There has been much debate in the HE sector recently about the use of Web 2.0 services to support teaching and learning. (Here is one definition of Web 2.0 on Wikipedia, itself one of the best-known examples of a Web 2.0 site.) We all know how popular social networking sites such as Facebook are with students, and this can be confirmed by a walk around any University library including ours. Of course, Web 2.0 isn’t just about social networking – it also covers media sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr, blogging tools such as WordPress (used for this very blog), and a vast spectrum of services that perform very specific purposes.
Here at Loughborough, the use of external Web 2.0 services is being discussed in a number of formal groups with a view to arriving at an institutional policy. We should be clear that we’re talking about external services since there are University-hosted services (including Learn, or this WordPress blog which is hosted on a Library server) which might be categorised as Web 2.0 services.
There are clearly risks involved in using external Web 2.0 services in the name of the institution and these have been well publicised with respect to Facebook. Generally speaking the risks include copyright infringement, defamation, data protection issues, the loss of a service at a critical time, etc, all of which may result in financial or reputational damage to an institution. These risks need to be managed. As far as teaching and learning are concerned, the debate involves weighing up the risks against the wish to promote the innovative and appropriate use of new technologies. The trade-off here may well involve having a dynamic list of ‘approved’ external Web 2.0 services and of scenarios for the use of these services, where terms and conditions have been properly vetted.
In order to inform this debate, it would be very useful to know how academic colleagues are already using external Web 2.0 services, either via links from Learn module pages or separately, or the kind of uses you are contemplating. You’re welcome to reply via comments on this post or privately via c.f.g.shields [at] lboro .