Wikiversity:Building successful learning communities
This is a learning project to explore how to build successful learning communities on Wikiversity. It is a continuation of a discussion in the learning model discussion group. Please help out to make this page as useful as possible, reflecting the experiences and thoughts of the Wikiversity community in its full diversity as fully as possible.
This project should:
- Build a conceptual apparatus for discussing and thinking about its object of analysis.
- Identify and discuss what has worked (or is working), and what hasn't (or doesn't) - in building learning communities on Wikiversity
- Identify, describe, and analyse successful and unsuccessful learning communities elsewhere, ie not on Wikiversity
- Find literature on both successful and unsuccessful learning communities, and other relevant topics
Conceptual apparatus (What is a "community"?)
Typology of communities
Wild communities are formed by attracting random Wikiversity visitors into a project. Attracting this group is the dream of all community-building, and it is also the hardest group to attract.
Examples are rare; the only known successful examples are: the film-making projects (e.g. Learning the Basics of Filmmaking), Web design. NB: the level of contribution by wild editors may be an issue here - needs analysing. The latter of these projects is not very active.
Tame communities are typically the classes of project coordinators. They have no choice about their participation and participate within the context of a real-world learning institution. They are invariably short term contributors only, but invest a lot of time in intense editing during this short period. Initial abilities tend to be low.
Examples include: Technical writing, Media literacy, Instructional Design, Design for the Environment, Social psychology (psychology), Introduction to Computers. This is the most common successful kind of participatory project on Wikiversity.
Insider communities consist of people who are already such regular Wikiversity contributors that they could be described as "insiders". When these people form a community around a new project, Wikiversity as a whole does not grow in terms of people. On the other hand, this group has a high level of familiarity with online learning and tends to build successful communities, so far as time allows.
Examples include: Composing free and open online educational resources and many reading groups.
Cf. w:Open Courseware.
A passive community might be understood as a paradox, if "community" is originally understood as presupposing active participation or actual editing. We can also understand the word "community" in a wider sense, embracing the majority of Wikiversity users who never create an account and passively consume learning materials. Catering for passive communities should not be considered a betrayal of the Wikiversity spirit - on the contrary, it may be that active communities are easier to build around a core of materials built for a passive audience, and that vice versa, the success of materials left behind by an active community should be judged by their attractiveness to passive audiences. This is the concept of the symbiosis of active and passive communities.
Projects for passive communities are created as stand-alone educational resources, usually by a coordinator who is also the sole major editor.
Communities with and without leaders
A crucial part in the success of a community is the role of the "community leader" or coordinator.
- The project coordinator forms and guides the community and project through its various stages of development. The coordinator usually has some kind of goal in mind. They shape the project and see it through to to an advanced state of completion or achievement of its aims.
- A project coordinator may not necessarily be a major editor - much of their activity may be offline in the role of motivating their tame audience (class). Examples of low-editing coordinators include User:SRego and User:ReneeHobbs2007. Examples of high-editing coordinators include User:Phonebein and User:Robert Elliott.
- There are examples of projects which have lost a coordinator, and where new coordinators have stepped in (e.g. Breton - change of coordinator from 2007 to 2008).
- Some projects have multiple coordinators functioning as a team (e.g. Economic Classroom Experiments - with 3 coordinators).
- Wikiversity:Featured lists many of the most successful projects at Wikiversity. All of them have one thing in common: coordinators.
Projects with no coordinator
There have been many attempts at Wikiversity to create community without coordinators. Many of them are listed as stub pages (0 members). These pages largely become forgotten.
The most likely examples for projects succeeding without a coordinator are to be found in the area of computer science and information technology. This is because information technology skills are the most common skills to be found among "wild audiences".
- Teacher: the term "teacher" might be considered an alternative word for coordinator. However Wikiversity experience does not bear this out. Coordinators often don't teach at all - at least not at Wikiversity. They are usually educators, but not always. Their real role lies in managerial skills such as establishing a framework for project, building the team and seeing the project through to fulfillment.
- Leader/manager: these terms possibly don't give the right message. "Coordinator" is a more neutral word in an educational context.
- Facilitator: perhaps.
- Lead editor: counter-factual. Coordinators are not always the lead editor.
Identifying communities on Wikiversity
Discussion: the coordinator-hypothesis
The "coordinator hypothesis" is this: although projects for tame and passive communities are more successful than projects for wild and insider communities, it is not the type of community which makes the difference between success and failure; instead the crucial factor for the success of a community is whether or not it has a coordinator.
Discussion: what are the criteria for success?
What has worked, or is working
Please give an account of a learning community which has been (or is) successful. Explain why you think it's successful, and perhaps what aspects of it that you think make it a success..
- Why: well, in fact is more research community, but it is succesful. I think, people study the plats they dont know. It si technically catched, even this can caused problems for new users, who havent been on wiki for a long time.
