Educational wikis/Constructive interactions/Colloquium thread

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This discussion was copied from the Colloquium.

Wikiversity is dead. Long live WikiEducator. (?)[edit]

The provocative title of this section reflects a statement in a post by a member of the advisory board to the Wikimedia Foundation, posted to an influential and public UNESCO forum yesterday. Quote: "In projects like Wikipedia and WikiEducator we have...". This reflects trends in the long-term dialogue and strategy to associate WikiEducator with Wikipedia, eclipsing Wikiversity, and implying that WikiEducator is really the project which assumes the mantle and prestige that belongs to Wikiversity. None of this is ever directly stated - Wikiversity is merely "eclipsed" and "forgotten" in a strategy of manipulating the dialogue of open education, while WikiEducator slips conveniently into the empty space.

In a series of short posts, I would like to collaborate with others at Wikiversity in establishing what WikiEducator is, whether the eclipsing of Wikiversity is justified, and how we should respond on the UNESCO forum.

McCormack 07:51, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Where is this forum? Cormaggio talk 10:19, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
It's a mailing list, really. The administrator of the list is Susan D'Antoni (she is not responsible for content!), so contact her if you wish to join. It's now known as "UNESCO-OER". Susan's address is easily google-able, but I don't want to publish it here. McCormack 19:26, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Hi Cormaggio -- for the record, I have copied a full copy of the text I posted on the UNESCO forum below. This was in response to a growing debate on the closed approaches adopted by the group who authored the Cape Town Open Education declaration. WikiEducator has started an open discussion on the Cape Town Declaration over here. I will post a more detailed response under a separate heading to clarify the wide range of issues raised in this discussion. --Mackiwg 05:13, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Wayne wrote:

"I too have expressed concerns that an Open Education Declaration was developed in a somewhat closed fashion. Developing the declaration in an open wiki, for example, would have gone a long way to promote inclusiveness and wider opportunities for debate and refinement. Lets hope that the authors of the declaration will learn from the experience.

You make an important distinction between the differences between free software and free content (free used here as in freedom of speech <smile>.). DRM and proprietary file formats are clearly a risk to the sustainable growth of the free content movement. As you point out, the challenge for free content is that it is not the medium itself and can be locked behind closed formats or formats which are not editable.

In projects like Wikipedia and WikiEducator we have adopted the free cultural works definition as our mechanism to deal with the differences between free software and free content.

See: http://freedomdefined.org/Definition.

This requires us to ensure that content is made available under free file formats. Hence, you will not be able to upload a MSWord document on WikiEducator. The important point being that our meaning of free content is derived and founded on the essential freedoms as opposed to an arbitrary license choice.

Working for development, in particular the millennium development goals associated with the eradication of poverty WE does not support the NC restriction. We do not wish to curtail the rights of an individual to earn a living. So for example, an entrepreneur might find ways in which to add services in widening the distribution channels of free content. We encourage and support this kind of initiative. (An attempt to work towards Red Hat equivalents of free content.) Legally -- all modifications to the content must be shared back with the community. Granted - this will be difficult to monitor -- but I prefer a democratic system where we presume innocence until proven guilty. (Unlike DRM - which presumes guilt before any transgressions in copying material are made!). That said -- the orginal WikiEducator materials will always be freely available in free file formats which are editable.

The context of the quote is pretty well irrelevant. It's the style of dialogue that is being adopted over a long period of time. In "side-comments" somehow WikiEducator becomes privileged and associated with greater projects, while Wikiversity becomes eclipsed. To see the strategy, one really has to have read a huge number of documents being produced about Open Educational Resources. We are not talking about specific messages here, but the way in which these messages are being tilted over the course of time. Mackiwg tried to change the subject here again to the Cape Town Declaration, but this is not the issue here. The issue is his long term commitment to Wikimedia projects and the possible conflicts of interest. I do not feel comfortable with people represented on Wikimedia boards actively competing against Wikimedia projects elsewhere, and as a simple foot-soldier, I wonder how we can be sure that Wikimedia's governing bodies will support Wikiversity 100% when these conflicts of interest exist. Think about the quoted section: "At Wikipedia and WikiEducator we..." - there is no common "we" behind these projects; an illusion of endorsement or association was being created. McCormack 05:42, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
"how we can be sure that Wikimedia's governing bodies will support Wikiversity 100% when these conflicts of interest exist" <-- Of course, the answer is that we cannot. We have to continue to push for open governance of the Wikimedia Foundation and when we have the chance, we have to vote for Board of Trustee members who are actually members (foot-soldiers) of the Wikimedia community and who do not have conflicts of interest. When Board members who have conflicts of interest ignore their obligation to admit their conflicts of interest, the Wikimedia community should launch recall efforts and have the offenders removed from the Board of Trustees. The advisory board is another matter. The Wikimedia community has to hold the Board of Trustees to their obligation to make use of the advisory board as a resource to aid the Foundation's efforts and goals. By its nature, an advisory board will include people who have their main interests outside of Wikimedia, but such people can constructively work with the Wikimedia Foundation towards common goals. --JWSchmidt 06:39, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
  • "In projects like Wikipedia and WikiEducator we have adopted the free cultural works definition" <-- I think there is a "we" here, exactly as stated. The "we" is those projects with a deep interest in free culture. It would be more accurate to say "Wikimedia" rather than "Wikipedia", but it is common practice to say "Wikipedia" when talking to people who have a hard time recognizing the distinction. --JWSchmidt 06:51, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
The Board of Trustees are elected by the WMF community -- Advisory Board members do not have voting rights or any say on WMF community decisions. Our role is to support and promote the attainment of WMFs goals and have no more say than the foot soldiers. In helping WMF achieve its goals, COL's WikiEducator, has assisted with the development of Wiki ==> pdf technology which all WMF projects will be able to implement in the near future. We have invested real dollars in free software which will add considerable value to all WMF projects - an excellent example of the free knowledge community collaborating in widening access to the sum of all human knowledge -- especially learners who may not have access to the Internet. See WMF's press release - I look forward to seeing this technology implemented on Wikversity. --Mackiwg 07:28, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
Lets see my anwer from crashed browser, I am lazy to rewrite this again.--Juan 11:56, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Juan's crashed response (click to read)
I don't like the word footsoldier. I have no intention to have to fight a war on the side of Wikiversity or Wikimedia versus some other group of people.--Daanschr 11:24, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree that my choice of word was bad - I didn't think long about it. But what else? Hoi polloi? Munchkin? McCormack 11:55, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
I think the term "footsoldier" was being used to make a distinction between people who are just editors of the Wikimedia wiki projects (the "footsoldiers") and people who have decision-making powers on the Board of Trustees (the "generals"). It is a metaphorical use of a military term in a non-military context. --JWSchmidt 15:38, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

rather long comments, sorry![edit]

