A Comparison of Web 2.0 Tools in a Doctoral Course

Meyer, Katrina. A.
Internet & Higher Education 2010

Doctoral students course on higher education finance. All working full-time in area. Course was entirely online and used blogs, wikis, discussion forum & research paper to answer 6 big questions. At end of course students were asked to provide examples of learning for each question and each tool. Instructor used Blooms Digital Taxonomy to evaluate levels of learning. Then used to develop conclusions and guidelines for these tools in the future.

Lit Review

Web 2.0 tools allow for increasing interaction, communication and sense of community. In line with Bandura's Social Learning Theory and Situated Cognition (Brown, Collins and Duguid) - learning from everyday practice at work e.g. Tools are only understood through their uses. Web 2.0 tools best understood by evaluating what students learn through their use.Findings from research based on use of particular tool (NW Situated cognition draws on Community of Practice)

Wikis - Positive - convenient, editable, democratic. Negative - impersonal, only one editor at a time

Blogs (Reflecting Education) - Personal testimonies commoner than studies on educational use. Positive - helped integrate theory into professional practice, natural writing, own voice. Tension between need for guidelines and the desire to encourage independent and creative thinking.

Online Discussions - Positive - sense of collaboration and community, higher order thinking, reflection. Topics must be authentic and meaningful. Meyer has applied Bloom's Taxonomy to analysis of online discussions.

NW - few negatives here except tech problems with wikis

Comparison of wikis and discussions with graduate students - more focus, depth, idea generation in wiki

Research papers - Traditional - part of most graduate student programs. Developing analytic skills. Part of intellectual community. Learn to write for journals. Do the online tools encourage similar levels of learning to graduate papers

Methodology

Open ended survey and standard qualitative analytical tools
8 students in class. Anonymous responses
Answers to 6 big questions
  1. How have institutions been funded in the past and how are they currently funded?
  2. How have students been funded in the past and how are they currently funded?
  3. Who or what are the 'opinion leaders' when it comes to higher education finance?
  4. How do institutions and students contribute to the 'cost disease' and how can they contain costs?
  5. How do we retrench cut budgets and make progress?
  6. Where shall new sources of funding be found?

First two questions were group projects due to large body of literature and desire for single joint answer. Wiki was appropriate. Group grade weighted by number of contributions and student evaluation of quality

Second two questions required individual answers for variety. Evaluated on comprehensiveness of answers, identification of point of view and number of postings

Final two questions required students to find and evaluate solutions. Online discussion chosen. Evaluation based on number of posts.

Research paper - evaluated on clarity and correctness of writing

Data collected at end of course. Instrument based on Revised Bloom's Taxonomy (updated due findings on knowledge creation) - Churches Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. Because Blooms used widely in literature. Instructor familiar with it.

Students asked to assess their own learning for each of the big questions:
  1. Describe 5 most important things you learned about this big question?
  2. What are the most important things you learned about working with a wiki, blog, etc?
  3. What was the highest level of thinking you reached during this process?

Summative question: Which tools would you like to use again?

In data analysis
5 most important things categorised according to Bloom's taxonomy and compared to students answer to q3
Help us to understand the level of learning achieved and if this was affected by tool use. Examples given by students helped to clarify this
Content analysis of q2 - building themes from descriptors and exploring reasons for themes. Blooms digital taxonomy used. Codes rechecked four weeks later to ensure reliability (found to be at 95%)

Findings

Learning at lower levels only q1, mostly q2, both in wiki
Q3 & 4 in blog most understanding & analysing
Q5 & 6 in forum mostly applying, analysing, some evaluation
Research paper most analysis & evaluation

Level of learning due to nature of question rather than tool
Students tend to rate their learning at higher levels for all tools.
As learning wikis and blogs were new skills - their use demanded higher skill levels from students

Evaluation by students
Wiki - disparate some did not like group work or having their work removed, or being graded on other people's work. Some liked it - allowed more thorough or complete result. (NW if you edit another person's contribution is that not evaluation? Ultimate single post - synthesis?). One student spent more effort on using wiki than on content
Blog - Positive. Author acknowledged. Ownership
Discussions - Students familiar with discussions. Liked sharing information & brainstorming. 1 felt it was a better way of exchanging ideas than classroom. Another disliked disagreement Need for Frequency of interaction recognised
Research Paper - Generally good according to instructor

Discussion

Level of learning based on nature of assignment rather than tool
Adults already have preferences for learning - like/dislike of collaboration
Using new tools brings about higher level learning - need to acquire new skill.
Tool can make student focus on the process of learning. They may need help to do so.