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Mark van Harmelen :: Blog :: Education 3.0

August 22, 2007

Education 3.0 is an interesting approach that views Web 2.0 as an enabling technology for change in HE. While the approach has no particular name in the UK or Europe, it has been labeled Education 3.0 in South Africa. The material below is in part about the approach at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town; my one-time home town.

The material itself is drawn from an upcoming report on Web 2.0 and Higher Education by Tom Franklin and myself. The report, for the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education builds, with JISC's kind permission, on our earlier Web 2.0 report for JISC. The new report will be published on OBHE's site early next week. Ostensibly the new report is only available by subscription, but there is a ten day trial access scheme that will enable non-subscribers to reach the report. Alternately your institution may already be a subscriber.

From here on is a quote from the draft report. Numbers from 118 onwards refer to footnotes in the report; these are reproduced at the end of this post.

We have examined how Web 2.0 can be used to support learning and teaching within the current higher education system, here we briefly look at a more radical view that Web 2.0 technologies will enable a radical transformation in the nature of higher education itself. In "The genesis and emergence of Education 3.0 in higher education and its potential for Africa" 118 Derek Keats and Philip Schmidt of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa, explore how developments in social networking and technology, and developments in legal and economic understanding may lead to change in educational institutions. Characterising three stages of education they describe:

  • Education 1.0 as being in a didactic style,
  • Education 2.0 as Education 1.0 enhanced by use of Web 2.0 technologies.
  • Education 3.0 as "characterized by rich, cross-institutional, cross-cultural educational opportunities within which the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artefacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits outside the immediate scope of activity play a strong role. The distinction between artefacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented. Education 3.0 as used here embraces many of the concepts referred to by Downes (2005)119 in his concept of e-learning 2.0, but complements them with an emphasis on learning and teaching processes with a focus on institutional changes that accompany the breakdown of boundaries (between teachers and students, higher education institutions, and disciplines)."

These concepts are widespread. In Europe there is a groundswell of interest in whether Web 2.0 will act as either a transformative or an enabling force in changing universities by blurring the boundaries between individual universities, by blurring the boundaries between higher education and open education, by giving rise to the need for other qualification awarding bodies at HE levels, and by changing learning and teaching practice. For example, there may well be a future role for third-party accreditation organisations awarding qualifications to individuals for learning based around open content educational materials and individual contributions centred around that material.120 At least in the UK, there is also a strong opinion that there is too much capital invested in universities and too much societal dependence on the degree awarding function of universities, and that the large amounts of useful research performed in universities for Education 3.0 to significantly affect how universities function in relation to each other and to society in general. In this view, adjustment to Web 2.0 and the increased co-operation between students that it enables may simply consist of working out how the concept of individual assessment and award of degrees on (mostly) individual work can be reconciled with increased student co-operation and group work.

However in the less developed countries there may be strong reason to change HEI models, coupled with less societal inertia. In this context and in relation to Education 3.0 Keats and Schmidt discuss challenges to HE in Africa. These include skill shortages that lead to lack of critical mass in different subjects in individual institutions. The authors point to web connectivity and Education 3.0 as being able to address this challenge. However the authors also point to lack of funding that affects computing facilities and available bandwidth. We note that there are, in South Africa at least, efforts to reduce the high cost of bandwidth. Keats and Schmidt discuss free open source software as part of the solution to high costs. While Keats and Schmidt note that UWC is not at a stage to address Education 3.0, there are various UWC initiatives that could lead to the establishment of UWC as a Education 3.0 institution. These include:

  • The development of open source software for educational purposes via the UWC established African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources (AVOIR) project 121 and the Free Software Innovation Unit (FSIU) 122. AVOIR received ZAR3.7M of funding from International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in 2004 123. AVOIR has a variety of other African universities participating in the project 124 as well as participants iAfghanistan, India and Philippines.
  • The Free Content and Free and Open Courseware Project 125 currently being established inside UWC.
  • The Rip-Mix-Learn Research Group that considers both educational experience and assessment in higher education courses which make extensive use of open educational resources, and in which students create significant parts of the course content themselves. The interdisciplinary group focuses on five UWC courses which use a range of technologies and tools, including podcasting, on-line discussion forums, and peer assessment.
  • Collaboration in the NetTel@Africa programme, where "The overall goal of the NetTel@Africa is to make the provision of ICT more efficient and ubiquitous to the citizens of targeted countries. Achievement of the goal will require improved policy and regulatory reform and increased private sector investment in ICT (telecommunications sector)." 126
  • Action under an HP Digital Publishing Grant127 to promote the use of digital materials for learning, including the use of wikis for the development of wiki books by students. The HP grant includes membership of the Chameleon Federation 128 which is dedicated to using digital publishing to improve education. The federation is composed of HP and 24 participating universities in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Russia, the UK, and the USA.


118 Keats, D., and Schmidt, P. (5 March 2007 ) "The genesis and emergence of Education 3.0 in higher education and its potential for Africa", Vol 12 No 3, First Monday. URL: http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_3/keats/index.html Last accessed 1 August 2007. We would like to thank Derek Keats for referring us to this article, and Philip Schmidt for commenting on our interpretation of the article and associated research.

119 Also referred to elsewhere in this report: Downes, S. (17 October 2005) "E-learning 2.0", eLearn Magazine, ACM. URL: http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&articl Last accessed 1 August 2007

120 One author (van Harmelen) had a conversation in May 2007 with Patrick McAndrew, Director of Research and Evaluation for the Open University’s Open Content Initiative, with both agreeing on the possibility of a third party organisation awarding certificates based on a learner reading open content and posting contributions on a blog centred around that material.

121 African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources. URL: http://avoir.uwc.ac.za Last accessed 1 August 2007.

122 The Free Software Innovation Unit, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
URL: http://fsiu.uwc.ac.za Last accessed 1 August 2007.

123 International Development Research Centre. URL: http://www.idrc.ca Last accessed 1 August 2007.

124 “Other universities participating in the project are the University of Jos (Nigeria), Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (Senegal), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya), University of Nairobi (Kenya), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Catholic University of Mozambique (Mozambique) and The University of Eduardo Modlane (Mozambique). In addition, a number of other universities are collaborating with the AVOIR project through other means of support, including the University of Ghana Legon (Ghana), the University of Port Elizabeth and Peninsula Technikon (South Africa)." Tectonic (25 October 2004) "UWC gets R3,7million for free software development", URL: http://www.tectonic.co.za/view.php?id=372&tags=ind Last accessed 1 August 2007.

125 The Free Content and Free and Open Courseware Project , University of the Western Cape, South Africa. URL: http://freecourseware.uwc.ac.za Last accessed 1 August 2007. We are told that this site is currently being redesigned and all existing content will be reposted during August 2007.

126 NetTel Africa. URL: http://www.nettelafrica.org Last accessed 1 August 2007.

127 Witkin L., and Vanides J., "Digital Publishing boosts higher education", Hewlett Packard. URL: http://h41111.www4.hp.com/globalcitizenship/uk/en/bulletin/10/int Last accessed 1 Aug 2007.

128 Chameleon Federation. URL: http://www.dp-chameleon.org Last accessed 1 August 2007.

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Posted by Mark van Harmelen


  1. Huge amount of really interesting stuff here Mark - thanks for sharing it.

    Rebecca O'RourkeRebecca O'Rourke on Monday, 17 September 2007, 19:46 UTC # |

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