Disclosure: One of the products listed in this post, Digication, has been a recent R/WW sponsor.
One of the more active markets for web 2.0 is e-learning; for example we've written before about ChinesePod (learning Chinese) and Elgg (social network software for education). Also last August Steve O'Hear wrote a very insightful introduction to e-learning 2.0 for R/WW. As Steve pointed out back then, blogging, podcasting, media sharing and social networking are all well-used in the e-learning world.
What else is out there currently in Internet-based education software? It's time for an update...
Big Internet Companies
You may not be aware of it, but the Internet BigCos all have products in the e-learning segment. Google offers the free Google Apps for Education (includes Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Page Creator, start page). Microsoft has a range of education products (including live.com hosting/email and potential groupware for education), and Apple offers free podcast hosting for education (iTunes U). IBM is also a player in the education sector.
Google for Educators, described as "a platform of teaching resources". Also its Google Enterprise Professional program has at least one education provider - Blackboard become the first member of the program to focus primarily on educational institutions.Google seems to be particularly active in education, amongst the Internet companies. It has
Not to mention that online office products can be used to enhance collaboration in an education setting. Google Docs & Spreadsheets for example. In effect, the BigCos are able to leverage their current product range and promote them to schools.
Collaborative E-learning Systems
Elgg, Nuuvo and recently Digication are all examples of collaboration systems. We've already profiled Elgg, so I took the opportunity to interview Digication's Jeffrey Yan to find out what's happening in this sector.
Digication has the expected online classroom features, such as enabling students to submit assignments and teachers to control security settings. Jeff told me that users from over 380 schools have signed up to Digication - and it's been a wide range of education facilities, from kindergarten to school districts to universities. For example, Jeff recently taught a college level course with Digication - using it as a supplement to the traditional classroom. His course only had 12 students and it lasted 6 weeks, but by the end of the course he said there were over 600 messages created by the group.
One pattern Jeff has noticed is that e-learning 2.0 tools are often promoted in a grassroots manner; which when you consider the usual hierarchical academic setting, is an interesting trend. Jeff told me there is a community of users who support these tools and "their approval/disapproval with features, functionality and direction can make or break a [e-learning] company."
As for the near future of collaborative systems, Jeff says that blogs, wikis and podcasts will start to merge with more educationally focused systems in 2007.
Traditional Learning Management System (LMS)
Blackboard, Moodle and Sakai (the latter two are open source) The big commercial software like Blackboard is very 'old school' and doesn't have much focus on the community aspects of learning. They're also expensive and are generally seen as clunky and difficult to use - not unlike traditional Content Management Systems in enterprises (Vignette, InterWoven, et al). They also have a lot of features that most teachers and students don't want or need.Also known as Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), examples are
Blogs / Wikis / Podcasts / Flickr
Many tech-savvy teachers who keep up with mainstream technologies are maintaining blogs, wikis, Flickr accounts, and so on. The Elgg community is a good example, also edublogs.org and wikispaces.com. Such tools are easy to use and spread quickly and virally. While they don't integrate with school backend systems or address classroom-specific issues such as grading, blogs and wikis are proving very useful in the classroom.
stu.dicio.us. Also check out the ReadWriteThink Printing Press, which enables users to create a newspaper, brochure, etc. So just as with enterprises, there are a lot of small apps bubbling up and 'infiltrating' the classroom.There are also some interesting apps for students popping up, for example a collaborative note taking app called
There are many excellent resources in the blogosphere for e-learning 2.0. Here are a few of them: