The next logical step of research concerning the potential impact of Web 2.0 on management education is to question whether the new skills acquired through Education 2.0 are useful on the job market. Can organizations benefit from individuals that are equipped to understand and use web 2.0? What is the outreach of web 2.0 in the corporate world? Is learning web 2.0 really important to gain a competitive advantage on the job market today?

The impact of Web 2.0 on organizations is constantly increasing. New models for doing business and managing teams using the opportunities offered by web 2.0 are gaining influence, and transforming the skill set which is necessary for success in the workplace.

What is the “Enterprise 2.0”?

As former Oracle president Ray Lane puts it, “All these things that are thought to be consumer services [web2.0] are coming into the enterprise.” Changes that are taking place on the digital sphere and fuelled by consumer involvement are increasingly affecting the way organizations do business. The emergence of the “Enterprise 2.0” model expresses this idea, by referring to web 2.0 principles applied to formal organizations.

As defined previously, Web 2.0 refers to a set of changes in format and practices taking place in the digital sphere and directed towards unleashing the potential of collective intelligence and social interaction.

The “Enterprise 2.0” is a model of corporate organization and practice which aims at maximizing benefits of the Web 2.0 model – i.e. unleashing the potential of collective intelligence and social interaction – in a corporate environment.

The Enterprise 2.0 concept raises a challenge which is to define how best to use tools and behaviors associated with Web 2.0 as a source of value for organizations. The basic concept behind this challenge is to use an online community which can empower the physical community on which the organization relies. This means getting employees, business partners and customers to use social software (or web 2.0 tools) as a means to collaborate more efficiently. The Enterprise 2.0 uses this online community to empower business collaboration and create value for its business.

One illustration of how social software can be used by companies to empower physical communities can be found in a tool specifically designed to help manage online communities, Workbook. This application – developed as support to a very popular social networking platform (Facebook) provides mainline companies with a technology solution that helps them use Facebook as a professional collaboration tool. (read about it here )

What is the significance of this trend?

“Enterprise 2.0” is yet another buzzword coined by “techies”, so it is legitimate to wonder whether it refers to a trend which is really significant. However when looking closely at business trends today, many signals coincide to say that it needs to be taken seriously.

The impact of Web 2.0

The interest raised around the notion of Enterprise 2.0 amongst most of Fortune 500 companies hints that online communities using web 2.0 tools can be extremely valuable to organizations in the form of increased innovation and productivity. (See Businessweek’s CEO guide to harnessing value of web 2.0.)

The best way to attest for the interest businesses have in the opportunities offered by web 2.0 is to look into which companies technology providers sell these solutions to.

One interesting technology provider to study is Socialtext. Socialtext has sold customisable and secure group-editable web-sites (wikis) to over 2000 organizations throughout the world, some of which are mainline global firms (Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Nokia, Kodac, Ikea, Kraft).

Jackbeleverages Web 2.0 technologies to deliver enterprise-class solutions that allow workers to Consume any information from any application“. Its broad range of customers includes companies as diverse as the American Defense Intelligence Agency or Tupperware.

“IBM’s Web 2.0 Goes to Work initiative is already helping businesses apply Web 2.0 technologies across the globe to gain a competitive advantage.”

Much larger technology providers have also recently launched ambitious programs to offer broad portfolios of Web 2.0 technologies to their clients. IBM is proud to declare “has developed a set of solutions under the “Web 2.0 goes to work” program, and now offers clients social networking tools and web 2.0 platforms. Oracle has also launched a program to help organizations “embrace web 2.0” (view “embracing web 2.0” online presentation ), and is developing specific web 2.0 tools for its customers.

No clear definition of value, but does it matter?

“Web 2.0 approaches can enable organizations to create community value by tapping the collective knowledge of extended teams”

Evan though IBM seems confident in defining The Business Value of Web 2.0 technology and expecting organizations to follow; the economic value of Web 2.0 seems more ambiguous then some technology businesses would want it to be.

Up to this date, there is no formal documentation that can ‘prove’ ROI of Web 2.0 for companies. The metrics to measure ROI are complex and specific. is only possible to find glimpses of answers to this question, many of which formulated by people who have an interest in fostering the general acceptance of web 2.0 technologies for corporate use.

However it is easier to document the increasing number of companies which – despite the lack of formal documentation on ROI – choose to test and adopt web 2.0 tools.

It is this fact – the interest and investment in Web 2.0 made by the majority of large organizations – that helps us attest that web 2.0 clearly holds great potential for businesses, and peril for those that ignore it. Furthermore the transformation which is taking place drives many organizations to invest in finding ways of adapting their business models to harness this potential.

In most organizations, the question is no longer ‘should we got for it’ but rather ‘when and how’. Each organization needs to adapt, at different scales and at a different pace, to the changes that are taking place in the Web 2.0 Era. In order to do so, they need talented individuals who have the skill to help with this change.

How does it affect the skills required in the workplace?

For management education to determine the value of web 2.0 in their institutions, the question shouldn’t be “how many employers use these tools?” but rather “how many employers would want to employ people that will help drive their organizations towards the Enterprise 2.0?”

It is impossible to clearly state that all large organizations will switch to Enterprise 2.0, or even use web 2.0 tools in their workplace. However it is not too early to say that people who know how an Organization can benefit from Web 2.0 are highly valuable for most organizations.

In the Enterprise 2.0, workers must learn how best to use the online community to produce results and fulfill their mission. The workplace in the web 2.0 Era therefore evolves and it is possible to identify a number of key skills which are necessary for success in this environment.

Literacy Individuals should possess the digital literacy necessary to use with confidence tools that will become increasingly important in the workplace like wikis or social networking platforms.

Benefit from collective intelligence They need to know how and in which situation they can use computer-mediated mass collaboration for problem-solving and have better results then if using traditional media.

Understand the use model Individuals should understand how collaboration works in the digital sphere – when to use a wiki, a blog, a social networking service, and how to get involved in discussions or be able to evaluate and make use of information.

Identify value levers for organizations Leaders need to be able to identify what can be done for businesses to benefit from Web 2.0. They need intelligence of the principles and opportunities behind technology so as to be able to help organizations add value with technology.

These skills echo others that were identified previously as necessary for success in learning with web 2.0 or Learning 2.0. This is a strong argument in favor of Education 2.0, in that it is likely to transmit skills which will become assets in the workplace.

What does it imply for management education?

Considering the outreach of web 2.0 in Business and the existence of key skills which are valuable for success in an “Enterprise 2.0” workplace, Management education should consider adapting. Schools should ensure that their students learn how Web 2.0 functions and how to use it effectively in organizations as this becomes essential for future managers and leaders.

A set of new education practices – which we referred to as Education 2.0 – can be developed to harness Learning 2.0 practices, and help learners acquire skills they will find useful in the workplace.

Next post will address what might be done to implement Education 2.0 in management education.

What is Education 1.0?

Education 1.0, or traditional education, refers to an education philosophy which relies on expertise and one-to-many knowledge dispensing (instructor led education). In such a model, information technology plays at best a role in extending the classroom discussion.
This model corresponds to a given environment in which access to information and resources necessary to education has a much higher cost then the one associated with the environment of new information technologies. It also corresponds to learning behaviors that are asking for authority of instructors and face-to-face interaction.

What is Education 2.0?

The tensions between the traditional education philosophy (‘Education 1.0’) and the nascent Learning 2.0 behaviors will shape a set of new educational practices, which we can refer to as ‘Education 2.0’.

Education 2.0 is a set of practices which can help schools successfully achieve their educational objectives in a context of change in learning behaviors and expectations. These consist mainly in:

a) Maximizing the benefits of learning 2.0 in accordance with academic objectives.
b) Providing barriers against the dangers associated with learning 2.0

Learning 2.0 behaviors can become benefits for schools if addressed and managed in the right way. By making sure that learners are equipped with the appropriate skills and knowledge to maximize their use of web 2.0, a School insures that each time they use the Internet for learning purposes they will benefit from it.

This post is a ‘guideline’ to help each educational institution decide on the value of “education 2.0” in their offer. I will address the different questions which should be asked when trying to weight the potential costs and benefits of web 2.0-related pedagogy for a school.

How can Schools measure the value of Web 2.0?

“Why should it be worthwhile to get involved in ‘education 2.0’, when we are already doing education 1.0 very well?”


Before addressing in detail what schools can do to adapt, it is necessary to document the need for change in educational practice. More important than seeing “education 2.0” as an absolute progression or regression as compared with “education 1.0” is the need to define costs and opportunities of “education 2.0” in the changing context of education. In such an effort, we can start by listing potential clusters of value for a school, and which questions need to be asked to decide on its value.

The direct pedagogical value of web 2.0 for academic objectives

As defined previously, Learning 2.0 practices can potentially help learners

  • Develop or improve the effectiveness of personal learning styles,
  • Reinforce their awareness of the need for critical judgment and evaluation,
  • Understand how to deal with and benefit from a complex environment of divergent opinions and experience
  • Touch upon the mechanisms of reputation and recognition.

The indirect value linked with change in the context of education


In a context of growing weight of digital interaction in the social and economic life, institutions can grasp value by helping students better adapt to the new context. Students who have gained the skills and knowledge to understand and use effectively the logic behind the Internet will have increasing weight on the job market. On the contrary, students who have not been helped by schools how to best use web 2.0 resources are exposed to a higher risk of misuse of these resources and will lack essential skills on the job market.

This direct and indirect value can be seized by institutions if they provide students with the tools and stimulation necessary for them to use Web 2.0 in their learning, while at school, but also far beyond that. Schools have the opportunity to help students become life-long learners who know how to create value from web 2.0.

Is it worth it?

In order to decide on whether a given institution can grasp that value, or in other terms “Is it worth it?”, institutions should start by giving answers to the following questions:

– Is my audience potentially receptive to education 2.0 ?

Does the audience of my institutions have the skill base necessary to use web 2.0 as a support for their learning? Would they be willing to accept learning these skills?
Do students expect Internet resources as part of their curriculum; or rather expect exclusively face-to-face interaction?

– Does education 2.0 provide students with new skills that are recognized as valuable by employers?

Do organizations that work with my school say students will meet these skills in their future workplace? Do they see web 2.0 literacy as a valuable asset?

– Is it valuable in my institution’s current pedagogical base?

Is social interaction recognized as the best way to learn? Are there areas of learning which just “have to be learned”, and tolerate no discussion?

– Can the attributes and potential value of learning 2.0 (personalization, evaluation, variability and reputation) be appealing to my school as a value lever and an incitation to do things differently?

Are these skills important in my institution’s teaching objectives?

– What will be the cost of implementation in my school?

At what cost can my institution deal with the required culture change (activism, authority 2.0) implied by web 2.0? Will faculty use these tools to complement their teaching? (can they accept the challenge to their authority, do they acknowledge its value?)

In a previous post, I defined the main characteristics of “Learning 2.0”, a philosophy of learning which emerges in the digital sphere from the learning behaviors of web 2.0 users.

This post addresses how education is likely to be affected by the changes in individual learning conducts. I will argue that Learning 2.0 will cause tensions in educational institutions; and question whether and how institutions can or should adapt. This will provide insight into various problematics that can help shape an Education 2.0 model.

Learning 2.0 will affect Higher Education

The pattern of behaviors identified behind the term learning 2.0 attests how the appropriation of web2.0 technologies changes the way users approach learning, by adopting new tools and attitudes which they find meaningful as learners. The corollary of this trend is that Learning 2.0 should have an increasing impact on educational institutions. There are three main channels by which this is likely to happen:

The audience is changing

New generations of digital natives who have embraced Learning 2.0 put pressure on educational institutions to recognize the value of web 2.0 for educational purposes and expect an educational offer which is in accordance with Learning 2.0 behaviors.

How digital natives want to learn

Digital Natives see value for learning in the tools and attitudes associated with Web 2.0, and expect institutional recognition of their relevance for education. (“My wiki is my textbook now“). Digital natives should expect a form of education which values the practices and materials of Learning 2.0, by offering such things as the capacity to personalize learning environments, multimedia and interactive learning material or flexible learning schedules.