  • I suppose it would be nice to see the "post by a member of the advisory board", but independent of that, we can still discuss the relationship between Wikiversity and Wikieducator. "WikiEducator is really the project which assumes the mantle and prestige that belongs to Wikiversity" <-- What "belongs to Wikiversity" is what the Wikiversity community has built and if I had to put that into a short phrase maybe, "a chance to explore new ways to use wiki technology to support learning". In particular, the Wikiversity community has established itself as the Wikimedia project where we are free to put communities of learners at center stage and where we have won some freedom to move beyond the traditional Wikimedia "nothing original" doctrine. A central interest in community and freedom to explore a wide variety of content is a strong foundation upon which to build an exploration of ways to use wiki technology to support learning.
  • As a Wikimedia Foundation project, Wikiversity is constrained in terms of what we do by the larger Wikimedia community. The Foundation was born from the success of Wikipedia and Jimbo defined the Foundation in terms of using wiki technology to collect and develop educational content. The Wikiversity mission was designed with two main parts that can be called the "conservative" part and the "radical" part. The "conservative" part is very similar to the stated goal of WikiEducator: "a free version of the education curriculum", "free content for use in schools, polytechnics, universities, vocational education institutions". The "conservative" part of the mission fits best with the "Wikipedia model" for creating and hosting educational content. The more radical part of the Wikiversity mission is to host learning projects and communities. This focus on wiki-based communities of learners is "radical" from the perspective of Wikipedia because the Wikipedia project has a long history of putting first the static encyclopedia content while putting less importance on the parallel issue of fostering collaborative learning communities. The Wikiversity emphasis on being "a place to come and interact and help each other figure out how to learn things" (source) does not really grow naturally from the past success of Wikipedia and is an important challenge for Wikiversity.
  • In practical terms, this means that the Wikiversity community finds itself experimenting with many different approaches such as reading groups as possible ways to build communities of like-minded learners. The development of learning communities at Wikiversity is naturally linked to our Wikimedia Foundation sister projects in many ways. Wikiversity learning resources hyperlink to resources at the other projects and many Wikiversity participants are Wikimedians who edit and improve resources at Wikipedia and Wikibooks. Also, the sister projects are an important source of Wikiversity participants. Many people come to edit at Wikiversity after first running into the limitations of other projects like Wikipedia. A natural process is for a start to be made on a Wikiversity learning resource and then make links from Wikipedia to Wikiversity so as to inform WIkipedia users about what is available at Wikiversity. In these ways, Wikiversity is created and grows as an integral part of the Wikimedia family.
  • Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if when Wikipedia launched the Encyclopædia Britannica had launched a wiki ("Encyclopædia Britannica Wiki") and invited the world to edit Encyclopædia Britannica pages. It might be useful to think about the relationship between Wikiversity and WikiEducator in these terms. There are professionals who get paid to develop curriculum, just like there are professionals who get paid to create encyclopedia content. So unlike the case of Wikipedia where there was no "Encyclopædia Britannica Wiki", Wikiversity is developing in parallel with WikiEducator, a wiki that is oriented towards professional educators. Does it make sense to think of this situation in terms of WikiEducator taking something away from Wikiversity? I do not understand how that can be. Wikiversity and WikiEducator are two complementary education-oriented wikis. Wikiversity has natural orientation towards making use of existing Wikimedia content and attracting Wikimedians to edit at Wikiversity. WikiEducator is naturally oriented towards attracting professional educators and addressing their traditional concerns. Since the content of both projects is copyleft and everything is just a hyperlink away, WikiEducator, Wikiversity and other free-content education-oriented wikis will all develop in parallel in a cooperative way.
  • "eclipsing Wikiversity" <-- There is nothing that says the Wikipedia model (and the modifications of that model we are working on here at WIkiversity) of educational content development is the best. Wikiversity is trying to extend the Wikipedia model in new ways...what we are doing is experimental and who knows how successful our approach will be? It may be that Wikiversity will always be in the shadow of WikiEducator. It is natural for WikiEducator to associate its name with that of Wikipedia (and the proven success of Wikipedia) in order to compete for grant funding. There are vast amounts of money spent on curriculum development and if WikiEducator can channel some of that money towards the support of copyleft learning resources then that is a good thing for the Wikimedia goal of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Hopefully the new versions of the GFDL and the CC-by-sa licenses will be come fully compatible and all barriers between WikiEducator and Wikiversity will collapse, allowing both to build on its strengths while jointly contributing to the process by which wiki is applied as a tool to support learning. --JWS 15:46, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Merging Wikiversity with WikiEducator[edit]

Perhaps merging with WikiEducator is an option? I surved through their pages and discovered that WikiEducator and Wikiversity are very much alike. It isn't right that WikiEducator only likes to recruit educators, it is open for everybody just like Wikiversity.--Daanschr 20:02, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
It appears to be open. But what institutions guarantee this? It would be a mistake to simply assume that because a site looks like Wikiversity, its people/managers function in the same manner. Most people who create websites maintain an intrusively high level of control; Wikimedia projects like Wikiversity are very unusual in their openness and inclusivity, but we take this for granted and forget it. McCormack 09:26, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
It should be noted that high government officials from Oceania are involved in WikiEducator. That is definitely something different from Wikiversity. That could explain the prominence of WikiEducator in UNESCO and the denegrating remarks of the member of the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. Wikiversity is a collective of amateurs without any power in the world. WikiEducator seems to be different, if governments with representation in the UN are involved.--Daanschr 20:07, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
The involvement of these people would only guarantee openness and inclusivity if they actually understood and monitored the day to day operations of the site, or acted as a board of appeal accessible to all users. Don't forget that the founders of a website can be well-connected and make a show of this, without it actually making the site any better. McCormack 09:26, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Some months ago, I did a study/comparison of Wikiversity and WikiEducator to find out what the difference was and what WikiEducator was. This study followed on from a discussion with Wayne Mackintosh which didn't really answer the question. At the time, the results of my study of the actual content of WikiEducator appeared to surprise him. The results of this comparison may be a little out of date now, but indicate a fundamental incompatibility and the inadvisability of merger.
  1. Administrative and structural issues. Some of the custodians at Wikiversity have done an excellent job of categorisation and generally ensuring good structure. By comparison, actual content pages at WikiEducator were rarely categorised or linked in to portals or the main page, making navigation a nightmare. Importing WikiEducator content would create significant administrative difficulties. In addition, the spam defences at WikiEducator (particularly as regards spam-bot creation of user accounts) do not seem to have been good, also resulting in a bit of a mess there.
  2. Licencing issues. WV uses GFDL, while WE uses CC-BY-SA. Although some people believe these to be broadly compatible, and some users dual-licence their contributions, there are nevertheless legal issues with any merger.
  3. Cultural issues. The mindset at Wikiversity follows the Jimmy Wales mould, with emphasis on tolerance and inclusivity. This is the mindset which has created a civil society throughout Wikimedia projects and which promotes a community with near democratic values and qualities. The mindset at Wikieducator is very much the opposite to Jimmy Wales, focussed on control. Rules and policies protecting users from admins are absent and content is pro-actively corrected. A civil society at Wikieducator will not emerge if the level of central control is retained. A merger would risk a shift in the culture of Wikiversity, which would be a loss.
  4. Point-of-view issues. In some texts relating to WikiEducator (but not all), its founders are very open about their use of WikiEducator to propagate a specific view of digital education. Wikiversity has avoided any such global adoption of a perspective, and rightly so. A merger would be accompanied with serious issues of dealing with POV on imported pages. However I can't imagine that WikiEducator would want to abandon its POV, or that its leadership would want to step down and relinquish control, which would be essential if WikiEducator merged into a WikiMedia project.
McCormack 09:26, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Administrative and structural issues: Well, i've constantly disagreed with the structure of WV as replicating just the kind of structures that we should have been moving away from, so in this sense the job may have been a bit of a disservice to us in the long run. I also find the structuring to be sometimes more confusing than worthwhile -- there are more pages on WV about structure than there are about almost any other topic. Less is better. Countrymike 20:36, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
"..focused on control..." <-- Can you back this up? I don't think this is true at all. Countrymike 20:36, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually the so called "leadership" (of which I guess I'm a part of being on the Interim Advisory Board) has been having many discussions lately about how any kind of long term advisory board may be established, what the terms are, etc. Originally such a board was 'appointed' due to such a small community or users being avialable with the stated goal that when users reached 2500 this would all be reviewed. We have also been talking about how to sustain WE beyond the capabilities of the Commonwealth of Learning with consideration being taken towards partnering with international agencies like UNESCO, which is probably why this discussion emerged in the first place. McCormack, please don't try to paint this in a brush whereby WE is seen to be a bunch of control freaks, thats just simply not the case or the ethos of that project.Countrymike 20:36, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
McCormack, please don't try to paint this in a brush whereby WE is seen to be a bunch of control freaks - Despite the delay in my response, I ask you to withdraw this comment. It is clearly broadly inaccurate, as McCormack is raising a very important discussion point, and is an attack on his role as a respected member of the Wikiversity community. He may not have provided evidence to support certain points in his argument, however he is entitled to an opinion and any such attempt to stifle it with an allegation of this nature is in direct contrast to the culture and ethos of Wikiversity. In the open nature of WMF wikis we appreciate anyone who wishes to intelligently raise to discussion a point of policy, especially in the case of one of the foundation policies of NPOV. Your suggestion that his actions are merely to depict WE as "a bunch of control freaks" are clearly in contrast to his intentions and your comment, while I appreciate your point of view, is not appropriate for such a discussion, and it is in my mind important that the views of respected members of the community are not taken lightly.
At the same time, I appreciate that McCormack should certainly record his findings should he wish to provide critical analysis of any nature, and this section of the discussion appears to miss the purpose of this thread and the overall discussion on the topic. If a partnership or merger between the two projects is being discussed, please discuss the facts of the proposals, as opposed to the opinions behind them. --Draicone (talk) 11:43, 19 January 2008 (UTC)
Dracione, I agree to withdraw the comment, it was hastily placed; and will reflect in more detail the the frustration that I was having at the time with McCormacks portrayal of Wikieducator. It is I think unfair to paint Wikieducator as being of a "mindset" focused on control, and displays a non NPOV on McCormacks part from someone with minimal participation on that wiki. My experience on WE has been that it is a democratic and community based wiki that is grappling with things like governance models and sustainability in similar ways that many wikis that are building large active communities do, not as a culture of top down control as McCormack suggested. While some pages and users of WikiEducator do have strong ideological convictions around education or the OER movement, I don't think that there is an overarching or hegemonic ideology and it must be said that all wikis, including WV, have ideologies that are reflected to greater degrees by their more vocal participants. The growth of Wikieducator (which occupies a very different niche than Wikiversity) should be seen as an element in establishing a stronger OER movement amongst all the OER projects, not as a reason to start casting political aspersions on another project. Countrymike 01:09, 20 January 2008 (UTC)
I took a quick look on Moodle and discovered how enormously large this organization is. I don't think that WikiEducator will stand a chance versus Moodle, just like Citizendium and Encyclopedia Britannica are very small compared to Wikipedia. Wikiversity is a small organization as well, our largeness is dependent on our relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation. If Wikiversity is replaced by WikiEducator by the board of the Wikimedia Foundation, than it will be the virtual end of Wikiversity.
I agree with the lack of structure on WikiEducator. It should be noted though that many of the topics and schools dramatically lack in activity and are thereby not much better than WikiEducator.
I am in favour of openness and a civil society. Not only because i like inclusivity of views and persons, but also because an organization on the internet can't become notorious (usefull) without being open for as much of users and views as possible.--Daanschr 09:52, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Moodle is an entirely different kettle of fish :-) The most important thing is that Moodle is an open source project with multiple installations, no central installation and predominantly closed content. The closed content nature of Moodle is antithetical to what both WV and WE do. You might also like to read Help:Quiz/Wikiversity compared to Moodle (something I wrote quite a while back). McCormack 10:08, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Moodle is a tool for school teachers, primarily. It could be seen as a community with nearly 2 million teachers who communicate with eachother on several forums. Who knows in what ways Moodle can be changed in the future. I am working in a computerroom and this school lets its students surfe the internet to any pages, so the use of media doesn't have to be limited to a single organization like Moodle or Wikiversity.

