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2020 typology of free web-based learning technologies

Matt Bower, Macquarie University Jodie Torrington, Macquarie University

It is critical that educators have a comprehensive understanding of technologies if they are to effectively integrate technology into their teaching (Koehler, Mishra, Kereluik, Shin, & Graham, 2014). Yet the educational technology landscape is so diffuse and rapidly evolving it can be difficult for educators to remain abreast of recent developments.

The 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies has just been released, to provide educators with an understanding of current learning technology possibilities at their disposal. It includes a list of 226 technologies arranged into 40 types and 15 clusters that can be used via a web browser to promote more productive and interactive learning. A schematic representation of the 2020 typology is shown in figure 1.


Figure 1: Schematic representation of the Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies (2020)A schematic representation of the 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies

The 2020 typology constitutes a thorough update to the previously published Typology of Web 2.0 Learning Technologies (Bower, 2015), which was also based on a systematic search and categorical analysis (for methodology see Bower, 2016). Brief descriptions, example tools and pedagogical uses have been provided for each category, in order to support ease of conceptualisation and application of the 2020 typology.

The analysis makes it possible to gauge trends in online learning technologies over the last five years, for instance the unsustainability of many smaller tools, the marketisation of many others, the trend towards more integrated platforms of tools, and greater dominance by larger providers. The growth of approximately 7 per cent from 2015 to 2020 in the number of freely available web-based tools included in the typology is in some ways surprisingly low, and may be a mark of the increasing maturity of the field as competition and sustainability exert greater influence on the domain. To this extent, in the future we may expect that smaller tools without a significant differentiation or business case will either discontinue, marketise, or be taken over.

‘The analysis makes it possible to gauge trends in online learning technologies over the last five years, for instance the unsustainability of many smaller tools, the marketisation of many others, the trend towards more integrated platforms of tools, and greater dominance by larger providers.’

It appears from the research literature into online learning that only a narrow subset of tools available are being utilised by teachers and investigated by educational researchers. A recent comprehensive review of web-based technologies in education found that the majority of studies focused upon website creation tools such as blogs and wikis, with far less emphasis on other clusters of tools such as image-based tools, audio tools, video tools, digital storytelling, and so on (see Bower, 2017). This accords with earlier research that found a predominant research emphasis on blogs and wikis, and also microblogging to some extent (Hew & Chung, 2013). Perhaps the reason for the emphasis on more flexible tools such as blogs and wikis is that they can be applied to a greater range of learning tasks and enable different modalities (text, images, video) to be combined into posts. In any case, there is considerable potential for researchers and educators to further examine how the various affordances of more specific web-based tools can be incorporated into learning designs and impact upon learning processes.

The typology presented here is intended to offer a touchstone for educators and researchers, raising awareness of the large variety of technologies available and how they can be differentiated in terms of modalities, synchronicity, structure of information and sharing. However, if educators are to fully capitalise on the potential of free online technologies, they need to do more than simply understand the tools themselves – they must also understand how the technologies can be used to help achieve the pedagogical requirements of the learning tasks they are designing in accordance with the specific contextual needs of their students (see, for instance, Bower, 2008; Bower, Hedberg, & Kuswara, 2010).


To download the 2020 Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies, click here.

An article by Matt Bower published in the British Journal of Educational Technology, ‘Deriving a typology of Web 2.0 learning technologies’ article explains the methodology used to derive the original typology.


References

Bower, M. (2017). Design of technology-enhanced learning: Integrating research and practice. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited.

Bower, M. (2016). Deriving a typology of Web 2.0 learning technologies. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(4), 763–777. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12344

Bower, M., Hedberg, J., & Kuswara, A. (2010). A framework for Web 2.0 learning design. Educational Media International, 47(3), 177–198. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523987.2010.518811

Bower, M. (2008). Affordance analysis: Matching learning tasks with learning technologies. Educational Media International, 45(1), 3–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523980701847115

Hew, K., & Cheung, W. (2013). Use of Web 2.0 technologies in K-12 and higher education: The search for evidence-based practice. Educational Research Review, 9, 47–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2012.08.001

Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., Kereluik, K., Shin, T. S., & Graham, C. R. (2014). The technological pedagogical content knowledge framework. In Spector, M., Merrill, M. D., Elen, J., & Bishop, M.J. (eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 101–111). New York, NY: Springer.