Will The Real-Time Web Drive Real-Time Education?

ReadWriteWeb ran a series of posts recently on what they feel are the 5 big cutting edge Web trends this year. Their predictions for the year from last fall were as accurate as these things can be - who knows what really is THE big trend even after the fact.

One trend they picked was Structured Data.(AKA the semantic web) which was supposed to be big this year, but hasn't really made much of an impact, especially in the education world. But the one that has gotten the most attention, especially in the popular press, is the Real-Time Web.

timeReal-Time Web is that information that is available to you when its produced, whether you're watching for it or not. It is when Facebook is updating your friends' feeds and when a newspaper site is giving you a live view of all its news stories on the front page of its site. Facebook, Google and other sites want to allow you to search for content from people, groups as soon as it is made available in  "up-to-the-minute" search results. It is the instant feedback that drives Twitter, FriendFeed, Google, Delicious, Wordpress, and most of the big Net sites now.

This data is immediate, public and very social. When FriendFeed launched the term "lifestreaming" was used to describe it. One of its co-founders, Paul Buchheit, has said  that "the open, real-time discussions that occur on FriendFeed are going to become a major new communication medium on the same level as email, IM and blogging."

I have no doubt that Twitter is over-hyped, but it has been here for three and a half years, so it's not just a fad. (It was recently priced at a billion dollars - overpriced but it means it's worth at least half of that to investors.)

Google is doing more to make its service operate in real-time. Their awkwardly named PubSubHubbub makes RSS feeds much faster and closer to real-time. (It's a server-to-server web-hook-based publish/subscribe - hence the pub & sub part - protocol.)  You may not care about the tech behind it, but it speeds up your Google Reader, and the buzz this month is around Google Wave which operates in a real-time environment (even it is not exactly no-delay-live yet).

In education, we will be seeing it in our LMS and campus portals, but we will also see it in our students. They will expect the tools they use to be real-time. If you think their desire for immediate gratification and instant feedback is strong now, just wait.

Outside academia, they see value in Real-Time Web from ambiance, automation and emergence, and it is compared to the huge shift that occurred in business when real-time trading became reality.

I don't see immediate effects in education. I see the start of a trend that will build steadily over the next few years. Add it to any one or two other trends below and education (and its vendors) had better start moving to 2.0 sooner rather than later.

ReadWriteWeb's Top 5 Web Trends of 2009

Structured Data

The Real-Time Web


Mobile Web & Augmented Reality

Internet of Things


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