The report outlines some key findings about today's learners and their experience of the digital age. Some statistics are not surprising - 75% of 11 to 15 year olds have at least one social networking site, 90% use email and instant messaging and 85% own a mobile phone with camera. It also looks at the deployment of Web 2.0 technologies in Universities at the moment, commenting that although the use is relatively high, it is not systematic and comes from enthusiastic individuals, with patchy implementations in teaching and learning. The report makes a number of recommendations for Universities and the JISC which I'm not going to go into as they are very well presented in the executive summary, but I do want to draw attention to the conclusion:
"Web 2.0, the Social Web, has had a profound effect on behaviours, particularly those of young people whose medium and metier it is. They inhabit it with ease and it has led them to a strong sense of communities of interest linked in their own web spaces, and to a disposition to share and participate. It has also led them to impatience – a preference for quick answers – and to a casual approach to evaluating information and attributing it and also to copyright and legal constraints.
The world they encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms. Characterised broadly, it is hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured. The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change. They aren’t demanding different approaches; rather they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications. Effectively, they are managing a disjuncture, and the situation is feeding the natural inertia of any established system. It is, however, unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating and some rapprochement will be necessary if higher education is to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant".So, we're at the edge of major change with today's students putting up with what we give them rather than demanding a different approach. Look what it says about this being unsustainable, and tomorrow's students not being as accommodating.
Universites will need to change and embrace new technologies and new ways of working and interacting with students. I find it extraordinary that there could be resistance to this - especially from IT departments. I am always disappointed when colleagues aren't as excited by change and the potential of new technologies as I am, and in many cases don't even use them. How many of my department make use of web 2.0 or social software I wonder? Why aren't there more bloggers, twitterers etc? If we are the department who are facilitating and supporting students who use this software, don't we have a responsibility to know how it works rather than just dismiss it?
Perhaps our new social software will change all of this - uSpace will be launched at the beginning of June and will provide all staff and students with blogs, wikis, discussions, social groups and collaborative spaces. Pilots have been running for a few months and the feedback is very positive.
As a side effect of the CLEX report we got an unexpected bit of publicity in the Guardian article released to accompany its launch which told the world of our decision to implement Google mail for students, before we've actually formally agreed to do so. All publicity is good publicity though, and it has speeded up our decision making process - formal decision expected soon!