Students are better than tutors on the Web, says report

CLEX surveyed students before and after beginning their university courses and heard from leading futurologists. | Photo: Karl Gunnarsson

Universities are falling behind their students in the use of Web 2.0 technologies, according to a report released today. 75% of students have a profile on at least one social networking site and spend over four hours online every day.

The report resulted from a year-long international investigation by the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX). It revealed that most universities fail to take account of, and capitalise on the growing use of social networking tools by their students.

The CLEX report says social networks are having an extensive effect on the behavior of the young people who use it. It claimed students are often better versed than their tutors in the use of Web 2.0 technologies. According to the study, surfing the Web replaces TV in the daily activities of a teenager.

Sir David Melville chaired the committee and said: “The rate of change in students’ take-up of these technologies is breathtaking. Whilst UK higher education is as advanced as any country in its development, there are major issues to address if universities and colleges are to keep up with these changes in student practice and attitude.”

The report makes 21 recommendations to UK universities, colleges, and educational bodies so that they can provide a challenging and relevant experience for their students. Sir David went on to say that students are the experts when it comes to Web 2.0 rather than their tutors.

Bernie Russell, a lecturer in online journalism at the University of Lincoln, agrees with the report’s findings: “I think it’s likely we’re not up to scratch [with Web 2.0]. I think the key to it is to be flexible and let the students deploy it and then learn from there.”

Mr Russell explained that universities have certain guidelines that are holding tutors back from interacting with students on social networks such as Facebook. But at the same time social networks and the ease of communication they provide could prove to be a useful tool for higher education.

Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World (PDF) | Download report

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