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Submissions/Wikiversity: a project struggling with its scope and identity

From Wikimania 2010 • Gdańsk, Poland • July 9-11, 2010


This is an open submission for Wikimania 2010.

Title of the submission
Wikiversity: a project struggling with its scope and identity
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Cormac Lawler
E-mail address or username
Cormaggio, cormaggio@gmail.com
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
University of Manchester
Personal homepage or blog

Wikiversity is a Wikimedia project dedicated to learning. In this presentation, I will explore the struggles that Wikiversity has gone through in defining itself as a Wikimedia project. I will use these struggles to illuminate how Wikiversity has developed as a project and a community, and to make recommendations for its further development.

From its inception, Wikiversity’s scope has been negotiated by a wide range of people with a wide variety of perspectives. Originally incubated in Wikibooks and subsequently, after a lengthy discussion and definition phase, set up as a Wikimedia project, Wikiversity has been shaped by different views of what education is, and how a wiki-based, specifically Wikimedia, project should provide for educational activities. These different views and visions have revealed tensions in the question of what and who Wikiversity is for – and underlined the challenges in defining its scope.

I discuss two key critical questions regarding Wikiversity’s scope: what constitutes legitimate participation; and what is considered a legitimate learning resource or activity? Both questions shed light on the realities of organising an open space for learning, and the limits of such a space. Specifically, there is a tension between the various quality control mechanisms that have become part of Wikimedia practice (e.g. deciding that certain material does not meet a certain standard, and should therefore be deleted), and the material’s potential to be a shared object for an individual’s or group’s learning. Resolving this tension inevitably results in a trade-off between quality and inclusivity.

Wikiversity’s scope is wider than that of Wikipedia: as well as the development of content, it is about personal development and the development of a community of learners. I make the case, here, that Wikiversity can learn from innovations within Wikipedia’s development – for example, Wikipedia’s policies on neutrality (NPOV), and biographies of living persons (BLP) – but that it also needs to develop qualitatively new policies that adequately reflect its expansive scope.

Informing this presentation will be a variety of perspectives from academic literature on the practice, provision and organisation of education. Included in this framework will be theories of collaborative learning and democratic authority structures as they have informed the history of open education. This will represent a portion of my recently-completed PhD on the development of Wikiversity.

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
Knowledge and Collaboration
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)

Wikiversity slides

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  1. El Ágora 21:31, 20 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Peivodu 14:18, 21 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Kocio 23:31, 3 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]