21 December, 2009

Does web 2.0 benefit students?

Web 2.0 is suffering the same fate as previous “Revolutionary” ICT technologies of earlier decades. Politicians, school governors and university management are often heard citing the benefits of these new technologies, but there is still a lack of empirical evidence to suggest that the use of web 2.0 improves student performance.

However (moving swiftly on …), there are some clear benefits that Rob Spence (English and History) has found whilst using Wiki technology:

  • Improved student engagement
  • Students feel less on the spot
  • Students are more self critical
  • Tracking of student performance from day 1


There is a perception that students are arriving at university with ever decreasing levels of literacy, combined with ever increasing support requirements. Spoon feeding ‘A’ level candidates is thought to be a widespread practice in many schools and colleges, and when combined with a highly prescriptive curriculum perhaps it is no wonder that many students struggle when they arrive at university. It’s not unheard of for new students, when presented with an essay title, to ask for the opening sentence or paragraph, the quotes they are likely to need to use, and other guidance and materials.

These were the kinds of issues that Rob had been experiencing – perhaps informing his rationale for using a wiki for part of his first year “Introduction to Narrative” course.


Reflecting on his use of the wiki, Rob found that his students were more willing to get involved in writing at an earlier point in their university career, and found the experience less threatening than being put on the spot in a classroom session. Students were found to be more self critical – perhaps because they were writing for a perceived audience. One of the major benefits that Rob experienced was being able to see students work from much earlier in the learning process than in previous years – he could see drafts and developments from many students in the same area so was able to identify and track “Problem Students” at a much earlier point in the cycle.

Is it for me?

If you are considering using web 2.0 stuff (wikis, blogs, bookmarking …) in your teaching and learning, the Learning Technology team would love to hear from you. We are here to encourage and support you in the use of technology for teaching and learning. You can contact me (david.callaghan@edgehill.ac.uk x 7753) or Katherine Richardson (richark@edgehill.ac.uk x 7754).

David Callaghan
th November 2009

Image by Peter Nielsen, 2009

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