What digital natives are good at

Digital natives are by definition digital literates. They are familiar with and feel productive using web 2.0 tools which they take for granted. Digital natives will not understand the discrepancy which might exist between their mastering of new tools and adoption of learning 2.0 attitudes, and educational institutions asking them to stick with traditional pedagogy.

Regardless of how much a specific educational offer is consumer-driven, or how much an institution is inclined to adapting its offer to student demands, institutions will be affected by this change as the audience changes. Therefore new student expectations and initial skills should be regarded as a driver for change and food for thought in the reflections around education and pedagogical practice.

Learning 2.0 means new pedagogical opportunities

Learning 2.0 represents potential opportunities for Higher Education to improve pedagogical practice, capitalize on student involvement in web-mediated learning, and differentiate from other institutions.

To expand upon a previous post addressing the meaning of web 2.0, the question of whether we can value learning 2.0 for educational purposes mainly relies on the credit we give to two underlying assumptions of web 2.0: collective intelligence outvalues individual expertise on the one hand, and Web 2.0 is an environment in which collective intelligence can fulfil.

Without going back to the grounding question of the validity of these statement, if these two assumptions are made then Learning 2.0 represents a wisdom in terms of learning practices which far exceeds that of educational experts. Under these conditions Learning 2.0 should require attention and be explored by institutions in an effort to improve pedagogical practice.

Web 2.0 learners are in an environment of abundance of choice in terms of information, tools and use scenarios of these tools. Each individual user can chose ‘independently’ within this abundance the most meaningful assets for her/his own learning experience. The result of this process is that learners build their own preferred learning environment.This description of the web 2.0 learning environment echoes the conditions under which collective intelligence is likely to fulfil according to Sorowiecki.

So from an observer standpoint, Learning 2.0 conceptualizes the aggregated learning behaviors of an increasingly large group of web 2.0 users who have arbitrated with relative independence their own choice of learning material and attitudes from an abundant environment.

Learning 2.0 can therefore be the output of a learning practices wisdom of the crowds, which should be valued by educational institutions as a showcase of innovative learning practices that can add value to their educational offer.

Digital literacy as a required skill

Digital literacy in Web 2.0 is increasingly required for full participation in the public, community and economic life[1], and as such should be increasingly a concern for educational institutions. The incorporation of Web 2.0 in the pedagogical practice of higher education appears like an efficient vector for this required digital literacy. I will develop this point on a later post centered around the notion of Enterprise 2.0.

The disruptive nature of Learning 2.0

“Technology allows for the absolutes of education to be questioned.”[2]

Learning 2.0 is likely to be a disruptive force for Higher Education, as there are divergences at different levels between the learning culture of Web2.0 and traditionally conceived education:

Traditional Higher Education Vs. Learning 2.0:

Learning from faculty Vs Learning from anyone

Focus on models, theories and facts Vs Focus on experience, opinions and intentions

Focus on content Vs Focus on networks

Learning towards a diploma Vs Learning for life



Learning from faculty vs. learning from anyone


Traditional higher education and learning2.0 evaluate the authority of knowledge in a different way. Higher Education primarily gives authority to knowledge dispensed by faculty, whereas learning 2.0 values social constructivism. The community questions the authority of traditional thought leaders and gives authority to knowledge which can be generated by anyone. . .

Whereas in traditional education a leader of thought gains authority through formal scholar recognition (diplomas and publications), authority in the digital sphere is granted by the community and using different metrics. New forms of recognition rely on masses of users showing interest in an idea or thinker by pointing towards interesting content through social bookmarking.

This “Authority 2.0[3] can become a very disruptive force for traditional education as learners start to value more thought leaders recognized by a wide community of Internet users then faculty whose authority relies on more scholar validation processes.

“Web 2.0 technologies challenge faculty in terms of sanctity and authority. It suddenly lays down the walls of their offices and classrooms and demands that their legitimacy compete with the clamor of the popular opinion, available for anyone outside of academy to consume. Academic faculty have to fight harder against the stronger voices of popular opinion to retain respectability and legitimacy.”[4]

The tension between traditional forms of authority and “authority 2.0” seems to forecast a major redefinition of the way educational institutions account for authority of knowledge.

Focus on models, theories and facts vs. Focus on experience, opinions and intentions

In parallel to the tension linked with “authority 2.0”, the new learning culture also differs with traditional education in terms of its preferred learning materials.

Whereas traditional learning is based on empirical material like models, theories and facts, learning 2.0 uses mainly material extracted from personal experience, opinions and intentions. In the digital sphere, if ‘textbook’ models are produced, the focus is more on the discussion and questioning which it provokes. The ‘support material’ of Learning 2.0 is in substance different from textbooks because it accounts for personal experience, and therefore does not primarily intend to be objective nor stable.

Learners 2.0 need to put effort in the evaluation of the relevance and reliability of learning material. On the contrary textbook material intends to present empirical experience that is objective, trustworthy and stable; which tends to engage students in a more ‘passive’ attitude of acceptance as regards learning material.

The need expressed in Learning 2.0 for content that is ‘desacralised’, debatable, up-to-date and values personal experience could be a disruptive force for higher education. Certain schools are already struggling to find options in order to capitalize on this need (see “My wiki is my textbook now”)

Focus on content vs. focus on network

The value of learning assets is perceived in a different way in traditional education and in learning 2.0.

In traditionally conceived education, content is considered as the central value driver of a learning experience. Therefore a top-class higher education institution is one that can successfully deliver to students the best content available on the market (via the best faculty).

In learning 2.0, content is a secondary learning asset compared with access to a relevant and capable knowledge network. Educational content becomes less important than the network that supports students in their learning. Users build learning networks by blogging (participating in blogs and asking for participation of others on their blog) and developing relationships on social networks.

The tension in Higher Education between priority given to content and to knowledge networks comes back to the definition of an institution’s value proposition. Should the value of a school’s offer rely on content or should the support given by a school in utilizing content be put forward?

In that area, an interesting model has recently emerged with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Britain’s Open University both offering free digital access to the content that supports their educational offer.

The model is grounded in the belief that “Education is not equivalent to the resources that support the education; […] it consists essentially of the contact with the professors and the community that develops among the students.”[5]

Or as MIT President Charles M. Vest puts it “We think that OpenCourseWare will make it possible for faculty here and elsewhere to concentrate even more on the actual process of teaching, on the interactions between faculty and students that are the real core of learning.”

MIT and OpenU fully embody the 2.0 perception of learning assets in the sense that they offer content for free, but charge for what they consider as the core value of their educational proposition: access to the knowledge networks of their institutions.

Learning towards a Diploma vs. Learning for life

The learning process engaged within higher education finalizes with certification that should measure success in the learning experience and attest the mastering of skills and knowledge necessary for full participation in the public, community and economic life.

Learning 2.0 gives strength to a divergent belief that learning should be a continually challenging, life-long process, and that success should be measured by the capacity to become a life-long learner, or to ‘learn how to learn’. Web 2.0 provides the means and encourages learners to keep involved in learning interactions. The unstated nature of the content which supports Learning 2.0 also provides incentive for a continuous, life-long involvement in learning.

This tension seems less of a disruptive force for higher education as many institutions are already involved in an effort to promote life-long learning and to maintain school networks for alumni and faculty. This area of convergence is an interesting source of potential for the incorporation of Web 2.0 in higher education.

These tensions between the traditional education philosophy and the nascent Learning 2.0 will shape a new model in educational practice, Education 2.0.

[1] Definition of the mission of education by the New London Group

[2]From an discussion with Toby Thomson

[3] (addressed by Michael Jenson in “The New Metrics of Scholarly Authority” and Authority 2.0 and 3.0: The Collision of Authority and Participation in Scholarly Communications)

[4] From an discussion with Toby Thomson

[5] Courses Vs. Content: Online Offerings From Major Institutions Are Not Created Equal”, By Stephen Downes


A change in learning behaviors
Defining how learning technology changes the way people learn.

Technology is only a tool, and should not be at the center when assessing the potential impact of technology on management or education. However it is critical to understand why new tools emerge and how people use them. What is happening on the Internet today reflects wider changes in terms of how people buy, share, communicate, develop networks and learn.

