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Scaffolded integration of Web 2.0 in tertiary teaching: First year pharmacy students

As educators, we have a “moral and ethical obligation to … model use of digital media in a socially responsible way, and maintain a participatory and inclusive attitude in pedagogy and in learning environment design” (Alam & McLoughlin, 2010). 

Web 2.0 use in education

How can teachers make the best possible use of technology to meet their own needs and student demand for technology integration while taking into consideration their varying levels of skills and digital literacy? Many of today’s students come equipped with digital skills to use technology in social contexts such as networking on Facebook or posting updates on Twitter. The challenge is: can we integrate Web 2.0 technologies into university teaching and learning to channel these skills for educational purposes?

A rationale for scaffolded integration of Web 2.0

Educators seem to have moved beyond the dichotomy of digital natives and immigrants (Prensky, 2001) when addressing critical challenges in integrating Web 2.0 in teaching/learning. Rather than focussing on age and experience, the attention has shifted to integration of academic literacy into the curriculum with proper scaffolding of Web 2.0 learning activities to encourage the development of personal knowledge management skills. Pedagogy 2.0 shifts focus from knowledge acquisition to knowledge transformation and gives prominence to the “cultivation of digital competencies in ways that allow learners to develop their critical thinking, knowledge building and creative skills” (Lee & McLoughlin, 2010 p60).

Researchers in media and technology such as Tony Bates contend that Web 2.0 tools alone do not teach or result in effective or meaningful learning. In addition to a clear rationale for their use, teacher support and guidance are crucial.

An innovative learning design model

The socio-constructivist approach perhaps provides the ideal framework for the educational use of social technologies. The learning design incorporates four main concepts-authentic learning, motivation, scaffolding and skills development (personal knowledge management). Hence, the integration of Web 2.0 tools should be authentic, purpose driven, well scaffolded and linked to assessment while attempting to develop students’ digital literacy and knowledge management skills for life-long learning opportunities.

A test of this learning design framework

In a scaffolded introduction to Web 2.0 tools, first year Pharmacy students at the University of Auckland were encouraged to develop collaborative and personal knowledge management skills that they will continue to build on and use throughout their BPharm programme and in their professional lives.

This was facilitated through a collaborative/group assignment presented using the WebQuest strategy. An initial investigation into students’ experiences and perceptions of this mainly online group assignment showed that more than half said they increased their technical skills and would confidently use collaborative technologies again. The table below summarises the student perceptions on the Web 2.0 integration in an assessed task. For a detailed description of the learning design and evaluation, please see Datt & Aspden, 2011.

Strategies and tools


Students’ perception

Scaffolded inquiry into an authentic task - WebQuest

77.8% agreed that the WebQuest added value to the assignment.

87% thought the WebQuest tasks assisted them in learning to distinguish between reputable/authoritative websites from other less reliable ones.

51.9% agreed that the WebQuest contained enough information to complete the assignment without any further instructions from the teacher.

Collaborative learning - wiki (PbWiki)

Wiki was ranked the most useful and enjoyable and 68.5% would be confident to use them in future assignments. However, 44.4% of students were unsure if the wiki promoted effective student-student collaboration.  

Networking, knowledge construction and sharing – social bookmarking (Diigo)

Diigo was voted the least enjoyable but the second most useful of the tools.

48.1% do not intend to keep using and adding to the social bookmarks created during the assignment while 42.6% were undecided.  

Knowledge and skills development (digital literacy measured as ‘tech savvyness’, group work, knowledge management) – use of various etools in assessed tasks

51.9% agreed that the assignment tasks helped them develop transferable technical skills. Figure 2 illustrates the change in ‘tech savvyness’ before and after completion of the assignment.
75% of students thought that the assignment developed their ability to work effectively in a team and 63.5% thought that their team worked well together. However, free text reponses indicate that managing the group work was also a challenging aspect of the assignment for some students.


  1. Alam, SL & McLoughlin, C (2010). Using digital tools to connect learners: Present and future scenarios for citizenship 2.0. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010 (pp. 13-24).
  2. Lee, M. J. W., & McLoughlin, C. (2010). Web 2.0-based e-learning: Applying social informatics for tertiary teaching. USA: IGI Global.
  3. Datt, A. K. & Aspden, T. J. (2011). Leveraging technology for engaging learning design. In G.Williams, P. Statham, N. Brown, B. Cleland (Eds.), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings ascilite Hobart 2011. (pp.331-341).
  4. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).,...

For further reference see:

  1. Datt, A. K. Leveraging technology for skills development, aCADemix, Centre for Academic Development, University of Auckland, New Zealand, Issue 10, p7, 2011. Retrieved from
  2. Datt, A. K., & Ramsay, E. Web 2.0 in education, aCADemix, Centre for Academic Development, University of Auckland, New Zealand, Issue 4, p11, 2008. Retrieved from
  3. Gunn, C., Hearne, S., & Sibthorpe, J. (2011). Right from the Start: A Rationale for Embedding Academic Literacy Skills in University Courses. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 8(1). [Online] Retrieved June 5, 2011, from
  4. Kennedy, G., Judd, T., Dalgarno, B. and Waycott, J. (2010). Beyond natives and immigrants: exploring types of net generation students. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26: 332–343. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00371.x


Ashwini Datt
Senior Tutor/Learning Designer
University of

Trudi Aspden
University of

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Comment by Merryn Dunmill on May 2, 2012 at 11:07

Fabulous work and results - really like the holistic framework. Thanks for sharing. I guess you have seen the Ministry of Education's E-Learning Annotated Bibliography: Learners' Participation, Retention and Succ.......Education Counts website, published February 2012. It too has a tertiary focus but can be situated in all education sectors.  

Comment by John S. Oliver on May 2, 2012 at 2:26

THANKS this post does a great job of presenting a simple summary of many complex and confusing issues.

I have read about many parts of this brief posts on various sites yet this brings them together is a useful way.

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