Web 2.0 and Virtual World Technologies: A Growing Impact on IS Education

By Harris, Albert L.; Rea, Alan | Journal of Information Systems Education, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview
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Web 2.0 and Virtual World Technologies: A Growing Impact on IS Education

Harris, Albert L., Rea, Alan, Journal of Information Systems Education


Whether it is a social networking site like Facebook, a video stream delivered via YouTube, or collaborative discussion and document sharing via Google Apps, more people are using Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies in the classroom to communicate, express ideas, and form relationships centered around topical interests. Virtual Worlds immerse participants even deeper in technological realms rife with interaction. Instead of simply building information, people create entire communities comprised of self-built worlds and avatars centered around common interests, learning, or socialization in order to promote information exchange.

With information systems (IS) classrooms quickly filling with the Google/Facebook generation accustomed to being connected to information sources and social networks all the time and in many forms, how can we best use these technologies to transform, supplement, or even supplant current pedagogical practices? Will holding office hours in a chat room make a difference? What about creating collaborative Web content with Wikis? How about demonstrations of complex concepts in a Virtual World so students can experiment endlessly? In this JISE special issue, we will explore these questions and more.


Web 2.0 technologies encompass a variety of different meanings that include an increased emphasis on user generated content, data and content sharing, collaborative effort, new ways of interacting with Web-based applications, and the use of the Web as a social platform for generating, repositioning and consuming content. The beginnings of the shared content nature of Web 2.0 appeared in 1980 in Tim Berners-Lee's prototype Web software. However, the content sharing aspects of the Web were lost in the original rollout, and did not reappear until Ward Cunningham wrote the first wiki in 1994-1995. Blogs, another early part of the Web 2.0 phenomenon, were sufficiently developed to gain the name weblogs in 1997 (Franklin & van Harmelen, 2007). The first use of the term Web 2.0 was in 2004 (Graham, 2005; O'Reilly, 2005a; O'Reilly, 2005b)

"Web 2.0" refers to a perceived second generation of Web development and design that facilitates communications and secures information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of Web-based communities, hosted services, and applications; such as social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies" (Web 2.0, 2009). The emphasis on user participation--also known as the "Read/Write" Web characterizes most people's definitions of Web 2.0.

There are many types of Web 2.0 technologies and new offerings appear almost daily. The followng are some basic categories in which we can classify most Web 2.0 offerings.

2.1 Wikis

A "wiki" is a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone with access to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language, and is often used to create collaborative Websites. (Wiki, 2009). One of the best known wikis is Wikipedia. Wikis can be used in education to facilitate knowledge systems powered by students (Raman, Ryan, & Olfman, 2005).

2.2 Blogs

A blog (weblog) is a type of Website, usually maintained by an individual with regular commentary entries, event descriptions, or other material such as graphics or video. One example of the use of blogs in education is the use of question blogging, a type of blog that answers questions. Moreover, these questions and discussions can be a collaborative endeavor among instructors and students. Wagner (2003) addressed using blogs in education by publishing learning logs.

2.3 Podcasts

A podcast is a digital media file, usually digital audio or video that is freely available for download from the Internet using software that can handle RSS feeds (Podcast, 2009).

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