The emergence of new behaviors on the Internet accounts for and affects behaviors far beyond the digital sphere because the main force behind the Internet is the involvement of people. More specifically, analyzing learning behaviors on the Internet gives an insight as to how consumers want to learn (because Web 2.0 technology is consumer-driven) and how people will increasingly behave as regards learning (because user involvement will cause infiltration of Web 20 behavior in other spheres).

An educational institution that understands how emerging technologies accompany and drive a wider change in the way people learn will be more successful in turning that change into a positive force.

Participatory culture
Guiding behavioral rules behind technology

By looking at new digital technologies and the way individuals use them, we can attest the emergence of general guiding rules around how people behave on the internet, a ‘participatory culture’, defined by Henry Jenkins in an occasional paper as

“a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another.”[1]

This gives a good idea of the essential notions behind the use scenario of web 2.0. However this definition does not refer to a notion which is underlying to the participatory culture and web 2.0 in general, that being the belief in collective intelligence. Web 2.0 users belong to this participatory culture because they “believe their contributions matter”, but more importantly because they trust that their contribution will participate in the wisdom of crowds.

Henry Jenkins also describes the main forms of this participatory culture as being

Affiliations — memberships, formal and informal, in online communities centered around various forms of media, (such as Friendster, Facebook, message boards, metagaming, game clans, or MySpace).

Expressions — producing new creative forms, (such as digital sampling, skinning and modding, fan videomaking, fan fiction writing, zines, mash-ups).

Collaborative Problem-solving — working together in teams, formal and informal, to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (such as through Wikipedia, alternative reality gaming, spoiling).

Circulations — Shaping the flow of media (such as podcasting, blogging).”

Learning 2.0
How individuals learn in the Web 2.0 era

This participatory culture links directly with the way people learn. It leads to the emergence of an increasing number of activist learners, who are inclined to adopt a more active attitude towards learning.

The underlying principle of this learning behavior is social constructivism, whereby knowledge is created by learners in the context of and as a result of social interaction. The main forms of the participatory culture can translate easily into the forms of the participatory learning culture or “learning 2.0″.

Affiliations – Developing and using social networks as a tool for “horizontal collaboration”, thus sharing ideas and collaborating with the most relevant people in informal networks. (such as LinkedIn)

Expressions – Using new multimedia expression opportunities to produce knowledge instantly in front of a wide audience and benefit from feedback. (such as blogs, podcasts)

Collaborative Problem-Solving – Using the collaborative potential of communities to look for, evaluate, and confront knowledge. (such as wikis)

Circulations – creating a personal learning environment that meets individual requirements for learning: the user builds his ‘window’ to the Internet by organizing flows of information (such as syndication of content, social bookmarking and personalized portals)

These forms of learning 2.0 represent the channels of interaction by which web 2.0 users can effectively use, challenge and produce knowledge in the digital sphere for personal learning purposes.

Foreseeable challenges of Learning 2.0

Learning 2.0 represents challenges for individual learners that can either become benefits or risks depending on whether they succeed in developing the necessary mindset and skills required for an efficient Learning 2.0 experience.

Challenges of Learning 2.0 for the learner include:

Autonomous learners – Learning 2.0 promotes the idea that learners should take control of their own education and Web 2.0 provides the tools that help them to do so. Web 2.0 provides the means and encourages learners to keep involved in learning interactions. Learning 2.0 develops skills that help individuals ‘learn how to learn’ and become life-long learners. (more here)

    This is a key skill to develop for personal development and a very valuable asset in a constantly evolving environment or organizational setting.

Personalized pedagogy – Web 2.0 enables the learner to shape his learning environment according to his specific needs. The learner can pick for a wide panel of information feeds and learning tools which are most relevant to his learning experience and have access to them from a central location.

Among the points of interest for the learner of Learning 2.0 is the potential for merging formal and informal learning settings. For example a management student’s formal and informal needs might include process, market and industry knowledge, accreditation, employment opportunities, temporary assignments, career planning, and networking. This student might find using a portal with centralized feeds, widgets and access to social networking services is an environment which is more adapted to his/her learning needs. Therefore as individual needs for the learner include material and support for both formal and informal settings, the learner should see value in creating a personalized learning environment in which he can easily access both.

    The value of the ‘personalized pedagogy’ of Learning 2.0 is that it can help develop or improve the effectiveness of personal learning styles.

Independent thinkers – Learning 2.0 requires learners to acquire the capacity to evaluate content according to their own judgment. Faced with the breath and the unequal quality of content that is produced with Web 2.0, the Learner 2.0 is forced into exercising critical judgment. Web 2.0 learner cannot rely on institutions, influential media or opinion leaders to give authority to knowledge (see authority 2.0) and must make a judgment of their own. Therefore Learning 2.0 seems to occur in an environment which should help learners become independent thinkers. This question addresses the validity of the Web 2.0 ideology.

    Learning 2.0 is focused around critical judgment and evaluation, which are two critical skills for success in a complex environment where information and ideas are abundant.

Variability – Learners 2.0 are engaged in a process whereby they must value the opinions of others and accept the community challenging their own. They learn to deal with and benefit from a complex environment of divergent opinions and experience.

    This is a key skill for success in team work and to develop organizational awareness.

Reputation – The learner’s participation in knowledge generation in the community setting coincides with the construction of a public identity. As the authority of personal content is obtained through the community, learners gain awareness of the mechanisms of reputation and recognition.

    This is an interesting practical introduction to and training for leadership skills, where recognition can happen in the real world rather then simply in a walled and protected academic setting.

[1] An occasional paper on digital media and learning: “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


What is Web 2.0?

November 24, 2007




The starting point of my research addresses the very basic concern of defining scope. This attempt to define Web 2.0 is directed towards raising relevant questions for a study on the potential impact of web 20 on education.

The essence of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 has no static definition. It is a fashionable and versatile term used by observers to point out to the many different patterns of change taking place today on the Internet.

It is a perceived change with no hard boundaries; which explains why traditional definitions are built around the opposition of examples rather then concepts. Attempts to define Web 2.0 generally account for the move to the Internet as a platform with an increased role for users who generate, evaluate and challenge content.

The complexity and the outreach of the change that is taking place makes it difficult to settle unilaterally on a clear definition of Web 2.0. However if I were to make an attempt at capturing only what is essential I would say that

Web 2.0 refers to a set of changes in format and practices taking place in the digital sphere and directed towards unleashing the potential of collective intelligence and social interaction.

Characterizing Web 2.0 as a process

Even though the term “2.0” suggests the existence of a static “second version” of the Internet, it is much more appropriate to start thinking of Web 2.0 as dynamic object. Like any process, Web 2.0 can be modeled using appropriate tools in order to increase our appreciation of the transformation which is happening on the Internet.

Therefore a first attempt at giving a valuable definition of web 2.0 consists in avoiding to define the photographic reality of what can be found on the Internet today, but rather to identify the major forces which drive change (variables of the Web 2.0 process). This approach can help provides clues into the potential impact of web 2.0 in different social, educational, and business realms.

The process of Web 2.0 gravitates around key variables which are represented here:

Web 2.0 variables

The Web 2.0 ideology

Defining ‘Web 2.0’ is in fact much more meaningful when avoiding focus on to the objects involved around the concept (technology), and when looking for meaning of the concept. This means trying to identify the ideology of web 2.0, which is based on assumptions and beliefs that are central to one’s appreciation of the value of Web 2.0.

As I mentioned, web 2.0 refers to a set of changes in the digital sphere directed towards unleashing the potential of collective intelligence and social interaction. Regardless of what is effectively evolving in the digital sphere, the changes implied by ‘web 2.0’ rely on a postulation, which is the belief in collective intelligence.

The belief in collective intelligence and the way it relates to Web 2.0 require close examination, as they are two central questions on which depend our appreciation of the value of web 2.0.

More specifically, the question of whether we can value web 2.0 for educational purposes primarily relies on the credit we give to the underlying assumption of web 2.0 that collective intelligence outvalues individual expertise. Secondly, it relies on whether we believe Web 2.0 is a satisfactory mechanism for insuring the fulfilment of collective intelligence.

What is collective intelligence ?

