What if undergraduate students designed their own web learning environment? Exploring students' web 2.0 mentality through participatory design


George Palaigeorgiou, Department of Computer & Communication Engineering, University of Thessaly, 37 Glavani – 28th October Str, 382 21, Volos, Greece. Email: gpalegeo@gmail.com


Following the increasing calls for a more skeptical analysis of web 2.0 and the empowerment of learners' voices in formulating upcoming technologies, this paper elaborates on the participatory design of a web learning environment. A total of 117 undergraduate students from two Greek Informatics Departments participated in 25 participatory design sessions, employing two needs' elicitation techniques, with the aim of envisioning a learning platform that meets their learning particularities and needs, incorporates and exploits their new technological habits, and can be harmoniously situated in their daily routine. Overall, 773 needs were elicited, proving that students had refined views about the elements that can render the next wave of e-learning applications successful. They convincingly demonstrated their web 2.0 mentality but sought for a smooth transition to the new environment, promoting an evolution rather than a revolution. The resulting set of needs demarcates a zone of expectancies where the enhancement of the learning content and the contextualization of knowledge remain top priorities with revamped opportunities, while networking, participation and collaboration complement and improve their characteristics. Our study is an example of exploiting participatory design for exposing students' thoughts and requirements from a critical design perspective.