The role of universities in a Web 2.0 world?
Brian Kelly, writing about the Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World report, ends by referring to the recommendation to "explore issues and practice in the development of new business models that exploit Web 2.0 technologies" (Area 3: Infrastructure), suggesting that it has to do with "best practices for institutional engagement (or not) with Web 2.0". I don't know what the report intended by this statement but, to me at least, it seems like business models are a pretty fundamental issue... potentially much more fundamental than Brian's interpretation.
I noted a similar issue in the CILIP2 discussions of a few weeks ago. Asking "how should CILIP use Web 2.0 to engage with its members?" ignores the more fundamental question, "what is the role of an organisation like CILIP in a Web 2.0 world?". It's a bit like asking an independent high-street bookshop to think about how it uses Web 2.0 to engage with its customers, ignoring that fact that Amazon might well have just trashed its business model entirely!
Luckily for universities there isn't (yet?) the equivalent of an Amazon in the HE sector so I accept that the situation isn't quite the same. Indeed, there are strong hints in the report that aspects of the traditional university, face to face tutor time for example, are well liked by their customers (I know many people hate the term 'customers' but it strikes me that is increasingly what the modern HE student has become). Nonetheless, I think that particular recommendation would be better interpretted as having more to do with "what is the role for universities in a Web 2.0 world?" than with "how do universities best use Web 2.0 to enhance their current practice?"?
Or, to put it a different way, if Web 2.0 changes everything, I see no reason why that doesn't apply as much to professional bodies and universities as it does to high street bookshops.