining just the first type of access— If use of the Internet—as Tapscott described—is
technical means—starts with determining when considered an integral part of the digital genera-
computers became accessible to children who are tion milieu, then the numbers become even more
potential members of the digital generation. Ac- problematic. The U. S. Census Bureau (2005)
cording to the U.S. Census Bureau (2005) only 8.2 figures indicate that 18% of American households
percent of American households had computers had computers with Internet access in 1997, re-
in 1984, 15.0 percent in 1989 and 22.8 percent in flecting the very earliest of the early majority of
1993. The number of households with computers adopters who obtained access. Tapscott could only
did not exceed fifty-percent of the population until have been observing innovators and early adopt-
the year 2000. The problem of generational access ers in preparation for his book. Internet access in
to computers is immediately evident from these American homes first exceeded 50% in 2001—a
statistics: Insufficient numbers of individuals born year after the number of PCs in homes exceeded
within the digital generational location had access 50%. Even granting that limited access became
to the technical means to develop the expertise available to some children at school earlier than
said to be “native” to that generation. at home, a relative minority of children enjoyed
According to Rogers’ diffusion of innova- Internet access prior to 2000.
tion model (1995), the first 16% of adopters of Taken together, these issues suggest one of
any given innovation are innovators and early three possibilities: First, that the digital generation
adopters. Innovators (the first 2.5%) are a fairly as defined by Tapscott and others may be limited

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

to a relatively small segment of the population of In fact, generational differences themselves may
students who are entering colleges and universities largely be media inventions—as a way to categorize
today; or, second, that there are several different (or stereotype) groups for convenience in news
digital generations lined-up and following the reporting or marketing (Buckingham, 2006, p. 5).
earliest which has already passed through college, By creating a labeled category, journalists can avoid
each of which is defined by a different experience lengthy descriptions of people by merely using the
with technology (which, it must be admitted, has label. In an occupation characterized by deadlines,
progressed rapidly enough over the past decades anything that saves time is valued. Likewise, in
that youths and children even five years apart an era of targeted advertizing, it is difficult to hit
in age have experienced significantly different a target you cannot see. Buckingham argues that
technologies and media); or, third, that a single such media-driven views “run the risk of essential-
monolithic generation does exist, defined by a izing” generational differences and wonders how
general commonality with a world of digital com- “we actually identify the boundaries—or even the
puting technologies, but differentiated into many shared consciousness—of a generation (2006, p.
generational units defined by unique local experi- 3-4).” This, of course, begs the question: To what
ences with technology (or lack thereof in the case extent is the digital generation a media invention
of those on the wrong side of the digital divide). rather than an actualized generation?
Such differentiations would center as much around How inclusive, then, is the term “digital gen-
the lack of exposure to obsolete technologies as eration?” The word “generation” itself implies
by experience with new technologies. Certainly that all—or at least a substantial portion of that
there is a difference in experience for those born particular age-grouping—exhibit the qualities or
in 1976 and who entered college in 1994 without characteristic of that generation. Past attempts to
ever having had Internet access and those who define to define the digital generation have cen-
entered in 2008 with Internet access available to tered on birth years determined in reference to the
them as early as five years of age. development of digital computing technologies. Is
More recently, writers have observed that this, however, a sound basis for defining a genera-
media plays an important part in defining gen- tion? Recent social theorists such as Ziehe (2005)
erational differences and identities (Arnett, 1995; argue that chronological age is no longer a sound
Buckingham, 2002; Johansson, 2004). Wark basis for assuming similarity of life experiences
(1993) takes it a step farther: “Generations are not and that generational identity can no longer be tied
defined by war or depression any more. They are to a series of common experiences.
defined by media culture (p. 75).” Perhaps the first One must also question the extent to which the
such generation was the Baby Boom generation identification “digital generation” is a construct
which was defined as much by television as by willingly adopted its members as opposed to one
sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and Vietnam. McLuhan’s thrust upon them by the media. The answer to this
(1984) generationally defining assertion that the may lie in their view of technology itself:Facer,
“medium is the message” is still influential today Furlong, Furlong and Sutherland (2003), Holloway
(p. 7). It should not be lost on anyone that the and Valentine (2003), Buckingham (2006), Tapscott
Digital Generation is comprised of the children (1998) and Livingstone and Bober (2005) all agree
of the Baby Boomers—the latest media genera- that children don’t view technology as technology,
tion is thus the direct biological descendent of they view it something that allows them to do things
the original media generation. Media plays an and as a natural part of their environment. As Nico-
important part in the generational identity of both letti and Merriman (2007) put it, “millennials don’t
generations. think in terms of technology, they think in terms of

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

the activity that technology enables (p. 31).” This Sixties icon, Stewart Brand, from his 1968 Whole
suggests that today’s children and teens would not Earth Catalog through the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic
easily see themselves as a digital generation, indeed, Link (WELL) in 1985, to the Global Business
many of their purported characteristics would argue Network in 1989 and to Wired Magazine in 1993.
against their willingly adopting a label created by As he puts it:
adults—even adults in the media. Moreover, there
is considerable evidence that the idea of a digital Since the late 1960s, Stewart Brand and others
generation may be an intentional construction associated with various Whole Earth publica-
fostered by vestigial Baby Boomer politics and tions had been linking information technologies
marketers sensing a lucrative new market. to a New Communalist politics of personal and
collective liberation. . . . In the 1990s, however,
The Digital Generation and the editors and writers of Wired transformed the
the Baby Boomers long-standing Whole Earth synthesis of cyber-
netics and New Communist social theory into a
Buckingham (2006) sees the appellation “digital means of embracing figures such as Gilder and
generation” as being less a description of what Gingrich (Turner, 2006, p. 216).
today’s children are as a “a set of imperatives
about what they should be or what they need to More than that, Turner was equally convincing
become” (p. 11). Donnison (2007) points out in detailing a concerted business effort to create a
that Baby Boomers have largely been involved new market centered on digital computing tech-
in trying to define the new generation and much nologies and a youth market:
of the disagreement over the boundaries of the
generational location and the inability to agree As Nigel Thrift has shown, however, by the end
on a common name for the generation stem from of the 1990s an entire circuit of stock analysts,
Baby Boomers’ own conflicting philosophies and journalists, publicists, and pundits had also
technological experiences. emerged. They spun out a series of self-reinforcing
For example, Negroponte (1995) suggested prognostications, and as they did, analysts and
that the Internet was going to “flatten organiza- investors appeared to come to a consensus: com-
tions, globablize society, decentralize control, and puters were bringing about a New Economy and
help harmonize people (p. 182).” Ted Nelson, who perhaps even a long economic boom. (Turner,
coined the word hypertext, echoes Negroponte’s 2006, p. 214)
vision of a world-changing technological move-
ment. Referring to his Xanadu project, Nelson In his book, Turner shows how Brand created
says that “ours has been the only proper objective a network of influential people and media publi-
[of the use of the Internet]: to make a new world cations that linked “bohemian San Francisco” to
. . . open hypertext publishing is the manifest the emerging technology hub of Silicon Valley”
destiny of free society. It is fair, it is powerful, (2006, p. 3). That he was successful can be gleaned
and it is coming (1992, pp. 56-7).” Such fanciful, from observations made during a study of dotcom
visionary rhetoric is reminiscent of that of Six- entrepreneurs by Kanter (2001) for the Harvard
ties campus radicals, whose connection with the Business School: “I found striking similarities
modern Dotcom era may not be as farfetched as in rhetoric and style to youth movements of the
one might think. 1960s in North America and Europe” (p. 56).
Fred Turner (2006) argued convincingly for Kanter commented that the dotcom movement
that very idea, tracing the influence of a major had the “quality of a social movement, not just a

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

business change (p. 56)” and that many youthful through commercial providers. That these senti-
dotcom entrepreneurs were “convinced that they ments are more than just rhetoric may be seen
will change the world and that no one over thirty in the role played by Web-based technologies in
can be trusted” (Kanter, 2001, p. 65). Again, this national elections, a trend that first gained notice
sounds suspiciously familiar to those familiar with in 2000 and rose to prominence during the 2008
the rhetoric of the Sixties youth movements. Presidential race.
In The Cluetrain Manifesto, Weinberger Each of these individuals is, in their own way,
(1999)—himself a participant in the dotcom influential and each can also be easily identified
movement—says: as an innovator under Roger’s diffusion of inno-
vations model. Thus, the digital generation may
We embrace the Web not knowing what it is, but be seen as an invented, rather than a discovered
hoping that it will burn the org chart—if not the concept. That is, rather than discovering an existing
organization—down to the ground. Released from characteristic of a particular generation, specific
the gray-flannel handcuffs, we say anything, curse characteristics were imparted to the children and
like sailors, rhyme like bad poets, flame against youths occupying the generational location oc-
our own values, just for the pure delight of having cupied by Baby Boomer offspring by opinion-
a voice. And when the thrill of hearing ourselves makers striving to perpetuate a political agenda and
speak again wears off, we will begin to build a create a new market. Their final encouragement
new world. That is what the Web is for (p. 39). was to provide vast amounts of venture capital to
the best and brightest of that constructed genera-
Louis Rossetto, editor-in-chief of Wired tion, encouragement that resulted in the Dotcom
magazine, echoed Weinberger’s sentiments in his boom and bust and, eventually, the development
editorial for the inaugural issue of Wired: of Web 2.0.

Wired is about the most powerful people on the What is Web 2.0?
planet today—the Digital Generation. These are
the people who not only foresaw how the merger of The latest iteration of the dotcom movement is the
computer, tele-communications and the media as concept of Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005). Web 2.0 is
transforming life at the cusp of the new millennium, essentially a business term that has crossed-over
they are making it happen (Rossetto, 1993). into popular usage and tends to be used, some-
what inaccurately, as a synonym for the newest
The Internet is seen by many Boomers as pro- version of the Web. It is not to be confused with
viding the tools for social change that were lacking Internet 2.0, the high speed backbone and asso-
during the Sixties and their children—biological ciated protocols for a second generation Internet
and spiritual—share that opinion (Gilbert, 1994). (Internet2, 1996). The term itself was coined by
Joshua Quitter (1994) of the Electronic Freedom Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media in 2003 as the
Foundation articulated it this way: “The Net . . . is name for a web conference to be sponsored by
merely a means to an end. The end is to reverse- O’Reilly, Incorporated. At the conference, Tim
engineer government, to hack politics down to O’Reilly used the term during his opening remarks
its component parts and fix it (p. 79).” These and the term stuck (O’Reilly, 2005).
comments were published in 1994—a year prior The term refers less to the composition or
to the National Science Foundation relinquishing technology of the web than it does to how the
control of the Internet to commercial use and Web is used. The central tenet of Web 2.0 is to
before home Internet access became available use the World Wide Web as a platform for deliver-

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

ing services to customers (O’Reilly, 2005). Tim the XMLHttpRequest object. AJAX uses
Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, is a combination of (Roberts & Strudler,
not a proponent of the term Web 2.0 because it 2008):
does not denote a technical change. In this sense, ◦ XHTML and CSS (Cascading Style
he is correct: The technologies used to deliver Sheets), for marking up and styling
the web-based services associated with Web 2.0 information.
existed long before they were actually used to ◦ The DOM (Document Object Model)
deliver those services (O’Reilly, 2005). accessed with a client-side scripting
Dario de Judicibus of IBM (O’Reilly, 2005) language, especially ECMAScript
sees Web 2.0 more as a change in social interac- implementations such as JavaScript
tions that use the particular architecture of the and JScript, to dynamically display
Web to facilitate those interactions. O’Reilly and and interact with the information
fellow Web 2.0 conference speaker John Battelle presented.
(a co-founder of Wired magazine) called Web ◦ The XMLHttpRequest object is used
2.0 an “architecture of participation” (Battelle, to exchange data asynchronously
2005; O’Reilly, 2005) that leverages the power with the web server. In some AJAX
of the “long tail”—a reference to the long tail frameworks and in certain situations,
emblematic of the power law curve, referring to an IFrame object is used instead of the
many small web services receiving a few users XMLHttpRequest object to exchange
each (Anderson, 2006). data with the web server, and in other
In essence, Web 2.0 embodies the idea that implementations, dynamically added
yesterday content was king, but today participa- <script> tags may be used.
tion is key. Web 2.0 includes the following char- ◦ XML (eXensible Mark-up Language)
acteristics: is sometimes used as the format for
transferring data between the server
1. Web 2.0 services typically, though not al- and client, although any format will
ways, use AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript work, including preformatted HTML,
and XML) and similar technologies. The plain text and JSON. These files may
first public use of the term AJAX in rela- be created dynamically by some form
tion to Web 2.0 was by Jesse James Garrett of server-side scripting.
in February 2005 (Garrett, 2005). Garrett 2. With Web 2.0 services, the customer/user
thought of the term when he realized the adds value to the product (value-added).
need for a shorthand term to represent the This reverses the normal supply-demand
suite of technologies he was proposing economic scenario. In a customer-value-
to a client. Although the term AJAX was added situation, value increases the more
coined in 2005, most of the technologies people participate (O’Reilly, 2005; Tapscott
that enable AJAX started a decade earlier & Williams, 2006).
with Microsoft’s initiatives in developing 3. It is not receptive, it is participatory. Content
Remote Scripting. Web services that do not is partnered with connection (Tapscott &
use AJAX technologies employ a variety of Williams, 2006).
older server-based technologies or newer 4. It connects users with each other rather than
proprietary technologies. Central to these connecting users with information (Tapscott
new technologies was the development of & Williams, 2006).

