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Investigating the use of Web 2.0 technologies in integrated e-Learning Systems


E-Learning in recent years has exploded to become, as Chambers (Cited in Rosenberg, 2006, p.13) notes “the biggest growth in the Internet, and the area that will prove to be one of the biggest agents of change”. Traditional classroom-based learning is being replaced with a need for knowledge that is not confined to a particular location or timeframe. These learning needs command a flexible, personalised approach with real time accessibility to course content. De- spite the exponential growth of e-Learning Management Systems such as Moodle, Blackboard and iLearning and their adoption by institutions, the content presented is instructional and asynchronous rather than adaptive (Militiadis 2010). The name ‘Learning Management Sys- tem’ can almost be viewed as disempowering for learners suggesting that their learning will be managed rather than supported. With the emergence of Web 2.0 and Web applications facilitating user-generated content, interaction and collaboration the need for e-Learning systems to evolve is now more important than ever.

Despite the explosion of integrated e-Learning Systems and the popularity of Web 2.0 little research has been driven toward the implications of this approach in education. Therefore, this research will contribute to the literature by exploring a relatively new endeavour in the approach toward ‘humanising’ integrated e-Learning Systems, that is, through the use of Web 2.0 technologies, in the education of higher education students. Controlled experiments making use of qualitative methodology will be completed to collect empirical evidence to help form the basis of a theoretical framework which can be used toward implementing a dynamic approach to the creation of Learning Management Systems (LMS) using the fundamental features of Web


Adapting Web 2.0 technologies and techniques in e-Learning systems provides a more interactive experience for the user. It encourages collaboration among participants through a wide variety of mediums such as text, video and audio (Hussein, 2010). More significantly it allows for real-time or synchronous collaboration (Rosenberg, 2006). Functionality is of paramount importance in integrated e-Learning systems as it can lead to interoperability between components and offer an adaptable approach to learning and the management of content. Recently, Web 2.0 was viewed by some, such as Thomas (2008, cited in Selwyn, 2008, p.1) as having “potentially groundbreaking implications for the field of education”. Extensive research conducted by Piccoli (2001) and Weibelzahl (2009) into the area of e-Learning systems has demonstrated significant advantages over traditional classroom learning including flexibility, reduced costs, self-directed study options and collaboration. However, research con- ducted by Fallah (2000) highlights limitations such as frustration and a lack of interest. Overall, research into the effectiveness of e-Learning systems has proven that it is at least as effective as classroom based learning through both academic attainment and satisfaction (Watkins, 2010). With research in support of e-Learning systems, the demand for them to be asynchronous has lead to the development of multimedia-integrated e-Learning systems by Zhang (2004)

Proposed Work

Pedrazzoli et al (2007) and Mikalsen et al (2007). However, the systems have been developed for industry and business not for educational purposes. Therefore, current literature would benefit from research into this area focusing on educational systems. 4 Proposed work
The research proposed will be to investigate a framework for integrated e-Learning Systems based on Web 2.0 technologies. Investigative strategies will be adopted to support research including setting up controlled experiments in the use of traditional e-Learning Systems and web based applications. Below are the aims and objectives of the proposed research.


With current literature and research focused on Web 2.0 it is certain that e-Learning Systems will eventually adopt Web 2.0 technologies. Through this study the main aims are (a) to evaluate the fundamental differences between traditional E-Learning Systems and Web 2.0 learning technologies based on a qualitative empirical study, (b) construct a theoretical framework for the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies into integrated e-Learning Systems, (c) report on the findings of the investigative study conducted and the literature and (d) discuss the benefits and implications of Web 2.0 in an educational setting.


In pursuing this research the following theoretical objectives will be investigated

1. Identify current Integrated Systems which use an asynchronous approach focusing upon the implications of the value of data in relation to the users’ contributions and actions (whether they are just consumers of information or providers).

2. A thorough assessment of Web 2.0 technologies and their integration into e-Learning Systems will be conducted through a study of higher education subjects over a period of time and an in-depth analysis of the literature.

3. Explore the idea of Web 2.0 design patterns in an attempt to form a basis for the frame- work.

4. Develop a theoretical framework for an adaptive integrated e-Learning System based on Web 2.0 technologies.

5. Make recommendations on whether the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies is of benefit in an educational setting drawing upon limitations and implications.


The research will explore emerging studies in the use of Web 2.0 technologies in integrated e-Learning Systems and draw upon results obtained from an empirical study to bridge the current gap in the literature. Much of the current literature including works by Rosenberg (2006) Lapham (2007) and Ellis (2009) has focused on the pedagogical implications or theorised on the impact such systems would have on students rather than taking an investigatory approach. Other works, such as those by Hong (2008) and Karagiannidis (2004) have attempted to imple- ment Personalised Learning Systems (PLE’s) with limited results. Current literature highlights a need for this research to (a) move from evaluation to investigation and (b) shift focus from the use of Web 2.0 technologies in industry to education.


Aside from analysing and evaluating current literature the research will involve two empirical studies involving a small study population aged 16 – 18 years. Selection will be purposive rather than random ensuring the subjects chosen are dedicated learners. The focus of the studies will involve four subjects using the Learning System Blackboard to study the course ‘General Studies’ whilst four different subjects will use a collaborative blog ‘Openserving’. This study will be conducted over a full academic year. The study will take place again in the next academic year with four different subjects using the Learning System ‘Moodle’ to study the course ‘General Studies’ whilst the other four subjects will make use of the Web 2.0 technology, ‘Zoho Virtual Office’. Conducting two separate studies using different platforms should lead to unbiased results pertaining to the use of Web 2.0 collaboration or traditional e-learning systems. Data collection methods A qualitative approach to data collection will be conducted and will include interviews of the subjects, subject evaluations, questionnaires and bi-weekly observations. Furthermore, the literature will be evaluated in the context of learning and how adaptive it is. A quantitative approach to data collection will also be conducted involving downloading data from the aforementioned systems in order to evaluate the collaboration between users and whether they are consumers or contributors.

Work Packages

The objectives indentified in this proposal will be conducted through five Work Packages

1. WP1  Value added user data contributions in current asynchronous systems directed toward the requirements identified in Objective one. Intended participator: Researcher.

2. WP2  An empirical study, directed at obtaining data per objective two. The researcher must collect primary data and compare it to current secondary data found in the literature.

3. WP3  Basic framework formulation, pursuing the third objective. The researcher should collect and analyse key literature in Web 2.0 design patterns in order to implement it correctly into a theoretical framework.

4. WP4  A PhD write up, integrated e-Learning Systems  An adaptive approach based on Web 2.0 and a framework produced in its entirety based on the fourth objective. Write up carried out by the researcher.

5. WP5  Web 2.0 recommendations aimed at objective five and produced by the researcher drawing upon all of the research conducted.

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