Education 1.0 is, like the first generation of the Web, a largely one-way process. Students go to universities to get education from professors, who supply them with information in the form of a stand up routine that may include the use of class notes, handouts, textbooks, videos, and in recent times the World Wide Web. Students are largely consumers of information resources that are delivered to them, and although they may engage in activities based around those resources, those activities are for the most part undertaken in isolation or in isolated local groups. Rarely do the results of those activities contribute back to the information resources that students consume in carrying them out.
Education 2.0 happens when the technologies of Web 2.0 are used to enhance traditional approaches to education. Education 2.0 involves the use of blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking and related participation technologies but the circumstances under which the technologies are used are still largely embedded within the framework of Education 1.0. The process of education itself is not transformed significantly although the groundwork for broader transformation is being laid down.
Education 3.0 is characterized by rich, cross-institutional, cross-cultural educational opportunities within which the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits outside the immediate scope of activity play a strong role. The distinction between artifacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented. Education 3.0 as used here is embraces many of the concepts referred to by Downes (2005) in his concept of e-learning 2.0, but complements them with an emphasis on learning and teaching processes with a focus on institutional changes that accompany the breakdown of boundaries (between teachers and students, higher education institutions, and disciplines).
Three aspects of Education 3.0 are of particular importance. Firstly, there is the role of students in making choices of a different kind than are available today. Secondly, the concept of students as producers of reusable learning content is vital which is available in abundance under licenses that permit the free sharing and creation of derivative works. Thirdly, institutional arrangements permit the accreditation of learning achieved, not just of courses taught.
However, while Education 3.0 holds much promise for higher education in general, it also poses serious challenges to existing universities. One of the key elements of what is happening with Web 2.0 is people-forming communities, making choices, and doing things for themselves without the need for institutional involvement. Only the vehicle is provided by sites such as MySpace, Flickr, Blogspot, etc. Applying these developments to the field of higher education, it is likely that we will see emergence of new types of organizations and institutions, which might begin competing with today’s universities in any combination of higher education services, including research, teaching, and accreditation.
The implications of these developments on the role that universities will play as part of Education 3.0 is not clear. We must ask, what will happen to education when the vehicles are provided, and students begin to make their own choices facilitated by an abundance of open content, and flexible opportunities for accreditation? What will happen to those institutions who are not able to survive on reputation alone, and who have not embraced Education 3.0?
We are still far from Education 3.0, even Education 2.0 is not as widespread it is might seem to the already initiated, especially in the developing world and particularly in Africa. However, we may be close enough to a tipping point to engineer crossing it in a way that is advantageous to education and educational institutions.