Wikiversity:Should research be allowed, integral or prohibited on Wikiversity assets?

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Note: this was an old discussion from before Wikiversity was created.

The role of research in a university[edit source]

Original Fragments relocated from Wikiversity/talk[edit source]

  • Second, why are we forbidding research? It doesn't seem possible in a learner-centred environment, especially if we are providing courses on sociology, chemistry, or anything to a reasonably high level? Or maybe we aren't doing this? And yes, I realise we don't want to just allow ourselves to become a repository for the work of Professor Fruitcake and his band of merry students, but surely there is a need for some form of publishing research and peer-review?
  • Following on from this idea, is it not necessary to provide some forum of debate wherein learners can exchange ideas/problems? Does this not obviate a project similar to all other Wikimedia projects where users have pages (again forbidden) and there is some sort of communal meeting ground, ie. Water Cooler, Helpdesk, etc.? This is a fundamental aspect of learning and motivating people to participate - one of the holy grails of e-learning.

I realise I could have gone and edited all this but I feel they're too big issues to just boldly change. So I'd like feedback on what people see as the identity of this project, or more like its potential identity, bearing in mind it will not remain on Wikibooks for ever :-) All the best. Cormaggio 17:33, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

Can a Wiki University escape from the factory model of education? I'd like to find out. Towards this goal, I suggest that a good first rule for Wikiversity might be: Wikiversity does not have to do anything in the same way as conventional universities. We have the chance to designate the needs of learners as a central concern of the entire Wikiversity system. To accomplish this, we need innovative methods for allowing the educational process to be informed by student needs. Wikiversity should be constructed from the ground up using anything we can think of that will allow students to make known their learning needs and anything that will allow the Wikiversity community to facilitate learning and discovery.
This does not mean putting students "in control"; often students have no idea what is best for their learning needs, they just do not have the needed experience with options and knowing what works and what fails in education. There has to be a facilitated process of communication between members of the university community that allows institutional and personal knowledge to guide the learning process according to student needs. Of course, there has to be flexibility and wiggle room for experimentation and innovation.
Research. It is probably the case that university education should be centered on research. The university community has to be involved in exploration of the unknown. How to ask questions and explore the unknown is a major part of the subject matter of university level education. People who want a "university" without research should start a wikitechnicaltraininginstitute. A university community must be engaged in peer-reviewed publication. Wikiversity can make use of conventional informal wiki "peer review" of wiki webpage content and formal peer-reviewed wiki publication. Some forms of modern research can be very expensive and will probably require innovative cooperative interactions between Wikiversity and bricks-and-mortar research institutes. Some of the better research institutions are already developing online "community outreach" programs that allow for open access to the research infrastructure. Wikiversity could tap into this growing opportunity for access to research facilities and expertise. The wikiversity educational model will eventually infect and transform some segments of existing traditional universities. --JWSurf 04:26, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
Thank you ever so much for that thoughtful and eminently quotable piece, JW. I absolutely agree that it's just too soon to start cutting off aspects of what is a potentially ground-breaking initiative. Just on a further identity issue, and this has been discussed on the m:Talk:Wikiversity page as well as mailing lists, but what about generalising it further and naming it something like Wiki-learning (or Wikisophia as Erik and Angela suggested)? This would include the (arguably) more passing information-driven aspect of high-school courses, and also the research-driven work of potential higher education courses. But, yes, I completely agree that we need to look at the broader picture of what is possible as well as what is practical for now. Cormaggio 11:37, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
Research- I'll stick to my guns here and say that wikiversity's job is not to host new research. I think its a case here of people getting too caught up in the name "versity". If you're writing a paper, it ought to get peer reviewed either through a normal journal or through existing wikis. If its already gone through peer review and been generally accepted, its no longer research and thus acceptable (provided you turn it into a course or part of a course). A note from our discussion on meta- I would not consider redoing a sociology experiment or the like to be research unless it covered entirely new ground. If its a run comprised of existing knowledge, its not research but an experiment.
  • I also think that your take on research is quite misguided. I think that you see research as some form of end product, whereas I see it (and I think JW agrees) as part of the process. However, I do agree that research is difficult terrain - we couldn't, for example, endorse research that someone did that was deeply unethical, and how we negotiate this is tricky, or will be at least.
  • But basically, I appreciate this discussion we're having and hope it does some good for the project. These are fundamental points and ones many members of the wider community will be interested in. Do you think we should advertise this a bit more - get a few more opinions? I also appreciate that you just recently wrote this page, Gabe, and as such it seems to reflect your view of the wikiversity. Can you maybe point me to previous discussions of these points so that I could look at their background? Thanks. Cormaggio 10:35, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Thanks Gabe. I'm trying to understand your sentence about me, JW and bad teachers - is it that you think we'd make bad teachers? If so, why? But basically, yes, the point is that there are different teaching styles and we should accommodate for that. I've made quite substantial changes to the Goals section to reflect the general substance of this conversation - please take a look. i think the only thing we substantially disagree on is research, which I've changed in the goals section but which remains in the research section. I basically think that it's just too early in Wikiversity's identity phase to block out something which I believe to be fundamental to e-learning. I'll try to advertise this a bit more - set up a Wikiversity sub page on Meta - but I'm also really tied for time at the moment. Anyone reading this, even if you haven't been involved yet, is welcome to try to implement this community involvement process that this project so badly needs. (See below) Thanks. Cormaggio 09:18, 22 August 2005 (UTC)
No, not at all. Not having seen you in action I can't say you're good, but you definitely have the passion for it. I said that if you think there's a major difference between how I meant teach and you meant learn, you've had some bad experiences with teachers. A good one does whatever is necessary to teach the student, he doesn't just try to follow the same formula as JW's text said.--Gabe Sechan 10:05, August 22, 2005 (UTC)

Second, about research. I totally disagree that any type of university system should be centered around research. THis is how some students end up with brains loaded with useless stuff and do not learn to have a real useful job and end up unemployed as employers do not even see how to make a good use of all these freshly graduated people. Do not get me wrong : research is important, and in some areas, absolutely mandatory. But one of the wrong things we can see in university, is thousands of young being taught research stuff while it will never be what they will be asked to do in real life. This is not helping at all. This said, I think research should be part of wikiversity; if only in one sense : I think it should be possible for publish research papers, such as students to publish their PhD thesis, which in many countries end up on a shelf on a microfilm, hence useless. The thesis can be used as references for teaching courses. Anthere

And on research, I don't think that this project should be strictly "centred" on research, but rather that research has to have a place, especially in some fields. I take your point on being practical and "real world-focused", but essentially, I think it should be down to the person/people facilitating each course to decide what are the appropriate learning outcomes and teaching methods for their course. This way we are flexible to adapt - I just didn't want to cut off all this potential. Thanks Anthere. Cormaggio 16:31, 26 August 2005 (UTC)
"I think that you see research as some form of end product, whereas I see it (and I think JW agrees) as part of the process." (see above)
The role of research in a university is a source of endless debate. "Research" can be placed in the more general category of "scholarly activity". The members of a university community should be engaged in scholarly activities. There are many activities that are scholarly, for example, creating a textbook. This is why it is perfectly sensible for wikiversity to exist at wikibooks. If someone did an analysis, I think they would find that most textbooks are produced by members of a university who in making a textbook and in so doing, performing their obligatory duty to take part in scholarly activity. The term "research" actually gets used in two different ways. There is "original research" in which investigators try to discover something new about the world. There is also "literature research", which is fundamental to many forms of scholarly activity, including textbook writing. A wikiversity is going to have to utilize resources such as textbooks and these resources will depend on "literature research"....going into the "literature" (I'll accept a broad definition of "literature") in order to learn what others have accomplished in the past. A key reason why research is central to a university is that the students get to exist within a community where the members are actively engaged in the process of doing research. This is how students learn to do research. This is how the cultural heritage of research is passed from generation to generation.
I can think of two alternatives to institutions of higher education where research is central to the community. First would be some kind of technical training institute where the students do not need to learn to think, only how to put patches on flat tires. There are such institutions that pass themselves off as institutions of higher education, but it is a scam. Second, you could have an indoctrination center where students are forced to learn some corpus of propaganda and original thought is actively suppressed. Some political and religious institutions shun free enquiry and adopt the strategy of indoctrination. Again, I find it distasteful to call these "institutions of higher learning", but they do exist. --JWSurf 16:55, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Once again, I'm in pretty much total accord - it's much clearer now you outline what it would be like without research. (Surely the wikitechnicaltraininginstitute is virtually provided for in the "How to.." manuals in progress here on Wikibooks?) But more pertinently, are you proposing that "original research" as you delineate it would be outside the remit but that "literature research" would be allowed? As far as I'm concerned, research is always an original