What should be adressed is the kind of people that will use Wikiversity or other websites dedicated to learning. A school is something different from persons like me who want to do something in their leisure time. Organizations, like governments and companies could use Wikiversity to communicate with common civilians. The kind of learning activity is important. Is it an activity dedicated to improving society, or is it just a way to spend a leisure time, or is it a way to learn something which is needed for a carreer or to organize things. I am in favour of openness to experimentation, because their are so many purposes and groups of participants possible.--Daanschr 10:44, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Size comparison[edit]

Daanschr made some observations about size, which seem to be in need of correction. I just compared the stats of the two sites.

  • Overall pages: Wikiversity is over three times larger.
  • Page edits: Wikiversity is over twice as busy.
  • Users: Wikiversity has 8 times the users.

I don't have access to site visitors and page hits, but my feeling is that Wikiversity is probably visited way over 10 times more than WikiEducator, perhaps far higher.

McCormack 10:24, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
It is good to know this, McCormack.--Daanschr 10:32, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, you know what they say ... bigger is not always better. Countrymike 00:27, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

If folk at Wikiversity want more detailed figures on WikiEducator statistics, you can take a look here. We're a very small project -- but growing rapidly. Our strategy for the coming year is to scale up content development building on our existing foundations. --Mackiwg 05:18, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Response from a WikiEducator[edit]

Well, I'm pretty much user number 2 on WikiEducator (I was there when we started it on a box laying around the office in Auckland, New Zealand) and having worked extensively on the site for quite some time (bit longer than i've been on WV) I'm always open for questions/dialogue whatever on the project. Personally, I think that the two projects have very different missions - WVs being quite astutely articulated by JWS in the above. I've never heard or read specifically of any strategy to align WE with the Wikimedia foundation although there are definite relations: the founder of WE is on the WM Board of Advisors and the site is hosted and supported by Erik Moeller who is on the Board of Trustees .. so make of that what you will. I've always thought that there could/should/would be greater synergies between the two projects -- but has proved easier said than done. For me the distinction mostly is that WE is for the most part about generating content, OERs, whatever and developing capacity. That's why you see all those high ranking educationalists from the Pacific -- we've been teaching them how to edit on MediaWiki/WikiEducator so that they can go back to the islands and get other people interested and trained. WV is about Learning Projects; there isn't anything close to a Bloom clock or a reading group and in fact when I started the reading group on Illich I purposefully chose WV over WE because it seems to suit WV more. One advantage that WE does have over WV is the amount of control over the code that it has; over the last couple of months WE has experimented with Liquid Threads and today is trialling out a pretty cool print function, enabling pages to be collected and printed. Its nice; its not for a Learning Project, but for a long structure piece of wiki content, its nice. My .02c worth would be for WV to push the Learning Project angle as much as possible, forget the content development and get away from all this School this, Topic this, etc that's crowding up the place. Countrymike 23:12, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
In a tiny step towards closer collaboration I've had an interwiki link created from WikiEducator to Wikiversity. Can now use [[v:blah]] on WikiEducator to point towards Wikiversity pages. Would be wonderful if we could reciprocate. Countrymike 07:20, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
I've never done this myself, but I think you can go to m:Interwiki map and propose an interwiki prefix for a new website such as the WikiEducator website. --JWSchmidt 16:57, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
"School this, Topic this" <-- We could certainly have a discussion about "School this, Topic this"....there have been many such discussions in the past. In the "Wikipedia model", there is "actual wiki content" (encyclopedia articles) and there are also "wikiprojects". Wikipedia wikiprojects are meta-level pages where editors collaborate to create and manage content in particular topic areas. When Wikiversity was gestating within the Wikibooks project a significant number of pages were called "School of Foo" and "Department of Bar". Many of those pages were like wish lists for future Wikiversity content....kind of like a college course catalog. When the Wikiversity website launched and we were copying the old pages from Wikibooks, the school pages became pages in the "School:"namespace and the department pages became pages in the "Topic:" namespace. These pages remain as Wikiversity content development projects where editors can collaborate to plan and develop learning resources. Of course, if you find no use for "School this, Topic this" you never have to go to those pages. I suspect that most people at Wikipedia never bother with wikiprojects. Its one of those things that is there for the people who find them useful. The system of portal pages should give content browsers access to all the actual learning resources at Wikiversity. "push the Learning Project angle as much as possible, forget the content development" <-- This makes no sense to me because my belief is that the learning projects are important Wikiversity content. So saying "forget content development" means "don't create learning projects". --JWSchmidt 00:52, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
I was too quick with my opinion about WikiEducator, most of what i said didn't make any sense. It is good that you clarified WikiEducator for us, Countrymike.
It seems that we have a conflict between opposing ideas. The kind of organization that John wants, would overlap WikiEducator in many ways, while Countrymike wants to make a clear distinction between WikiEducator and Wikiversity.
I don't mind the distinction between schools and topics. That doesn't have to be different from Countrymike's view of Wikiversity. The good thing about a distinction between schools is that people who are interested in a certain genre of learning and not in others can become a member of a learning group dedicated to that genre, which could be organized in a school. Another benefit of a distinction in schools is that experts have a clear place to go to with their expertise, in case Wikiversity becomes a large organization. Of course, not every learning group has to be organized in schools.
During the meeting on Wikiversity chat, the desire was expressed to be open to experimentation, something unique within the Wikimedia Foundation. I hope this can be the case, and that we will wait for the kind of results of these experiments in the coming decades. At the moment, i am experimenting with reading groups, but these will take years and decades to develop.Daanschr 08:12, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

