These are my notes from the EDUCAUSE 2007 Annual Conference session, “Riding the 2.0 Wave (Successfully): A Strategy for Deploying Web 2.0 Technologies,” by Josh Baron (Director of Technology and eLearning, Marist College) on October 25th, 2007.

In this session, Josh presented Marist’s cyclical approach to integrating Web 2.0 tools into campus instructional environments and the proposal process used by Marist to initiate instructional Web 2.0 projects. He emphasized the importance of pilot testing, setting clear expectations for instructors, and continuous evaluation. He described a campus initiative called IdentityQuests wherein Marist students studying abroad engage in a series of research and reflective exercises related to the history, art, language, and culture of the region. Students capture audio clips using an iPod and mic. They edit the clips using Audacity and present the clips online using Ming where they are reviewed by other students. Josh also described initiatives using FrapprYackPack, and InterLangua as well as inverse distance learning initiatives involving Marist faculty studying abroad communicating back to campus. 

One question raised during this session related to the risk involved in adopting Web 2.0 tools for instructional purposes, only to have those tools disappear later. This happened to us with Clicktv, a fantastic tool for socially marking and annotating Flash movies. Luckily, we only had one critical Clicktv project ongoing when the company went on hiatus and the damage was minimal. Josh acknowledged that this was a challenge and recommended that tools be adopted slowly, after careful pilot testing and evaluation. He emphasized that instructors need to understand and accept the risks and that certain open/community source tools might be moved “in house” to address the vagaries of hosted solutions. 

The approach of Josh and his team is very similar to our approach in eLearning: define the instructional need/requirement first and then find or build a tool that best meets it. The Web 2.0 wave has opened up a vast array of new tools from which to choose. In many ways, this is anathema to traditional IT departments who may fear the demand that each and every Web 2.0 tool be put into production. Many IT departments would rather present instructors with a manageable toolset and limit instructional use to only those applications. Although this is a rational approach, it is limiting and typically establishes tension between IT departments and faculty (and eLearning departments) that can stifle innovation and creativity. It struck me that this tension will never disappear completely and may actually be an important change agent. However, it can be better managed by:

  • Helping instructors understand limiting factors such as system security, reliability, and scalability so that they know why adopting a particular Web 2.0 tool campus-wide might not be such a good idea. Ideally, faculty and students should play an integral role in such decisions. 
  • Selecting stable and reliable academic enterprise systems that are expandable functionally so that support can be provided for instructional activities when gaps in the current toolset are identified.  
  • Establishing an internal capacity to monitor and evaluate emerging academic technologies. Ideally, this service should not be provided by IT exclusively. Instead, it should involve faculty, students, and executive leadership. 
  • Maintaining a healthy attitude toward change and innovation within the IT department and avoiding the misperceptions that sometimes accompany the tension described earlier. I noticed that Bill Thirsk, Marist CIO, was listed as a presenter on this session. He sat in the front row as Josh led the presentation.