Wikiversity:Reports/15 January 2007
This is a personal (and brief) analysis of (the English) Wikiversity’s progress, after approximately five months of its existence, as well as being an attempted snapshot of where we are at the moment. Please feel free to add comments on this page (preferably indented and signed), or the talk page, or write your own response or analysis elsewhere. If there are specific Wikiversity pages that you feel would benefit or clarify this page, please also feel free to add them here. Also, the "further questions" is an open-ended section to develop questions that we might want to address in the future. Cormaggio talk 00:37, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Wikiversity was set up (in its beta phase, on August 15th, 2006) to be a repository of educational material, as well as a space for learning (with a question mark over whether and how research would be integrated) - see Wikiversity:Wikiversity project proposal. The types of educational materials, or the means for creating them, were not pre-specified - except for the fact that Wikiversity is a wiki, and therefore editable by anyone, as well as specifying that Wikiversity would not seek to undermine the integrity of other projects like Wikibooks and Wikipedia.
In an attempt to give a broad overview, based on Wikiversity’s scope, I set the following questions:
- Is there material of quality on Wikiversity?
- How do we know whether material is of any quality?
- Is there a community of teachers on Wikiversity?
- Is there a community of learners on Wikiversity?
- Is there a community of researchers on Wikiversity?
On the latter three questions, my own personal perception is that, while there are individual learners, teachers, and researchers on Wikiversity, there is not (at the moment) a fully functioning community of any of these groups (though I may be wrong, and would love to be pointed to a good example).
At the moment, there are evidently good intentions and high aspirations, some good material, and much potential for developing material. Most of the materials (and many of the "school", "topic" etc organiser pages) are "stub-like" (meaning, "sketchy", "not well developed"). However, there are some well-developed pages, available through specific portals as well as Wikiversity:Featured. There is a (thus far) fledgling page devoted to assessing Wikiversity’s quality at Wikiversity:Quality.
However, despite the above, I (Cormaggio) do not see any of this as cause for dismay; on the contrary, I see it as a huge opportunity to develop. Wikiversity is still very young and raw and very much a "work-in-progress". The fact that Wikiversity hasn't yet consolidated in any particular direction still gives it an (IMO) exciting quality in that it can still be defined, shaped, and driven by new ideas and newly-arrived participants. (Question: Is it possible to lose or undermine this quality of openness? If so, how can we act to ensure that it isn’t lost or undermined?)
Other issues by theme
A model for learning
Wikiversity operates under a free-form model for developing materials, communities and activities - it is up to contributors to deem for themselves what is appropriate for facilitating learning, and it is often largely up to learners to figure out how to go about structuring their learning. There is little guidance for educators on how to go about creating good educational material/activities, and no guidance for students on how they could use Wikiversity as a space for their own learning. Some existing guidance is being developed on pages like: Wikiversity:Adding content, Wikiversity:Learning goals, Wikiversity:Welcome, newcomers, Wikiversity:Introduction, Wikiversity:Wikiversity teachers, Wikiversity:School and university projects, Portal:Education, School:Education, Wikiversity:Learning, Wikiversity:Learning projects. However, there isn’t yet much guidance as to how we can actually learn or teach in this environment. A notable project is Learning to learn a wiki way, which has attracted some attention, and generated discussion – and there is some content distributed between the pages above, and their talk pages (see also Wikiversity:Wiki as a tool for learning and Wiki. There is still confusion ( or, at least uncertainty) about the board’s recommendation (in November 2005) to “exclude online courses” from Wikiversity’s scope. Overall, much work needs to be done here in clarifying what learning means in Wikiversity, and how it can be provided for.
There are some reflective blogs within Wikiversity, and some Wikiversity members are keeping their own blogs externally. (Question: How can these blogs be better connected to eachother?) There has been some discussion of what blogs are for, and whether they should be restricted in any way or form, though this has not yet been translated into any formal context, such as guidance or policy. See: Category:Blogs.
Multilingual coordination has been talking place on the beta wiki (http://beta.wikiversity.org/) - so far, there are four language Wikiversities: English, French, German, and Spanish. I cannot comment on the effectiveness of the multilingual coordination so far - my only experience has been on the project of writing guidelines for research, which has, in my opinion, been useful (though has it been conclusive?). There have been ‘’’reports’’’ done about individual Wikiversities - including those on English at Wikiversity Reports (which have been quite creative, and technologically advanced), and at the beta wiki http://beta.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Reports/En. (Questions: What have we learnt, if anything, from these reports? Can multilingual coordination be done better in terms of efficacy/inclusivity.. etc? In making technologically advanced reports, are we excluding the technologically-not-so-advanced participants?)
