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literature Review

Page history last edited by qian wang 11 years ago


Lubna Maaliki, Chen Chen Hao, Qian wang



What’s Web 2.0 Got to Do With It? Chinese Students and Social Presence through Web 2.0 Tools




ID # 8380051

ID # 8739757

ID # 8630909




     EDUC 7005


University of Manchester 2013



What’s Web 2.0 Got to Do With It? Chinese Students and Social Presence through Web 2.0 Tools





Web 2.0 helps foster the ideas and tools for e-learning and it allows students to move away from the tightly held control of teacher- or instructor- organized activities and curriculum (Olaniran, 2009: 263).




Regardless of the ubiquitous presence of technology in education, blending formal education with technology is still seen as a relatively new idea. Several educational institutions think that integrating technology into their curricula means a better educational experience for their students. However, this is not the case in many situations since culture, content, and pedagogy play a significant role in this field. For that reason, numerous literature and studies have been done in recent years trying to figure out what influences students’ emotions regarding the use of technology as a way of learning.


Teaching using technological tools such as multi-media, the Internet, podcasts, Web 2.0 tools, has proved to provide broad access to resources and information to learners and instructors alike (Olaniran, 2009, Applebee, 1984; Fulwiler, 1987; White, 1993, Kim et. Al, 2011, Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009, Churchill, 2009). For example, social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and Diigo allow people to create a folksonomy that means a system of classification that allows people to collaboratively manage the tags and separate content (Rollett, Lux et al. 2007). Wikipedia, on the other hand, is the most prominent example of using Wiki as a meeting space for people to contribute their understanding and expertise in one mega database. However, the concept of Web 2.0 is still actually ambiguous and its polymorph concept is generated from specific circumstances (Alexander 2006, Rollett, Lux et al. 2007). Teaching approaches vary from one culture to another.


Instructors in Libya, for example, have a different approach to teaching from instructors in the UK. Students in the U.S perceive information in a different way from their peers in China. American students are used to a more individualistic approach than that of the collective approach Chinese students follow. “Most Asian students are visual/holistic learners who prefer to observe first and gain competence before performance” (Thomson & Ku, 2005: 35). Chinese students also prefer guidance from their instructors (Thomson & Ku, 2005: 36). They are also accustomed to processing information from either a physical context or an internalized appreciation of the person (Tu, 2001: 45). Chinese students who study in Western universities are seen as passive learners (Chen & Bennett, 2012). Therefore, the aim of this literature review is to try understand how Web 2.0 will give Chinese learners different experience online and how it will enhance their social presence. The paper will explain Web 2.0 tools, social presence, the notion of social presence and its connection with Web 2.0, interactivity and connectivity online, the constraints that stand in the way of Chinese learners, and how generation Y is on its way to change the educational experience in China.


Web 2.0 tools


Web 2.0 is described as being a social platform where people collaborate and create content in order to exchange and share knowledge and information online. Sometimes, Web 2.0 is referred to as the “read/write Web” (Ajjan and Hartshorne, 2008), which focuses more on social connectivity rather than on delivery of content like traditional web applications. Rollett, Lux et al. (2007) summarized Tim O’ Reilly’s eight principles for the Web 2.0 design pattern:

1. The long tail: The long tail generally means the majority of content on the Web is composed by huge number of topics and countless communities

2. Data is the next Intel Inside: Data or resources are easily to be seen by people and reach certain purpose.

3. User Add value: users are involved in the content creation process e.g. Wikipedia

4. Network effects by default: visitor would be biggest group of users who are sharing content online

5. Some rights reserved: allow remix for new work but still preserve the authors content rights.

6. Perpetual beta: it means there are no releasing date or version number

7. Cooperate: users generate and share content, collaboration and communication is necessary.

8. Software above the level of single devices: Software could be accessed through different devices such as smartphone and computers.


Although these eight principles cannot be applied or found in every Web 2.0 software or service, but it gives a better and clearer understanding to what makes an appropriate Web 2.0 tool. This is useful for instructors and programmers when creating a course or a lesson plan that includes the use of Web 2.0 tools. With Web 2.0 being explained, the following parts of the paper will discuss the notion of social presence and its connection to Web 2.0, the concept of being connected online, interactivity, and Web 2.0 in Chinese education.


Social presence

Social presence has been listed as a key component in theoretical frameworks for learning and teaching environment (Benbunan-Fich, Hiltz, & Harasim, 2005).There is not doubt that social presence plays a vital position in learning online and tends to effect teaching and learning positively. Lowenthal (2012) claimed that the theory of social presence is perhaps the most popular premise used to built positive feelings and informal relationship from people socially interact in online learning environments. It is important to note that social presence has positive effect on interpersonal and emotional connection that communicators establish through their connectivity with others (Wise, Chang, Duffy, & Del Valle, 2004).


