The University 2.0: the Extended University Conference

I mentioned recently that I’ll be giving a seminar on “What can We Learn From Amplified Events?” at the University of Girona next month. My main purpose for my trip to Spain is, however, to give an invited keynote plenary talk at the University 2.0: the Extended University conference which will be held at the UIMP (Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo) in Santander on 6-8th September 2010.

The title of my talk is “Embedding and Sustaining University 2.0“. The talk will, in part, be based on the risks and opportunities framework which have been described in papers on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“. The talk will also discuss the implications of the economic crisis on the use of networked technologies in higher education, in particular the challenges and opportunities provided by use of “the Web as the platform”.

University 2.0

But what is meant by the term “University 2.0”? In a post on “Citizen 2.0, Strike 2.0, David Cameron 2.0 and Coldplay 2.0” which I wrote in 2008 I described how the “2.0 meme” had become established and we hear terms such as ‘library 2.0‘,  ‘e-learning 2.0‘, ‘research 2.0‘, ‘enterprise 2.0‘ and ‘government 2.0‘  being used in the media. But what, I wonder, might we mean by “University 2.0”?

The 2.0 is meant to signify change and a new way of doing this and places a role in the rebranding of such changes. The Web 2.0 technologies themselves (blogs, wikis, RSS,etc.) aren’t the most important aspect of such change (they have no relevance in ‘Coldplay 2.0’ or ‘Strike 2.0’, for example) although clearly use of blogs, wikis and social networks will have a role to play in a University 2.0 environment.

More importantly for me are the softer aspects which are a part of Web 2.0 including the emphasis on participation, trusting the user, user generated content, the right to remix and the ‘perpetual beta’ concept.

How might such ideas, depicted in the Web 2.0 meme map, apply to University 2.0?

Some of the softer aspects of associated with Web 2.0 seem to be very relevant to the core activities carried out in higher educational institutions:

Participation, not publishing: We expect students to take an active role in learning, and not to be passive consumers of learning materials which institutions may publish.

Right to remix: Learning and research might be regarded as processes whereby learners and researchers are exposed to new ideas and ‘remix’ them to provide something new, such as new insights.

Perpetual beta: Learning and research is a journey, not a destination. There is never a time in which learning may be felt to be ‘complete’ – learning is alway beta, always developing.

Trust your users: In educational institutions we have trusted academics who have, here at the University of Bathwithin the law to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions“.

An attitude, not a technology: This aspect provides the extensibility of the 2.0 concept, which enables it to be applied in a range of areas.

The final aspect I’d like to mention appears to be particularly appropriate to today’s environment:

Web as platform: In an institutional context this highlights the regional, national and global nature of education and research, in which benefits can be gained by working beyond the constraints and limitations of the host institution, whilst gaining benefits for members of the local institution.

University 2.0 for me reflects the fundamental principles of what the University experience should be about. But then again many aspects of Web 2.0 describes Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision of the Web. In both cases there are benefits to be gained from the rebranding.