- The Bloom Clock project has succeeded in building a small community. The most frequent community appears to be an "insider" community, but "wild" editors also seem to have been involved. The success of the project revolves around the coordinator and lead editor User:SB_Johnny.
What hasn't worked, or doesn't
As above, give an account of a learning community that hasn't worked (or doesn't work), giving your reasons for saying so, and why you think it is so..
Identifying communities outside Wikiversity
It would be good to describe in as much detail what the community is, what it aims to do, and why it has or hasn't been a success. We can then analyse this to see what we can take from it for our own context.
Primary schools are successful due to a core of experienced staff, student-continuity, strong public/parental support, multiple learning models, historical development, the ability for teachers to quietly fail ... and fulfilment of the need to earn the money; WV has the first of these. Schools start to fail when they start to not make the grade on one or two of these and with luck plus time and not too many noticing they can get back on track. Early days for WV and internet time is such a tricky metric Paulmartin42 19:38, 13 August 2008 (UTC)
Conclusion and proposals
Increase support for tame communities
The first two years of life of Wikiversity (2006-2008) show that the "tame community" is the most successful participatory model for Wikiversity projects. However to date, Wikiversity has been wrongly focussed on "wild communities". In conjunction with this error, Wikiversity has also tended to overestimate the ability of new users: the target user was "an ex-Wikipedia editor", which is what many of the founders of Wikiversity were themselves.
As a correction to this view, Wikiversity needs to build a new concept of the most likely kind of editor/learner.
Tame communities have unusual characteristics which other Wikimedia projects have never catered for.
- Short timeframe of activity; deadline often set by external class schedule.
- Unusually low level of editing experience.
- High level of motivation.
- Strong focus on a set task, usually provided by a real-world educator.
- More time available.
In response to this, Wikiversity will need to:
- Provide better tutorials and other forms of passive help to orientate this kind of user faster.
- Train its own people to recognize this kind of editor and distinguish them from vandals (see Learning to edit a wiki/Lesson plan A for the reason why vandalism is mentioned here).
- Worry less about editor-retention (see bowing before the inevitable).
The "old" Wikiversity concept of participation exuded an attitude of deference towards the superior, almost mythical, wild community. Editors who created new projects were encouraged not to take up dominant leadership roles, and instead merge or submerge their identity as elearning pioneers into a community of equals. This attitude derives in part from the culture of Wikipedia, in which the concept of "page ownership" is the antithesis of political correctness. Another origin for the attitude was an occasional anti-educationalism, which rejected the traditionally hierarchical teacher-student model of learning and looked for greater equality.
Despite this "old" Wikiversity concept of project non-leadership, the successes of the past show that this concept was often rejected. Where strong coordinators emerged, so did success.
Learning from these experiences, Wikiversity needs a new model of project leadership.
- Page ownership: although there will still be no such thing as page ownership, the coordinator's special role in a project needs to become something recognized and respected as a matter of Wikiversity culture. To some extent, this is already the case for established users. New coordinators need to be made more aware of this role. The role of coordinator is one of the things which distinguishes Wikiversity from Wikipedia. In this context, coordinators need to quickly become aware of forking and its implications for project leadership.
- Hierarchies: the role of coordinator is not intended as a reintroduction of the traditional (or autocratic) teacher-student model. As was noted above, the experience of coordinators at Wikiversity is that their Wikiversity activities lie more in the managerial than the pedagogical area. Management science offers alternative models to that of autocracy.
- The guiding hand: help pages need to be developed which flesh out the role of coordinator. For example, as coordinators are often the real-world teachers of the classes that are Wikiversity's "tame communities", coordinators need guidance as to what they should and should not tell other users what to do. The current tendency is for coordinators to do too little ("laissez faire") because they are not aware of the trouble their students' inexperience can get them into (e.g. copyright violations).
- Staying the full course: a very simple idea. Coordinators simply need to be advised that they both are allowed to and are advised to stay with the project until it has reached its goals.
Dynamic and symbiotic community concepts
Dynamic community concepts
This idea is that in the lifecycle of a project, the type of community involved with it naturally changes. The concept of a permanently evolving learning project with a community drawn from the wild is static. The dynamic concept of community accepts a model (for example) where a project begins with a tame community, draws in an additional and smaller wild community in its later stages of development, before finally reaching a maturity where its associated community is primarily passive.
Symbiotic community concept
This idea holds that the active community concepts (wild, tame, insider) are symbiotic with passive community concepts: active communities are easier to build around a core of materials built for a passive audience, and vice versa, the success of materials left behind by an active community should be judged by their attractiveness to passive audiences.
Please add literature here (it doesn't have to be from any particular source - it can come from blogs, newspapers, academic journals, books, etc.)
- Heather James: "My brilliant failure: Wikis in classrooms" - and her notes on why she thinks it didn't work.
- Help:101 things to do with your class on Wikiversity - a help page for those with "tame communities".