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E-learning 2.0

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E-learning has gone through approximately three phases. In each of these, it has used the available technology, or rather, the possibilities afforded by that technology – a term known as "affordances".

Phase 1

In the first phase, e-learning built on the ability of software packages, and particularly multimedia, to create an interactive environment. These consisted of what are now called "learning objects", for example multiple choice questions with feedback to correct or incorrect answers, or multimedia such as video, animations, etc. The main problem with this approach was the considerable expense required to create software which added genuine value to the learning, as opposed to reproducing flat text in another format.

Phase 2

During the next phase, e-learning emphasized the "c" in ICT (information and communications technology) – it moved online, and was more discussion and community based. Specialist pedagogies emerged round the notion of the online tutor, for moderation was very important. Much use was made of virtual learning environments (VLEs). Although there were a number of open source applications, notably Moodle, many VLEs were in fact made by commercial companies (chiefly Blackboard and WebCT), and were expensive and often clunky.

VLEs tend to be structured around particular courses so are inclined to adopt an institutional approach to learning. Nevertheless, they do represent a move away from the purely content-based approach of the first phase of e-learning, towards one which is more discussion driven, allowing students to learn in a more constructivist, collaborative way.

Phase 3

In a sense, e-learning 2.0 represents e-learning come full circle, but with a strong twist. It uses applications which allow the learner to create content, paralleling the changing nature of the Internet from a one-way to a two-way/many-way flow of information. A report by the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) defines Web 2.0 as follows:

"Web 2.0 encompasses a variety of different meanings that include an increased emphasis on user generated content, data and content sharing and collaborative effort, together with the use of various kinds of social software, new ways of interacting with web-based applications, and the use of the Web as a platform for generating, re-purposing and consuming content" (Franklin and van Harmelen, 2007).

The Web has moved from being an (almost) purely reading medium, to one for reading, writing and content sharing. Stephen Downes (2005), who first coined the term "e-learning 2.0", summed up the new Web and its possibilities thus:

"In a nutshell, what was happening was that the Web was shifting from being a medium, in which information was transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along. And what people were doing with the Web was not merely reading books, listening to the radio or watching TV, but having a conversation, with a vocabulary consisting not just of words but of images, video, multimedia and whatever they could get their hands on. And this became, and looked like, and behaved like, a network" (Downes, 2005).