The concept of social presence is a complex one. Many researchers and practitioners alike often define and conceptualize this popular concept differently. Regarded less on the medium and more on people, Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) defined Social presence as the ability of participants and the personal characteristics in the community to present themselves to the other participants. Further research focused on students ability to sense themselves belonging to a community, Williams (1978a) defined social presence in this way when he defined it as “the feeling of contact obtained…” across various communication media (p. 127). In this paper, the authors defined “social presence” as a “concept which can be used to examine the quality of social interaction in online learning environment” (Kim et. Al, 2011: 1513). There is close relationship between social presence and students’ satisfaction in the online learning environment. Richardson and Swan (2005) found that students who highly present online were the most satisfied with their instructor, peers, and content. Social presence doesnot only influence the interaction between student-content, but also between student-student and student-instructor.


The connection between Web 2.0 and Social Presence


Due to the rapid technological upsurge that is happening nowadays, it seems that learners are more eager and keen to try different approaches to learn. However, using technology to learn and interact with others might threaten the sensation of being socially connected to a certain group or unit. Kim, Kwon, and Cho (2011) agreed on the idea that social presence is an important concept to be facilitated, developed, and sustained in distance higher education.


The literature regarding the benefits of Web 2.0 in education is extensive. There also have been a number of studies on the connection between Web 2.0 and Social Presence. Both students and faculty typically report increased satisfaction in online courses depending on the quality and quantity of interaction. Web 2.0 is a number of social software that can be interconnected through that use of the Internet as a platform. Web 2.0, as a new wave of Internet technologies, has the potential to enhance the teaching and learning environment in higher education (Maloney, 2007).

In a paper entitled Culture, learning styles, and Web 2.0 (2009), Olaniran examined the impact of culture and learning styles on teaching using Web 2.0. The author first explained how despite Web 2.0 being popular, there are still obstacles facing the wide-spread of teaching using Web 2.0 in certain areas such as African and Asian countries. Olaniran refers this problem to the fact that African and Asian countries are “high-context cultures” where “information is internalized within the individual or situation” and that instructors are seen as the sole providers of knowledge (2009: 262). According to Olaniran’s findings, Web 2.0 allows users to become interactive and communicate regardless of time and space. The reason why web 2.0 is becoming popular is due to the fact that individuals are able to produce and publish material online without the knowledge of a computer programming language (2009: 262).

On the other hand, the author provided the dark side of Web 2.0 whereby it is not made for everyone. Within certain environments, the instructor is seen as the controller of information and might refuse to embrace Web 2.0 since it is an open-source platform where anyone can contribute to the material given. Another issue mentioned in the paper is that not all students, especially those who are used to being guided by instructors, are ready to take on a new approach to learning. A third obstacle mentioned by Olaniran (2009), is the lack of Internet access and computer literacy skills among students. For that reason, instructors “would have to take the lead in facilitating necessary changes, or appropriate shifts in learning modalities within collectivistic and power distant cultures” (Olaniran, 2009:270).


In an interesting attempt, Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) introduced Twitter to their online course in the fall of 2008. Their aim was to enhance interaction with their students and encourage them to engage with online material more often. The participation was not mandatory, however, many students did join and ended up with positive results regarding the new initiative (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009: pg 3).In their paper Tweeting the Night Away: Using Twitter to Enhance Social Presence, the authors explained how Twitter enhanced “social presence in an online course by providing a mechanism for just-in-time social interactions” (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009: pg 1). The authors, based on their experience, explained why using Twitter returned with benefit to their online course, “we were able to engage in sharing, collaboration, brainstorming, problem solving, and creating within the context of our moment-to-moment experiences” (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009: 4). The main reason for the success of using Twitter was because students valued being present online where they were able to socially interact with their classmates and instructors.According to the authors, unlike Moodle, Blackboard, or any other LMS tool, Twitter enhanced the “informal, free-flowing, just-in-time banter and chit-chat that we have with students in our on-campus courses— the banter that helps us get to know each other, experience our personalities, and connect on a more emotional level” (Dunalp & Lowenthal, 2009: 2). In spite of the positive outcome of using Twitter, the authors mentioned two drawbacks of adopting Twitter in teaching: 1) time-consuming, addictive, and possibly even encourage bad grammar as a result of its 140-character limit and 2) costly for students and instructors if accessed on their cell phone (Dunalp & Lowenthal, 2009: 4). The authors’ concerns match that of the Chinese learners, instructors, and parents regarding the use of online tools. For that reason, it is vital to ask: Does the usage of Web 2.0 in teaching enhance or deprive social presence among Chinese students?


