University education in the age of web 2.0 and 3.0

Happiest days of my life.  Very fortunate to have attended Trinity College Dublin in the early 80’s.  Computer engineering – learning to program assembler for the Motorola 68000, learning fluid mechanics.  Friends, fun, social development, cricket, rugby, chess, campus in the city centre.  Developing wider interests.

But what opportunities there are now for everyone in terms of learning and collaboration!  No reason why an undergraduate in TCD would not be collaborating on a first year project with others located all over the world (e.g. students in other universities, people in industry).  Time and location no longer the boundaries they were in the past.

Fascinating book published on future of learning: The future of learning institutions in a digital age

The book sets out challenges for universities in terms of enabling and encouraging participatory learning.  These challenges also present fantastic opportunites for the go ahead insitutions.

Interesting to consider the content in terms of how learning and knowledge management take place in companies and organisations.  I referenced concerns of business leaders recently – much the same: missing the opportunity and failing to move to the more participatory and less hierarchical thinking.

Moving on from traditional thinking

I guess it’s challenging for all of us who have worked for the last 25 years.  In my final year in Trinity College Dublin I was writing Assembler for the Motorola 68000 chip.  The Mac was about to burst on the scene.  Since then I have worked in a Professional Service Firm, my own IT consulting business and with a number of start up businesses.

Many of us have come to think of the business entity as the key business unit – be it a company, a group of companies, a sole trader, a partnership.  And businesses do business with other businesses – ordering, buying, selling, etc.  And each business operates to a set of standards – standards to meet their own expectations and those of their customers.  Many of the standards are driven, underpinned or enforced by external agencies e.g. State, Professional bodies, Insurerers, regulators.

The web has had all sorts of impacts on business – the emergence of online B2B abd B2C, major reengineering of processes and business themselves, globalisation on a par not expected.

And now the web is throwing new opportunities and challenges at all of us.  In fact one can only wonder if we had had this web 10 years ago what types of businesses would have been built over the last 10 years?  Which businesses would never have existed?

Even back in 1984 in TCD we were collaborating – as we worked in a group of three students to design our basic computer.  We also collaborated on the cricket field as we set traps for opposition batsmen.  And we collaborated in preparing for exams – through sharing of lecture notes, etc.

But what we are witnessing now is a series of developments – Social networking, Semantic web, the cloud – which when combined mean that those who do not collaborate risk being eliminated.  We have often discussed the importance of knowledge management within the organisation – even between partner organisations.  However the tools beginning to emerge now promise to facilitate collaboration and knowledge management on a scale previously unimagined – right across the globe, the web and time.  ultimately traditional business practices and structures must be transformed to enable society to benefit from what’s beginning to happen.

Web 2.0 coming of age

Interesting commentary in Irish Times today (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2008/1121/1227137519515.html)  re Web 2.0.  Without doubt web 2.0 is one of the areas companies will look to 'make IT pay'.  There are real opportunities for payback on previous investments in IT through exploiting relatively cheap investments in web 2.0.  An excellent example is the number of companies who already have copies of WSS 3.0 (Windows SharePoint Services) but are not using it.  This is the foundation for SharePoint and includes lots of functionality which can be deployed across organisations to support collaboration, teamwork, document management, knowledge management.

Everything we see internationally suggests that Irish business should be looking to drive the adoption of enterprise 2.0 and web 2.0.

Feedback from MBA’s re deployment of Web 2.0

In his post of May 03, Andrew McAfee gives summary feedback from surveying students in his Harvard class.  Very positive comments on opportunities for practical deployment of Wikis across a wide range of businesses, from people at different levels of management.  My own experience has been that the Wiki is easily adopted and is a powerful tool for supporting knowledge management and promoting collaboration in our own consulting business.

Culture to support wikis and knowledge management

The wiki provides the opportunity to promote knowledge management.  But are our senior executives ready to participate in this web 2.0 enabled environment? email has, to some extent, made people more available (though it may be argued that a certain amount of hiding has been facilitated) e.g. the junior staffer may directly email the CEO.  However the wiki involves a more collaborative and more public exchange of information/ opinion.  In order to promote this use of the technology senior management must set the right tone – encouraging participation at all levels of the organisation. 

Knowledge management and the web

We’ve been listening to politicians and academics promoting the knowledge economy – the opportunity for Ireland as a knowledge economy, rather the imperative for Ireland to succeed as a knowledge economy.  Latest references I heard were extracts from the Green Party Conference today.

The web is offering all of us fantastic opportunities to  embrace the concept of the ‘knowledge economy’.  The development of technologies including wikis, blogs, tagging – all facilitate greater learning and sharing of information.  Web 2.0 provides the opportunity to reengineer and accelerate knowledge management.

The recent AIIM survey indicates quite a low level awareness and understanding of web 2.0 across a broad, international population http://www.aiim.org/viewpdfa.asp?ID=34508.

It would be interesting to research the level of understanding and penetration of web2.0 in Irish business, education and community life.