University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 5320-5326
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Social media (web 2.0) is paramount in initiating economic potential and improving customer services and relations within the tourism industry; customers are now engaging in social media and businesses need to respond in order to contribute to a competitive European tourism industry. However, amongst some microbusiness and SMEs there has been a reluctance to engage in social media underpinned by a lack of targeted training in this area which responds to the specific needs of the industry and of the organisation. Given the growing recognition and importance of Web 2.0 technologies coveted by academics and the popular press, failure for SMEs to participate in these technologies could impoverish their digital experiences and thus result in lost opportunity for business development. Part of the problem lies in current mechanisms for engagement of businesses or practitioners in professional development. European commercial activity can no longer rely purely on formal education for the development of people engaged in work and should recognise that the knowledge that underpins practice is actually held within the community of its practitioners and brings meaning to learning. We have responded to this by creating a collaborative learning proposal which combines aspects of formal and informal learning to engage individuals at the grassroots level. The model, which uses a symbiotic approach to formal and informal learning is grassroots led, centred on the needs of the individual, but collaborative in nature and is based within an online learning environment. What this model provides is a means by which today's practical theories can be created by knowledge situated in the practice of those who have experience of it - daily practice reified through an informal collaborative network can become the basis for tomorrow’s formal learning. Network technologies allow for this dynamic to be realised with an immediacy that is relevant to both, enabling the creation of focused, need driven learning. We have been successful in gaining Lifelong Learning Programme, Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation funding to pilot this innovative approach to technology enhanced learning within the workplace. Within the pilot we will be working with partners from Wales, Sweden and Bulgaria to test and develop this approach for web 2.0 training for the European tourism industry. A key component of the course development is the engagement of the industry themselves, and the empowerment for them to create their own training with facilitation by ourselves, located in the broader sociocultural theory context and in particular the work of Wenger (1999). This paper reports on the learning model, its epistemological context and progress made in its implementation.

Wenger, E. (1999) Communities of Practice. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
Online learning, practice-based theory, pedagogic model, innovation transfer, collaborative learning, web 2.0, digital tourism.