There's long been a debate about whether Wikiversity and Wikieducator could/should be merged - eg Leigh Blackall posted to his blog, which sparked responses from Teemu Leinonen [1] and myself. And in that discussion, as above, the issues of culture are raised; both WV and WE are influenced by their organisational backdrop - Wikimedia and Commonwealth of Learning, respectively. Both projects have compatible goals, technology, and (soon) licences - but the issue of culture is possibly the more difficult to see merging. In any case, I certainly have no problem in having both projects coexist, given that they will be focusing on different activities (or carrying them out in different ways). In terms of, as Brent suggests, having Wikiversity focus exclusively on learning projects as opposed to content (which, incidentally Teemu also suggests), I don't agree - since there is clearly educational content that does not belong on Wikimedia projects, and which therefore must be allowed to be developed here (even if there are many other OER projects out there). Similarly, I don't believe we should be intentionally limiting ourselves from supporting any particular type of user of an educational space - Wikiversity is surely open to professionals (not just to Wikimedia editors), even if there may be other sites for them to choose from. But to specifically adress McCormack's point, I don't feel that the prestige associated with Wikipedia "belongs" to Wikiversity - I think this is something that we will obviously benefit from, but which we must also earn on our own terms and merit. Cormaggio talk 16:55, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Cormaggio - good point. Reminds me of early debates within the Open Source movement where people finally got sick of the endless "I hate microsoft" monkey show and started suggesting that all those whiny slashdotters spent more time making linux compete on its own terms rather than bash the competition. WV will rise and fall based upon the quality of its contents. I think my "distinction" between WE and WV is not meant to be absolute (we should welcome some forms of content), but I guess I see one of the possible distinctions that WV can leverage at this point is focusing on learners and learning activities rather than teachers and content or curriculums. WE seems mostly about teachers (as is the recently discussed Cape Town Declaration), developing curriculum that can be printed out for face-to-face, not particularly something that WV has ever aspired to. Countrymike 20:23, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, there seem to be some French teachers of Wikiversity, who use Wikiversity for their class.
The whole debate here is a bit confusing. There are a lot of claims made by several persons on what Wikiversity is and WikiEducator and these claims don't seem to fit together.Daanschr 21:46, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
That's an interesting observation - and I've been interested to read how people are characterising the scope of one project in contrast with the other - something that also happens between Wikiversity and Wikibooks. It's not always the best way of defining the project, even though it does - always - make sense to clarify project goals and processes. It often helps here to go back to the approved Wikiversity project proposal (essentially our "founding document") - though Wikiversity has developed in strength and complexity since then. Cormaggio talk 12:11, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

A response from an institutional man[edit]

What an excellent discussion! --Leighblackall 21:42, 13 December 2007 (UTC) Thanks to CountryMike (Brent) for pointing me into it. And thanks Cormaggio for mentioning the post and discussion from my blog. I'm someone who works in an educational institution and am trying to build a critical awareness of FOS software, content and practices. It is a bit of a hell ride and I sometimes long for the freedom of freelance. In 2006 I started using Wikiversity to build content for the teacher training we do. Pages for blogging, RSS, wikis, podcasting, video, tagging etc. Almost all these things are very foreign ideas to the teachers I work for :( I started adding links to our institution's support, formal courses and qualifications and started to get a little flack from a Wikiversity user. At the time I was feeling very sensitive to criticism because I get it daily from people in my institution who are reluctant to consider FOS software, content and practices in their teaching. I constantly need to demonstrate worth and prove it. When criticism started coming in from Wikiversity I saw the writing on the wall.. this was not going to be sustainable. So I needed a space that would be supportive in every way of an institution trying to make steps towards FOS ethics and exchange. Wikieducator became that space. But all along I wish to be part of the Wikiversity project, and the Wikimedia foundation. I posted to my blog the desire for WV and WE to merge and form Wikilearner, but I think I'd like to retract that. I agree with CountryMike and Teemu that WV should focus on building online learning communities as I believe that this will become the most important feature in online learning as content continues to grow in every quarter. Content will also grow out of such communities and that may serve Cormaggio's concerns for the need for content of WV. So, learning communities should be the focus and the university metaphor (schools, topics etc) should recede. Let Wikiversity become Wikilearner. But what is to happen to Wikieducator? As the stats suggest, it will putter along while the majority gravitate to WV. Wikieducator plays an important role to the Institutions. It offers support for the Institutional culture, but more importantly it facilitates Institutional people into the more free and freelance world of WV - and that's a good thing. Eventually, I hope to be working a lot more in WV (that will hopefully become more of a Wikilearner) but I can't do that until the people I work for are ready to see that their content is not as important as their network and the learning communities that may become resources for their students to tap into. So Wikieducator is the interim (and it is already radical enough). As the people I work for become more comfortable with MediaWiki technology, they will start to engage with Wikimedia Foundation projects more. We already have 3 staff members who are writing the Anatomy and Physiology of Animals text book in Wikibooks! You see, as our teachers become as familiar and enthusiastic for the free world as you already are, you will see that free content will become an everyday thing and you will have lost your competitive edge.. we will start to need learning communities a whole lot more. I only hope that the freedom politics that is the more ugly side of the Wikimedia foundation generally will not stifle the growth of community. Many thanks for your thought provoking discussion, I hope I have added something of worth, and I look forward to the day when this institutionalised man may be free with the rest of you. --Leighblackall 21:42, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

