New Web 2.0 spaces for e-learning

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New Web 2.0 spaces for e-learning

Web 2.0 is a concept coined by O’Reilly (2005) as a common denominator for recent trend towards „the Read-Write Web” that allows everyone to publish resources on the Web using simple and open personal and collaborative publishing tools referred as social software: blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, podcasting etc. According to MacManus and Porter (2005), the power of social software lies in content personalization and remixing with other data to create much more useful information and knowledge. The continuously growing dissemination of social and open software in e-learning is expected to reshape e-learning landscapes that are based on closed, proprietary institutionalized systems. The implementation and management of distributed personalised learning environments. Due to the changes in web evolution, growing trend is moving towards the use of social and open software for learning, instead of closed, proprietary institutionalized systems becomes an increasingly feasible alternative.

Changes in web have a strong influence on e-learning in higher education in terms of paradigm shift in pedagogy, as well as, the use of mediating technology. On one hand, there is a discussion going on about the dichotomy between closed institutionalised learning tools and open social software. On the other hand, we can talk about pedagogical tension between the urge for individual independence and personalisation, which directs educators towards considering the new Two-Way-Web possibilities as individualised learning tools, while at the same time there is the necessity for the learning management systems connecting those individualised tools and supporting the learners to contribute to the learning communities (Paulsen, 2003). Currently, education delivered by higher institutions emphasizes individual learning, where individuals have a freedom to certain extent, but limited affinity to learning community and the opportunity to personalise their learning process. On the other side, collaborative learning requires participation in a learning community, but constrains individual flexibility in terms of choosing a space, medium, content and access to the learning resources. Thus, one of the challenges in e-learning in higher education is to focus on the opportunities of promoting personalisation and individuality within the community. Paulsen (2003) has suggested that the learners would keep the individuality while working together with others in cooperative learning settings. In this type of learning the other learners can be considered as mutual resources without depending on each other.

Another challenging aspect in near-future e-learning in higher education would be related to the changes in instructional design. It is apparent, that instructional functions are gradually shifting towards the idea that learners should restructure educational processes. In higher education learners perceive themselves as self-directed human beings who seek opportunities to take over the locus of control and responsibility of their learning. Furthermore, current learning environments, provided by higher education institutions, cease to be primarily tutor-defined and well controlled mediums. This would add pressure on the traditional models of instructional design and development, and its underlying set of assumptions.

An oncoming trend of new Two-Way-Web technologies, in addition to the re-evaluating the functionalities of old landscapes of tools and systems, provides a bunch of means to cope with the challenges in higher education from technical, as well as, pedagogical point of view. Currently the institutional landscapes of universities are still dominated by the closed learning management systems (LMS) without any considerable interoperability. New personalised LMS systems should help students to find study-buddies or learning partners that are motivated and fitting for cooperation as suggested by Paulsen (2003), but they hamper individual acting within the community and personalisation in terms of selecting tools and systems, as well as, strategies, methods and objectives. Learner is seen as a resident within these systems, who might feel loneliness that result from the limited access to other students inside and outside of this landscape, as (s)he performs his/her learning activities predefined by the facilitator without going out from boundaries of institutional landscape.

Continuously growing dissemination of open source or open access tools and services in this realm is expected to also reshape the technological landscapes in formal educational environments, and to challenge the domination of closed, proprietary institutionalized systems (Fiedler, 2006). Personal landscapes of distributed tools and services become a feasible and attractive alternative, as it means an increased flexibility and freedom for anyone to choose their favourite software tools and services. In this case learners can be characterise as nomads who wander between learning-spaces directed by their goals. In these landscapes of distributed, and only loosely coupled tools and services, new challenges would arise. Participants and facilitators alike need to find and select appropriate tools and services in order to compose a personal set of tools that can support their learning. In addition, they need to share information and coordinate their own activities with remote others who might not perceive the same possibilities for action across these landscapes. One way to go is to augment landscapes embracing elements from personal, as well as, institutional landscapes. While the institution provides core tools and services, learners can choose extra from heterogeneous landscapes of tools and systems that fit their personal needs to complement their personal learning environments. In augmented landscapes learners appear either as "emigrants or immigrants" who leave or join the institutional landscape for particular purposes (Fiedler, 2006).

New e-learning landscapes mean the increased flexibility and freedom for learners to choose their favourite software tools and software services in order to create their learning spaces. It is apparent, that the shift towards personalised personalized application of learning environments would restructure the educational processes (Downes, 2005). The learning environments cease to be primarily tutor-defined and well controlled spaces.Thus, the user-selected variability in the learning environments has to be considered as part of the learning-design.

For instance, Kirschner et al., (2004) suggested a new learner-centered interaction design model that proposes the following steps: investigate what learners actually do; define which functionalities for certain actions of the learning environment they perceive and use; develop learning design, which considers these functionalities as the constrains of the task setting in the certain learning environment; apply this learning design in action, and evaluate how students perceive these functionalities, act and learn on the basis of them.

New skills would become important both for the students and the educators in these new learning settings: - ability of finding and selecting the appropriate learning tools and systems among social software, - prognosing the functionalities that support learning in these systems, - composing the distributed learning space from the set of separate tools, - collaborating in the distributed spaces for sharing knowledge and - regulating one’s learning with the remote others, who might perceive differently the different concept of the how this learning environment might favour supports their activities, - reflecting the application of the shared learning space to the learners for facilitation purposes. All these aspects should also be considered in new learning design models.