endeavour (and in my opinion subjective, though many will find that distasteful) and it simply cannot be prohibited from a learning environment, especially a higher institution. Cormaggio 20:17, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Original research- bring it onI agree that the distinction between "original research" and "literature research" is blurry and mainly a matter of emphasis. Hopefully anyone doing "literature research" is being just as creative as anyone else and making discoveries and creating new knowledge from old. That's why universities recognize activities such as textbook writing as being a valuable scholarly activity as is dicovering a cure for some disease. In no way would I try to exclude any form of scholarly research from wikiversity. With respect to "original research" such as that conducted in expensive research laboratories (example: human genome project) or in the field (example:space exploration) there is no reason why wikiversity could not host a wiki "virtual research space" that would hold information about every research project that exists in the world. I predict that, eventually, some researchers are going to open up their research activities to the world and put everything they do into wiki format. Wikiversity could strive to become a "host" for such virtual labs. --JWSurf 12:52, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
Right on. Cormaggio 17:32, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
Here's my problem with research and wikiversity. Its not that research is a bad thing. It isn't. And its not that people using wikiversity shouldn't do research. Its a matter of scope and difficulty.
Scope- there's a fundamental limit on what you can do on a project. There's limiting factors- money, time, manhours, etc. On wikiversity, the main roadblocks are manhours and expertise. Manhours are simple- we only hve so many contributors, and so many admins. The more data coming in, the harder it is to handle it all, organize it all, proofread it all, etc. The wider your scope is, the harder it is to do this, because everyone has their specialty. Wikiversity is already incredibly broad, for upper level meterial it will be difficult to find people to do this. There's a reason we don't have one giant webpage called wikifacts with an encyclopedia, dictionary, books, courses, etc. Its too difficult to do. By paring it down, you enable the amount of work to be reasonable. You also increase the amount of work done in a single area rather than 1 person in each of their pet research projects, creating a more comprehensive program of study, This gives the illusion of completeness, and will draw additional contributors because there is something concrete to contribute to. Then when we have more contributors, we can broaden the scope or crete a new project, depending on what we think is best.
Secondly, expertise. First off, writing a textbook is not research. Its scholaarly, its valuable, but not research. Research is investigation to uncover new facts. If you're doing original research, you have a major expertise issue. If, for example, you're doing research on string theory- you can count the number of people in the world who understand the theory to the detail needed on your hands. Its not possible for us to peer review it, because we just aren't qualified. The chance we have 2 or 3 others capable of following it are abysmally low. In addition it just doesn't give itself well to being wiki-ized (it gives itself well to being openly available, but not to being wide sored collaborated on). Joe Schmoe shouldn't be commenting on it, becuse he isn't capable of it. Those half dozen people who are qualified to help all know each other, they don't need a wiki to collaborate.
I just don't see us having the manpower or the expertise to do original research well. I think another poject down the line for it would probably be more in line. I don't have a lot of hope for that either, but I think its more likely to work. Its always better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way around. If we have too wide a scope, we will not be able to focus sufficiently to succeed. Doing original research seperately gives both the courses of wikiversity and any eventul wikiresearch a better chance of success. --Gabe Sechan 09:55, 22 August 2005 (UTC)