Wikiversity:Moving Wikiversity forward
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Note: This page was created at the Mediawiki meta-wiki (see m:Moving Wikiversity forward). It is reproduced here as an historical archive. Summary: this page contains discussions about the future of Wikiversity held starting from shortly after the community vote on the original project proposal (page created 7 November, 2005). In mid-December the discussions shifted to Modified project proposal
Wikiversity currently means different things to different people. This page is meant to try to define what is realistic for Wikiversity to achieve for the moment and what it could develop in the future. We may need to do more research (possibly facilitated by the Wikimedia Research Network) to get a clearer picture of this, possibly in the guise of one or a number of feasability studies.
What is Wikiversity?
Universities are communities of learners and teachers. University communities are devoted to exploring existing cultures, facilitating the advancement of human endeavors and creating new knowledge and other cultural elements. Wikiversity will apply wiki technology as a new medium within which to construct a university.
What follows is an attempt to predict how wikiversity will develop. A central concern of Wikiversity will be discovering how to use wiki technology to facilitate productive human interactions within online communities of learners and teachers. As a new Wikimedia project, the early development of Wikiversity will largely be determined by how Wikiversity interacts with Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and other existing Wikimedia projects. Initially, Wikiversity will draw upon the pool of existing Wikimedia project members and in so doing, Wikiversity must find ways to satisfy the needs of other Wikimedia projects. What kinds of teaching and research services can Wikiversity supply to other Wikimedia projects?
Wikipedia. As wikipedia matures it increasingly needs to cite its sources and provide a systematic way of evaluating the validity of its contents. Wikiversity can perform a vital function in support of Wikipedia editors as they work to find good sources of information and attain objective evaluations of information. Experts within the Wikiversity community can help guide Wikipedia editors to good sources and provide open collaborative research space where the groundwork can be laid for ongoing decisions about [what] should be presented within Wikipedia articles.
Wikibooks. Many good textbooks arise from the experiences of active university members. As Wikiversity members discover how best to use the wiki user interface to support communities of learners and teachers, they will compile that knowledge in the form of dynamic living textbooks in wiki format.
- As Wikiversity participants start following the learning trails laid out by early pioneers and serious scholars Wikibooks in the curriculum will start receiving frequent new review useful for fixing typos, accumulating sources and useful tidbits, and identifying confusing material or cruft via comments on talk pages from participatory readers.
Wikimedia Commons/Wikisource. Wikiversity will draw upon archived media and also contribute new material. Some of the products of Wikiversity will be lesson plans and other teaching materials. As members of an active university, Wikiversity members will also produce peer-reviewed manuscripts documenting their studies and research activities.
Wikinews. Wikiversity can provide support for Wikinews. Wikiversity can perform studies of Wikinews so as to identify ways to improve the quality of Wikinews stories and counter systemic biases. Wikiversity can provide space and facilities for journalistic research and a systematic analysis of biases in the sources that Wikinews reporters make use of.
(See the Wikiversity Core Courses Initiative)
In forming constructive links to other Wikimedia projects, many Wikiversity webpages will initially be devoted to research projects aimed at supporting the creation of authoritative wikipedia articles, textbooks, and other teaching resources. These research-oriented pages could be organized into Wikiversity "courses" devoted to particular topic areas, roughly corresponding to traditional academic disciplines. One of the exciting aspects of Wikiversity is the opportunity to escape from traditional academic categories and create new multidisciplinary projects that will best suit the needs of the Wikimedia community.
As Wikiversity becomes established and matures beyond its initial dependencies on other Wikimedia projects, there are a number of services and projects that Wikiversity could come to manage. Below is an outline of these mid- and long-term possibilities, including what each service requires in terms of human and other resources.
To begin, Wikiversity might be a repository of teaching materials, learning resources, lesson plans to be freely available in multilingual format. This could be hosted on Wikibooks, and could interface with other projects, like Wikipedia and, indeed, other books on Wikibooks.
Not simply creating material, Wikiversity could move on to using wikis in an educational way, creating learning communities for activities like brainstorming and creating research designs/proposals/business plans or creating collaborative media content, like wikimentaries.
