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Next generation learning: Web 2.0

Colin McDonald, Head of Curriculum Development at Ufi, the organisation behind learndirect and learndirect Business takes a look at the impact of Web 2.0 on IT skills training.

Web 2.0 is set to revolutionise the way in which IT skills and other training is provided. In the near future, learners will be able to benefit from more sophisticated e-learning using this technology. From providing individual learners with the ability to interact in real time with fellow professionals online through delivering training programmes that are tailored to individual employees. Some say that next generation learning is just around the corner. Actually, it is already here.

Web 2.0 is considered to be the next phase in the evolution of ''the internet. It is the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing and collaboration amongst users. Some of the technological elements making up Web 2.0 include instant messaging, vodcasts, weblogs, social networking tools, podcasts and RSS feeds.

While statistics point to the growing popularity of Web 2.0, it is important to remember that the concept is still in its infancy. According to a number of analysts, Web 2.0 can be best compared to the development of the steam engine which, although initially invented in the 1st Century, didn't come into full use until the 18th Century. Similarly, Web 2.0 has been with us for a number of years, but it has only recently come into its own. As people increasingly use the internet, a much more meaningful and useful way of engaging with these new technologies is emerging.

For IT directors and key business decision makers, the emergence of Web 2.0 is a potential 'game-changer' in the way skills training and learning is provided. In order to make sure that businesses and individuals are ready for the next generation of learning, it is important to first understand the concept of Web 2.0 in further detail: what benefits does it provide to businesses and individuals in practice?

For individual learners seeking to develop or improve their skills, Web 2.0 provides a number of benefits. It offers them the opportunity to receive specific training in a way that they are familiar and comfortable with, thereby helping to overcome some of the problems faced in more traditional training engagement. For example, whereas previously someone wanting assistance with a DIY task may have turned to a manual to seek help, Web 2.0 enables learners instead to visit a website like to get specific answers from experts in that field at the point of need.

The business benefits of Web 2.0 training should also not be ignored. By engaging employees in learning specifically targeted towards their needs, and that fits in around their working day, businesses can offer training that is more cost effective, efficient and productive.

learndirect Business is currently analysing the benefits that a dedicated social networking site for training would bring to learners. For instance, it is assessing how National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) could be delivered to different sectors using Web 2.0 technology. With such technology, learners can access engaging multimedia resources, such as podcasts, interactive quizzes, and video games. They can even engage with tutors directly and engage with learners in a social networking environment like Facebook.

For those learners who want to develop a stronger tie to the online learning community, there is the option to move on to a deeper level of service and sophistication, not just additional content. Through the creation of an online 'community of practice', employees can speak to fellow professionals about issues of importance to them, personalise their learning experience and share best practice. In addition, the higher level content means the learning can be tailored to specific needs.

The emergence of Web 2.0 learning can already be seen with Games2train, the world's first videogame-based training tool. By marrying the fun of playing a videogame together with all the information needed to accomplish learning or training objectives, learners of all levels can access the right training for their specific objectives.

For instance, for a business that wants to train employees to better target new business prospects, Games2train offers an interactive game called Straight Shooter. The video game, modelled on previous computer games like Doom, allows prospective clients to ask employees questions, which they must answer correctly to get points and climb up the table. All questions are based on each individual firms' online policies and reference materials, and allow the user's progress to be recorded on the company intranet so that employers can see how staff are performing.

For businesses, these interactive forms of learning help not only to engage all groups, but also have the added benefit of reducing costs from sending staff away on traditional training courses, which means time out of the office and lost productivity.

The growth of Web 2.0 technology will have a significant impact on the way in which training programmes will be offered in the future. As more traditional means of training evolve, we can expect social networks and other Web 2.0 tools proving more sophisticated e-learning that is tailored to meet individual learner needs and the needs of their employer.

The author

Colin McDonald is head of curriculum development at Ufi.

(ITadviser, Issue 56, Winter 2008)



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