Thursday, 2 April 2009

Set learning free

I continue to meet quite a few people who are very critical of Wikipedia (WP), and stress its unreliability. This argument is becoming tired, but every source is fallible, and one of the good things about WP is that its fallibility is clear: I find increasingly that entries I consult on WP have been discussed, edited, improved, and cite clear references; the occasional exceptions are flagged as not yet meeting standards in some way, and can be viewed as a work-in-progress.

Some criticism of the use of WP, as opposed to the intrinsic value of the resource, seems fair. An academic of my acquaintance is surely not alone when he bemoans the laziness of his students who cite WP. No matter how often he tells them to look for the original sources at the foot of the WP page and cite them, they continue to take the easy option. His complaint is understandable, but the frequency with which the students consult the world’s biggest online encyclopaedia bears testimony to its usefulness as an initial source of reference.

I consult WP nearly every day, and take it for granted now, but lately I’ve been getting more excited about Wikiversity (WV), another site in the Wiki family.

WV is “devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning”.

WV is "a centre for the creation and use of free learning materials and activities. Its primary priorities and goals are to:
· create and host a range of free-content, multilingual learning materials/resources, for all age groups and learner levels
· host learning and research projects and communities around existing and new materials".

So it doesn’t offer courses, but rather a more participative model of e-learning. How this came about is discussed here.

WV will be three years old in August of this year, and I predict it will go from strength to strength, perhaps becoming as widely recognised and used as its sister project, WP.

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