Chinese culture constrain and the successful application of Web 2.0 in the Chinese context


Regardless of the positive results of using Web 2.0 in education, there are still concerns about the topic, especially in countries such as China where instructors mainly control knowledge. In addition to that, three main issues that hinder the use ofWeb 2.0 tools in Chinese educational systems:

- Misconception about technologies from Chinese parents

- High rate of video game and Internet addiction

- Language as barrier


Churchill (2009) examined the use of blogs in Hong Kong University. The author collected feedback from students about their experience with blogging and then reflected upon the findings in his paper. Since the feedback received was generally positive, Churchill (2009) divided the outcome into categories: 1) Peer review 2) Receiving comments, and 3) Viewing tasks of others and sharing feedback. The third point matches previous studies about the usefulness of learning through reflection and enhancing critical thinking (Penrod, 2007, Yang, 2009). In addition, Churchill (2009) mentioned that the motivation for students to use blogs stems from the fact that students had to write results about activities done in class in their blogs. Assessment of students’ work was also based on their usage of blogs in the class. Even though the paper introduces promising outcome of using blogs in education, yet the fact that blogging was enforced on students by associating it with assessment criteria, decreases the credibility of the results.


Many aspects affect the learning experience among Chinese students. In a paper entitled The Chinese Learner – a Question of Style, Chan (1999) provided an analysis of Chinese learning environment in terms of pressure from parents, competition environment, and the style of education in schools. Chan (1999) pointed out several aspects and considerations one of which is that Confucianism is the central element of Chinese cultural identity and memorization is the discipline to learn. Redding (1990), Kirkbride and Tang (1992) also asserted that the Chinese society is described as “Didactic and Trainer-centered”. Students are taught to respect the knowledge provider and avoid challenging authority. For that reason, Chinese students also have tendencies to remain quiet in the classroom. Bond (1992) touched upon the idea of the highly competitive environment that exists in Chinese schools from as early as kindergarten years with intensive after class tutoring or talent skills enhancement such as singing and drawing.


Moreover, several papers examined how Web 2.0 tools brought changes to Chinese education.The community of practice stemmed from Jean Lave and Etienee Wenger (1998) as the basis of social theory of learning, and it has been contested in two major areas: sharing experience over time and commitment to shared understanding (Eckert 2006). The reflection on one’s experience is also generated as an important approach in education as part of self-examination and unveils the obstacles in the learning process. On the other hand, the notion of community practice provides basis for student and teachers to develop meaningful negotiation and communication. Yang (2009) described that most Chinese students are taught to be modest and obedient to their teachers. Therefore, Yang (2009) was akin to the idea that blogging could be a medium for Chinese student to document reflections and express critical thought. In this context, Web 2.0 tool seems promising at breaking out the barriers of traditional constrain in terms of teacher – student communication and peer feedback which obviously lack in the traditional Chinese classroom.


The promising side of Web 2.0 tools among Chinese learners lies in interaction and collaborative learning between teacher and student. This was proved after implementing Wiki based activities in the classroom. Chao and Lo’s research on Wiki-based classroom (2011) found that the tool enhanced communication, collaborative learning, and peer feedbacks play among students engagement in an ESL writing course in Taiwan University. The conclusions about benefits of Wiki were made in the following statement: 1) Wiki-based classrooms are generally considered an online learning environment for student to increase their engagement, 2) Wiki provided student better collaborative writing experiences than traditional writing lesson.Although the research doesn’t discuss the idea about how wiki could resolve the constraints from the traditional Chinese learning, but it does reveal that the traditional unidirectional way of giving information (from teacher to student) is changing, especially after its implementation.


Online communication


Online communication consists of the attributes of the language used online and the applications of online language. It is necessary to consider the student’s language skills as one reason to reduce their confidence to communicate on the class. However, the problem of language skill is not just affect Chinese students particularly, also affect all international students. Web 2.0 has been seen as the “writing and reading” tool. One of the major advantages is that text-based communication provides time for critical thinking and reflection. This can ease the nervous emotion at certain level. For this reason, written communication, such as web 2.0 may actually be preferable to assess (Applebee, 1984; Fulwiler, 1987; White, 1993) by reducing language barriers and allowing them to edit what they wanted to articulate. However, they also found that the process of reading, composing, and editing messages resulted in heavy demands on their time (Thompson and Ku 2005; Zhao and McDougall 2008).


