UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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“Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” Report Published

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 May 2009

The CLEX Final Report

The final report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX) entitled” Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” has just been published.

The report built on work which began last year included a “Report of the review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education” (available in PDF Format) to which I contributed the section which provided a history of use of Web 2.0 in the UK.

Article In Today’s Education Guardian

The official launch of the CLEX report has been accompanied by an article entitled  “Time to get with the program” published in today’s Education Guardian. As I mentioned in a blog post on How Is HE Embracing Web 2.0? How Is Web 2.0 Changing HE?” published yesterday I had been interviewed by the author of the article, Anthea Lipsett, last week.

The article in the Guardian begins with a description of a student experience which is at ease with the social web:

The “Google generation” of today’s students has grown up in a digital world. Most are completely au fait with the microblogging site Twitter; they organise their social lives through Facebook and MySpace; 75% of students have a profile on at least one social networking site. And they spend up to four hours a day online.

The article cites the CLEX report ‘s conclusions that although UK Universities are doing “pretty well” there are “major issues to address if universities and colleges are to keep up with these changes in student practice and attitude” since “use of Web 2.0 … is far from systematic in universities” and is “driven by enthusiastic individuals who have embraced the opportunities it offers” .


The CLEX report is very positive in its views on the potential of Web 2.0 in higher education. The report provides a series of recommendation including, for example, the recommendation that that “JISC continues to develop a research and support programme into the use of Web 2.0 for all aspects of university business“.

Should this be regarded by higher educational institutions as encouragement to make more systematic use of the Social Web? After all, today’s Guardian includes, as well as the Education supplement, a University Guide  supplement which contains on the front page an article on “Tweet and lowdown” which describes how “most univerities are so desperate to come across as cool that they’ve joined Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and are happy to meet you online” and how “a lot of institutions offer free podcasts of lectures and tutorial recordings via their individual websites or Apple’s portal iTunesU“.

Evidence that Universities are successfully embracing Web 2.0 technologies (despite the snide remark about ‘desperation’)?  Or should we be concerned regarding the way in which social networking technologies are being institutionalised to support marketing purposes?

In our contribution to the “Time to get with the program?” article myself and Professor Martin Weller both warned of the dangers of institutions “infiltrating Facebook”. Martin described how “If you ask students: do you want the university to come on Facebook, the answer is no. They don’t want their professor as a friend” and I questioned whether “universities [need] to get involved in … informal learning” which can be supported by social networking environments.

But what if Martin and myself are wrong? After all the CLEX report concluded with a quotation from a student:

I think it’s great to have tutors/university staff on Facebook. After all, it is supposed to be a social community network and I think they [deserve] the right to have their own community or form a network with students (if the students are willing).

The answer to this dilemma should be addressed by another of the recommendations of the CLEX final report: “JISC works with the HE funding bodies and Universities UK to explore issues and practice in the development of new business models that exploit Web 2.0 technologies“.  We haven’t yet identified the best practices for institutional engagement (or not) with Web 2.0. But the report makes it quite clear that we need to be asking these questions.


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