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

Seidensticker (2006) points out that many tech- Web 2.0 technologies exhibit several advan-
nologies are dependent upon the prior existence of tages that attract innovators and early adopters and
appropriate infrastructure for success. Innovations help assure its success: They provide a relative
that need little in the way of new infrastructure advantage over existing technologies, are compat-
will flourish; those that require substantial new ible with existing technologies and complement
infrastructure have a difficult time becoming suc- them, offer users the chance to try them at little
cessful. The Web is an example. The infrastruc- or no risk, and are readily observable by others
ture of the Web—the Internet—was established (Rogers, 1995). It is important to remember, too,
over a period of almost 25 years before the Web that Web 2.0 technologies did not invent them-
was invented and made accessible to the public. selves, nor did they spontaneously arise from
Likewise, Web 2.0 technologies leverage existing social practice—they were deliberately created
technological infrastructure and require almost no by businesses for profit, power or influence.
additional cost to consumers to adopt. However,
that is true only because of the recent convergence The Digital Generation’s Use
of several independent factors, the absence of any of Web 2.0 Technologies
one of which would have prevented Web 2.0 from
having the impact that it has: If both Web 2.0 and the digital generation are
inventions of the business/political world, one
1. Technical maturity: The individual AJAX must question whether educators should give them
and associated technologies were refined and serious credence. However, its creation by business
tested over a period of over ten years before interests does not automatically rule out the pos-
being deployed (O’Reilly, 2005). sibility that Web 2.0 technologies may prove useful
2. Infrastructure development: Lack of suf- for instructional purposes, especially if those being
ficient bandwidth was a primary hold-up in instructed have a particular affinity for it. Finding
the deployment of AJAX technologies on a that out is the purpose of the following study.
large scale; they consume immense amounts There is little empirical research linking the
of bandwidth in both directions. Along digital generation to specific Web 2.0 behaviors
with bandwidth, individual consumer PCs (see Holloway & Valentine, 2003, p. 2-3; Kitchin,
and corporate servers needed to increase in 1998a, 1998b). This is surprising given the amount
computing power. of attention that both the digital generation and
3. Sociological fit: The convenience and com- Web 2.0 have garnered in educational, library
municative abilities of these technologies fit science, computer science and popular literature.
easily into the normal life stage needs and The following section of this chapter will present
social practices of teens and other groups. the results and preliminary analysis of a survey
4. Cultural construction: The digital genera- of recent on-line learners in an effort to identify
tion’s identity as technologically inclined some of the emerging attributes salient to success
legitimized their use of Web 2.0 technologies in the on-line environment.
in many adult minds.
5. Economic climate: Marketing to niche Methodology and Data Sources
markets (such as digitally hip teens) and the
selling of services rather than goods both The study presented in this section is a preliminary
matured after the lessons of the dotcom era attempt to discern whether any age-related dif-
(Anderson, 2006). ferences in the use of Web 2.0 technologies exist
that might have implications for the design and

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

conduct of on-line courses in teacher education. and 1 representing no use at all and a mean value
It is based partially on an earlier pilot studies by for each group on each item was calculated.
Roberts and Strudler (2008; 2009). The study is necessarily limited by the use of
Roberts and Strudler (2008; 2009) hypoth- a convenience sample, a small sample size and
esized that the digital generation will be more the use of self-report procedures. Generalization
likely to use Web 2.0 services than students from is not the goal of this study, however; its purpose
prior generations. Recent articles suggest that is to generate hypotheses for further study.
there is a connection between Web 2.0 and the
Digital Generation. Yoffee (2007) noted the dif- Analysis and Results
ference in the numbers of participants in Facebook
between recent and past graduating classes at her Survey respondents’ ranking of the ways in
high school. Nussbaum (2007) found that 60% of which they used the Internet was compared with
American youth had personal profiles on social PEW national data (PEW, 2005) to ascertain how
networking sites. Based on these earlier efforts, representative of the larger population the local
the following research question guided the data sample might be. That comparison appears in Table
collection and analysis of the present study: Is 1 below. The local sample matched the national
there any difference in behavior between younger, sample for the top three uses of the Internet, but
undergraduate university students and graduate differed after that. This suggests that, with some
or professional students in their use of Web 2.0 exceptions (see below), the general pattern of
technologies? Internet use by the local sample was similar to that
Data was collected from teacher education of the American population as a whole. This was
students in three on-line classes (N= 59) and one important to the hypothesis generating process,
blended class (N= 22) at a large mid-western because the similarity suggested that hypotheses
university from 2006 to 2008; all classes were applying to the local sample might also apply to
taught by the same instructor. As part of their the larger population. The relatively high local
class assignments, three questions were asked participation in on-line banking and download-
about their computer and Internet use: Q1) What ing music can be explained by the more narrow
are the top 10 things you use a computer for? Q2) sample drawn from college-attending students
How often do you or have you used/done any of rather than from a cross-section of the national
the following Internet/Internet-related cell phone
activities? Q3) How often do you or have you Table 1. Comparison between PEW data and
visited any of the following Websites? All four local data
classes were asked Q1 and Q2 (total n = 81); the
2006 class was not asked Q3 (total n = 59). Survey Activity Pew Rank Local Rank
respondents were divided into undergraduates Sending and receiving e-mail 1 1
and graduates and the aggregate scores for each Surfing the Web* 3/4/5 2
group were averaged for each item included on the Using a search engine 2 3
survey. A five-point scale was used for questions Banking on-line 13 4
2 and 3: I use it a lot, every day; I use it regularly, Downloading Music 31 5
but not every day; I’ve used it once or twice; I’ve *The survey category is less differentiating than PEWs and is
heard of it, but never used it; I’ve never heard of likely to include at least the three browsing activities such as get-
ting news, researching hobby or interest and fun, included here.
it. Those responses were converted to numerical If those PEW categories were combined, then Surfing the Web
values, with 5 representing the most frequent use would be second behind e-mail in the PEW results, dropping use
of a search engine to the third position. Source: PEW, 2005.

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

population; in other words, college students that the average age of on-line gamers is 35
seem to differ in some ways—apparently on-line (Entertainment Software Association, 2008),
banking and music downloading are among those this means the local sample parallels the
differences—from the larger population. This is national population in this respect as well.
hardly surprising; college students of all ages The popular notion that on-line gaming is
constantly need money and on-line banking is a solely a youth activity contrasts with the
very convenient way for parents to supply that empirical data that suggests otherwise.
need. Thus, the high ranking for on-line banking 3. There is also no significant difference in
most likely reflects the college demographics of the use of MapQuest, Expedia, Weather.
the sample. Music downloading may be associated com or SourceForge between graduates and
with young people and the local sample reflected undergraduates. In the case of SourceForge,
a higher percentage of young people than in the only two respondents had ever heard of it
national population—in other words, the higher and no one had used it. This is not surpris-
percentage of young people in the local sample ing because SourceForge is aimed at high-
may have skewed the downloading of music higher level technical users and IT professionals.
than would be the case if the local sample had Students in teacher education courses are not
reflected the same percentage of young people likely to possess the technical skills to use
as the general population. Other than those ex- it—regardless of age or class standing. In
plainable differences, the local sample reasonably the case of the others, it is not surprising that
resembled the national sample. That suggests that, navigational, weather and travel information
for the purposes of this study, the local sample is used equally by students of all ages—they
can be assumed to approximate the behaviors of address common informational needs.
the general population. 4. There is a significant difference in the use of
The main results of the study, based upon texting between graduates and undergradu-
comparison of means for each group on each of ates, with a trend toward increasing use as
the survey items are reported below the students get younger (i.e., all freshmen
reported texting every day, with sophomores,
1. There seems to be no significant difference juniors and seniors progressively texting
in the use of e-mail, surfing the web or on- less than the class before them, and gradu-
line banking between undergraduates and ates least of all). Thus, undergraduates use
graduates in the local sample. While e-mail texting more frequently than do graduates
and surfing as the two most frequent on-line in this sample.
activities parallels the national PEW data, 5. Likewise, instant messaging (IM) use is
on-line banking is considerably more impor- higher among undergraduates than gradu-
tant to our students than the population as ates, substantially so. Both IM and texting
a whole, perhaps because college students are synchronous communication methods
away from home have found on-line banking requiring the simultaneous participation of
to be considerably more efficient at getting the communicating parties and both methods
funds from Mom and Dad than previous provide for a greater measure of privacy than
methods (see discussion above). talking on a cell phone or even face-to-face.
2. Surprisingly, there is also no significant dif- It is quite possible, if not probable, that the
ference in on-line gaming or participation popularity of texting and IM among teens
in on-line virtual environments between stems as much from the inherent privacy
graduates and undergraduates, either. Given of the conversation as from the sense of

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

connectivity provided by synchronous com- allow their friends to access the Internet on
munications. In synchronous communica- their cell phone than adults, who may also
tions there is an immediacy that is not present be less likely to even ask to do so.
in asynchronous communications mediums 8. Finally, undergraduates use MySpace,
like e-mail or blogs that are considerably YouTube and Facebook considerably more
less popular among teens; this brings us to frequently than do graduates. Graduates,
the next point. on the other hand, use classmates.com and
6. Not surprisingly, undergraduates also down- eHarmony more than do undergraduates.
load music more than graduates, but not by All are types of social networking sites, but
as great a margin as might be expected from classmates and eHarmony are more focused
popular media reports. Students of any age in their purposes and audience, whereas
are economically challenged and music costs the others are open to all interested parties.
money. Unlike many lifestyle choices, music Undergraduates use social networking sites
seems to be almost a need for most people where the emphasis is on “hanging out”—
and that need seems to be stronger in young digital party sites, if you will. Graduates
people than in older people (Levin, 2006). may be more interested in classmates.com
Downloaded music, even the legal kind, is because they are farther removed in time
considerably cheaper than music purchased from their graduating classmates and more
in more conventional forms. In addition, likely to have lost track of them. Graduates
there is an element of choice involved in may use eHarmony because they are less
choosing only the songs one wants—without likely to be socially involved at school than
also having to buy songs one does not want— undergraduates—and are more likely to be
that makes downloaded music popular. It is able to afford the fees.
possible that the gap between teens and adults 9. On the other hand, graduates frequent on-line
on downloaded music might be much higher news sites such as CNN and MSNBC more
if mpeg3 players were more affordable. frequently than undergraduates. It is equally
7. Undergraduates are also somewhat more likely that graduates also watch TV news and
likely to access the Internet on a cell phone read the newspaper more frequently than
than graduates, but the averages for both undergraduates. Their interest in the news
groups suggest only that undergraduates is likely tied to their slightly larger stake
are more familiar with the concept than in what is happening beyond the campus
graduates. A look at the data shows that walls.
undergraduates are far more likely to have 10. Surprisingly, graduates use blogs and wikis
accessed the Internet on a cell phone once or significantly more than undergraduates. Both
twice than graduates—over twice as many are asynchronous communications methods
have accessed the Internet on a cell phone that emphasize convenience over imme-
once or twice. One does not pay for Internet diacy and facilitate communications among
service on a cell phone and then use it only individuals or groups that find it difficult
once or twice and cell companies do not to arrange simultaneous communications.
provide free samples of access. Accessing Voice mail and e-mail—as well as blogs
the Internet on a cell phone once or twice and wikis—provide for the asynchronous
can only happen by doing it on someone communication that is efficient for adults
else’s phone—most likely that of a friend. for whom the contact is less important than
Younger students may be more likely to the information. With teens—as anyone who

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

has listened to a group of teens “converse” Web 2.0 as participatory only, describes a par-
knows—it seems to be less about content than ticular sub-set of Web 2.0 services. Nonetheless,
it is about contact. The overriding concern what stands out from the survey results is that
with teens is to be with their friends, not to younger students (undergraduates)—ostensibly
communicate with them. Adults have more members of the digital generation--do not exclu-
compartmentalized lives, living a good por- sively use Web 2.0 services and that older students
tion of each day in a world where they are (Graduates)—presumably not members of the
not with friends, but with workers for whom digital generation—use some Web 2.0 partici-
content is more important that contact. It patory services more than do younger students
is possible that the preference of adults for and more often than not, there is no significant
asynchronous communications mediums difference between younger and older students in
and the preference of teens for synchronous use of either Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 technologies—
communications mediums stems from the regardless of how they are defined.
different relationships they have with whom
they are communicating. Teens communi- Conclusions
cate to forge and maintain relationships,
adults communicate to accomplish goals and These preliminary results suggest that students
get work done and it may be those differ- in the survey courses, all of whom were either
ences, rather than any generational affinity pre-service or early in-service teachers and who
for a particular technology, that creates the represented multiple age-groups/generations, use
tendencies suggested by both the local data digital computing technologies similarly when
and the PEW data. the purposes for their use are similar. Graduates
and undergraduates use Web 2.0 technologies
In summary, the local survey sample parallels quantitatively similarly, but qualitatively differ-
the national population in many respects, with ently. The difference is related to age, but may
differences that are easily attributable to the life be explained as much by the convergence of the
situation particular to college students. The local different purposes of the technologies and life-
sample showed no significant difference between stage purposes as by any generational differences.
graduates and undergraduates in their use of e-mail, In other words, youths appear to use Web 2.0
surfing the web, on-line banking, participation in technologies for purposes youths have always
on-line games or simulations, or use of MapQuest, used similar technologies, such as telephones,
Expedia, or SourceForge. Undergraduates used cars, transistor radios and the like. If so, it follows
text messaging, IM, downloaded music, accessed that their usage patterns will converge with adult
the Internet on a cell phone and visited MySpace, patterns as they move on to later stages of life and
YouTube and Facebook more than do graduates. younger users move in to take their place.
Graduates, on the other hand, visit eHarmony,
classmates.com, and CNN and MSNBC and use
blogs and wikis more than do undergraduates. DISCUSSION
Applying the more general definition of Web
2.0 as a platform for delivering services, virtu- Summary
ally all of the activities mentioned above can be
classes as Web 2.0 activities—even those where The common premises regarding the digital
user interactivity is not part of the service. The generation that may affect education are these:
more narrow, but somewhat inaccurate view of First, the digital generation exists and is here now.

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

Second, they are tech savvy and highly connected Second, the image of the digital generation
(more so than prior generations). Third, they are seems to be largely an image created by businesses
multi-taskers that learn from different methods based upon observation of how early educational
than the traditional (i.e., 19th and 20th Century) innovators were using both constructivism and
instructional techniques that have sufficed in computers in the classroom (for example, ACOT).
the past. Fourth, they need to be prepared for a Computers came into the hands of children and
career path that is quite different than that which youths in the early days largely because parents
has existed in the past. Lastly, educators are not were sold on the idea that PCs were educational
currently prepared or equipped to adequately tools (Papert, 1980; 1993). Thus, the impetus
meet the needs of this new generation of student for the digital generation concept arose in the
(Doherty, 2005; Frand, 2000; Oblinger, 2003; schools, among early innovators, and later be-
Prensky, 2001a; Rodley, 2005). Based on the came articulated as a general consumer category
results presented above, these premises appear by market researchers. Likewise, the Internet
to be nothing more than unsubstantiated surmises movement was derived from schools. Almost
without any empirical data to support them. The from the beginning of the original ARPANET,
reasons for this conclusion follow. institutions of higher education were involved in
First, students appear to use the web in quite the formation and use of what eventually became
predictable ways: for school and communicating the Internet. Many individuals in higher educa-
with friends and entertainment, most often to access tion, particularly library science professionals
and play music. This is no different behavior than had been routinely using e-mail, gopher and ftp
prior generations exhibited except for one very for years before the Web was even invented and
important difference: The instructional technology long before the general population gained ac-
used in schools (computers/Internet) today is, for cess. Accordingly, educational researchers began
the first time, also available to students outside of paying attention to the Internet quite early, with
school. For instance, very few schools used transis- many jockeying to establish academic positions
tor radios for instructional purposes, nor did they and reputations by envisioning and forecasting
use phonographs to a great extent, though many a future educational world that revolved around
classrooms had them. In contrast, these were very PCs and the Internet.
common household items and associated with Businesses did not gain access to the Web until
high teen use. Relatively few families possessed 1995 and it is probably not a coincidence that
or used movie projectors until the late 1960s when Tapscott and others associated with the business
8mm projectors and cameras became common. world began writing about the digital generation
Movies,typically the more expensive 16mm variety, shortly thereafter. The idea of a digital genera-
were used instructionally, but on relatively rare oc- tion has made incredible inroads into education
casions and students almost never were involved in just over ten years. Educators like Papet and
in filming a movie—though it certainly would Negroponte, on the other hand, were writing about
have been possible. What is different in education the educational effect of computers on students
today is the emphasis on constructivist instructional long before that and promoting the benefits of
practices wherein the student is more active than in constructivist teaching tactics before the majority
the past (Papert, 1980) and the computer has been of the digital generation was born.
identified as a particularly useful tool for active What began as legitimate research into new
student participation (Jonassen, 2000), most use- instructional technology possibilities soon turned
ful when used as a collaborative tool to construct into a self-fulfilling prophesy, ably aided by
knowledge (Roberts, 2002; 2007). businesses—especially Apple Computer and

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

the Whole Earth consortium—who recognized lem, 2007; Rasmussen, 1998; Riding & Grimly,
a lucrative new market when they saw one. The 1999)—to better meet the individual learning
predictions soon became actuality as educators, needs of students. Just as all students do not write
parents, politicians, the media and even the stu- or read equally well, neither do they use comput-
dents themselves first believed and then bought ers equally well.
into the idea of a new generation of digitally There are no doubt other lessons to be learned
capable students. There is nothing intrinsically from this line of inquiry, but the preliminary nature
wrong with this except that all concerned might of the current study dictates that conservatism in
have been mislead concerning the capabilities and this area is the best policy.
characteristics of the digital generation who were
thereby ill-served by the very people and institu-
tions trying to benefit them (See Kanter, 2001). CONCLUSION

Implications for Teaching As suggested at the beginning of this chapter, the


Internet behavior of the digital generation can be
The most important implication suggested by this explained more by reference to the typical teenage
study is that educators cannot assume that the stu- behavior of any generation, rather than by some
dents entering university classrooms possess the intrinsic difference between this particular gen-
technological skills often attributed to the digital eration and previous generations. Sociologically
generation. Certainly, there will be students who do and historically, each generation has questioned
possess a high level of technological skill, but most the behavior of the youth that comprise the next
are likely to be at differing skill levels. Instruction generation. What is somewhat different about this
based on an assumed (presumed) technological particular generational “gap” is the availability
expertise will probably be of little benefit to and affordability of new technology that children
students who do not, in fact, possess those skills. can use while they are children—that has rarely,
Such instruction may in fact be detrimental, pre- if ever, occurred in the past. Moreover, most
dooming certain students to failure. new technologies in the past have been formally
This does not imply that neither digital com- restricted at some point to certain age groups, to
puting technologies nor the Internet (Web 2.0 or persons with certain skills or tightly controlled by
otherwise) can be useful instructional tools, only adults. Computer technology has, instead, practi-
that expertise in their use should not be assumed cally been thrust upon some segments the young
to be distributed equally—or even similarly— population almost from the time they were born.
among students of any age in the higher educa- In the end, the digital generation may be as much
tion classroom. Rather, it suggests that educators a result of deliberate marketing as anything else;
should treat technological skills as an important certainly Apple Computer has always aimed its
part of the context of instruction. There are at marketing at the youth market. Apple’s most suc-
least two ways in which this can be approached: cessful product ever, the iPod, has been marketed
First, technological skills should be viewed as an directly at young people. If there is a digital genera-
important part of the background knowledge stu- tion, it may be because adults have created it, not
dents bring with them into the classroom—much because today’s young people are some different
as reading level and mathematics knowledge are kind of human as Donald Tapscott has suggested
treated now. Second, technological preferences (1998). Significantly, Tapscott is a business man;
can be leveraged, like preferred learning styles so is Tim O’Reilly who coined the term Web 2.0.
(DeVita, 2001; Hackman & Walker, 1990; Moal- Might it not be significant that both the idea of a

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The Digital Generation and Web 2.0

digital generation and a Web 2.0 come not from programs, use Web 2.0 technologies in similar
educators, but from businessmen? amounts but in different ways. Those differences
A monolithic digital generation has been shown are tied more closely to life-stage and individual
to be not only unlikely from both a statistical context than to age or generational identification.
standpoint and a theoretical standpoint, but quite Age does matter because both context and life-
possibly nothing more than an intentional inven- stage can be affected by age, as can background
tion of media interests tied to both marketing and experience.
Sixties-era philosophies, though it may possibly A longitudinal study tracking the use of Web
have derived its technological basis from actual 2.0 technologies over a period of 5-10 years should
early academic experimentation. Further, most de- be conducted to test the hypothesis that web usage
scriptions of supposed digital generation behavior patterns change with life-stage. As members of the
are derived from two sources: observation of in- digital generation location move from undergradu-
novators and early adopters whose characteristics ate to graduate and professional life, will their use
differ from the population as a whole and from of Web 2.0 technologies change?
a futuristic interpretation of normal adolescent Studies to determine which web-based tech-
behaviors. nologies tend to be used by individuals at a given
The idea of a Web 2.0 does not designate a life-stage would be helpful in guiding educators
technologically superior Web, but a business in determining which technologies might best be
orientation that leverages existing technologies used to meet the needs of students of different
to take advantage of increased computing power ages and backgrounds.
and bandwidth to deliver a variety of consumer In conclusion, the answer to the question posed
participatory services wherein the Web/Internet in the title of this chapter is: “A little of both.”
is the platform and the browser or browser-based The digital generation is more media myth than
software the main interfaces. It is however, the cultural reality but Web 2.0 seems to be very much
instructional potential of those participatory ser- a legitimate learning concern.
vices that attracts the attention of educators.
This chapter has examined the relationship of
those two concepts, a digital generation and the REFERENCES
Web 2.0, to ascertain whether any meaningful re-
lationship can be found between them that informs Alanen, L. (2001). Explorations in generational
instructional practice. Based upon generational analysis. In L. Alanen & B. Mayall. (Eds.), Con-
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are (1) innovation, (2) communication (3) time
and (4) social system. The characteristics and
percentages of the individuals within any given
KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS social system that adopt a given innovation at a
given amount of time is remarkably stable in any
Digital Generation: The generation of humans
modern social system
whose generational location places their birth and
Generational Location: A concept and term
developmental experiences during a time of wide-
coined by Karl Mannheim (who is given credit
spread access to digital computing technologies
for developing the modern concept of generation)
and whose exposure to and experience with those
in 1928 that designates the beginning and ending
technologies led to a technological comfort and
dates for potential inclusion in any given genera-
expertise with those technologies that surpasses
tion. It is a purely theoretical construct.
those of prior generations.
Actualized Generation: A concept developed
Web 2.0: A business term coined in 2003 by
by Karl Mannheim to designate the actual exis-
Dale Daugherty and popularized by Tim O’Reilly
tence of an identifiable generation for any given

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generational location. To become actualized, a Note that asynchronous communication typi-


generation must meet three criteria (1) shared cally refers to two-way communication, though
experiences, (2) the experiences occurred at the broadcasting (one-way communication) can also
same developmental stage (age), and (3) mutually be asynchronous. An example of the latter is radio
and meaningfully interpreted by the members of broadcasting or blogging
the generation that shared the experience Synchronous Communication: A term that
Social Networking: A term typically used designates communications between two or more
to describe socialization via electronic media, individuals that takes place simultaneously. It is
specifically, but not exclusively, via Internet and marked by the all communicants being involved
cellular telephony-based media. It also refers to in the communications process at the same time,
the non-electronic process of creating relation- though not necessarily at the same location. Ex-
ships with other individuals that last over time. amples of synchronous electronic communication
Typically, for a social network to exist, members include telephone calls and instant messaging
of the network must necessarily have mutual (though the former may take place asynchro-
relationships with more than just one member of nously, as well)
the network, though direct relationships with all Digital Divide: A term referring to the un-
members of the network is not required equal access to digital computing technologies by
Asynchronous Communication: A term that members of a given social system. Access consists
designates communications between two or more of five dimensions identified by DiMaggio and
individuals that is separated by the passage of Hargittai (2001): technical means, autonomy of
time. Typically, such communication involves use, patterns of use, social support networks, and
separation of the communicants by distance, but requisite skill. Absence of any one of these dimen-
that is neither a necessary, nor sufficient condi- sions constitutes lack of the access necessary to
tion for asynchronous communication to take develop expertise in the use of digital computing
place. Examples of asynchronous electronic technologies
communication include e-mail and voice mail.

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116

Chapter 7
Adult Learners, E-Learning,
and Success:
Critical Issues and Challenges in an Adult
Hybrid Distance Learning Program
Jeffrey Hsu
Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA

Karin Hamilton
Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA

ABSTRACT
Adult learners have a set of specific and unique needs, and are different from traditional college stu-
dents. Possessing greater maturity, interest in learning, and also career and life-oriented objectives,
they have different expectations for their education, as well as different backgrounds and goals. This
chapter examines what adult learners are, theories of adult learning, and the applicability of online
learning to adult learners. Specific teaching methods and techniques are discussed for online and hybrid
distance learning courses, as well as hybrid arrangements; encompassing teaching methods, types of
exercises and activities, intensive course structures, block scheduling, and the use of modular course
segments. Examples from an adult learner hybrid distance learning undergraduate program, Fairleigh
Dickinson University’s Global Business Management, are also provided. Future trends and areas for
further research conclude the chapter.