Self-pacing has been seen as one major advantage of learning on web 2.0. It has offer students decision-making and control by themselves. Especially for Chinese students, the web2.0 tool can offer them opportunity to intercept and learn and their own pace. This also reduces the pressure of communicating with second langrage. Many also considered self-pacing exacerbated the low levels of peer interaction in the online courses. They argued that since students were often in different stages of preparation for their assignments, there were few common concerns that they could discuss.




Being part of a unit, builds positive feelings and informal relationship through the interactions that students have among eachother and with their instructors (Conceicao and Schmidt, 2010). Web 2.0 tools have the ability for Chinese students and other learners to foster internal knowledge sharing and collaboration through document and information sharing (Dearstyne, 2007) to create an interactive, collaborative learning experience for students in a media they are familiar with. It is important that Chinese students find the interaction in the group enjoyable and personally fulfilling so that they will remain in the cohort of learners for the duration of the learning.


Interaction is necessary for presence to occur in the online environment. However, just as the Internet can bring people together and be described as “social,” it can separate people and be described as isolating and impersonal (Kraut, et al., 1998; Morahan-Martin & Schumacher, 2003; Nie, 2001). Interaction in the online classroom can happen without any type of engagement or learning taking place (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005). Social presence requires student involvement at a higher level than simple interaction (Gunawardena, 1995). There is no difference between Chinese students and others. Students can lose interest and stop interacting with their instructor and classmates because simply do not acquire interest in the learning topic and contents. For that reason, the authors admitted the positive attributes on aiding Chinese students passive interactive behavior. On the other hand, the concern that Internet causes isolation has been brought up when discussing the notion of online learning. Morahan-Martin & Schumacher (2003) stated their worries that the Internet can bring people together and be described as “social,” yet it can also separate people and be described as isolating and impersonal. Some researchers have reported that the more time people spend online, the more addicted and Internet-dependent they become (Hiltz & Turoff, 1993). It also made cause less interest among people to be socially involved in a face-to-face manner (Nie & Erbring, 2002).




The paper outlined the educational context in China, indicated how Chinese learners and their surroundings perceive distance learning, and successful usage of Web 2.0 in classrooms. It also reviewed the impact of Web 2.0 tools and the positive effect it has on Chinese learners. It seems that the use of Web 2.0 tools in education has a lot of potential due to the fact that these tools possess different approaches, which promotes the integration of ICT and student-centeredness leading to transformation in classroom pedagogic approaches (Forrester, Motteram, & Bangxiang, 2006: 199). Surely, there seems to be a plethora of Web 2.0 applications related to education nowadays. For that reason, pitfalls and advantages of Web 2.0 are getting ambiguous due to the complex relationship between instructor, learner, and content.

The review concluded that the students’ lack of interaction online has a strong relationship with their culture and educational system. Indeed, Web 2.0 tools show promising future for education; the positive outcomes from using blogs would definitely attract more teachers to introduce blogging as of their curriculum. Because of results like these, researchers and practitioners alike continue to try out different ways to establish and maintain social presence in online courses.However, even though Web 2.0 has proven to support interactive and social presence (Olaniran, 2009, Kim, Kwon & Cho, 2011, Churchill, 2009, Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009), instructors ought to pay attention to how these tools are being used because “it is possible that teachers will use technological tools to support traditional pedagogy rather than an interactive pedagogy.” (Sessoms, 2008: 87).


Looking at the many studies done regarding the relationship between Chinese learners and online learning, it seems that there is still factors that need to be researched such as the role of the family, peers, and pedagogy used in class. “China appears to regard e-learning as a new mode of distance education. It is however vital that adequate resources are provided for the training of sufficient numbers of e-tutors who are familiar with the courseware and who will support learners, particularly as they commence their studies” (Forrester, Motteram, & Bangxiang, 2006: 208). Relevant research would be to study the impact of censorship carried out by the Chinese government on both the digital and traditional media on online/blended learning. In assessing the broader scope of this paper, it is important to consider the limitations of it and look for further research to see how evolved Chinese education has become. We have discussed the issues of online social presence because of the clear differences between students’ heritage and host cultures as evidenced by their experiences. There might be other factors than culture and style of teaching that may have an impact on learning online among Chinese students. These are clearly possible research questions requiring further empirical investigation. As for now, the studies reviewed for the paper does give hope that Web 2.0 tools might bring some sense of educational revolution to Chinese classrooms. This revolution is mandatory in today’s world not just for Chinese students, but students in general, to sharpen their analytical, critical, and communication skills in order to cope with the professional local and global marketplace



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Comments (3)

Gary Motteram said

at 10:14 am on May 26, 2013

There are two versions of the text included here, one needs to be removed.

Lubna said

at 4:30 pm on May 29, 2013

Done :)

Gary Motteram said

at 5:16 pm on May 29, 2013


You don't have permission to comment on this page.