A school doesn't have to be a real school. Internet will change the whole meaning of learning. A school on Wikiversity can't be the same as a school in the face-to-face world.
What do you mean with freedom politics? I have only written and discussed articles and didn't belong to the political organization of Wikipedia. The only place where i entered discussing bureaucratic issues was here on Wikiversity.--Daanschr 21:54, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
"started to get a little flack from a Wikiversity user.....when criticism started coming in from Wikiversity I saw the writing on the wall.. this was not going to be sustainable." <-- This hit me like a brick between the eyes because I have a habit of telling people that Wikiversity is open to all kinds of learning experiments and approaches I recently made the rather sweeping statement that as far as I knew Wikiversity had never turned away someone's contribution of a learning resource. Is this the "flack"? --JWSchmidt 04:56, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that was the flack - but it developed into an email discussion between WiseWoman, Leigh and myself. I seem to remember we patched it up in the end, and that Leigh didn't seem to be left too aggrieved - I take his point that it motivated him to look for alternatives, but I'm kinda disappointed Leigh saw (sees?) it as "writing on the wall". (Leigh, I'll respond to your great comment elsewhere - just a clarification here.) Cormaggio talk 09:54, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
Hi there Cormaggio. by "writing on the wall" I was talking about myself, my own energy levels. The flack from a Wikiversity user was justified in my view today, and I respect the "civil society", user generated, egalitarian status of Wikiversity. The writing on the wall was my own sanity as I juggled criticism from colleagues met with criticism from Wikiversity. Basically, WV was just a bit too radical for me (and the Institution) at the time. My post here says that that time will pass.. eventually.. the culture of the institutions will change, and come to acknowledge and respect that which Wikipedia et al has achieved... --Leighblackall 10:40, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification, Leigh - I can see into your mind and situation better now. :-) I think it's very interesting the way you've framed this discussion for yourself in terms of your being an "institutional man" (which brings with it another set of organisational/social/political constraints). I also very much appreciate your forward-looking perspective, acknowledging that open/free learning communities will become more important as open/free content begins to proliferate. ;-) (This isn't a "dichotomy", as Hillgentleman and JWSchmidt point out - but rather an appreciation that there are different educational processes to be facilitated.) In fact, I asked a question about this topic during the recent OpenLearn conference, and it seemed that the funding at the moment is towards the generation of content, but that the support for this open/free content (ie open/free learning communities) isn't really a huge feature on the OER community's radar (yet). Cormaggio talk 11:09, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Statistics can be very misleading. Since I have enough content at Lunar Boom Town to begin playing and testing scenarios with my first grade nephew I have been rather idle about the Wikiveristy site. After the Christmas season is over I may get real active keying into Lunar Boom Town and cisLunarFreighter and Space Traffic Control what I have learned from playing various scenarios out with him. Personally I think it is not advisable to be advocating major changes or merges at either WikiEducator or Wikiversity since both sites have now spent years collecting interest towards critical mass. Better to be a bit patient and harvest some benefits of having developed viable communities at both sites around their respective cultures and target or emergent markets. Mirwin 23:18, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

A response from Wayne @ WikiEducator[edit]

I picked up on this discussion from WikiEducator's del.icio.us feed -- it's great to live in a connected world. I'd like to clarify a few points:

  • I founded WikiEducator and posted my first edit on 13 February 2006. I set up Wikieducator shortly before taking up my current position as Education Specialist (eLearning and ICT policy) at COL. You can read up about our early history on Terra Incognita
  • The WikiEducator's infrastructure is funded by the Commonwealth of Learning, an international agency dedicated to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.
  • I am a member of the WMF Advisory Board. WikiEducator is an independent project and not part of the WMF projects.
  • WikiEducator works collaboratively with the free knowledge community in developing free content for education. We recently funded the development of Wiki ==> pdf functionality. See WMF's press release today. This technology is released as open source software which Wikiversity will be able to implement in support of their work. I hope that Wikiversity will assist us in testing the technology. WikiEducator offered to be the gunea pig for testing the early releases of this technology so that the large projects like Wikiversity and Wikibooks would not have to go through the pains associated with the early bugs of new software.
  • WikiEducator is not competing with Wikiversity, Wikibooks or any other wiki project in the educational sphere. We are working together with the free knowledge community in widening access to the sum of all human knowledge. It's a big task and the more folk working on this -- the sooner we will achieve our objectives.
  • The WikiEducator community have not discussed mergers with any of the WMF projects. User:McCormack's assertions that Wikiversity is dead. Long live WikiEducator. are unfounded. User:McCormack's assertions "that WikiEducator is really the project which assumes the mantle and prestige that belongs to Wikiversity" is UNTRUE. Prestige is something which is earned -- not commanded.
  • I do think that it would be a worthwhile exercise for WikiVersity, Wikibooks and Wikieducator to convene some time in the near future to compare experiences and to see how our different approaches can contribute to the vision of the free knowledge community.