Organisational Structure, Accredidation
The organisational structure of Wikiversity has been worked on since the beginnings of the project, though not always so consistently. I (Cormaggio) was made a bureaucrat on the first day of Wikiversity's existence, and I gave ‘sysop/admin’ (subsequently renamed "custodian") rights to a number of people, including most of the forming subcommittee, as well as (most) interested parties in the first few days. A process for creating custodians, based on mentorship and learning through experience, was developed on Wikiversity:Custodianship, and has, in my view, been working quite well. (Point: To avoid this being based on my own perception, shouldn’t we have some sort of evaluation of this amongst the community?) On bureaucrats, discussion has moved between the Colloquium and Wikiversity talk:Bureaucratship about what bureaucrats are, what they should do, how many we should have, and how they are appointed – however, at the time of writing (14th January, 2007), Wikiversity:Bureaucratship has not been developed at all.
Some of the above organisational-based discussion have been around accreditation, whether this is a desirable option to pursue for Wikiversity, and how it could be managed. (See Wikihigh and Wikiversity:Accreditation.) Further discussion has been around namespaces, how many we need, and how they are to be used. This has generated some confusion and frustration. (See Wikiversity:Naming conventions, Wikiversity:Namespaces, Wikiversity:Namespaces/Proposals for new namespaces.)
There has been some discussion of potentially “biased” (or otherwise problematic) content on Wikiversity – notably on Science teaching materials for creationism. We have developed a perspective of “neutrality” which differs from that on Wikipedia (see w:WP:NPOV), on Wikiversity:Disclosures. However, I do not feel we have been put to the test by any communities/groups/individuals with any explicit interests/ideologies. (Question; what will/can be done if materials from, say, a Nazi-ist perspective are added to Wikiversity?)
Research guidelines have been developed collaboratively, and across language projects (at http://beta.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Scope_of_research/En), but a complete and coherent picture of what should be permitted across all languages, or what should be done towards managing research has yet to emerge. On the English Wikiversity, for example, there are discussions of Wikiversity:Peer review and a Wikiversity:Review board. Research (see Wikiversity:Research) is still the major outstanding issue to be resolved in becoming a fully-fledged sister project of the Wikimedia Foundation (as opposed to being in ‘beta’ phase).
Many newcomers have expressed confusion about what Wikiversity is, and what they can do with/in it – both on-wiki, or in private correspondence with me (and, presumably, others). Introductory material about Wikiversity is spread over a number of pages, including Wikiversity:Main Page, Wikiversity:Welcome, newcomers, Wikiversity:Introduction, Wikiversity:Guided tour, Wikiversity:What is Wikiversity?, and Wikiversity:About. There has been some work done to develop and clarify this material.
Defining the project’s identity has been an ongoing and open process since the beginning, with a logo vote on Meta (see m:Wikiversity/logo) and a contest to find and select a motto and slogan for the project (see Wikiversity:Motto contest). There has been an attempt to document/write a history of Wikiversity (ie why/how it came to be) on Wikiversity:History of Wikiversity, User:JWSchmidt/history, as well as on Wikipedia (w:Wikiversity). We still need, I think, to write the history of Wikiversity so far – as well as, of course, to continue to write it by developing Wikiversity! We also need to further refine the relationships and modus operandi between Wikiversity and other projects – particularly Wikibooks, as there is still a certain lack of clarity about the distinction between Wikiversity and Wikibooks - on both projects, it seems.
I feel that, in addition to addressing the questions and points so far, as well as developing all of the mentioned pages, we should think about the larger issues that we face as a project. This would include the following questions:
- What would it take to develop a community of learners, teachers, and/or researchers - both larger communities, and specific ones, around specific subjects?
- What could/can be done - at the moment - to develop such communities?
- What needs to be done to sustain these communities in the future?
- How are we to determine if materials on Wikiversity are of any quality?
- How can active learning be best facilitated on Wikiversity? (or any wiki?)
- How can we make it easier for newly-arrived people to get involved - both as learners and educators?
- ... (please add to this list)
Final comment (for now)
This is, as I said, a personal and brief analysis of Wikiversity – based on what I have seen, rather than being a comprehensive, and systematic survey of the entire site. Any of the above topics could and should be the topic of further, deeper inquiry/reflection, and this can be done by anyone reading this. In general, I think, we may have to think of ways for all of us to begin to reflect on, or analyse our own work, the work of others, and the context of this work (ie. involving some sort of look at the state of Wikiversity, or our own particular ‘patches’ of it). How we do this, or even how we could invite commentary/analysis from other people (eg. learners/educators) is something that hasn’t yet been very well-developed, but it is certainly something that I think (and it seems that some others agree) could be very useful and productive – both in developing Wikiversity, and our own understanding of ourselves within it.