INTRODUCTION numbers, and in terms of their characteristics and


influence on the educational market. This emerging
While the focus of undergraduate post-secondary group of students is becoming a force, and in the
education has for many years targeted students who not too distant future, likely a majority, of students
have completed high school, are in their late teens who enroll in educational programs. These adult
and early 20’s, and are obtaining a degree for their students, who for various reasons did not obtain a
future career, adult students have gained influence college degree earlier in their careers and lives, are
and prominence in terms of their rapidly increasing now becoming an important component of under-
graduate student enrollment and recruitment and
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch007

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success

are receiving increased attention by educational included in the non-traditional student category;
institutions. such as older adults returning to the workforce (and
Adult learners, categorized as non-traditional college) as well as those who may have retired
students, are fundamentally different from tra- from a position and are seeking new careers in
ditional undergraduates. Their backgrounds, different areas.
needs, orientation, and objectives are unique and In contrast to the stereotypical undergraduate
can affect the entire realm of teaching, schedul- student who enrolls in college as the next logical
ing, student services, and use of technology in step after high school, 73% of adult non-traditional
education. students attend college for the purposes of career
The objective of this chapter is to examine advancement, to improve their knowledge in a
the various issues, considerations, pedagogical subject area, and/or to complete a degree to add
techniques, and challenges which exist when to their credentials (U.S. Department of Educa-
educating adult students. Focus and attention tion, 2002). These aspects help to categorize adult
is directed to online and e-learning, especially learners as a specialized population, together with
teaching in a hybrid distance learning environ- their educational need for current, relevant and
ment. Insights and experiences obtained from technically oriented content, and their goals of
theory, research, and practice are offered together career development and mastery of practical (and
with actual examples from a program designed accompanying conceptual/theoretical) skills.
to meet the unique learning needs of adults, the Many adult students are or were previously
Global Business Management (GBM) program employed full-time and therefore understand that
offered by the Silberman College of Business higher education is not only desirable, but neces-
(SCB) at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). sary in today’s highly competitive global economy.
The goal is to provide a comprehensive look In fact, many jobs which will be available in the
at the complex set of issues and considerations future will require higher-level cognitive skills
which are associated with adult learner students that only a portion of current workers possess
in relation to undergraduate college studies in a (U.S. Department of Labor, 1999). Because the
hybrid distance learning setting. global economy has placed new demands on both
workers and the workplace, the goals of adult
students can differ significantly from those of 18
CHARACTERISTICS OF to 21 year old students.
ADULT LEARNERS Adult students frequently bring to the class-
room a number of positive qualities including
Adult learners comprise a significant portion of a enthusiasm and a genuine desire to learn, self-
category known as “non-traditional” undergradu- directedness, a desire to have an immediate ap-
ate students, which now includes nearly half of all plication of learned material, a strong practical
college students in the U.S (Horn, 1996). Some emphasis, and the ability to gain experiences
of the core characteristics of non-traditional stu- related to new learning. Adult students tend to
dents are that they delayed enrollment (did not be more active in class participation, are eager
enter college after high school; or started and did and more engaged to learn for the enrichment
not finish), are likely to attend school part time, of their careers and lives in general, and can
have full-time jobs and careers, and are likely to better make use of real-life application when ap-
be married with dependents (National Center for proaching their academic studies (Merriam, 2001;
Education Statistics, 2002). Other related, but Knowles, 1984). Much of this is related to their
proportionately smaller populations may also be previous work experience, and also to their goals

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Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success

of personal and professional advancement. Adult and knowledge that may include work-related
students tend to exhibit higher levels of practical activities, family responsibilities, and previous
emphasis, self-directedness, and to have stronger education. They need to connect learning to this
critical thinking skills. Of particular significance, knowledge/experience base. Adults need to under-
adult learners were found to operate more on the stand clearly the purpose and rationale of learning
level of dialectic and contextual relativism, rather something, tend to take much greater responsibil-
than the lower level skills of multiplicity and ity for their own lives, have an enthusiasm and
dualism (Espana, 2004). They possess the ability eagerness to learn, and are life-centered rather
to engage in and prefer course activities which than problem- or task-centered (Knowles, 1980;
emphasize problem solving, decision making, Frey & Alma, 2003). The importance of a topic
collaboration, practical application, and active for managing certain kinds of life situations and
learning. (Merriam, 2001; Knowles, Holton, & career scenarios should be emphasized, as adults
Swanson, 1998). do not always value learning without practical
It is also likely that adult students have application and a meaningful rationale. Students
incomplete, interrupted, and/or negative edu- should be encouraged to bring out their knowl-
cational histories, which may have contributed edge in the form of experiences and examples to
to their decision to leave school earlier in life. share with the class, whether in the classroom or
Some may possess a less than adequate edu- in some online medium (discussion board, group
cational background, and associated learning discussions, etc.) (Frey & Alma, 2003).
and study skills may also be lacking (Merriam, Adults view learning as a means to an end,
2001). Another challenge faced by adult learn- not an end in itself.Cercone (2008) and Lowry
ers is the tendency to be constrained by time (1989) advanced the concept that adults are
and scheduling limitations. Daytime class at- able to initiate and study/learn a subject with-
tendance is usually not feasible and the amount out requiring or seeking extensive help from
of time which can be devoted to attending class others. This quality of being self-directed; that
and completing coursework must be carefully is more independent, persistent, self-confident
budgeted. and attentive to organization, contrasts with
the dependency typically observed in younger,
traditional undergraduates.
ADULT LEARNING THEORIES AND Adult learners tend to be less interested in
THE NEEDS OF ADULT LEARNERS survey courses. They tend to prefer single con-
cept, single-theory courses that focus heavily on
The body of theoretical knowledge relative to the application of the concept to relevant prob-
adult learning provides insights and perspectives lems. Andragogy, or the concepts and principles
that help distinguish their needs from those of concerned with teaching and educating adults
traditional undergraduate students. By aligning (Knowles, 1980), determined that adults want to
certain expectations, goals and objectives of relate what they have learned to their work and
adult learners (provided in italics below) with careers. Moreover, aspects of adult learning can
theories that support these distinctions, a clearer be broken down into certain components, includ-
picture of the educational needs of adult learners ing the need to build a reservoir of knowledge,
can emerge. orientation towards developing social roles, mov-
Adults are practical and focus on aspects of a ing toward self-direction, and also emphases on
lesson most useful to them in their work. Adults immediate application and problem-centeredness
have accumulated a foundation of life experiences (Knowles, 1977).

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Adults need to be able to integrate new ideas Because adults are goal-directed, they appreci-
with what they already know if they are going to ate a learning experience that is clearly defined,
keep - and use - the new information. Information well organized, and with goals and objectives cen-
that conflicts sharply with what is already held to tered on their interests, careers, and expectancies.
be true, and thus forces a re-evaluation of the old Adults require clear statements of expectations, an
material, is integrated more slowly. Transforma- understanding of how their work will be graded
tive learning theory can be useful in understanding and evaluated, and prompt and regular feedback
what might be a point of epiphany or of frustration (Frey & Alman, 2003). An important application
for instructors teaching adult students. According of Knowles’s theory is that feedback, flexibility,
to the theory, students can be transformed by the and control are most appreciated. This includes
learning process, so that after learning, they may receiving timely evaluations and being able to
approach a task, subject, or skill, from a different understand the value in, and level of, what they
perspective than previously. When transformative are learning, together with flexible schedules
learning occurs, the person “sees the world dif- and formats. Although it is understood that some
ferently,” and can better understand things having courses have topics which are recommended and
new perspective and insight. Closely related is the required for all, it would be best to offer some
concept of critical reflection, in that reflection can flexibility (type of application, case to review,
help to bring about new perspectives in the learner project options, etc.) avoiding a “one size fits all”
(Cercone, 2008; Frey & Alman, 2003; Mezirow, arrangement (Frey & Alman, 2003).
1997). The theory of perspective transformation Removing obstacles to learning helps increase
(Mezirow, 1990), focuses on change in the learner persistence and motivation for adults. The fact that
which comes about through the process of criti- learning is only one aspect of adult lives, and is
cal reflection and a changing of viewpoints and intertwined with work and family responsibilities
perspectives from which one views aspects of the should be recognized (Knowles, 1977). McClusky
world. An example of this might be a student’s (1963) offers a useful perspective on balancing
view on technology, which could start by being work/school demands called the theory of margin.
resistant and negative, but after further discovery What is known as a student’s margin for learning
of computing power and capability, can change is a function of both load and power (M=L/P). In
to a new sense of appreciation. other words, learning is affected by a student’s life
Adults tend to have a problem-centered roles and demands, together with one’s power (or
orientation to learning and generally want to resources/abilities). Learning can occur when the
immediately apply new information or skills to right balance of external life demands can be met
current problems or situations. The principle of by the existing power or resource level.
experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) can address Several concepts address the need to remove
this educational preference by emphasizing obstacles and provide time economies and balance.
experience, reflection, conceptualization, fol- The ability to chunk and group information into
lowed by action generating a dynamic cycle modules and learning units is invaluable, since it
progressing from one stage to the next. There helps to structure the material, and also provides
are a number of different exercises and activi- students with logical starting and stopping points
ties which can come under this classification, in completing their work. When courses within a
and while relevant to adult learners, some sequence or a program are organized with well-
believe it should not be the primary focus of structured and consistent formats, then adults
adult learning but only one component of it would be able to better appreciate the relation-
(Brookfield, 1995). ships between subjects, or between different

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approaches. (Frey & Alma, 2003; Stilborne & programs, and course content, the objective in this
Williams, 1996). section is to examine research which can shed
Administrative areas that complement the light into the methods that would work best for
learning experience can also impact the abil- adult learners (Martyn & Bash, 2002).
ity of adult learners to balance their work/life/ Distance learning (which is related to online
educational demands. Many adult students, and e-learning) can be defined as students using
given that they attend class on evenings, and computing and communications technologies,
especially weekends, may receive less support interactivity, and also asynchronous communi-
than daytime and weekday evening students. cations to learn remotely, without the need for
This includes support for technical issues and face-to-face class sessions (Beck et al, 2004;
problems, additional help and tutoring for cer- Wahlstrom, Williams, & Shea, 2003).
tain subjects, support for cohorts and groups, The relevance of online and distance learning
and also administrative needs (advising, reg- to adults is directly related to the nature of adult
istration, etc.) (Frey & Alman, 2003). While students, who can take advantage of the benefits
not technically in the realm of the classroom, of both flexibility and asynchronous communica-
educators need to be aware that adult learning tions. Although adults are more time constrained,
can be negatively impacted out of the frustra- they tend to demonstrate higher levels of moti-
tions borne from poorly conceived scheduling vation and persistence towards completing their
and/or inaccessible services. courses and programs. From this perspective, it
In reviewing the diverse theories on adult appears that distance learning provides an ideal
learning, the main focus should be on the fact that option, since it allows for “anytime, anywhere”
adult learning requirements differ fundamentally communications, the ability to log in at all hours
from those of younger students. To be effective, a and at one’s own convenience, and is appropriate
holistic approach targeted towards adults’ specific for students who exhibit a higher level of self-
needs to be implemented when designing courses direction, focus, and initiative (Chaffee, 1998).
and programs. Unlike traditional classroom structures where
classes are conducted in real-time using lectures,
discussions, and activities, distance learning is
E-LEARNING AND ADULT LEARNING conducted without the instructor and students
necessarily being online at the same time. While
The use of technology in the teaching and learning some real-time activities can be supported through
process is becoming increasingly commonplace, virtual chat rooms, white boards, and other facili-
especially in business, sciences, and related fields. ties, the most common usage is for students and
Development has been rapid, with considerable instructors to communicate through threaded dis-
choice and variability in terms of online education, cussions, message boards, e-mail, and some kind of
ranging from fully online courses, degrees, and online Internet-based portal or course management
programs, to those which use a hybrid (classroom/ system (CMS). These can be educational tools such
online) approach, and those which use course as Blackboard or WebCT, through a customized
management systems and portals primarily to sup- website, or some other kind of communications
port courses which meet regularly in a classroom system (Martyn & Bash, 2002).
(Ahn, Han & Han, 2005). Hybrid distance learning, which includes both
While there has been a great deal written and classroom sessions and online communications in
discussed about the applicability of online and the course, provides another option. Classroom
distance learning to the various kinds of students, sessions are scheduled intermittently, and coordi-

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nated so that the online interaction forms a type Tyler-Smith, 2006). The causes of these problems
of “virtual classroom” extension where signifi- are often linked to a lack of internal motivation,
cant interaction can occur. When implemented especially if online course components and les-
properly, the ability for closer, personal interac- sons are not properly designed (such as lessons
tion in class can be enhanced, and also extended using only typed lecture notes and/or pages of
outside of the classroom (Martyn & Bash, 2002). mainly theoretical and conceptual material). The
An example of this can be found in the Global concepts of andragogy would not be met, and there
Business Management (GBM) program offered would be low completion and satisfaction rates.
at the Silberman College of Business at Fairleigh However, these can be better met through improv-
Dickinson University (FDU). The courses in this ing usability, self-direction, authentic activities,
program, which are designed for adult undergradu- collaboration, and critical reflection.
ate business students, were structured to combine
both face-to-face classes (Friday evenings and
weekends) and extensive support using a course E-LEARNING TECHNIQUES THAT
management system (Blackboard). This design ADDRESS ADULT LEARNING NEEDS
feature encourages primary interaction to occur in
the classroom and then extends interaction outside To address the inherent challenge of high e-learning
the classroom online to establish rapport between attrition, it is useful to review technical consider-
the instructor and the students, and also among ations as well as those issues and methodologies
the students. The use of online learning therefore which address applicability to and needs of adult
ensures that communication and collaboration learner students using online and distance learning.
continues throughout the duration of the course, Improvements in the online experience could first
fostering development of a learning community. be realized through objectively assessing and en-
(Hamilton, 2002) hancing technical aspects of course delivery. While
Online learning meets several needs of adult this may seem to be a minor issue, the structure
learners previously identified, including self- of the online course could have a major impact
directed learning, flexibility and motivation. on the effectiveness of the online segment of the
Generally more independent, adults seek an online course. Proper course design assessment should
environment which supports their desire for a more include a review of the overall usability and design
“take-charge” approach that allows self-resolution of screens (user interface design), as the effects
of problems. This is in contrast to more dependent of poor usability can affect learning, satisfaction,
learners who rely heavily on their instructor to and the desire for students to take further courses
focus and direct their learning. in their program or in an online modality. Taking
In connection with self-direction is the need for into account technological limitations can also
flexibility, an integral component of online learning, help, such as avoiding the display of too much
and one of its desired benefits. Adults who have text on a single screen or graphics which take too
work and family obligations can adapt well to the much time to load up on a page. Instructors who
asynchronous nature of online interaction. Greater are employing an online course module or segment
interest and desire for online interaction is related may need to consult with an instruction designer or
both to the greater work hours and a student’s dis- do some usability testing/review before employing
tance from campus (Perez Cerijo, 2006). new online course materials.
Online learning has drawbacks in that it has While the effective use of graphics, charts and
been found to have a high attrition level, some- tables can aid learning, the improper or overuse
times as high as 70% or more (Flood, 2002; of these can produce information overload (Hiltz

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& Turoff, 1985) and actually reduce learning to solve a problem on his or her own (Powers,
because there is too much information, often 2005).
improperly structured, for a student to absorb.
Effective and clear navigation, proper consider- Self Direction and Adult
ation of accessibility, and the use of multimedia Online Learning
can help to maintain interest and increase learn-
ing, especially when human memory aspects are The need for self-direction in their studies is of
taken into account. paramount importance to adult students, given
The cognitive theory of multimedia learning their limited campus and classroom time and also
(Clark and Mayer, 2003) describes how learning because most of their time is spent off campus.
can be enhanced or diminished using multimedia The definition of self-direction can be described
elements. Since humans have two information as being “active participants in their own learning
processing channels, visual and auditory, it is process” (Zimmerman, 2001). In other words,
important that the material presented complements these students take initiative and actually work
rather than competes with each channel. When toward formulating their own learning goals, select
there is too much text on a screen, or when audio materials for learning, and also select strategies
and text are presented simultaneously, but do not for solving a problem (Knowles, 1975).
support each other, learning declines. Similarly, Feedback from students in a study of adult
students can be distracted from learning when the online learners appear to favor independent learn-
use of unrelated music, sound effects, or secondary ing without extensive guidance and instructor
material is presented with the main material. presence. However, the need for an instructor to
Another technical issue frequently faced guide and coach students through the learning and
by online instructors is that there is need when also to provide meaningful examples for the con-
instructing adult learners to emphasize critical cepts and topics presented appear to be important
tasks over those which are more routine and components to effective self-directed online course
easily presented online. The most critical tasks, activities (Young, 2006). While there is definitely
however, are typically the most difficult to model a need for adult students studying online to exhibit
or represent online. It is easy, for example, to put self-direction and work independently, feedback is
text up on a screen, but far more challenging to also critical to the learning process (Knowles at al.,
create multimedia presentations which explain 1998). Instructors should be mindful of the need
complex tasks (Powers, 2005). So, it may be to allow adult learners to pursue various aspects of
useful to decide which aspects of a course would their learning in a self-directed manner, however
best be presented in class and which would be also remembering that feedback and guiding/
designed for online delivery. Reviews by faculty coaching is both needed and expected.
and students prior to deployment would also be
helpful to provide feedback and suggestions for Authentic Activities
improvement.
One means of providing those learning a new As mentioned previously, adult learners do not
method, technique, or skill, is to offer, aside from seek strictly factual and conceptual learning, but
exercises, worked-out examples and demonstra- rather, a combination of concepts, theory, and ap-
tions which can help a student to better understand plication which can help to enhance their lives and
the specific steps in that kind of problem solving. careers. Therefore, it is suggested that authentic
This focus on strategies and skills can be helpful activities be assigned to adult learners especially
to improve a student’s confidence in attempting with constructivist approaches in mind.

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Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver (2002) argue less, practice problems and exercises than face-to-
for the development of authentic classroom ac- face classes. It is better to integrate practice and
tivities, which tend to move away from teacher- exercises into a lesson, rather than make it some-
centered “instructivist” approaches in favor of thing which follows afterwards. Proper practice
those which emphasize constructivist types of should include directions, questions, feedback,
teaching and learning. The traditional concept is and responses (Clark & Mayer, 2003).
that instructional activities are designed with the The use of online and e-learning technologies
purpose of providing a means for practice and would help to supplement the development and
that repeated and successful practice brings about implementation of authentic learning, in that the
mastery of a skill. In connection with this, learning Internet and online portals can provide support for
happens when skills are taught and presented in a a number of the features inherent in authentic learn-
logical structure, order, or method. This more tra- ing activities. These include support by providing a
ditional, behaviorist approach, is geared towards wealth and diversity of resources, such as multimedia
specific performance as is required when using tools (documents, graphics, video, links, etc.).
objective evaluation methods.
This is contrasted to the constructivist ap- Collaboration
proach, which is more in line with authentic
activities. It is suggested that authentic activities Another important aspect is to allow students to
are those kinds which are complex, constructive, work as a team, whether by group e-mail, dis-
and collaborative, used to solve more real-life, cussion board, real-time chat interaction, or by
application-oriented, and “authentic” problems. providing workspaces where documents and other
Of particular relevance to this is the contribution working deliverables and items can be shared.
of collaboration through groups, where the minds The ability to use hyperlinks and other non-linear
of several work together to solve a problem rather navigation through a set of resources allows stu-
than providing an emphasis on individual learning dents to follow a thought or idea more effectively
(Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2002). than the linear approach inherent in most printed
There are a number of key aspects and charac- and traditional resources. The ability to publish
teristics of authentic learning, including the need information using weblogs, or to have a group col-
to have real-world relevance, to tackle ill-defined laboratively edit, modify, and update information
and complex tasks, to provide students the means using wikis would be helpful. These could help
to de-compose a large problem into smaller steps, to promote more critical reflection and thought,
and to use various kinds of tools and resources in and also to perhaps bring in the thoughts, ideas,
problem-solving. Collaboration, the integration and critiques by both external experts as well as
of values and beliefs, and the need to integrate the course instructor. The fact that the Internet is
across different topic and subject areas, are also easily accessible helps to enable time-challenged
important aspects of authentic activities. Ideally, adults to contribute and participate at times more
authentic activities should be effectively linked suitable to them, since most interaction is asyn-
with assessment, have outcomes which can be chronous, online, and does not require travel as
applied more universally rather than for a specific in a FTF meeting.
domain, and be able to emphasize diversity and Collaborative learning is defined as “working
value (Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2002). The in a group of two or more to achieve a common
role of exercises and practice problems would be goal, while respecting each individual’s contribu-
to help reinforce the concepts taught. In general, tion to the whole (McInnerney & Robert, 2004).
online sessions should include more, rather than Higher levels of achievement, connections, and

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positive psychological factors arise from the col- 2003). Discussion is certainly an effective learn-
laborative approach, rather than from a competi- ing format from the perspective of andragogy
tive or individual approach. (Johnson, Johnson, (Knowles, 1990), critical evaluation of ideas, and
& Smith, 1991; Smith, 1995). Benefits also the creation of new ideas (Bloom, 1956).
include higher order thinking, socialization, and The advantages of using discussion forums
the ability to engage in critical thinking (Jegede, can also facilitate learning new ideas by relating
2002; Schultz, 2003). Reduced anxiety, increased concepts to previous knowledge (Anderson &
levels of student feedback, and greater levels of Garrison, 1995), and, in fact, many aspects of what
reflection have also been observed. makes face-to-face discussions effective can also
Since collaborative group work is frequently be found in online discussions (Hiltz, 1990). The
assigned online, it would be useful to examine ability to collaborate and discuss also brings about
the work by An et al. (2008) who outlined the results in learning which are claimed to be superior
factors which contribute to and detract from to those trying to learn a topic alone because of
effective group work. Factors contributing to the social aspect (Vygotsky, 1978). Since adults
effective group online collaboration include the bring a wealth of personal experience to a course,
need for individual accountability, whereby each it can be suggested that discussions with a group
member feels responsible for contributing to the of adult learners is an especially useful means of
team’s output, rather than “social loafing”, i.e. sharing knowledge and allowing all members to
letting others do it. There should also be a sense learn (Kramlinger & Huberty, 1990).
of camaraderie within the group, promoting the Some of the problems inherent in discussion
ability to come to a consensus without diminish- forums include the lack of visual clues and body
ing the contributions of anyone, obtaining clear languages which are easily noted in face-to-face
instructions about a project or assignment from meetings. In addition, students who are less outgo-
the instructor, and also selecting a proactive team ing may not participate actively in discussions be-
leader who can manage the group and produce cause of timidity, lack of interest or knowledge on
positive results and outcomes (McInnerney & the subject, or inability to express oneself clearly
Robert, 2004). in writing (Nonnecke & Preece, 2001). Allowing
Negative factors include predominance of for anonymous participation, and assigning credit
technical problems, unclear guidelines from the or grades for participation has been found to have
instructor, inability to come to a team consensus, a positive impact on participation rates.
difficulties in communicating through writing
(which is the primary format for much of online
communications), and lack of accountability on PROGRAM AND STRUCTURAL
the part of individuals in the group (McInnerney APPROACHES TO ADULT
& Robert, 2004). LEARNER EDUCATION
Discussion forums play a dominant role in
online and distance learning as the primary means One of the first areas of improvement made by
for dialog and communication. They generally of- schools seeking to address adult learner needs
fer threaded discussions so that the various topics, focused on removing administrative obstacles
replies, and interactions evolve and are managed often confronted by adult students. Many pro-
in an organized manner. In support of adult learn- grams began to offer evening and weekend hours
ing, discussion forums encourage discourse, and for classes, advisement, bursar, and various other
ultimately learning among participants, and can service functions; direct assistance with financial
help to build learning communities (Garrison, aid; online registration; and even babysitting.

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Improvements in program and course structure more prompt course and degree completion, and
to help adult learners better manage the learning offers convenience for some, as it is easier to
process and their educational programs might be attend several weekend day-long classes, than
considered as a next step. The techniques discussed to attend for two or three hours over a span of
below involve the use of intensive courses, block sixteen weeks.
course scheduling, and the presentation of course Some faculty and educators, however, tend
material using modules. The underlying reasons to regard this approach as nothing more than
why these methods can and would be helpful to an attempt to satisfy students’ desires for faster
adult students are explained relevant to theories completion and greater convenience, while at the
and previous research. same time causing a decline in academic learn-
Most traditional courses operate using the ing and standards. Concerns include claims that
semester or quarter system, in which class ses- there is insufficient time for students to absorb
sions are held in a similar schedule throughout the material, the fact that instructors may tend to
the course duration. While this is likely to be the teach less because of the short course duration, and
most common format, and works for many types of that overall learning would suffer in the interests
students and classes, adults typically have limited of expediency.
time to devote to class and academic work, and Surprisingly, this usually is not the case with
are generally more available to attend class on intensive courses. In fact, research comparing the
evenings and weekends. This frequently increases learning outcomes of students taking intensive
the length of time needed for them to complete compared to traditional length courses found
an undergraduate degree to sometimes twice as that those who took the intensive version had
long. One solution is to use what is known as the equal, and in some cases better performance than
intensive or compressed course format. Simply those using traditional semester-long scheduling
put, this is the structure where courses meet for (Serdyukov et al, 2003).
longer periods of time each meeting, from a few How can this be true? It may be attributed to
hours to the length of an entire business day so the fact that students taking an accelerated course
that the entire a course is completed in a shorter are able to devote more focused, concentrated
timeframe, such as 4 to 8 weeks. Compressed study time, allowing for deeper investigation of a
formats allow for more prompt completion, while certain topic or subject. Because of the short course
at the same time increasing the level of course duration, class meetings are frequently supple-
intensity. Since the material in a 16 week course mented by distance learning, e-mail, and other
is taught and completed within the span of a few means to continue the learning process outside
weeks, there are greater demands placed on both of the classroom. Intensive courses are typically
the instructor and the students during the limited scheduled back-to-back rather than concurrently,
time the course is running (Daniel, 2000; Scott so that students need to meet one set of instructor
& Conrad, 1991). preferences and address only one set of classroom
The concept of intensive courses is not new to procedures that accompany course delivery, such
education as it is used both for summer session as the course timetable and required submittals.
courses as well as for certain graduate programs This is in contrast to traditional scheduling where
where the goal is to appeal to students who can multiple courses are taken concurrently and thus
only attend classes outside of daytime hours . force separate and contrasting requirements. The
There have been discussions about the peda- results of these include better development and
gogical soundness of intensive courses. Students learning of concepts and skills, together with
tend to prefer this format, since it allows for a higher level of concentration and immersion

