Home e-learning 2.0 Infiltrates the Classroom

e-learning 2.0 Infiltrates the Classroom

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
(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

Google seems to be
particularly active in education, amongst the Internet companies. It has Google for Educators, described as
“a platform of teaching resources”. Also its Google Enterprise Professional program
has at least one education provider – Blackboard
the first member of the program to focus primarily on educational

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

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)

Also known as Virtual Learning
Environments (VLE), examples are 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.

There are some newcomers that are interesting – call them LMS 2.0 perhaps 😉  As
well as Digication and Nuvvo, there is Chalksite
and haiku LMS.

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.

There are also some interesting apps for students popping up, for example a
collaborative note taking app called 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


There are many excellent resources in the blogosphere for e-learning 2.0. Here are
a few of them:

Infinite Thinking Machine: Best of
2006: The Read/Write Web in Education


SolutionWatch: Back
to School with the Class of Web 2.0: Part 1
, Part
and Part

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