Wikiversity and Wikieducator are right now the two main wiki-education projects in the world. If we look for the definition of wiki, we may include LeMill to the list, even that is not build on wiki engine. LeMill is a “website that allows visitors to add, remove, edit and change (educational) content” (Wiki from Wikipedia).
Wikieducator is primary a website for collaborative authoring of open E-learning content for users of the eLearning XHTML editor called eXe. There are many other things happening and it is obvious that Wikieducator is still in the process of taking its form.
It looks that also the Wikiversity community is not yet exactly sure what they are or what they want to be. However, it looks that Wikiversity is becoming a real online learning community or educational entity (don’t wan t to call it institution). The slogan promises a a lot: Wikiversity – Free learning Community.
I think the vision of LeMill is very clear and simple – I hope. It is a web community for finding, authoring and sharing learning resources. It is primary designed for schoolteachers but anyone may join.
I think Wikiversity (why not Wikieducator, too) could be developed to the direction of becoming (1) the free alternative online academy, (2) the free online place for popular education / folk high school and (3) the free school online. (Please check these links, before reading further!).
I think Wikiversity should become the free university, the folk high school and the free school of the web, just like Wikipedia is the free encyclopedia of the web. In both cases the most important think is that anyone is free to take advantage of them: use them and participate in the development of them.
In the case of Wikiversity this means that anyone is free to be a “student” or become a “teacher” and start to facilitate study programs in Wikiversity. Even that this is already possible in the Wikiversity, I see several things that are missing from there. Here is my wish list:
(1) Study offering (not sure if this is a good term). In the Wikiversity there should be a culture and practice where people are creating real study programs with schedule, syllabus, objectives, registration, feedback and evaluation (maybe even grades and credits). In some extent this is already slowly happening in Wikiversity. An example of this is the introduction to Spanish, where there seems to be an aim to offer a real study program or course.
(2) Organization serving the offering. In the Wikiversity there should be roles/labels people should be free to take depending on what they are doing in different courses or studies offered on Wikiversity. You should be able to become a “students”, “teachers”, “researchers” or “administrator”. One should also be able to have multiple roles same time: be a student in one situation and a teacher in another. To try this structure I now have on my Wikiversity user page a list of studies I am taking and studies I am teaching (none at the moment) and an experimental “skills and knowledge box” telling what topics I could teach and what topics I am interested in to study.
(3) Focus on communication (not on learning materials). If the Wikiversity wants to be the alternative online learning community we should think what kind of communication tools we may offer for the people interested in to study and teach on it. Teaching and learning in academy, popular education and free schools takes place in a dialogue. Discussion pages and IRC are good, but maybe we could integrate Skype (or some free/libre VoIP) conference to the Wikiversity? I think that the focus on communication tools in the Wikiversity could also clarify the roles between the Wikiversity and the other Wikimedia Foundation’s projects. The other projects are basically building the library of the Wikiversity and the content in those should be linked from the studies offered on the Wikiversity. Also other fee/libre online resources should be used in Wikiversity and wise versa research done in Wikiversity should contribute to the other Wiki projects.
(4) Rethink and -design the “School structure” of the Wikiversity. The current school structure of the Wikiversity is academic. If we want to develop it more to the direction of being a platform for popular education and free school we should redesign it. In popular education the focus is often on practical things with high return on people’s wellbeing or on studies people take only with an internal motivation. In the “popular education” side of the Wikiversity one should be able to take studies on such a topics as farming in their backyard, grafts, languages etc. The study programs should be a such that people could utilize the skills and knowledge gained right in their everyday life. I see this very important from the developing countries point of view. Even if the topics are “simple” one should build a dialogical community around the study programs. The motivation in a popular education is often social: it is nice to study with other people. Same time you gain social capital. Similar way the free school side of the Wikiversity should offer space for school children to study school subjects.
(5) Payments for teachers on their teaching on the Wikiversity. I am not sure about this and maybe this is not necessary at all. But I believe that some kind of “business model” for teachers to get paid on their work on the Wikiversity could make it bloom. One should be free to add paypal donations links to the Wikiversity study courses they are giving. If people are happy about the course they participated, they should be able to donate money for the teacher (and some part of the donation could go for the Foundation maintaining the service).
This may all look that I would like to make out of Wikiversity an educational institution. In a way this is right, but same time it should be kept open, free, libre and democratic – something you can’t say about most of the educational institutions of our time.