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(Csikszentmihalyi, 1982; Espana, 2004; Scott & Statistics I centers on developing facility in basic
Conrad, 1992). statistics, allocating time primarily to practice
A separate technique related to intensive cours- and reinforcement. Course content for Statistics
es is block scheduling. As previously discussed, II focuses on the use of statistics in business and
the concept of presenting courses which meet in in the media, deconstructing the use of statistics
compressed time formats can improve immersion, within an argument and how conclusions could
retention, and learning for adult students. The use differ under various statistical approaches.
of blocked time formats combined with an inten- Another application of this technique involves
sive course schedule can also help to improve the the structuring of course material into modules
learning process by allowing sufficient time for a which emphasize a certain task, skill, or concept.
greater variety of teaching methods and activities Instead of looking at material in terms of broad
to be employed. Other benefits of block scheduled subjects comprised of various theories, facts, and
courses is that there are generally better relation- concepts, adults would benefit from having con-
ships among students, improved rapport between tent packaged into modular, structured learning
students and the course instructor, and also higher units. These units would have a specific sequence
levels of academic achievement overall (Canady of readings, activities, discussion, and exercises
& Rettig, 1995; Cawelti, 1994; Gaubatz, 2003; so that not only is the theoretical and conceptual
Hotterstein & Malatesta, 1993; O’Neil, 1995; knowledge gained, but also practical application
Reid, 1995) . on a realistic problem or task (Dillenbourg et al.,
One particularly useful technique in block 1996; Hafner & Ellis, 2004; Sloffer et al, 1999).
scheduling is to arrange courses so that there is a One example of modular course material struc-
logical sequence within a given subject area—i.e. turing is the GIL (Guided Independent Learning)
to follow certain, perhaps prerequisite courses module concept used in the courses taught in
with those that require the previous knowledge FDU’s GBM program. Carefully structured, GIL
in order to fully grasp the content. By utilizing modules are focused toward a specific application,
the same instructor to teach in logical sequence skill, or learning outcome. Background readings
a set of core or foundation courses followed by and materials are included to build foundation
courses that apply knowledge, a dynamic could knowledge. A multi-step exercise which empha-
be created whereby understanding of the material sizes problem solving and managing complex
is developed more gradually and flows from one real-life scenarios follows in which students are
course to the next. In addition, blocking courses in required to work independently. Examination,
this manner builds cohorts for that given subject. discussion and evaluation typically forms the third
The second course could be used to reinforce, step whereby the instructor supplies additional
challenge or build upon concepts introduced in the understanding, closes knowledge gaps, and chal-
first. Time savings could be realized in that stu- lenges the understanding of relevant themes and
dents would be able to devote less time to learning concepts (Hamilton, 2002).
instructor preferences and more time to learning
content. Instructors would benefit from knowing
the academic strengths and weaknesses of students NEW TECHNOLOGIES FOR
and could immediately customize content of the ADULT LEARNING
second course to maximize overall mastery of the
subject. An example where this technique is useful The fast growth of the Internet, World Wide Web,
can be found in the Statistics I and II sequence of course portals, and course management systems
the GBM program. Taught by the same instructor, has greatly changed the face of education. A revo-

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lution of sorts is taking place as educators grapple result in “uncritical ranting,” (Mason, 2006), if
with how best to deploy these new resources to discussion is supervised and kept on track, blogs
support the learning process. The need is espe- can be a useful tool to meet many adult learner
cially critical in various scientific and technical preferences. Opportunities for critical reflection
subject areas where the use of technology in the on material being studied, online peer reviews and
workplace is commonplace and ever-evolving, and commenting, and sharing of workplace experi-
in business, which is undergoing similar decision ences can all be enhanced through blogging.
points regarding how much and when to adopt Wikis, which come from the Hawaiian word
new technologies. “wiki wiki” meaning fast, are yet another tool
As a result, new technologies and tools, such that when properly deployed, can enhance
as Web 2.0, and also social networking are rapidly course-related communications, collaboration and
being implemented into the classroom. While there sharing. What is unique about wikis is that not
is overlap between these two categories, it can be only can a certain document be made available
more convenient to think of Web 2.0 incorporating publically to others and on the Internet, but that all
such tools as weblogs, instant messaging, wikis, contributors and viewers are allowed to edit and
and podcasts, and social networking encompassing to add/delete from the shared document. Online
Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. collaboration, subject to certain rules and customs
Weblogs, or blogs as they are commonly expected for that particular wiki, is built-in (Leuf
referred, have been around for a number of & Cunningham, 2001). The additional learning
years and were first used as a tool for individual benefit provided when using wikis is that groups
expression. This is a kind of website where a working on a common submittal must arrive at a
user can offer an ongoing, continually updated consensus regarding the review process and also
diary-like presentation of information, which can in determining which revisions are to be kept.
then be responded to asynchronously by readers Instant messaging (IM) has been in use for quite
and members of the blog’s community. Having some time primarily for casual communications
grown in stature, they are now used as a tool for between persons which can be conducted in real-
information dissemination as well as for eliciting time, eliminating the time lag and asynchronous
public response. The advantages of weblogs are nature inherent in e-mails. Because it enables
that they allow for instant and dynamic publishing, quick, informal communication without the need
enable someone to keep an ongoing discussion for excessive formality, the technology has been
stream operating, and also allow for replies and embraced by business. Although this tool had
feedback from readers and members of the blog mixed results for classroom use, it would appear to
(Flatley, 2005; Wagner, 2004). be an ideal communication means for collaborative
Weblogs are best utilized when there are materi- adult student groups working on a specific project
als which can be presented or “published” such as (Kinzie, Whitaker, & Hoffer, 2005).
a report, essay, or analysis of a case or problem. Podcasts can also be beneficial, and their use
Serving as a catalyst for ongoing discussion and resulting in positive outcomes for adult learner
critique, weblogs can create a collaborative work students where repetition is helpful in aiding un-
environment that allows critical reflection and derstanding or comprehension. These are audio
analysis to occur. and video files which have been produced for
Blogging is well suited to adult learners be- playback by the instructor and contain record-
cause it provides the ability to publish and share ings of lectures, supplemental materials, review
information, opinions, and materials with other sessions, and other relevant course information.
users. While improper use of the technology could These are recorded and playable on a computer or

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handheld device such as iPods and MP3 players students, the length of time needed to complete
(Lim, 2005; Lum, 2006). an undergraduate degree, course scheduling that
Social networking tools are quickly becoming was random and frequently out of alignment with
ubiquitous. Because of the widespread use of these work and family responsibilities, and the lack of
kinds of tools, their popularity and availability, financial aid for part-time study.
and the fact that younger students are familiar with In consideration of these needs, a program was
these tools, it should be considered whether these designed to allow adult students to pursue and
can be employed in adult learner classes. It also earn a college degree through a “hybrid” approach
should be remembered that many adult students using both face-to-face classes and web-based
did not grow up with many of these technologies distance learning. Intensive courses geared to
as have many of their younger undergraduate the strengths and interests of adult students were
counterparts. Closing the technology gap in this offered in a block schedule format and supported
area may therefore prove to be quite useful to the by a standardized e-learning structure. GBM
adult student who is seeking a degree with the goal students were required to have a minimum of 2
of learning more current tools and techniques. or 3 years full-time business work experience so
The use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social that they could contribute real-life examples to
networking would be useful to adult learners, share with others when undergoing coursework.
because of the need for various means to support The overall goal was to combine the advantages
both constructivist approaches to learning, and also of both technology and classroom interaction into
to bring about greater collaboration, sharing, and the educational experience.
interactive activities such as “peer reviews” and Courses were slotted on Friday evenings and
the like. While the applicability of these tools may Saturdays during the day to accommodate work
vary according to the course, subject, and specific schedules, and structured in modules designed
activity, in general these can help support learning so that GBM students would take no more than
and should be considered as a part of the “toolbox” 3 courses at any given time within each semester.
of possible resources. This clearly is an area that Where possible, courses in the same subject area
deserves more emphasis and attention, because were scheduled sequentially under the guidance of
of the rapid pace in which technology changes the same professor. This provided an opportunity
are occurring and also because mastery of these for GBM students to immerse themselves in a topic
technologies helps learners develop facility in all and for professors to carry over and reinforce key
aspects of information gathering. concepts from the first course into the second.
One of the cornerstones of the GBM program
was the development and adoption of Guided Inde-
THE FDU GLOBAL BUSINESS pendent Learning (GIL) modules. This outcome-
MANAGEMENT (GBM) PROGRAM based approach requires students to receive and
understand the requirements and components of a
A downturn in enrollment of adult non-traditional given assignment, use textbooks and other second-
students in the undergraduate part-time business ary sources to complete the assignment and also
program at the Silberman College of Business use asynchronous conferencing (i.e. Blackboard)
(Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey, to pose questions and provide answers to other
USA) prompted the need to explore the reasons students (and the instructor) while working on the
for attrition and to develop an appropriate remedy. assignment. Students frequently work in teams to
Focus groups revealed that adults were de-moti- share knowledge and improve submissions.
vated by a learning environment geared to younger Effective use of asynchronous conferencing is

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Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success

fundamental to the proper implementation of GIL post additional examples found in the workplace
modules and is used by the instructor to monitor of decisions devoid of proper fact-gathering and
student progress, clarify the requirements of an the results that ensued. As a final step, students
assignment, point to additional resources to help individually write a retrospective on the module,
students complete the assignment, prompt or par- using the examples posted to factually back their
ticipate in student discussions, provide encourage- impressions/opinions.
ment or challenge student opinions to bring about Utilizing GIL modules meets many adult learn-
a change in perspective. Other e-learning tools ing goals and preferences. Learning is focused on
are being explored to enrich resources available mastery of a single skill, yet provides flexibility
to the “independent learner,” such as podcasts and self-direction in how the learning might be
to introduce a particularly challenging concept, approached. A constructivist approach is used in
and blogs to provide a forum for discussion and that authentic real-life, real-time examples form
reflection. the foundation of the assignment, and collabo-
Class time is utilized for presentation and ration brought into play for discussion and for
sharing of work, and also lecturing by the pro- building a shared “resource bank” to draw upon
fessor to close knowledge gaps that emerge or and help deepen the understanding of all student
to elevate thinking to the next level. Armed with participants. The iterative process whereby the
new knowledge, students typically are required to student first works independently, then collab-
demonstrate mastery of a concept by resubmitting oratively, and then independently helps to foster
an improved assignment, writing a retrospective, critical reflection and, in some cases, perceptual
or completing additional work to build upon what transformation.
was learned. One can envision where e-learning tools can
An example of a GIL module underscores how supplement and improve delivery of content us-
the principles of adult learning with e-learning are ing GIL-based modules, although this area is new
combined. ENGL 1101 College Writing Workshop to GBM instructors and not yet fully developed.
is a required first semester course in the GBM However, some possible next steps could include
program and focuses on moving students to a use of podcasts to demonstrate a comparison
higher-order level of thinking required to suc- between data-driven and opinion-based decision-
cessfully complete college-level work by building making, and incorporation of blogs that require
analytical writing skills. One assignment requires contributors to practice fact-based arguments.
students to find and email to the instructor using By standardizing the use of GIL modules and
the conferencing feature in Blackboard, a work- reaching agreement on a standard set of protocols
related article having unfamiliar subject matter, for setting up course content on Blackboard, com-
challenging vocabulary, or an advanced writing munication with instructors and fellow students,
style. After some asynchronous discussion, an and assignment delivery, instructors in the GBM
article is selected by the instructor which students program worked together to help remove tech-
are required to read prior to class. During class, nological barriers. Newly enrolled students were
they are challenged by the instructor to explain/ trained in the protocols during program orienta-
evaluate/ question critically what was written. tion and typically got up to speed quickly, thus
The instructor uses the opportunity to connect conserving instructor time.
the learning to aspects in one’s life and work While much work remains to be done, espe-
by lecturing for example, on the value of basing cially in the area of incorporating new technology,
decisions on facts vs. opinion. After the class, students in the GBM program have reported a high
students conduct Internet-based research and level of satisfaction in the value of the education

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Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success

received and appreciation for the methods used adult learning appears to be well-suited to adults
to help them persist in earning a degree. who have found it very helpful to have linked
assignments and resources presented in a struc-
tured manner.
CONCLUSION/SUMMARY A review of student experiences in the GBM
program at FDU indicated that adult students
The educational market of the 21st century is dy- were quite satisfied with the program, especially
namic and changing, and adult learners are becom- in comparison to previous experiences where
ing a key growth sector in university programs. they attended traditional courses with younger
Because of their maturity, professional background, undergraduate students. Students in the program
and life experience, the teaching of adult students who completed either questionnaires or were
should be different from that of traditional students interviewed confirmed they did seek practical,
(characterized mainly by those who attend after application-oriented, and career-focused courses.
high school, and are younger and generally lack Some reported that they especially liked the fact
professional and extensive life experience). that instructors were aware that GBM students
Learning theories attest to the fact that adult brought reserves of knowledge to the classroom
learners are fundamentally different from tradi- which they were encouraged to draw from, (criti-
tional university students and would benefit from cally) reflect on, and apply to new situations in
the employment of different teaching, learning their course work.
and e-learning approaches. Earlier in this paper, Because of the emphasis on project-based
the characteristics of adult learners, theories on learning which drew upon real-life situations in
andragogy, goal-directedness, practical application, many GBM courses, the goals of practicality,
experiential learning, and integration/transforma- critical thinking, and perspective transformation
tion were discussed. In addition, critical reflection were met. This provided opportunities for students
and collaboration were reported in research as to approach a challenging problem, think through
methods which can help to enhance the educational various issues and possible solutions, or to prepare
experience of adult students. arguments in support of a position. For instance,
These theories underscore the importance creating an online marketing campaign as a course
for instructors who teach adults of moving away project in a (GBM) marketing course was deemed
from pedagogical approaches (teaching children) to be far more than useful and meaningful than
toward andragogical methods (teaching adults). In memorizing concepts and terms from a textbook
alignment with this, a number of techniques were for recall on an exam.
introduced which have been found to contribute E-learning was found to work best as a supple-
to an effective adult learning experience in the ment to the classroom meetings and was used in
areas of course and program structure, classroom a hybrid format, with various combinations of
techniques, and online learning methods. face–to-face and online content. Because of work
E-learning can be used to greater effective- schedules, travel time, and family obligations, the
ness in educating adult learners. Because many of availability of online access and resources greatly
them are experienced in using technology at work, extended and continued the learning process
adults would have fewer problems engaging in outside the classroom. Students not only contin-
the self-directed, independent learning required to ued learning through the exploration of online
successfully complete online activities. resources and tools throughout the week, but also
Course and program structure is another key had the benefit of online collaboration among class
element to consider. The modular approach to team members and with the instructor.