Hope this helps. --Mackiwg 06:02, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Clarifying your misattributions: my views are precisely the opposite of what you suggest. I suggest that WikiEducator has neither the prestige nor anything else that is derived from Wikipedia (so we agree). As you say, prestige has to be earned. That is why I object to even using "WikiEducator" in the same breath as "Wikipedia" (here we disagree). One way in which prestige can be earnt is through the establishment of a civil society, including institutional structures which prevent administrative abuse. Wikipedia has these in abundance. It is one of its greatest achievements, even if those structures are sometimes criticised. The best thing about Wikiversity is that it is linked into these structures of a civil, near-democratic society, and this is why, for me, the future is Wikiversity. Unfortunately WikiEducator does not have a civil society (yet), nor do I see it likely that one can form until the leadership strategies change. When a leadership style is too strong, it stifles democracy and becomes blind to the potential of its abuse. This is a universal problem with over-strong leadership, so it should hardly be a surprise to you if WikiEducator suffers from this problem - it's nothing personal. I think that exceptionally strong leaders have to create very concrete self-restraining mechanisms in order to protect the democratic structures around them. McCormack 08:37, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
Further correction: the title of this section (Wikiversity is dead. Long live WikiEducator) which I created represents the opposite of my views. The title parodies the way in which WikiEducator seems to be marketing itself elsewhere. As a parody, it does, of course, state the matter in a provocative fashion that stimulates debate. The problem I see is that WikiEducator is attempting to "place" itself strategically where Wikiversity in fact is: right next to Wikipedia as a Wikimedia project. McCormack 08:37, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
I withdraw from this kind of discussions here. I frankly do not know what this is all about and what's the need for all the fuss. For me learning on Wikiversity is mainly linked to leisure time and fun. Perhaps we can come up with some usefull concepts for the outside world. I am highly scepticle about the capabilities to dramatically change schooling and i don't see the need for it. I have the impression that you both believe in progress. I regard progress as something silly. Everything which is new becomes dull and old in the long run. For me, day to day communication with humans is the main reason to live. Not some squabling about freedom or schooling.--Daanschr 13:01, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
"Have fun" is an important part of the culture of Wikiversity. Many people participate at Wikiversity because they can have fun exploring topics that are of great personal interest. "dramatically change schooling" <-- I do not see this as part of the Wikiversity mission, but I think it is fair to say that Wikipedia has broadened the concept of "encyclopedia" and I think wiki technology will also create new learning opportunities. To the extent that new sources of information and information sharing are being fashioned by tools like wiki, it is not unreasonable to speculate about how these advances might make possible some dramatic changes in schooling.....particularly in learning niches where conventional schooling has never been strongly established. "day to day communication with humans is the main reason to live" <-- Some of us in the Wikiversity community are trying to learn how to facilitate the growth of online learning communities where participants can come together and make use of new technologies to promote new forms of "day to day communication with humans". We do not need to frame this process in term of "progress" but I think we can seek useful metrics such as "efficiency". It is not as much fun when multiple independent communities of wiki editors duplicate their efforts at isolated websites. It is more fun when like-minded learners can find each other an collaborate efficiently. "what's the need for all the fuss" <-- Some people who are dedicated to using wiki to support learning ask if it makes sense for a Trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation to adopt a negative attitude towards Wikiversity while supporting WikiEducator. "squabling about freedom" <-- I think many Wikimedians are enthusiastic about the Foundation's mission, but there is room for disagreement about some of the details of how to facilitate that mission. It is understandable that Wikimedia is a magnet for some people who are free software crusaders. This has implications for Wikiversity when we are unable to fully use available computer technology because some new technologies are not free. Do we put learning first or do we put the crusade for free software first? If "squabbles" over such issues distress you, by all means, ignore them and just have fun editing. --JWSchmidt 16:20, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
"when we are available computer technology because some new technologies are not free. Do we put learning first or do we put the crusade for free software first?" <-- Yea, you can always try to solve the problems in your own way, whatever the constraints are; if the constraints become a burden, you call the developers, or learn to be one yourself :-). Whether one should put learning first or free software first - here is an interesting and clear difference of wikiversity from the rest of wikimedia projects: it is to host learning communities and therefore it is not portable. There cannot be a mirror of wikiversity. Anybody can duplicate the contents but not the community. Hillgentleman|Talk 03:31, 15 December 2007 (UTC)


The dialogue and ideology of freedom[edit]

I quote from Wayne (above) about his vision of cooperation for Wikiversity, and his idea that Wikiversity should see how it "can contribute to the vision of the free knowledge community". For those who are new to Wayne's philosophy and way of speaking, "free", in his view, is always used in the idealogically loaded sense of libre. It is not an option, for his way of thinking, to question the truth of this very specific view of freedom. When Wayne states as a goal for Wikiversity that it should contribute to the "free knowledge community", it is bringing us closer to a world in which both the membership and editorial content of Wikiversity should be orientated towards a particularly ideological end. Wikiversity's current culture is founded on openness and inclusivity. A reorientation towards the libre knowledge community is precisely the cultural shift I warned about above in an earlier posting. Newcomers might want to express this cultural shift as a "loss of freedoms", and this is where the language trick becomes insidious: because the meaning of "freedom" has already been hijacked by libre-philosophy, it is difficult for non-libre-thinkers to express their commitments to things like the ancient freedom of association and freedom of speech in their original meanings. In the many meanings of freedom built up in philosophical and political thinking of the last 3000 years, we are talking, however, about a loss of freedom. McCormack 08:58, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm a bit confused here, McCormack - Wikiversity as a Wikimedia project is an explicitly ideological project: to make educational resources free (and this "free" has always explicitly incorporated the "libre" connotation, as well as lack of cost). It's true Wikiversity is based on openness and inclusivity (probably more so than any other WMF project), but there are clear boundaries of this inclusivity - and that would include content that is copyright or not free enough, in the same way that we would not include propoganda or allow uncivil behaviour (though in many cases, the 'limits' still need to be drawn, and will always be based in dialogue). Cormaggio talk 10:08, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
A free learning process can include copyrighted materials including textbooks available from libraries or materials published online for free use or at a cost. Naturally our preference is free libre materials accessible to everyone via the internet. My personal preferences include free internet access for everyone on the planet but that will be a while coming. (If you think that is economically infeasible consider the cost of the current Iraqui occupation.[[2]] Others pragmatically look to libre cdroms to spread libre materials which are not "free" but must be financed by somebody with cold hard cash. The only limit that I see as useful to draw is that Wikiversity servers do not host non-free materials or materials so dependent on specific external non free materials as to be considered advertising spam. Mirwin 17:13, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't understand the selling of libre material. There is already an abundant of knowledge for sale. What does libre material have to add?--Daanschr 18:45, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
The fact that you can turn around and redistribute it as is or modify it and redistribute the modified versions. Consider a cdrom with a video game. If it is propriety you can play it or give it away or resell it once. If it is free (libre) (say you bought it at a flea market for $3.00USD or downloaded from internet and burned yourself) then you can give it away as many times as you can afford to burn it on cd, you can burn cds and sell them at the same flea market where you bought it for less than $3 USD (hopefully more than price of burning CD slug and energy), you can loan it to a friend who wishes to burn copy or go into business remastering, then there are all permutations of how you can modify the data objects on it and then given away those modifications as long as you meet license requirements for attribution of previous authors, access to source code allowing modification, etc. i.e. passing along the freedoms you received from previous authors to new consumers. Mirwin 04:12, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

content and community[edit]

  • Re:Leigh Blackall: (two screens above)

    that WV should focus on building online learning communities as I believe that this will become the most important feature in online learning as content continues to grow in every quarter. Content will also grow out of such communities and that may serve Cormaggio's concerns for the need for content of WV. So, learning communities should be the focus and the university metaphor (schools, topics etc) should recede.