According to James Surowiecki’s theory of the wisdom of crowds, under the right circumstances groups can be far more intelligent in making the right choices then individual experts. This idea echoes the social constructivist theory which states that interaction between individuals is key to intelligence. Surowiecki defines a set of conditions which make the prophecy of collective intelligence more likely to happen, and also gives a series of factors which are likely to cause failure of collective intelligence.

The main flaw is information cascades, which occur when people lose their independence of thought through social interaction and rely blindly on what the majority of people think, culminating in a aggregated behavior which is unwise.

Therefore the key variable behind insuring that collective intelligence fulfils is the provision of an environment in which interactions do not deprive individuals from independence. Surowiecki suggests that there are two ways of insuring a secure environment for independent thinkers: by keeping ties loose, as loose social ties minimize the influence of others on you, and by diversifying sources of information, and therefore giving incentive for critical judgement.

Is it a relevant model?

This model seems logical and meaningful in the terms in which it is formulated, and it appears to encompass various real-life observations of either success or failure in group judgement. I would think that questions should be raised around the notion “independent thinkers” applied to real-life. If independent thinkers are absolutes then there is no doubt that collective intelligence works as a conceptual system, however there is little hope that a group composed of “independent thinkers” will materialize in the real world for collective intelligence to become a given predictable phenomenon.

The uncertainty in the fulfilment of collective intelligence lies in that space between the ideal of independent thinkers and real-world people who have very diverse and unstable levels of independence of thought, depending on unpredictable factors like circumstance or initial education.

However faced with this complexity of real-life as regards independence of thought, it seems valuable to define the characteristics of an environment which promotes this independence. In this, an environment in which individuals relate with loose ties and have access to diverse sources of information is more likely to witness collective intelligence as it push individuals towards more independence of opinion and thought.

Does Web 2.0 provide an environment which enables the wisdom of crowds?

When looking at specific web 2.0 technologies, it seems like most fail to fulfil the requisites of the wisdom of crowds as defined by Surowiecki. However, it is a mistake to consider Web 2.0 as an aggregation of specific technologies. Technologies taken separately add little meaning to our appreciation of the environment provided to users by web 2.0. In fact, the complementarity and diversity of web 2.0 technologies concretizes in users relying simultaneously on various technologies to do different tasks. This means that, from a user standpoint, the environment of Web 2.0 materializes at the cross of these technologies.

Again, it is more important to rely on what is essential to web 2.0, or what is common to different web 2.0 technologies, in order to conceptualise this environment. Web 2.0 is an environment with an immense diversity in sources of information, and in which the mediation of technology seems to insure a certain degree of ‘looseness’ in ties which relate individuals within a group.

The relatively low barriers to expression on the digital sphere insure that information sources remain diverse, and I will assume that the impersonality of the technological interface (i.e. the computer screen) keeps users safe from an predominant intellectual influence of certain members of a group. (however this thought is to contrast with work on persuasive technologies). These two characteristics of the Web 2.0 environment are also those which defined the secure environment for independent thinkers.

Therefore the Web 2.0 environment, located at the cross of web 2.0 technologies, is close to the requirements of an environment in which independent thinkers thrive and collective intelligence is likely to fulfil.

My name is Kenneth Schlenker. I am currently doing a study for Ashridge Business School on the potential impact of Web 2.0 applications on management education.

I wanted to take the opportunity of the research I am doing to turn words into action by sharing my questioning, concerns and findings in order to build a collective appreciation of various concepts and illustrations revolving around the subject.

This is what Web 2.0 is about, isn’t it? Sharing knowledge, thoughts and opinions with a wide community to improve the intelligence we have around these issues, thus hopefully enriching the learning experience of all readers and contributors to this blog.

Without being overly optimistic, I hope that this blog become a space for reflection and debate, an ideal classroom really, about the various issues regarding Web 2.0 and learning.

How does the learning experience evolve in the Web 2.0 era? How can organizations take advantage of these changes?

I will be posting on this blog thoughts on the various issues I have come across during this study. In the coming weeks, I will address considerations represented here: The Impact of Web 2.0 on executive education

Please feel free to comment, challenge or contradict what I say as your contributions will only make our collective learning richer. You are the co-creators of this research!