Google Wave in higher education?

I just got my invite for Google Wave and I feel like a little kid with a new toy, only I don’t know what the toy is, or how it works, or what (if anything) I’m supposed to do with it.  Apparently I’m not alone (keep hitting Refresh to get different comparisons).  I’m not going to try and describe Wave, because others have done that to death.  I’m more interested in the educational use case/s, which I’ll try to discuss briefly.

Possible use cases in higher education

I read a comment from a high school student that Wave could be the one “master notebook” that all students could contribute to and validate.  I’m thinking of the subject readers that we hand to students in the beginning of the module…hard copies and difficult to modify.  How about using Wave for each course reader, with staff commenting on improvements, and students making contributions?  Images and video can be embedded into the Wave.  Does anyone know if data can be exported from the wave, and if so in what formats?  I’m sure that with Wave being an open platform, it’s only a matter of time before writes an extension that allows users to export content in a variety of formats.

To take this further, how about using Wave as a curriculum template, with physiotherapy educators and students from around the country working collaboratively to maintain and improve a standard curriculum?  Not everyone would need to teach or learn from the same modules, but everything could be available as “extras”.  We could even include additional modules that are not necessarily part of the curriculum but that students (and staff) might find useful.  For example, as part of their final year, our students must complete a research project that involves working with large documents.  Most of them have little or no experience with this and lack the skills to automate the more tedious tasks (many of them create Tables of Contents manually).  Other problems are teaching them effective search strategies using multiple online sources and methodologies, which will be immensely helpful for them but which will definitely not be approved as part of the official curriculum.  Using Wave to design the curriculum seems like a great opportunity to be innovative and dynamic in what we can provide for our students.

Planning conferences also seems like an area that Wave would be useful, not only for conference organisers, but participants.  You could submit abstracts into the wave, with the potential for comments and feedback directly.  Imagine submitting an abstract and being able to have a conversation with participants (or those unable to attend) before and after the conference?  Maps and venue photos could also easily be placed within the wave.

Surveys and feedback mechanisms seem like a useful fit for Wave, which is essentially a collaborative authoring environment.  Students could begin waves on topics they find challenging, or even departmental procedures that they find problematic.  Other students’ comments would aggregate in the wave, lecturers could respond and (hopefully) resolutions found through discussion. I have come across this collection of posts that discuss the use of Wave as a scholarly document editor, and the conclusion seems to be that it isn’t that promising, at least at this early stage.

Challenges

The user interface for Wave has been called “universally confusing” and makes me wonder how our students will engage with it.  I have enough trouble trying to teach colleagues and students about blogs (forget about micro-blogs) and wikis, without trying to talk about waves too. Not all of our students have internet access at home (although everyone has access on campus), which would almost certainly place some students at a disadvantage.

Additional resources to help you figure out if Wave in education is useful, or a load of hype: