Whilst the article highlights the opportunities for networking and user engagement with these tools, it also goes on to highlight some perceived dangers for HE. Let's have a look at these.
- "One institution reported three examples of serious problems in one year involving students' use of the new technology including the victim of a student scuffle using Facebook to identify the address of his attacker, and getting his revenge." I can see that this is an issue, but aren't we in the business of trying to support our students' critical thinking, at university and in the world? In any case, I am not sure why this is a problem for higher education rather than society, and most institutions will have regulations covering social relationships on-campus, or where they are directly linked the university.
- "it tends to be individual academics who are driving innovative use of the technology in learning, which can present problems when those academics move on, or when they want support from their institution's centralised IT systems." It tends to be individual academics who are driving innovative use of learning and teaching. The technology is secondary, and in any case Web 2.0 tools tend to flatten hierarchies, so that learners are more in control of their learning. Moreover, these tools also have a low entry level, so that they are easy to engage with. It is the academic implications that need addressing, whether you are using a VLE or external software. One way to get around this is, of course, to ensure that programme teams are fully engaged rather than leaving it to one interested individual. HEIs need to find ways to devolve, to reward and to disseminate innovative practice.
- "Assessment also becomes more difficult when academics are not merely having to assign marks to a heap of scripts but to wade through student podcasts and video clips or Second Life presentations." I would love to see the evidence for this nonsense. A meaningful assessment strategy, perhaps allied to a patchwork text approach,would not be heaping Web2.0 production techniques and artifacts, on top of traditional techniques and artifacts. It would be providing the students with the scope to demonstrate, perhaps through a patchwork assignment or portfolio or personal learning environment, their achievement of learning outcomes. The critical issues here are less workload, and more copyright, security, plagiarism and IPR.
- "There is also the fear that, if students have access to podcasts and YouTube videos of lectures, they may not bother turning up to the real thing. And who owns the copyright to these podcasts - the lecturer? The institution that employs him or her to lecture? No one?"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Hasn't this been said about e-learning and technologies since time began? There is plenty of evidence highlighting that where videos and podcasts enhanced the curriculum, rather than replacing elements of it, student attendance is not damaged, but is engaged. As to the issue of copyright, UCU certainly suggest ways for managing this issue, and we have a collective agreement on the issue.
- "Meanwhile, there are issues over who should be responsible if students or lecturers say something online that results in litigation against the university." Agreed - and we don't really want this to go to case law do we?