M2-Annotated Bibliography 4

Annotated Bibliography 4

Downes, S. (2005). E-learning 2.0. In eLearn Magazine. New York: ACM.  Available http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=1104968

In this seminal 2005 paper, which has 1,189 citations to date, Stephen Downes looks at where eLearning is now, trends in eLearning, the Web 2.0 and what he calls E-Learning 2.0.  In the ten years from 1995, the author tracks the development of eLearning from computer based delivery systems to online courses.  Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as Blackboard, were developed to organise the the eLearning content that is at the heart of these online courses.  The author argues that because the content used in online courses is organised according to the traditional model of division into modules and lessons, this has brought eLearning back to where it began.

In his paper, he refers to digital natives, who quickly absorb multimedia information from multiple sources.  Prensky (2001) coined the term, which was later used to describe the children of the digital age who were born after 1980.  One of the many insightful pieces of commentary in this paper is a connection that Downes makes between the world of markets and the domain in which education resides.  He notes that people in networked markets understand that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors.  Substitute networked learning for networked markets and suddenly the control of learning itself is placed in the hands of the learner.   Downes refers to his contemporary George Siemens whose highly influential Connectivism was written only a few months earlier. (Siemens, 2004).

The author proceeds to discuss what is meant by Web 2.0.  It is interesting to note that he does this two years prior to the publication of the widely read What is Web 2.0 which has 11,134 citations and whose abstract claims that it is the first initiative to try to define Web 2.0. (O’Reilly, 2007).  Downes notes that the websites that characterise Web 2.0 include social networking sites such as LinkedIn.  He sees the web changing from a place where information was transmitted and consumed into a network where content is created, remixed and shared using tools such as WordPress and Audacity and websites such as Wikipedia.

Downes argues that eLearning has evolved in tandem with the web itself and to such a degree that it warrants a new name: E-learning 2.0.  In the world of e-learning, he argues that the nearest thing to a social network is a community of practice. (Lave and Wenger, 1991).  The essence of E-Learning 2.0 is possibly the reversal of the process whereby content is produced by publishers, structured into courses and consumed by students.  It is now more likely to be produced by students and to resemble a conversation rather than a book.  The author sees ePortfolios and student gaming having a place in E-Learning 2.0 where students take responsibility for and demonstrate the results of their own learning.  Indeed, the online programming language Scratch 2.0 serves this very purpose in 2016.  The author includes mobile learning, where students can connect and learn anywhere, in his concept of E-Learning 2.0 and makes the bold prediction that learning and living will eventually merge.

In this paper, Downes manages to namecheck many of the major players in the fields of learning/eLearning (George Siemens,Tim Berners-Lee, Jimmy Wales, Etienne Wenger,  Seymour Papert) as well as some important pieces of application software (LinkedIn, Flickr, WordPress, Wikipedia, Audacity) and new methods of communication (blogging, podcasting, e-portfolio, mobile learning).  With many of these apps and means of communication still current in 2016, it is easy to see why Downes paper is regarded as a classic of its time.  There is little to criticise in this very important paper by Downes which is possibly more relevant in 2016 (in that it now adds perspective) than it was in 2005 when it was analysing unfolding events.


Downes, S. (2005). E-learning 2.0. eLearn Magazine, 2005(10), 1.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press.

O’Reilly, T. (2007). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Communications & strategies, (1), 17.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.