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Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success

Positive comments were also received regard- found to be important factors to help ensure ef-
ing the benefits of being able to explore various fective learning through the online portion of the
online resources, dig deeper into a subject, and course. Since classroom time is limited, online
work collaboratively toward tackling projects to learning accounts for a significant proportion of
explore different possible solutions to an actual the student to student (and student to instructor)
business problem. These help to support the prin- interaction. Group projects were found to be ef-
ciples of self-direction, flexibility, and authentic fective in bringing about collaborative learning,
activities. The use of online discussion boards for and to promote the sharing of the varied exper-
students to communicate and express opinions on tise of the team members. The use of an online
a certain topic was found to be highly beneficial, CMS (Content Management System) discussion
both for discussion of concepts, and as a good board and e-mail was found to help maintain
alternative to e-mail, since threaded discussions a communication flow between weekly class
helped produce a better structure and outline of sessions. The ability to learn on one’s own in a
topics discussed. For example, it was noted that self-directed manner is also supported; in that
some GBM students did not always contribute GIL modules provide resources from which to
insightful, thoughtful questions and comments help seek solutions, delve further into a topic, or
during class; but often did so during the online to survey a subject as needed. The flexibility of
discussions outside the classroom when they could learning new information, communicating with
devote more time to thinking about the materials others in a group, and also constructing a project
or a working on an assignment. or solution collaboratively online was also found
There was some discussion of the design to be a positive aspect of the program.
aspects of e-learning, including the need to take In connection with this, adult student support
account of usability, ensure proper placement and is also critical. If a new technology is being em-
presentation of multimedia elements, provide ex- ployed, some kind of training, or an online tutorial
amples or illustrations to aid the learning process needs to be included. Providing help to users who
while online, and to properly organize course have difficult navigating through the screens of
materials presented online. This was mentioned content, supplemental materials, and even assign-
because it is often given less attention than it ment descriptions is important. There should be a
deserves, and should be properly addressed. program coordinator outside the classroom, as well
For example, when instructors design online as instructors who are available both in person,
screens and lesson information poorly, learning and especially, online during the week, to help
is negatively impacted. Having too much text or guide and direct the students as needed.
too much multimedia on a screen, or exhibiting In conclusion, the Global Business Manage-
inconsistencies in structure or organization can ment (GBM) program was designed to meet the
de-motivate adult learners, since being slowed needs of adult learner students, and has been
or hindered in completing coursework is particu- successful in terms of helping students to learn
larly frustrating for those having limited time. more effectively, using a combination of modular
Therefore, making every effort to make learning course designs, authentic problems and assign-
materials accessible, platforms easy to navigate, ments, clear definitions of goals and objectives,
and communication preferences clear should be effective “student-friendly” online content design,
an integral part of any online course or course providing student support, offering a practical/
component. work-oriented emphasis, fostering collaboration,
Collaboration, self-directed learning, and and offering classes using both intensive and block
flexibility are also supported in GBM and were scheduled program sequencing. A review of the

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Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success

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Anderson, T., & Garrison, D. R. (1995). Critical
FUTURE TRENDS/ AREAS
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Higher Education, 29, 183–199. doi:10.1007/
Much more needs to be done in terms of examining
BF01383838
the ways to most effectively ensure the success
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various techniques which proved effective for an E-learning architecture: challenges and mapping
adult learner undergraduate business program, of individuals in an internet-based pedagogical
there are opportunities for studying the key con- interface. International Journal of Innovation
siderations and factors which might affect other and Learning, 1(3), 279–292. doi:10.1504/
kinds of programs that vary by focus, degree, and IJIL.2004.004884
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Bloom, B. (1956). The Taxonomy of Educational
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KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS Intensive Scheduling: Scheduling formats


where courses are taught in a shorter time frame
Andragogy: The principles and concepts than a semester or quarter.
behind teaching adults. Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching
Authentic Activities: Teaching and learning children.
with an emphasis on real-world, complex, and Perspective Transformation: The process
collaborative activities. of learning through changes in viewpoint and
Block Scheduling: The scheduling of classes approach.
using larger (and sometimes, sequenced) blocks Self-Direction: The situation where students
of time. are active participants in their own learning
Collaboration: Teaching and learning activi- process.
ties which emphasize teamwork, group work, and Transformative Learning: The process by
other situations where students work together on which newly gained (or changed) perspectives
a task. provide better insight and understanding.
Critical Reflection: The use of careful delib-
eration and thought to produce new insights.
Hybrid Distance Learning: The employment
of both classroom sessions and online communi-
cations sessions in a course.

137
138

Chapter 8
Online Interaction Styles:
Adapting to Active Interaction Styles
Dazhi Yang
Purdue University, USA

Jennifer C. Richardson
Purdue University, USA

ABSTRACT
Past studies indicate that students demonstrate different online interaction styles, which consist of the
ways or habits students acquire knowledge from computer-mediated discussions (Sutton, 2001). Such
interaction styles include the active interaction style (Beaudion, 2002), the vicarious interaction style
(Sutton, 2001), and the mixed or balanced-interaction style. The purposes of this chapter are to: (1)
examine relative studies on students’ online interaction styles; (2) propose a hypothesis that students’
online interaction styles can change during the course of computer-mediated discussion; (3) conduct a
case study on students’ online interaction styles to test the hypothesis. This chapter reviews current is-
sues related to students’ online interaction styles. It offers practical suggestions on the design of online
learning environments, instructor’s role in online courses, and educational tools to facilitate students
in adapting to more active interaction styles in computer-mediated learning environments.

INTRODUCTION Online and Athabasca University. Similarly, in


Asia, there are the Open University of Malaysia and
Online and distance learning has exploded expo- India’s Indira Gandhi National Open University.
nentially around the globe. In North America, there Although the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies
are fully online universities (e.g. the University such as MySpace and Blogger greatly facilitates
of Phoenix and Capella University) and degrees this wave of online and distance learning, questions
offered completely online at Drexel University about pedagogical value and methods of effectively
integrating such technologies have also emerged
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch008

Copyright © 2010, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
Online Interaction Styles

(Bonk, 2009). In addition, due to access and type ISSUES AND PROBLEMS RELATED
of security issues involved (Evers, 2006), online TO ONLINE INTERACTION STYLES
instructors have yet to find a way to fully adopt
these technologies. Therefore, it is not surprising Online Interaction Styles
that asynchronous online discussions, which are
usually mediated or assisted by computers, is still Because of different online interaction styles,
a common pedagogical practice in online courses students utilize different learning processes
(McLoughlin & Luca, 2000; Swan, Schenker, or manners of learning in computer-mediated
Arnold, & Kuo, 2007). As for asynchronous on- discussions. The “manner in which information
line discussions, research shows that when they is learned” affects learning transfer, which is
are appropriately implemented, asynchronous the ability to apply learning to new situations
computer-mediated discussions can increase (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999, p. 64). Thus, stu-
knowledge and understanding of course materi- dents’ online interaction styles in asynchronous
als (Brown, Smyth, & Mainka, 2006; Garrison, computer-mediated discussions not only reflect
Anderson, & Archer, 2001). students’ participation behaviors, but can also af-
In asynchronous computer-mediated discus- fect students’ learning and learning transfer.
sions, students can discuss and reflect on course The active interaction style involves students
materials and post their ideas and thoughts within continuously participating and responding to
a course management system or tool, such as discussion questions and their peers’ postings,
Moodle or Blackboard. Students are also usually generally more than they are required to. The
required to respond to their peers’ postings. During constant participation and responses may reflect
such discussions, students display different online students’ active encoding and decoding of course
interaction styles, which are defined as the ways materials and others’ ideas. In fact, educational
or habits students acquire knowledge from the researchers argue that active student participation
discussions (Sutton, 2001). For instance, some and interaction is critical to the success of online
students are constantly participating or posting learning (Moallem, 2003; Spitzer, 2001; Zirkin &
more than the course requires, which allows them Sumler, 1995). In a socially constructed knowl-
to be categorized, as Sutton defines, as active in- edge learning environment such as asynchronous
teraction style learners (Sutton, 2001). Some are computer-mediated discussions, students need to
actively observing and processing both sides of the be actively participating to construct their own
interaction from others (peers and the instructor) learning (Anderson, 2008).
without direct participation in the discussions and Vicarious interaction style, which involves
are known as vicarious interaction style learners actively observing and processing both sides
(Sutton, 2001). Furthermore, according to the of the interaction and discussions among other
authors’ online teaching and discussion facilita- participants, benefits from vicarious learning
tion experiences, another group of learners also characteristics (Sutton, 2000) such as learning
exists, who may not fixed in the active or passive from observing others (Bandura, 1986) and
mode, whom we refer to as the mixed or balanced- reading postings (Lee, Dineen, McKendree, &
interaction style learners. For students categorized Mayes, 1999). Vicarious learning has two phases:
within the mixed or balanced-interaction style, the acquisition phase and the performance phase
their levels of effort in computer-mediated discus- (Masia & Chase, 1997). Masia and Chase (1997),
sions are approximately equal to the minimum in their description of the phases, point out that
amount of postings required by a course. there is often a gap in terms of time between the
two phases. The completion of the acquisition

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phase is a cognitive representation of the acquired participation, have differing impacts on students’
knowledge and skills. It is also a subsequent learning and learning experiences (Moore, 1989;
display of student’s learning. The performance Sutton, 2000; Swan, 2002). Given this, designers
phase occurs when learners apply the acquired and instructors of computer-mediated discus-
knowledge and skills into new situations. Thus, sions and online courses should be aware of the
vicarious learning occurs as a result of observa- possibility and potential of students’ different
tion, active process of ideas and information, interaction styles and try to promote more active
and personal reflection (Masia & Chase, 1997). and direct interaction. However, this is not without
Students who have vicarious interaction styles challenges. To address these challenges, we first
appear to be observers in asynchronous computer- need to investigate whether students can change
mediated discussions. Although vicarious learners or adapt to more active interaction styles during
can benefit from online discussions, the benefits the course of computer-mediated discussions.
of vicarious interaction “will not be as great as
in the case of direct [interaction]” (Sutton, 2000, Online Learning Styles
p.23). Recently, educational researchers concluded and Preferences
that students should be actively creating rather
than consuming knowledge (Collis & Moonen, In order to investigate whether students can change
2001; Grabinger & Dunlap, 2002). Furthermore, or adapt to more active online interaction styles,
if there is no visible participation (e.g., postings), we have reviewed past studies on students’ online
how can we know whether the acquisition phase interaction styles in computer-mediated discus-
of knowledge and skills or the performance phase sions. In particular, we have reviewed studies that
has been reached by learners? examined the factors impacting online students’
The mixed or balanced-interaction style refers participation and interaction in asynchronous
to learners who are not fixed in the active or pas- computer-mediated and text discussions. Such
sive mode, i.e., they are neither actively involved studies report that individual learning styles are
nor a complete observer all the time. The mixed among the main factors that affect students’ direct
style learners may be engaged in active encod- participation in computer-mediated discussions
ing and decoding at one point while observing (Beaudion, 2002; Kovacic, 2004). According to
the interactions or they may be observing the Keefe (1979), individual learning styles include
interactions at another point during the learning the cognitive, affective, and psychological traits
process. Students categorized into this mixed or that students reveal when interacting with, per-
balanced-interaction style usually do what they ceiving, and responding to others. Individual
have to do to meet course requirements rather learning styles were found to play a major role in
than being completely immersed in discussions. the way students learn and process information in
However, as Anderson (2008) argues, students computer-mediated learning environments (Assis,
need to be actively involved in a learning process Danchak, & Polhemus, 2006; Ford & Chen, 2000;
because active interaction is a result of aggregated Riding & Cheema, 1991). This finding and Keefe’s
contribution of all participants. Moreover, for the definition of learning styles lead us to believe that
purpose of online learning community building individual learning styles are static characteris-
and a better leaning experience, it is also highly tics (Assis, Danchak, & Polhemus, 2006; Pena,
desirable that all participants are completely im- Marzo, & Rosa; 2002), which are fixed and do
mersed in discussions. not change during a learning process. Moreover,
In summary, different online participation because individual learning styles affect and de-
styles and behaviors, especially active online termine individual learning preferences (Louange,

140
Online Interaction Styles

2007), most people believe that individual learning could change during the course of asynchronous
preferences are also static and fixed. computer-mediated discussions, for example,
In view of past research that indicates learning from the vicarious interaction style to the active
styles and preferences are static, some researchers interaction style or vice versa. Specifically we
and practitioners suggest a focus on online course focused on:
design and instruction that would meet diverse
learning styles (Fresen, 2005; Janicki & Liegle, • What kinds of interaction styles (active,
2001; Johnson & Arogan, 2003). However, in vicarious, or mixed or balanced-interaction
order to accommodate different learning styles and styles) did students display in asynchro-
preferences, online instructors are often puzzled nous computer-mediated discussions?
with how to meet diverse student needs when • Did students’ interaction styles change dur-
facing twenty, thirty, or hundreds of students. ing a semester-long course utilizing asyn-
Despite the claim that “online environments can chronous computer-mediated discussions?
be particularly well suited to some learning styles” And if so,
(Illinois Online Network, 2008, ¶1), researchers • Why and how did the students change their
have found most students display a dual learning interaction styles during a semester-long
style in online courses and there is no one single course utilizing asynchronous computer-
dominant learning preference (Butler & Pinto- mediated discussions?
Zipp, 2006). Similarly, Fahy and Ally (2005) report
that students’ cognitive styles are not significantly Context and Participants
correlated with their preference for instructional
delivery modes such as traditional face-to-face, Two graduate Educational Technology courses
online, or blended learning – the mixing of face- at a large Midwestern university were chosen for
to-face and online delivery modes. Therefore, this case study. The first one was a foundations of
we propose a hypothesis that students’ online distance education course with an enrollment of
interaction styles can change during the course 13 students. The second one was an instructional
of certain computer-mediated discussions due and learning theories course with an enrollment
to their dynamic characteristics, such as active of 15 students. Both courses were credit-bearing.
participation in and active observation of online Asynchronous computer-mediated discussions
discussions. If true, then online instructors will be were the main instructional strategy employed by
able to help students adapt to more active online both courses. All enrolled students (N=28) were
interactions or learning styles and benefit from required to participate and post weekly in online
direct interaction. This hypothesis is in line with forums. They were required to post two to three
Kolb’s work (1984), which states that individual postings during a one week period with one ini-
learning styles are dynamic and change over time tial response for the assigned discussion topic(s)
due to elements such as learning objectives and and one or two postings to their peers’ postings.
learners’ role in the learning process. Students’ weekly postings were also graded and
accounted for 35% of their final grades in the
distance education course and 30% in the learn-
A CASE STUDY ing theories course. In both courses, the online
discussions lasted for 16 weeks and the instruc-
In order to test our hypothesis, we have conducted tors actively monitored and facilitated the weekly
a case study. The case study was intended to ex- discussions, which helped both the students and
plore whether students’ online interaction styles researchers identify students’ online interaction

