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Web 2.0

Sector Snapshot Getting Started Next Steps Talk and Share

What is web 2.0?
Web 2.0 refers to the second generation of the Internet in which the web moved beyond a static collection of HTML pages towards a collaborative and interactive environment which promotes participation and harnesses the power of collective intelligence. Web 2.0 is often known as a user-created web as there is less requirement for specialised tools or skills to author online content: its participants can easily become its authors.

Where did web 2.0 come from?
The phrase ‘web 2.0’ came into general use in the early 2000s when it was popularised by Tim O'Reilly (CEO of the O'Reilly Publishing Group). The term was used to describe a new generation of web tools and social software that had emerged in response to the participatory culture of the 1990s (O’Reilly 2005).

In the late 1990s user-friendly content publishing systems (Blogger 1999; LiveJournal 1999) and sharing platforms (Napster 1999; the iPod 2001; Second Life 2003; Flickr 2004; Yelp 2004; and Facebook 2004) that encouraged interaction and the remixing of content were released in increasing numbers. Many of these tools were free some were open source and all challenged traditional models of knowledge creation and distribution communication hierarchies accessibility and intellectual property. The avalanche of social and networked digital spaces prompted TIME Magazine to award their 2006 Person of the Year to ‘you’ as represented in social media (TIME Magazine 2006).

Improved broadband connections the widespread availability of Wi-fi and the ubiquity of portable mobile devices (iPhone 2007; Android operating systems 2008; iPad 2010; GoogleGlass 2013; Apple Watch 2015) all mean that in recent years digital technologies have pervaded our lives. This ubiquity has divided opinion leading some to question the impact of social technology on our quality of life. Sherry Turkle (a professor at MIT) posits that we now “expect more from technology and less from each other” (Turkle 2011). This perspective provides an interesting lens through which to consider the integration of web 2.0 into pedagogical practice.

How does web 2.0 work?
Web 2.0 tools is software that provides simplified opportunities for communication collaboration and networked learning. They can be used variously to support innovative pedagogy and digital scholarship. For example blogs might be used to promote reflective practice; wikis provide a space for collaboration; social media enables social listening and dialogue within personal networks; virtual worlds are an opportunity to simulate real-life experience; and social bookmarking promotes personal knowledge management.

Sector Snapshot

Where are web 2.0 tools currently being used and how?
Within the last five years the digital landscape has changed and discourse on web 2.0 adoption has shifted (HEA 2010). The evidence-base previously generated by enthusiasts within online learning has broadened as classroom teachers increasingly introduce elements of social media blogging wikis and other digital tools into their practice as part of a blended strategy. Digital pedagogy a relatively unknown term until recently is rapidly becoming coterminous with pedagogy as practitioners and learners acknowledge that education is increasingly situated in the use of digital tools.

Many higher education institutions (HEIs) have embraced the massive open online course (MOOC) model which sits at the intersection of web 2.0 technologies and open educational approaches; and where participants interact across distributed learning spaces using a raft of web 2.0 tools (e.g. Twitter GoogleDocs Facebook Google Hangouts and YouTube). Blended approaches such as flipped learning also maximise the potential of video creation and sharing tools enabling practitioners to deliver learning flexibly outside of the classroom.

Support services that encourage academics to integrate digital tools into their practice are ubiquitous. While some focus on the functional issues of digital safety professionalism in digital spaces and the legal issues associated with open content others provide practical support. At the University of Queensland in Australia a website has been developed to encourage academics to use social media as part of a pedagogical approach to active student-centred learning with the benefits of social learning digital literacy and citizenship as its focus (University of Queensland 2015). In a similar vein the University of Houston Texas has created a toolkit that encourages educators to use 21st-century skills as a framework for the integration of digital technologies (University of Houston 2015).

Digital tools are also changing the way academics articulate their scholarship. Digital scholarship (self-publication using web 2.0 tools such as blogs and open online journals) is a growing form of citizenship practice but is largely unrecognised within formal institutional structures which usually rely on printed journals and peer review as markers of success and pathways to promotion (Hybrid Pedagogy 2015). Digital pedagogy is challenging the traditional notion of an academics role within formal education their relationship with learners and most fundamentally their academic identity. The HEA’s UKPSF offers opportunities to capture forms of digital practice and scholarship within the framework. 

What are the potential benefits of web 2.0 tools?
By providing students with the tools to direct their own learning web 2.0 has created new opportunities for learners to curate and create content. Collective ‘sense-making’ and the crowdsourcing of ideas across digital spaces has changed the locus of knowledge creation challenging the role of the teacher as the gatekeeper of knowledge. Within this context students are encouraged to be independent learners who actively participate in digital spaces collaborate with their peers and in doing so develop key 21st-century skills which can improve their employability (e.g. digital literacies).

Getting Started

How do I get started with web 2.0 tools?

Step one:
Create an account with a 3rd-party blog service e.g. Blogger Wordpress or Tumblr and explore the features.

Consider creating a Wikipedia account to improve an article or comment on one using its discussion tab.

Follow the HEA accounts e.g. @HEAcademy and its #HEA tag using Twitter

Explore other 101s in the Innovative Learning series These  include:‘Flipped Learning’ ‘MOOCs’ ‘BYOD’ ‘Digital Curation’ and ‘Digital Literacies’ which examine a variety of teaching and learning contexts in which digital tools are used.

Step two:
The chances are that you are already using or encountering web 2.0 tools in your teaching. Challenge yourself to expand this repertoire in co-production with your students. Use this framework to structure your conversation.

  • What tools are you using?
  • Why are they useful?
  • When do you use them?
  • Who else is using them?
  • How do I get started with … ?
  • Where can I find more information about … ?

(Adapted from ‘five W’s)

Step three:
Identify the Web 2.0 tools supported by your institution for consistency of provision – students like to share experiences with their peers and self-support can be valuable to get practice. Discover others who have experiences to share. Check that these approaches are accessible to all students and no student would be significantly disadvantaged through disability.

What should I expect if I try this approach?
This slide-set from the Open University on ‘Pedagogical Designs Involving Social Media’ examines the pedagogical technological and social factors that are critical to the success of this approach. Among these success factors are the importance of situating digital tools within the learning and clarifying their use with students. The importance of managing student expectations and navigating a course through the technology that does not compromise security and privacy is crucial. In addition some teachers may find a shift in their responsibilities to technical support and facilitator of online spaces is a challenging one that requires the development of digital competencies.

Web 2.0 is a process of liberation and provides a wide range of facilities to meet your needs. Consider the support needed and advantages for your discipline and institution.

Next Steps

Where can I learn more about web 2.0?
The HEA Knowledge Hub has many examples of ‘Web 2.0’ in practice that can be discovered by a simple search.

Web 2.0 allows users to gather and share others resources in amongst their own. This can sometimes create copyright problems for those not familiar with Intellectual Property Rights. The Web2rights project provides excellent guidance.


Explore the links shared by others in social bookmarking spaces e.g. using the tags ‘web 2.0’ and ‘education’. This will reveal what others find interesting using some web 2.0 itself.

Use Google to search the ‘’ domain only for examples of web 2.0 guidelines in teaching e.g. ‘web 2.0 guidelines’ (without the quotes).

Twitter; Read this article from the Guardian which explores the use of Twitter in teaching and learning.

See: .

Follow the web 2.0 conversation using the following hashtag on twitter: #digiped

What other topics might I find interesting?
These topics are closely related and can also be used as terms when searching in social media

What HEA resources should I take a look at?

Talk and Share


The materials published on this page were originally created by the Higher Education Academy.