A few "Academic publishing" projects have been proposed:
Learning objects have been defined as:
- "Any entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education or training"
- "Any digital resource that can be reused to support learning"
- "Web-based interactive chunks of e-learning designed to explain a stand-alone learning objective"
As a Virtual learning environment, Wikiversity shall most likely implement a structured approach to dealing with Learning object metadata intricically incorporated into the MediaWiki software platform. To distribute the workload for adding Wikiversity as a Wikimedia project, a page Learning object metadata is being created to expedite the process of customizing "The IEEE 1484.12.1 – 2002 Standard for Learning Object Metadata is an internationally-recognised open standard (published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association) for the description of “learning objects”" for Wikiversity's purposes.
Accreditation is quite possible, but needs substantial thought and preparation.
The discussion so far follows closely Harold Wilson's idea of a University of the Air in the early 1960s in Britain. The discussion resulted in the Open University, which is Britan's largest university as well as a very credible institution.
Teaching is the easiest part, although access to qualified, responsible instructors is a bigger challenge than it looks. Wikis are so far best for providing written explanatory materials (teriary sources) and not so good for secondary and primary materials. The very dubious assumption is that people will learn all they need to know by reading.
The biggest questions are:
- Under what accreditation agency and regime? European, North America, other? The answer is more political than educational.
- What model of learning will it use? There is a great deal of innovative energy in wikiversity, wikibooks, wikipedia, etc. We still need a model to follow. I wonder if we have most of the ideas somewhere on the site, but they need to be collated and analysed.
- How would you ensure authenticity, that any work submitted for credit is really the students own work?
- Risk analyis. Running an accredited university this way is not really too hard. Some of the technology has been around for may years. But living is such a high-risk environment could be more difficult.
- What level of qualification? The easy options are the lower certificates. Next hardest is the research graduate school, which really depends on having excellent staff.
The four-year bachelor degree consumes most resources and is the hardest possible place to start, although that is where most North Americans expect to begin. Some higher diplomas are nearly as difficult. The graduate school of professional practice is also a realistic option, but working with professional associations would be very difficult.
- How can the the extremely democratic (almost anarchic) wiki system be made compatible with the accountability and quality assurance systems need for any kind of accreditation? In particular, what do you do with someone who really wants to learn something but just doesn't have the background? You don't want to exclude people, but you can't admit anyone who wants to log on. So there can be value in foundatonal courses that are separate from advanced courses. And someone will have to be authorised to make the hard decisions, even if they are sometimes unpopular.
- This is a non issue. Most people who arrive at advanced material and are ignored or deleted when they attempt to participate will quite naturally shift to more appropriate environments. There are also mechanisms available that can differentiate and restrict read/write access to specific pages within the wiki. Some are already present in the wikimedia software others would require extensive developer effort to add to the wikiversity interface. At any rate this is a potential problem for the future. Our current problems are mostly traceable to a lack of participants. Lazyquasar 04:18, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
Could you have a system where a subject matter expert simply says, "This book is ready" and produce it as a non-wiki and use it as the textbook? Let the wiki become the draft next edition that people can still change.
How can we better coordinate different kinds of wiki resources? For example, could teaching materials use links to wikipedia articles?
- How can it build credibility? Any plan for an accredited (or accreditable) insitution must have some means for building credibility and reputation. No matter how good it is, it helps nobody if it is seen to be a diploma mill.
- How will money flow? The ideal of completely free accredited education is not at all realistic at present. Some money has to flow just to pay the bills. How much do you charge? Do you charge some people more than others? How else do you pay the bills?
- The volunteer model is well proven in online open/free projects. Distributed technologies exist which can be modified to allow the Wikimedia Foundation (or other founding infastructure) to remain as a primary organizing resource within a distributed peer to peer and server to server and variations component based grid with adequate accounting to assure that individuals or groups contribute necessary fractions of resources sufficient to guarantee adequate resource response times to all users according to pre-established and financed priority based resource allocations. Obviously this will take some serious volunteered developer effort to achieve. Lazyquasar 04:23, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
- The volunteer model just won't work if you want to do anything substantial. *However*, the idea that most people working on free/open source projects are volunteers is a myth. In fact most people working on open source projects are getting paid to do so, and there are lots of business models for this.