141
Online Interaction Styles

styles and further verify whether students changed when I was not visibly participating in the online
their online interaction styles. discussion; (b) I was more of an autonomous
Because of the subject matter being studied, learner and seldom got too engaged in group
both courses attracted students from diverse fields online discussion; (c) I preferred interacting and
and schools including education, science, technol- discussing the course materials with others in order
ogy, and engineering. In addition, both courses to learn more effectively; (d) I would not have
were delivered using WebCT Vista with an initial participated in the online discussions/postings
face-to-face meeting. Thus, the courses further if it was not graded; and (e) I preferred reading
attracted some students who worked full-time or others’ postings and comments to writing my own
lived far away from the university campus. Both discussion postings. Quantitative data were col-
courses had students with a range of ethnicities lected from the online survey given at the close
(Caucasian, Africa American, Hispanic, and of the two courses. In addition, in order to verify
Asian). Students’ ages ranged from 21 to more students’ self-identification of their online interac-
than 40 years of age. Students had different levels tion styles, quantitative records of students’ login
of experiences with asynchronous computer-me- activities such as frequencies of logins and time
diated discussions and online courses. All enrolled durations of each login in WebCT Vista of each
students in the two online classes were invited to student were obtained and examined.
participate in the case study, with 89% choosing Qualitative data were collected from open-
to do so (25/28 potential participants). ended questions embedded in the online survey.
The open-ended questions asked for students’
Data Collection experiences and feedback on the asynchronous
computer-mediated discussions. Participants were
A mixed model research approach was utilized also asked if their online interaction styles had
(Johnson & Christensen, 2004) that allowed for changed as the courses proceeded and why their
triangulation of data. The learning objectives, online interaction styles changed if there was such
learning environments, course requirements, a change. The online survey was pilot-tested in
students’ role, etc. in our study were unique, and an online graduate educational technology course
therefore, an online survey was created. The on- and modified accordingly to increase the face
line survey included Likert-scale items focused and content validity before it was administered
on students’ online interaction styles, individual to the case study participants (n=25). Further-
learning preferences, and online learning activi- more, follow-up questions seeking clarification,
ties. Questions about online interaction styles were including soliciting explanations of influential
created based on definitions of vicarious learning factors causing such change, were sent via email
(Bandura, 1986) and vicarious interaction (Sut- to those participants who indicated they had
ton, 2000). In addition, several questions came changed their online interaction styles as their
from Beaudoin’s work (2002) and were intended course proceeded.
to track students “lurking” in the online discus-
sions. Individual learning preferences in this case Data Analysis
study refer to one’s preference to participating in
discussions, reading others’ postings, and observ- All survey data including those from the Likert-
ing the interaction between others in an online type questions, the open-ended questions, data
environment. from students’ login activities, and follow up
Sample survey questions included: (a) I often emails were analyzed. During the data analysis
processed ideas from reading others’ postings even process, the researchers grouped similar survey

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Online Interaction Styles

questions and confirmation questions together Results


in order to check the consistency of students’
responses. Confirmation questions, which mean Results of the survey data triangulated with
two questions were essentially the same but students’ login activities indicated that students
with different wordings, were placed in dif- (n=25) displayed various online interaction styles
ferent places throughout the survey to ensure (Table 1) during the asynchronous computer-
appropriate identifications and classifications of mediated discussions. As expected, more than
different interaction styles and learning prefer- half of the students displayed active interaction
ences. In addition, the results of the survey data styles due to instructor’s constant presence and
indicating students’ online interaction styles facilitation in the discussions (Berge, 1995).
and learning preferences were triangulated with However, seven students displayed vicarious
frequencies of their logins, number of postings interaction styles and five students demonstrated
they read, and number of postings they posted mixed or balanced-interaction style. The survey
in the online forums. The qualitative responses results also showed that students had different
from the open-ended questions were also ana- individual learning preferences in the online
lyzed. This analysis was focused on students’ discussions. Eighty percent of the participants
experiences and feedback on the asynchronous indicated that they processed ideas from reading
computer-mediated discussions. Patterns and others’ postings without visible participation;
themes of why and how the students changed sixty percent indicated that they preferred to
their interaction styles were identified through discuss content materials with others. More than
a systematic comparative analysis (coding) half of the participants (52%) responded that they
(Patton, 2002). preferred to read others’ postings; twenty-eight
percent indicated that they were an autonomous
learner and seldom got too engaged in group
online discussions.
Table 1. Results for students’ online interaction From the survey results, more than half of the
styles students (n=13) did change their online interaction
styles at the close of the courses (Table 2). Most of
Interaction Style Class 1 Class 2 Total those (85%) who changed their interaction styles
(Subtotal/ became more actively involved in the discussions,
Percent)
which was confirmed by an increased number of
Active interaction 6 7 13/52%
posts and students’ login activities. However, two
Vicarious interaction 3 4 7/28%
participants did not follow this pattern according
Mixed interaction 3 2 5/20%
to the results of the online survey and open-ended
questions. One student appeared to have actively
participated in the discussions initially and then
Table 2. Results for the change of students’
changed to a mixed-interaction style because she
online interaction styles
felt her “discussion[s] were not encouraged” and
Interaction Style Class 1 Class 2 Total only a few participants replied to or commented
(Subtotal/ on her postings. The second participant indicated
Percent)
that she switched to a more vicarious style after she
Changed 5 8 13/52%
realized she “was completely new to the field of
Has not changed 4 5 9/36%
education”; the course on foundations of distance
Not sure 3 0 3/12%
education was her first course in education.

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Online Interaction Styles

Based on the survey results, one of the main change their styles of postings and interactions
factors impacting students’ online interaction in the computer-mediated environment. As one
styles was individual learning preferences, such participant responded:
as preference for discussing course materials with
others (n=15) and preference for reading others’ …team work, week[ly] leaders [in the discus-
postings (n=13). We found that the number of sion], …different activities (i.e. case study writing
participants (n=13) who displayed active interac- [that was] not only [general] discussion), weekly
tion styles was close to the number of participants summarizing from [the] instructor, [and] more
(n=15) who preferred to discuss course materials feedback from other teams [motivated me and
with others. However, we also found that there was prompted me to achieve a deeper understanding of
no strong indication of specific learning prefer- the course materials and the others’ postings].
ences (e.g., preferred to discuss content materials
with others) for specific online interaction styles Knowing the content and course requirements,
(e.g., active, vicarious, or mixed), which means such as being familiar with the subject and know-
that although different students displayed different ing participation requirements and guidelines, also
learning preferences they could have had the same affected participants’ online interaction styles. As
interaction style. In addition, from students’ re- one participant stated:
sponses to the open-ended questions, factors such
as the instructor’s presence and involvement in … I was unsure of how online postings work[ed]
asynchronous computer-mediated discussions and the first few weeks of the semester and became
course requirements (e.g., requiring peer feedback) a more active participant after I understood the
also impacted students’ participation and online online course requirements better…
interaction styles. In fact, more than 50% of the
students indicated in the survey that the instruc- Another participant had a similar explanation
tor’s presence and involvement in discussions and of his or her change of online interaction style:
the course requirements were critical in shaping
and changing their participation and posting habit Initially I wasn’t sure how to post in a way that
in online discussions. Furthermore, the difficulty would contribute and leave it open for others --
level of the content, the student’s familiarity with and initially my comments were pretty superficial,
the subject, the availability of time, and the class I had to reach to get more depth….
size also impacted students’ online interaction.
Finally, from the survey results, most participants Other factors such as being open-minded and
(n=20) indicated that they “processed ideas from receiving insightful feedback from both peers
reading others’ postings without visible participa- and the instructor also helped some participants
tion,” which verified that most participants were become more actively involved in the discussions.
involved in vicarious interaction and benefited Despite the fact that some students were not ac-
from vicarious learning. tively involved in the discussions due to different
According to the data from open-ended ques- factors, most students responded that they had a
tions, students who have changed their interaction great learning experience and learned a lot in the
styles provided different explanations for such discussions and the course.
change that provided insight on why and how the
students changed their interaction styles. Differ-
ent instructional strategies such as group discus-
sions, role playing, and debates, helped students

144
Online Interaction Styles

FUTURE TRENDS the effort of accommodating individual differences


to facilitate students in adapting to learn in dif-
The case study demonstrated that students do ferent modalities. Specifically, online instructors
utilize various interaction styles (active in- can adopt instructional strategies, such as small
teraction, vicarious interaction, and mixed or group discussions, role playing, and debates,
balanced-interaction style) in computer-mediated within online discussions that encourage students
discussions. The study also demonstrates that stu- to become more active.
dents’ online interaction styles are dynamic rather More specifically, when designing online
than static in an online course, as confirmed by learning environments and online tools, design-
the change to more active learning styles as the ers and instructors should focus on strategies that
courses progressed by 44% of participants. These can help online students actively interact with
findings provide new directions for the design of others and effectively learn and communicate in
computer-mediated discussions and online learn- diverse modalities. For instance, the emergence
ing environments. In the past, we have heard much of the Web 2.0 can help students acquire differ-
about accommodating individual learning styles ent learning skills to communicate and construct
and preferences; this deeply rooted belief has led knowledge such as writing (in a blog), listening
to a one-way street of educational practice with (to a Podcast), verbally presenting (via Skype),
puzzled and frustrated instructors and learners and observing (a live scene online).
too easily giving up. In this study, we found that The results of the case study also showed
although individual learning preferences were a that instructor’s presence and involvement in
strong factor impacting students’ online interaction asynchronous computer-mediated discussions
styles, there was no direct association between was one of the main factors affecting students’
the two as Table 3 shows in comparison to Table online interaction styles. Thus, online instructors
1. Although eighty percent of the participants are able to influence and help students change
reported that they processed ideas from reading their predominant interaction styles in computer-
others’ postings without visible participation, mediated learning environments. Such finding
only 28% were identified as displaying vicarious provides a new direction of focus in encouraging
interaction style. Even more interesting was that and helping students use and develop multiple
we found that students did change their interaction learning modalities in the design of computer-
styles during the course of computer-mediated mediated learning environments and tools. It is
discussions. Thus, in the future, we need to shift also important to note, as we found in the case
study, that learners’ may need time to adapt to not
only a new medium but also new content before
Table 3. Results for students’ learning prefer- they can fully involve themselves and move to a
ences more active style.
It is unlikely that every student will be actively
Learning Preferences Class Class Total
1 2 (Subtotal/ participating in online discussions at all times.
Percent) However, students can still have an effective
Preferred to discuss content 7 8 15/60% learning experience if most students are actively
materials with others
involved in the discussion or a learning process
Processed ideas from reading 11 9 20/80%
others’ postings without vis- most of the time. For vicarious learners, because
ible participation they prefer to observe, using traditional assessment
Preferred to discuss and also 6 7 13/52% of online discussions such as simply counting the
prefer to read others’ postings
number of postings may be a disadvantage for

145
Online Interaction Styles

them. Chances are that online instructors will have addition, we need to better understand how to help
vicarious learners in her or his online discussions. students, especially those vicarious and mixed or
Therefore, when making assessment decisions balanced-interaction style students, achieve a more
for computer-mediated discussions in the future, satisfactory learning experience. Similar studies
online instructors should be aware of this factor. will further shed light on strategies that can be
Instructors may need to focus on learning transfer utilized in the design of emerging educational
in order to fairly assess those vicarious interac- technologies and tools for online and distance
tion style students. Thus, applying what students education. Finally, as online courses afford more
were supposed to learn in a new situation should situations (e.g., watching an interactive video)
be emphasized in the assessment. where learners can gain knowledge by observ-
The results of this case study might apply to ing others instead of active participation (Craig,
not only graduate students but also undergraduate Driscoll, & Gholson, 2004), differing interaction
and K-12 learners. As we all know online learning styles, in particular the vicarious interaction style,
has also invaded K-12 education. In 2007, there should be taken into account for the purpose of
was an estimated of one million K-12 online assessment.
course enrollments in America (NACOL, 2007).
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KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS Learning Preferences: Students’ preference
for instructional delivery modes such as traditional
Online Interaction Styles: The ways or face-to-face, online, or blended learning or the
habits students interact with the content, peers, way to interact with content, their peers, and their
and their instructor and acquire knowledge from instructor in online learning environments.
asynchronous online discussions.
Computer-Mediated Discussions: Discus-
sions and reflections on course materials posted

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