College 2.0

*Note – I cross published this on my cliotech blog*

I remember back to the summer of 1994 . . . when I was eagerly anticipating my freshman year at Moravian College.  I had visited the campus and spoken on the phone with my roommate, but, when I arrived on campus in mid-August, I was basically walking into the experience blindly.  I had no idea what to expect and didn’t know anyone.

Fast forward to this summer. My cousin is preparing for his freshman year at Moravian, but his experience is totally different.  Although he is coming to Moravian from Connecticut, he already has over 200 "friends" with whom he has been networking on Facebook.  Just place yourself back to your freshman year – how would it have been different if you were starting college this fall?

My cousin is certainly not alone in his pre-freshman experience.  According to a recent ComScore report, Facebook has enjoyed a 270% usage increase since June 2006.  And Facebook is not the only social networking site that has seen similar percentage increases.

Though, I should note that incoming college freshman are not using web 2.0 applications just to meet friends.  I came across a fantastic article about how universities are using web 2.0 to both attract and keep students.  How fascinating . . .

Now, universities are hoping to tap into that urge with new technologies to recruit prospective students and entice current students to stretch their intellect.   

"A lot of students…like showing off their work. They like being published. They like being on display," said Barbara Knauff, senior instructional technologist at Dartmouth College.

Other educators, echoing Knauff’s comments, see the enticement of notoriety through Web 2.0-style social tools–blogs, wikis and the like–as a way to engage students in their education and maybe even get them to choose one school over another.

In addition to publishing venues for professors, like iTunesU, students in universities across the country are being motivated to create online content.  The same sense of excitement that online audiences generate for K12 students is motivating college students to stretch their own learning.

"They write for their peers as well and it creates a different motivation. They want to do well, don’t want to look phony and get excited about the projects with the media aspect," said Knauff.

The multimedia or personal stuff that professors may think of as flashy filler is getting students to make an emotional investment in their education. "Sure, the content they offer is not as good as if a faculty member produced it. The content expert is always going to be better at creating the content, but that’s not the point," said Knauff.

   

And it goes beyond blogs replacing reading journals for undergrad American lit classes. Dartmouth’s medical school students use wikis to author, share and critique case studies.

This is fascinating.  Many K12 teachers are witnessing this change, though I thought that the "digital natives" we not college-age, yet.  It appears that today’s young adults are more similar to the typical elementary and middle school student than I previously assumed.

It would reason that the integration of web 2.0 technologies, such as podcasts, can radically change the dynamic of the typical college class.  Why does the professor need to take up face-to-face instructional time with lectures when they can record the same as a podcast and use the face-to-face meetings as a way to delve deeper into the discussion?

Think about how web 2.0 technologies, like wikis, can help instructors monitor student work:

"Every term I would get someone coming up and saying ‘Dr. Hartman, here’s the paper from the five of us, but I did most of the work.’ Short of rolling out the Spanish Inquisition, there’s not much you can do about it at that point," said Hartman. "With wikis, I can see who pulled the load and who didn’t do anything."

The implications are pretty staggering if we follow the path to immersion learning environments like Second Life.  Educators across the country are interested in such applications.  Kevin Jarrett was awarded $10,000 to investigate and same and, lucky for us, he chronicled his journey.

"It’s one thing to look at a discussion board, wikis and blogs. It’s something else completely different to physically act in a 3D environment with others in your class. There is increased engagement and feelings of identity," said Jarrett.

I am so excited to see where all of this is going . . . If you are as well, be sure to check out the Discovery Educator Network Second Life blog.

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