The employment of Web 2.0 within higher educational settings has become increasingly popular. Reasons for doing so include student motivation, didactic considerations of facilitating individual and collaborative knowledge construction, and the support Web 2.0 gives the learner in transgressing and resituating content and practices between the formal and informal learning settings in which she participates. However, introducing Web 2.0‑practices into educational settings leads to tensions and challenges in practice because of conceptual tensions between the views of knowledge and learning inherent in Web 2.0‑practices and in the educational system: Implicit in Web 2.0‑practices is a conception of 'knowledge' as, on the one side, process and activity, i.e. as use, evaluation, transformation and reuse of material, and, on the other, the product side, as a distributed attribute of a whole system (such as Wikipedia) or community of practice (such as the community of practice of Wikipedia contributors). In contrast, 'knowledge' within the educational system is traditionally viewed as a state possessed by the individual, and learning as the acquisition of this state. This paper is an analysis of the challenges which these tensions lead to for the learners. The argument is that Web 2.0‑mediated learning activities within an educational setting place implicit competence demands on the students, along with the more explicit ones of reflexivity, participation and knowledge construction. These demands are to some extent in conflict with each other as well as with the more explicit ones. A simple example of such conflicting competence demands is experienced when students develop a course wiki: The Web 2.0‑competence demands here concern the doing something with the material. The copy‑pasting of e.g. a Wikipedia‑article without referencing it from this point of view is a legitimate contribution to the knowledge building of the course wiki. In contrast, educational competence demands require the student to participate actively in the formulation of the course wiki‑articles. Copy‑pasting without reference from this point of view is cheating. Here, the student is met with the incoherent requirement of authoring entries that display the acquisition of a knowledge state in a context where authorship is renounced and knowledge is understood dynamically and distributively. More generally, in Web 2.0‑mediated educational learning activities, the student is required to manoeuvre in a field of interacting, yet conflicting, demands, and the assessment of hisher competence stands the risk of being more of an evaluation of the skill to so manoeuvre than of skills and knowledge explicitly pursued in the course.
Keywords: Web 2.0 in education, wikis, second life, competence, concepts of knowledge, concepts of learning
In teaching software engineering, it is often interesting to introduce real life scenarios for students to experience and to learn how to collect information from respective clients. The ideal arrangement is to have some real clients willing to spend time to provide their ideas of a target system through interviews. However, this arrangement cannot be scaled up as it demands too much resource. Starting from 2008, we have used Second Life (SL) to create a virtual company, named SVG Corporation, which has multiple departments so as to simulate the real‑world business environment. The development of this fictitious company not only provides a new experience in requirement collection to students, but also lowers the working effort of our colleagues in acting as external business clients. Students can practice their communication and fact finding skills during visits in the departments and interviews with the virtual “staff”. The company has been used to support 2 subjects, Human Computer Interface and Foundations of Database Systems. The presence of SL acts as an online platform for students to access and acquire user requirements from staff (AI robots) of a virtual company, through a series of interviews, for system development. The roles of SL are twofold: to reduce the operational overheads in the project administration and to allow students to gain more hands‑on experiences through working on a simulated real‑life business cases. Hence, student could learn how to apply their knowledge and understand the software development process in the real business world. In this paper, we would like to report our experience and results of using SL in the software engineering student projects. Furthermore, the problems and the difficulties encountered during project period will be discussed for future enhancement.