Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
My immediate reaction to this book was how catchy the title was. With terms like “Web 2.0”, “e‐learning” and “social informatics” in the title, one imagines that it would immediately attract the attention of the many educators looking to understand educational developments in the online space.
Notably, the book is a hefty, 500‐page compilation of 21 chapters, each written by authors from various universities. It is therefore not a book that anyone is likely to read cover‐to‐cover, but rather one that readers will dip into depending on their specific area of interest. To help readers navigate through this sizeable book, the 21 chapters are organised into three sections.
The first section is entitled Emerging Paradigms and Innovative Theories in Web‐based Tertiary Teaching and Learning. The five chapters in this section describe the history and evolution of e‐learning. The treatment of developments in social computing such as blogs, wikis and social bookmarking will not be new to those familiar with online learning but might serve as useful background for educators who are novices in the field. I found the last chapter, “Considering Students” Perspective on Personal and Distributed Learning Environments in Course Design”, in this section especially interesting, as it highlights the reality that not all Web 2.0 tools are equal, and that one must be cautious in selecting the right tool for the right learning application and set the right expectations with the students.
The second section, Towards Best Practice: Case Studies and Exemplars of Web 2.0‐based Tertiary Teaching and Learning, includes 11 chapters. This section describes specific experiences with Web 2.0 in teaching. However, not all chapters in this section are of equal substance. Some chapters are descriptive in nature, discussing how various Web 2.0 tools could potentially be used for teaching. Other chapters report specific research experiences and experiments, with supporting data and research results. I found the latter more insightful, as there is a limit to the amount of theorising and discourse one can absorb without reference to real‐world experiences. In terms of highlights, the chapter titled “University Students” Self‐motivated Blogging and Development of Study Skills and Research Skills presents some interesting findings on why people blog. In addition the chapter (“Activating Assessment for Learning”) provides useful examples of how web‐based peer assessment, e‐portfolios, e‐surveys and other Web 2.0 tools can be used to support the assessment process.
The third and final section, Web 2.0 and Beyond: Current Implications and Future Directions for Web‐Based Tertiary Teaching and Learning, includes the final four chapters in the book. The title of the section is somewhat of a misnomer given that the supposedly futuristic outlook of the chapters in this section is not that distant from those in the earlier section. Of the chapters in this section, I found “Web 2.0 and Professional Development of Academic Staff” the most interesting, not for futurist reasons, but because the development of the educator is an important but largely unrepresented issue which receives far less attention than the exciting buzz of new technologies in teaching.
Overall, this book is a large and diverse compilation of articles. Despite the attempt to organise the chapters into some sort of structure, the book lacks a strong focus, and readers will find little benefit in reading the book chapter by chapter. That said, the book is meant to be a reference book rather than a textbook. Also, with an extensive set of references the book is likely to appeal most to researchers in online education rather than educators looking for guidance on best online education practice. However, readers do need to be conscious that this is a fast‐moving field and the book may become outdated in a few years.