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The Wikiversity model for online learning

This page explores the Wikiversity learning (or "e-learning") model, which can be seen as a general approach to learning used at Wikiversity. There is also a reading group and a general discussion group about this model, which you are invited to join.

The Wikiversity model


"Learning by doing" is a slogan that captures the intent of the Wikiversity "e-learning model". The original Wikiversity e-learning model was developed in response to a request by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees and it was included in the approved Wikiversity project proposal.

At Wikiversity a general term that we can use for educational content is "learning resource". So far, learning resources have been roughly divided into learning projects and learning materials.

It is the goal of some Wikiversity participants to create a vast collection of static learning materials, many of which could be downloaded and used by conventional bricks-and-mortar schools, or by self-study students. This is still a major goal of Wikiversity - to provide a repository of learning resources, with lesson plans on how they could be used, and feedback from students and teachers about how we would evaluate these resources in fulfilling their needs.

Learning projects


However, in terms of developing a Wikiversity model for learning, what Wikiversity needs now is a collection of exciting learning projects that will attract wiki participants. If we can engage people in projects that they are interested in, then the learning materials will accumulate as a by-product of those projects. Here is a familiar example of how participation in a wiki project leads to the production of learning materials: at Wikipedia, editors participate in a project that aims to create an online encyclopedia. Participants can learn about topics by editing encyclopedia articles. Viewed from the perspective of learning projects, Wikipedia has one type of "learning project": write encyclopedia articles. At Wikibooks, a physiology teacher assigned students to work on the Human Physiology textbook. Wikibooks has one type of "learning project": write textbooks. Useful "learning materials", an encyclopedia and textbooks, can be viewed as the by-products of wiki editing projects.

Nupedia lessons


It is important to remember the origin of Wikipedia. Nupedia was an attempt to have experts create an online encyclopedia. The Nupedia article creation process was too slow. Wikipedia was then created and article production became much more rapid; anyone could participate, not just acknowledged "experts." Similarly, "the wiki way" to produce "lessons" is to engage many wiki participants (including non-experts) in tasks that will eventually lead to the creation of useful learning materials. An important part of attracting non-experts is to make Wikiversity a place where people can engage in activities that are related to their personal interests. Everyone has topics that they would like to know more about, and Wikiversity should be an inviting place that allows people to explore their interests. There are far more "students" than "teachers". Very few "teachers" have time to come to Wikiversity and edit. Wikiversity needs to encourage learners to participate and "students" will play a major role in creating Wikiversity content. Wikiversity should not make students wait while experts create lessons. Experts should create learning projects that students can participate in NOW. Once the students are engaged in the Wikiversity community, some of them will start helping to develop Wikiversity learning materials.

Wikiversity participants are free to develop learning resources using any approach they want, but we do have some guidance from the approved Wikiversity project proposal. Wikiversity participants collaborate to create and provide learning materials and resources that stimulate and facilitate learning. Wikiversity supports development of many topic-specific learning communities which taken together constituting one grand learning community: Wikiversity.

Wikiversity is an exploration of how best to use wiki technology to promote and support online learning. "Learning by doing" is a slogan that reminds us to invent activities that will attract Wikiversity participants and engage learners in a vibrant community of scholarship. This is a wiki. "Learning by doing" means editing Wikiversity webpages. Wikiversity learning projects should be intellectually stimulating activities that invite learners to become Wikiversity editors. Education done the wiki way.

The student experience


The new student of a subject is an "expert" in a narrow field: the student knows, better than anyone else, which concepts within the subject material are difficult to learn. Thus, a student who is struggling is encouraged to edit the subject material to expand it to cover the difficult material in more detail. A student who has mastered a concept after a struggle is encouraged to edit the material to make it more clear: such a student is much more of an expert in the clarity of the material than the original author.

Education classes in a typical university


The purpose of Education itself as a topic of study is to get students to start transferring their ideas of being a student into those of an educator, to be on the other side of the desk. Education classes in a university typically follow the progression of pre-methods -> methods -> student teaching. Pre-methods classes are designed around educational theory and observation, acclimatizing the student to the process necessary to see education for its methods rather than just the content. Methods classes build on this concept while drawing the student deeper into the process of how students think and what methods are effective in bringing about understanding.

Classes in 'methods blocks' typically include a class on elementary or secondary observation/teaching method, a class on technology, another on classroom management or multiculturalism, and a class on a specific subject area. Once the student has demonstrated proficiency in these classes, they are moved on to a student teaching placement, the practical experience. This full semester of teaching is designed to be as close to the real thing as is possible within the law. Students that survive the semester and have shown to be thoughtful and effective educators are passed on for certification in the state in which they did their program.

While Wikiversity cannot provide such an experience for those wanting to learn about education, it is a great opportunity to gain some insights and skills about the process before pursuing an accredited program in education. It is important to keep in mind that education often doesn't have a 'right' answer all the time. More often than not there is a political side to it and education is more than just serving up facts, it's a process that is supposed to last a lifetime.

On the other hand, in its capacity as alternate educational facility, Wikiversity can provide prospective teachers with questions, creative writing exercises, and readings that are not found in Education departments, or indeed in most teaching methods courses at time of writing. These materials will encourage the prospective teacher to think about her/himself as a performer who uses realtime, and what performance artists call "the heat of the real" to engage students in the experience of meaning.

Wikis call for challenges to the design of learning - see James (2004).

Collaborative learning


Wiki websites facilitate collaborative webpage editing. Building on the collaborative aspect of wikis, Wikiversity is a place for exploration of all types of collaborative "learn by doing" projects. See: Wiki as a tool for learning, Sandbox Server.

Learning models


The page Wikiversity:learning models draws together the many pages, contributions and alternative views produced on this topic since the original learning model was produced. In particular, resources at Wikiversity:learning models reflect on the actual experiences of learning and content creation at Wikiversity - experiences which were not available when this model was produced. The most active centre for current discussion of Wikiversity learning models is Wikiversity:Developing Wikiversity through action research.



See also


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