    It is difficult "to focus on XXX" on a wiki, for everybody has all the freedom to decide what she does - so long as she is contributing useful content. And then how can we build a community? We need to attract people to come, keep them entertained and interested enough to stay - that can be achieved by quality and easily accessable content. (Even better, if they could get answers for their questions.) Building content for community use is also a way to build the community, at least until a certain threshold is reached. Hillgentleman|Talk 06:33, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Hillgentleman. There is a false dichotomy being imagined when people talk about content or community. Some learners use wiki technology to collaborate and create wiki content.....they learn by editing Wikiversity. Other learners use that content to explore their learning goals. We encourage everyone to join this creative loop, click the edit button and participate as part of active learning groups and projects. There is a dynamic positive feedback process by which content supports the community and the community creates content. Of course, Wikiversity does not have to re-create the wheel.....Wikiversity learning resources can always link to other resources outside of Wikiversity and many Wikiversity participants move freely between multiple websites as appropriate to their personal interests as well as the specialties and strengths of various websites. --JWSchmidt 07:09, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
  • There are two ways to improve accessability: a good portal (Main Page) and a good content structure. Since wikiversity's goal is to be a place where anybody can come and learn anything (using contents on-site or off-site, on-line or off-line), which is a wide and not very specific goal, it is difficult to have a one-page summary.
  • On the other hand, there are many ways to improve the content structure. Schools, Topics, and Dynamic page lists are very useful. There are a lot of interesting ideas in http://ontoworld.org/wiki/Semantic_Wiki_State_Of_The_Art . Hillgentleman|Talk 07:05, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
  • Still the main page is important; it should be optimized to guide the most people to do a little something useful. People like to browse wikipedia because they come away knowing a little more - even if it is just something trivial. Wikiversity should deepen this process in certain areas for those who want it. Hillgentleman|Talk 07:32, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Neither-both here nor-and there[edit]

While it is of course deeply frustrating when a foundation Board member somehow forgets about the existence of an entire set of WikiMedia projects, it is in some ways understandable that he would want to highlight a large project that from the start has connections to real-world foundations and organizations. Neither project has really figured out a sensible way to make more of these connections, at least not yet. From the "about" page on WE, it looks like our missions do indeed overlap, but they've got a headstart due to their associations with CoL, and we have a headstart due to our status as a Wikimedia Foundation project. To their advantage/disadvantage, this means that they have a final "customer" who can guide them in designing their "product". To our advantage/disadvantage, we don't know who our "customers" are, and often aren't sure how our "product" will be used.

It's nice to hear input from our compatriots/rivals though, especially their views on the uniqueness of our learning community structure. I think the new main page and portal will help us a lot in explaining ourselves to the foundation and our fellow Wikimedians, but to build learning communities we might need to be a bit more proactive with outreach, rather than just leaving out the main page as an invitation and hoping people will happen to find it. We could outreach to a number of types of organizations, including:

  • Universities (brick and mortar), schools, and other institutions of education
  • Student groups
  • Hobby or avocational groups
  • Non-profit groups
  • Business groups
  • Corporations
  • Labor unions
  • Small and large businesses
  • Religious groups
  • Web forums and other online communities

I think so far we've mostly tried to reach out to other wikimedians (primarily wikibookians and wikipedians), but it might be the case that the members of those communities have already found the thing they want to do (otherwise they wouldn't be there, and thus wouldn't be on those projects waiting for someone to reach out). Universities are going to look at us with some degree of skepticism for now (as will most schools). Student groups usually like to have beer with their meetings. Non-profit groups are often overtasked already, but if we could at least in part be providing a web service for them, they might really like that.

Businesses are going to do what's to their advantage as businesses. If our collaborative learning and research projects can help them educate their employees or otherwise improve their growth potential, they will happily participate. Small business owners and independents may be able to use our project as continuing education and improvement, as well as networking.

Religious groups tend to be formed of people with a variety of interests outside of their religion, and making them feel welcome to organize (but not prostelytize) those interests on Wikiversity might help us grow our learning communities exponentially. Web forums and other online communities would probably be hit-or-miss, since like the other wikimedians they might already have found their niche.

The question is, how do we reach out? --SB_Johnny | talk 12:54, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

"The question is, how do we reach out?" <-- This was identified as a key issue back before Wikiversity launched (for example, see some early discussions at Wikiversity talk:Moving Wikiversity forward). I think we should update Wikiversity:Community Portal to be more of a community workshop for efforts aimed at building collaborative learning groups at Wikiversity. We need a community archive of strategies and experiments for attracting and retaining participants. --JWSchmidt 20:05, 15 December 2007 (UTC)
I think the most effective outreach is one on one with friends and relatives. Unfortunately until we hit critical mass with something for everyone this will be a very low percentage success rate. I think we need to function somewhat as an internet beacon where successful groups attract attention from search engines and other related online groups because they have something unique and useful to people with those interests. The sandbox sever project has potential to bring in a lot of interest once it is operational to the point we wish to advertise it at sites such as advogato or slash/dot where a lot of young hackers hangout. Likewise I think cisLunarFreighter could bring in a lot of game modders once it is an operational game ... probably two to three years down the road at current levels of interest and effort. Bloom Clock project sounds ready to advertise to gardening or bird watching groups.