- The *good* thing about free culture is that right now, the "middlemen" (i.e. publishers and universities) are making huge amounts of money. If you change the distribution system, less of the money should flow to the distributors, and you can move things directly between content producers and content consumers. Also, I'd expect that the effective costs of some things will go to zero, which will allow resources to be more rationally allocated. Instead of paying for textbooks, students can pay for one-on-one personalized teaching. Instead of paying for the lecture, students can pay to get their papers graded with detailed personal comments, and suggestions rather than just getting a letter grade.
- Roadrunner 13:22, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
- What software will it need? A learning environment system would be better that wikis for some things, and wikis alone can't yet do everything. A videoconference would be helpful, and a teleconfernce would be a good start. Enrolled students could speak, and others would be welcome to listen. The internet would be a good support for that kind of community.
At least some answers are simple:
Don't accept students into courses for which you don't have staff and suitable teaching and assessment materials. It's not only unethical and unaccreditable, but usually contravenes honesty in advertising laws.)
Have a system of admission standards. They must be flexible and creative, but they must also be there and be enforced.
Prepare people for assessments. In many cases they would comprise a portfolio of work (e.g. verifiable third-party references, testing results from trusted third parties, etc.) and a viva voce. At graduate school, it would be either original research or professional projects. Nothing difficult there.
Ross Woods, ACAS
- The above simple answers assume an authoritarian model which in my view is unlikely to prosper in a wiki based volunteer based community. Lazyquasar 04:25, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
People interested in conducting this research
- Cormaggio @ 00:23, 8 November 2005 (UTC) - would like to conduct a feasability study (possibly on using wikis for learning)
Q: How long will any/all of this take?
A: The journey has started and no detectable/falsifiable theory of completion date articulated, at least to my satisfaction. To infinity and beyond might take forever and a bit more. I propose recess at 2nd coming and judgement day.
A: Consider w:Wikipedia as a prototype. As a prototyping project, it took a few years to simultaneously co-evolve an effective community while developing the Wikimedia software and Foundation. It started in 2000-2001. Some allege it has not even yet proven itself or matched pre-existing encyclopedias standards of quality. It is interesting to note that once the Wikipedia community started self consciously attempting to grow itself and its learning and self maintenance capabilities that growth quickly became limited by available internet infrastructure. Independent sources now report that wikipedia.org is among the top 50 visited web sites on the internet.
Proposed Milestones & Goals
Get some classes running.
Establish an independent Foundation & Board organized appropriately for a Free University
Organize competing for profit internet universities to provide adequate competition for success. (Without corrupting conflicts of personal interest please, until better learning communities come along we need Wikimedia Foundation's internet infrastructure and supporting communities of volunteers.)
- The above is not an independent competitor. It is in fact owned and operated by two Wikimedia Foundation Board Members as documented here: http://wikicities.com/wiki/About_Wikicities This apparent conflict of interest might be useful in explaining the Board's willingness to defy community votes with terse confusing requests for proposal modifications. It is good to a have a stacked Board! They can protect us from ourselves!
Find the results of Wikimedia Foundation's alleged board meeting & decision.
Find creditable source regarding the vote results for the project .... possibly in minutes of the 13 November secret/private/nonpublic/not transparent/not open Board Meeting.
Establish some action oriented barnstar awards to encourage participation, provide candidates below:
- OOPS! (I did something without Board permission or praying to the God King.)
Goals and Milestones Initiated or Completed
- Interest Vote/Survey Completed - Results here
- List of Courses Initiated
- Wikiversity:School of Engineering Barnstar Program Initiated []
- Vote Results Scheduled/Presented for 13 Nov 2005 Wikimedia Foundation Board Meeting - Place links to Scheduled Meeting Agenda and Minutes/Results/Answer herein.
- Wikiversity:School of Fire and Emergency Management is initiated and going. Building course and curriculum repository now. One online course ready to go in February and two more ready in March.