Web 2.0 vs Higher Ed mindsets

I’m just writing the conclusions to my book and one of the subjects that has cropped up recently is the tension between what we might term the web 2.0 mindset (as so eloquently set out by Tim O’Reilly) and the traditions in Higher Ed. While web 2.0 development is about perpetual beta, quick, lightweight assembly, the traditions of higher education are founded in research and liberalism. This means their software methodology tends to be rigorous (from the research background) and highly consultative (from the liberal history). So if you look at any documentation on say, acquiring or developing a VLE, they are the outcome of very thorough processes that usually take a loooong time. This is at odds with the ‘develop first, ask questions later’ philosophy of web 2.0. There is an awful lot to be said for the methodical approach, and the consultation element is often more about political and cultural acceptance than about producing a better functional spec. The problem is that time scales are shortening, so by the time you’ve gone through the process things have moved on and it is already out of date.

The big issue for me is whether the tension between these two approaches can be resolved. I suspect that in its usual leviathan manner higher ed will carry on with its existing approach, but gradually elements of the other will seep in. These things are rarely resolved by revolution and sudden change.

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